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ALEXANDER, SIR WILLIAM (FIRST EARL OF STIRLING) (1567-1640) Born in Scotland, the Cavalier poet William Alexander wrote in his youth a group of sonnets and songs titled Aurora, First Fancies of the Author's Youth, but the collection was not published until 1604. He tutored King James VI's son, Henry, and after becoming a courtier in 1603, he followed King James, then the English King James I, to London. There he published The Tragedy of Darius in about 1604. He later added The Tragedie of Croesus and The Paranesis to Prince Henry and reprinted the group. After Prince Henry's death he served Prince charles as a courtier. The tragedies were released again in 1607 with the addition of The Alexandrean Tragedy and Julius Caesar. As part of his court duties Alexander assisted King James in his "translation" of the Psalms and received knighthood in 1621. That same year, received a charter for Nova Scotia, but his colonization attempts proved unsuccessful. In 1626 he became secretary of state for Scotland and was titled the viscount Canada in 1630, and earl of Stirling in 1633. In 1637 he published his final poem, a religious work titled Domesday, and issued a folio edition of his tragedies.
All of Alexander's works sold well and rated positive evaluations from contemporaries, Samuel Daniel, Michael Drayton, and others, including his close friend William Drummond of Hawthornden, whose work Alexander's sonnets influenced. Drummond dedicated a poem to Alexander, "Sonnet to Sir W. Alexander," in which he compared their friendship to that of "The love Alexis did to Damon bear." Despite his popularity and service to both King James I and King Charles I, Alexander died impoverished in 1640. Much detail regarding his life has been lost or was never printed; most critical sources paraphrase the information about Alexander found in Sir Humphry Ward's 19th-century volume on English poets. In his entry Ward quotes Masson, biographer of Drummond, repeating his "severe judgment" of Alexander: "There he lies, I suppose, to this day, vaguely remembered as the second-rate Scottish sycophant of an inglorious despotism, and the author of a large quantity of fluent and stately English verse which no one reads."
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