Online Encyclopedia

ALABASTER, or ARBLASTIER, WILLIAM (15...

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V01, Page 466 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
Spread the word: del.icio.us del.icio.us it!
ALABASTER, or ARBLASTIER, WILLIAM (1567-1640), English Latin poet and scholar, was born at Hadleigh, Suffolk, in 1567. He was, so Fuller states, a nephew by marriage of Dr John Still, bishop of Bath and Wells. His surname, some-times written Arblastier, is one of the many variants of arbalester, a cross-bowman. Alabaster was educated at Westminster school, and entered Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1583. He became a fellow, and in 1592 was incorporated of the university of Oxford. About 1592 he produced at Trinity College his Latin tragedy of Roxana.1 It is modelled on the tragedies of Seneca, and is a stiff and spiritless work. Fuller and Anthony a Wood bestowed exaggerated praise on it,while Samuel Johnson regarded it as the only Latin verse worthy of notice produced in England before Milton's elegies. Roxana is founded on the La Dalida (Venice, 1567) of Luigi Groto, known as Cieco di Hadria, and Hallam asserts that it is a plagiarism (Literature of Europe, iii. 54). A surreptitious edition in 1632 was followed by an authorized version a plagiarii unguibus vindicata, aucta et agnita ab Authore, Gulielmo Alabasteo.. One book of an epic poem in Latin hexameters, in honour of Queen Elizabeth, is preserved in MS. in the library of Emmanuel College, Cambridge. This poem, Elisaeis, Apotheosis poetica, Spenser highly esteemed. " Who lives that can match that heroick song?" he says in Colin Clout's come home againe, and begs " Cynthia " to withdraw the poet from his obscurity. In June 1596 Alabaster sailed with Robert Devereux, earl of Essex, on the expedition to Cadiz in the capacity of chaplain, and, while he was in Spain, he became a Roman Catholic. An account of his change of faith is given in an obscurely worded sonnet contained in a MS. copy of Divine Meditations, by Mr Alabaster (see J. P. Collier, Hist. of Eng. Dram. Poetry, ii. 341). He defended his conversion in a pamphlet, Seven Motives, of which no copy is extant. The proof of its publication only remains in two tracts, A Booke of the Seuen Planets, or Seuen wandring motives of William Alablaster's (sic) wit . . . , by John Racster (1598), and An Answer to William Alabaster, his Motives, by Roger Fenton (1599). From these it appears that Alabaster was imprisoned for his change of faith in the Tower of London during 1598 and 1599. In 1607 he published at Antwerp Apparatus in Revelationem Jesu Christi, in which his study of the Kabbalah was turned to account in a mystical interpretation of scripture which drew down the censure alike of Protestants and Catholics. The book was placed on the Index librorum prohibitorum at Rome early in Oro. Alabaster says in the preface to his Ecce sponsus venit (1633), a treatise on the time of the second advent of Christ, that he went to Rome and was there imprisoned by the Inquisition, but succeeded in escaping to England and again embraced the Protestant faith. He received a prebend in St Paul's cathedral, London, and the living of Therfield, Hertfordshire. He died in 1640. Alabaster's other cabalistic writings are Commentarius de Bestia Apocalyptica (1621) and Spiraculum tubarum . . . . (1633), a mystical interpretation of the Pentateuch. It was by these theological writings that he won the praise of Robert Herrick, who calls him " the triumph of the day " and the "one only glory of a million" 1 For an analysis of the play see an article on the Latin university plays in the Jahrbuch der Deutschen Shakespeare Gesellschaft (Weimar, 1898). (" To Doctor Alabaster " in Hesperides, 1648). He also published (1637) Lexicon Pentaglotton, Hebraicum, Chaldaicum, Syriacum, Talmudico-Rabbinicon et Arabicum. See T. Fuller, Worthies of England (ii. 343); J. P. Collier, Bibl. and Crit. Account of the Rarest Books in the English Language (vol. i. 1865) ; Pierre Bayle, Dictionary, Historical and Critical (ed. London, 1734) ; also the Athenaeum (December 26, 1903), where Mr Bertram Dobell describes a MS. in his possession containing forty-three sonnets by Alabaster.
End of Article: ALABASTER, or ARBLASTIER, WILLIAM (1567-1640)
[back]
ALABASTER
[next]
ALACOQUE, or AL COQ, MARGUERITE MARIE (1647-1690)

Additional information and Comments

There are no comments yet for this article.
» Add information or comments to this article.
Please link directly to this article:
Highlight the code below, right click and select "copy." Paste it into a website, email, or other HTML document.