Sir John Beaumont 1582-1627

Sir John Beaumont was born at Grace Dieu in north-east Leicestershire, the son of a judge. His younger brother was the dramatist, Francis Beaumont. He was educated at Broadgates Hall, which later became Pembroke College, Oxford, but left without taking a degree and went on to study law at the Inner Temple. His father died in 1598 and his elder brother Henry became the head of the family.

When Henry died at an early age in 1605, John returned to Grace Dieu to manage the family estates. Previously he and his brother Francis had joined a group of poets who met in London with Ben Jonson and Michael Drayton and at the age of 19 John published his first poem, Metamorphoses of Tobacco, a mock-heroic poem dedicated to Drayton. The Beaumont family were Catholics and in 1607 John was fined for recusancy.

After remaining a bachelor for many years he married Elizabeth Fortescue. They had four sons, one of whom was killed in 1643 at the siege of Gloucester during the English Civil War. They lived quietly at Grace Dieu for many years but he came to prominence again when his friend the Duke of Buckingham presented him to court. In 1626, the year before his death, King Charles I created him a baronet. His son John, who succeeded him to the title, edited his poems, which were published in 1629.

His major works include The Crowne of Thornes; Bosworth Field, a long heroic poem on the Battle of Bosworth Field, which took place in 1485 not far from his home; The Theatre of Apollo (1625); and a touching elegy to his son Gervase, who died in childhood. His favourite medium was the heroic couplet, a couplet of rhyming iambic pentameters, which marks him as one of the pioneers of the classic reformation of English verse.

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