Nicholas Breton was born in London, the son of a wealthy merchant and landowner with estates in Essex and Lincolnshire. His father died when Nicholas was in his mid-teens and his mother remarried the poet George Gascoigne a few years later. It is thought that Nicholas was educated at Oriel College, Oxford, although no record of this exists. He married Ann Sutton in 1593 and they had four children, two of whom died young.
He lived most of his life in London and King James I was one of his patrons. Previously, Mary, Countess of Sutton, the sister of Sir Philip Sidney, herself an accomplished poet, had been his sponsor and he dedicated The Pilgrimage to Paradise to her but he appears to have fallen out of her favour later.
His work consists of religious and pastoral poems such as The Passionate Shepheard (1604), satires, and some prose works. No record of his death survives but it must have been after 1626, the date of his last published work, Fantastickes, a prose work which sheds light on the customs of the times.