Davies of Hereford

Davies of Hereford

Davies of Hereford, John, 1565?-1618, English poet. He settled in London about 1600 after spending several years as a writing master at Oxford. His main efforts were religious and philosophical treatises written in verse, the best of which were Mirum in Modum (1602) and Micro-cosmos (1603). He also wrote The Scourge of Folly (1610?), a book of epigrams, some complimentary but most satirical, on contemporary poets.

John Davies of Hereford (c. 1565, Hereford, England – July 1618, London) was a writing-master and an Anglo-Welsh poet. He is usually known as John Davies of Hereford in order to distinguish him from others of the same name.

In a 2007 monograph, Shakespeare, A Lover's Complaint, and John Davies of Hereford, literary scholar Brian Vickers attributes to Davies the poem 'A Louers complaint', which was published by Thomas Thorpe with Shakespeare's Sonnets in 1609. This attribution goes against a scholarly consensus which established itself during the 20th century, and in particular notable studies by Kenneth Muir, Eliot Slater and MacDonald P. Jackson, but is based on both a detailed demonstration of the non-Shakespearean nature of the poem and a list of numerous verbal parallels—such as 'What brest so cold that is not warmed heare' and 'What heart's so cold that is not set on fire'—between the Complaint and the known works of Davies. On this evidence it was omitted from the 2007 RSC Complete Works, a decision which MacD. P. Jackson calls a 'mistake' in his RES review of Vickers's book, arguing, among other reservations, that 'Evidence that, in poems undoubtedly his, Davies exhibits an intimacy with Shakespeare's works equal to that of the author of A Lover's Complaint is very meagre.' He rejoins also:

Harold Love, in his TLS review, has similar questions:

It should be noted too that Davies dedicated his first major work, Mirum in Modum, to William Herbert, 3rd Earl of Pembroke, who has been considered one of the likeliest candidates for Mr. W. H., the Sonnets' 'onlie begetter', in Thorpe's mysterious phrase. Vickers states that 'the concluding words [of Mirum] suggest a degree of intimacy which is hard to explain'.

Hereford was at that time a Welsh-speaking area, even though officially in England. Davies wrote very copiously and rather tediously on theological and philosophical themes. He also wrote many epigrams on his contemporaries which have some historical interest. Davies's works include:

  • Mirum in Modum, a Glimpse of God's Glory and the Soul's Shape (1602)
  • Microcosmos (1603)
  • Humours Heav's on Earth (1605)
  • The Scourge of Folly (1610)
  • The Picture of a Happy Man (1612)
  • Wit's Bedlam (1617)


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