Duffy, Maureen. The Passionate Shepherdess: Aphra Behn
1640-89. London: Methuen, 1989. Gosse, Edmund. "Mrs. Behn." In The English Poets: Selections with Critical Introductions by Various Writers and a General Introduction by Matthew Arnold. Vol. 2, Edited by Thomas Humphry Ward, 419-421. New York: Macmil-lan, 1912.
LOVELACE, RICHARD (1618-1658) Richard Lovelace was born in either Kent or Holland, the privileged son of a Kentish knight blessed with the advantages of wealth. A handsome young man, he attracted attention through his charm and intelligence. After graduating from Oxford with an M.A. at 18 years of age, he moved in court circles and enjoyed London's artistic offerings. He probably first served King Charles I on Sutton's foundation at Charterhouse upon petition of his mother, Anne Barne Lovelace, and in 1631 became "gentleman wayter extraordinary" in service to the king. His first creative work was a comedy titled The Scholars, written in 1635. He entered Cambridge in 1637 and was back at court by 1638. That year his first poems appeared in print, including "An Elegy on Princess Katherine."
Lovelace fought for the Crown in the Bishops' Wars during 1639 and 1640 under General George, Lord Goring, prompting his later poem, "Song: To Lucasta, Going to Wars." By 1640 Lovelace enjoyed a commission as captain in the second Scottish expedition, writing a tragedy during that year titled The Soldier. His drama detailed the decidedly unromantic realism of war, as Charles's forces had faced 20,000 well-organized Scottish troops, forcing the king to compromise. Lovelace returned home to claim what was left of his family's estate, which allowed him to live comfortably, if not lavishly. He retained his Royalist loyalty, along with his three brothers, William, Francis, and Dudley, despite the Covenanters' victory.
With political debate remaining heated a year later, Lovelace during a public meeting destroyed a pro-Parliament petition that also reflected anti-Episcopalian sentiment and in 1642 sponsored a petition to retain the bishops. That act resulted in several weeks of imprisonment in Gatehouse Prison at Westminster, during which he wrote the endearing "To Althea, from Prison," considered one of the finest lyrics in the English language, and probably also "To Lucasta, from Prison." During the height of his career he sat for a portrait, which later hung in the Dulwich Collection.
Lovelace used his inheritance to support the interests of King Charles I upon his release and followed the life of an artist. He also continued to serve, probably in Holland and France. Those events likely inspired his
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"To Lucasta, going beyond the Seas," and "The Rose." Wounded at Dunkirk in 1646, he continued service and was honored with admission to the Freedom of the Painter's Company in 1647. After traveling the Continent in 1648 he was imprisoned upon his return for 10 months because of his family's Royalist loyalties but gained liberty after the execution of Charles. A Cavalier poet, he joined Thomas Carew, Robert Herrick, and Sir John Suckling as a member of the Tribe of Ben.
Lovelace published a collection of verses, Lucasta: Epodes, Odes, Sonnets, Songs, etc. after his release from prison in 1649. The title may have referred to his onetime fiancée Lucasta Sacheverell, although Lucasta's identity remains debatable. Little is known about the final years of his life, during which he continued to write poetry, other than that he continued to support his brothers and sisters as needed. A second posthumous volume of his work, published by his brother, was titled Posthume Poems.
Although Lovelace published few poems, his reputation extends into the 21st century with often anthologized works. According to his biographer Manfred Weidhorn, he remains the best known Cavalier poet, although his work was never as accomplished as that by poets such as Andrew Marvell. His lyrics best express the tragedy of his era and a dying ideal, that of the nobleman dedicated to family and king.
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