(1618–1657) was an English poet in the seventeenth century.
Richard Lovelace was born in 1618. His exact birthplace is unknown, but it is documented that it was either Woolwich
, or Holland
. He was the oldest son of Sir William Lovelace and Anne Barne Lovelace and had four brothers and three sisters. His father was from an old distinguished military and legal family. The Lovelace’s owned a considerable amount of property in Kent. Unfortunately, Richard Lovelace’s father died during the siege of Grol
when he was only nine years old . In 1629, when Lovelace was eleven, he went to Sutton’s Foundation at Charterhouse . Charterhouse
was a school in [London]. However, there is not a clear record that Lovelace actually attended because it is believed that he studied as a “boarder” because he did not need financial assistance like the “scholars” . He spent five years at Charterhouse, three of which were spent with Richard Crashaw
, who also became a poet. On 5 May 1631, Lovelace was sworn in as a “Gentleman Wayter Extraordinary” to the King. This was an “honorary position for which one paid a fee” . He then went on to Gloucester Hall
Richard Lovelace attended Oxford University
and he was praised for being “the most amiable and beautiful person that ever eye beheld; a person also of innate modesty, virtue and courtly deportment, which made him then, but especially after, when he retired to the great city, much admired and adored by the female sex" by one of his contemporaries, Anthony Wood
. At the age of eighteen, during a three-week celebration at Oxford, he was granted the degree of Master of Arts
. While at school, he tried to portray himself more as a social connoisseur rather than a scholar, continuing his image of being a Cavalier
. Being a Cavalier poet, Lovelace wrote to praise a friend or fellow poet, to give advice in grief or love, to define a relationship, to articulate the precise amount of attention a man owes a woman, to celebrate beauty, and to persuade to love . Richard wrote a comedy, The Scholars, and a tragedy titled The Soldiers while at Oxford. He then left for Cambridge University
for a few months where he met Lord Goring
, who led him into political trouble.
Politics and prison
Lovelace’s poetry was often influenced by his experiences with politics and association with important figures of his time. At the age of thirteen, Lovelace became a “Gentlemen Wayter Extraordinary” to the King and at nineteen he contributed a verse to a volume of elegies commemorating Princess Katharine . In 1639 Lovelace joined the regiment of Lord Goring, serving first as a senior ensign and later as a captain in the Bishops’ Wars. This experience inspired the “Sonnet. To Generall Goring.” Upon his return to his home in Kent in 1640, Lovelace served as a country gentleman and a justice of the peace where he encountered firsthand the civil turmoil regarding religion and politics.
In 1641 Lovelace led a group of men to seize and destroy a petition for the abolition of Episcopal rule, which had been signed by fifteen thousand people. The following year he presented the House of Commons with Dering’s pro-Royalist petition which was supposed to have been burned. These actions resulted in Lovelace’s first imprisonment . Shortly thereafter, he was released on bail with the stipulation that he avoid communication with the House of Commons without permission. This prevented Lovelace, who had done everything to prove himself during the Bishops’ Wars, from participating in the first phase of the English Civil War. However, this first experience of imprisonment did result in some good, as it brought him to write one of his finest and most beloved lyrics, “To Althea, From Prison,” in which he illustrates his noble and paradoxical nature. Lovelace did everything he could to remain in the king’s favor despite his inability to participate in the war.
Richard Lovelace did his part again during the political chaos of 1648, though it is unclear specifically what his actions were. He did, however, manage to warrant himself another prison sentence; this time for nearly a year. When he was released in April of 1649, the king had been executed and Lovelace’s cause seemed lost. As in his previous incarceration, this experience led to creative production—this time in the form of spiritual freedom, as reflected in the release of his first volume of poetry, Lucasta .
Richard Lovelace first started writing while he was a student at Oxford and wrote almost 200 poems from that time until his death. His first work was a drama titled "The Scholars". Unfortunately, this play was never published, however, it was performed at college and then in London. In 1640, he wrote a tragedy titled "The Soldier" which was based on his own military experience. When serving in the Bishops' Wars, he wrote the sonnet "To Generall Goring," which is a poem of [Bacchanalian] celebration rather than a glorification of military action. One of his most famous poems is "To Lucasta, Going to the Warres," written in 1640 and exposed in his first political action. During his first imprisonment in 1642,he wrote his most famous poem "To Althea, From Prison." Later on that year during his travels to Holland with General Goring, he writes "The Rose," following with "The Scrutiny" and on 14 May 1649, Lucasta is published. He also wrote poems analyzing the details of many simple insects. "The Ant," "The Grasse-hopper," "The Snayl,""The Falcon," "The Toad and Spyder." Of these poems, "The Grasse-hopper" is his most well-known. In 1660, after Lovelace died, the Lucasta: Postume Poems is published containing "A Mock-Song," which had a much darker tone than his previous works .
William Winstanley, who praised much of Richard Lovelace's works, thought highly of him and compared him to an idol; "I can compare no Man so like this Colonel Lovelace as Sir Philip Sidney,” of which it is in an Epitaph made of him;
- “Nor is it fit that more I should
- Lest Men adore in one
- A Scholar, , Lover, and a Saint" .
His most quoted excerpts are from the beginning of the last stanza of To Althea, From Prison:
- Stone walls do not a prison make,
- Nor iron bars a cage;
- Minds innocent and quiet take
- That for an hermitage
and the end of To Lucasta. Going to the Warres:
- I could not love thee, dear, so much,
- Lov'd I not Honour more.
1618- Richard Lovelace born, either in Woolwich, Kent, or in Holland.
1629- King Charles I nominated “Thomas [probably Richard] Lovelace,” upon petition of Lovelace’s mother, Anne Barne Lovelace, to Sutton’s foundation at Charterhouse.
1631- On 5 May, Lovelace is made “Gentleman Wayter Extraordinary” to the King.
1634- On 27 June, he matriculates as Gentleman Commoner at Gloucester Hall, Oxford.
1635- Writes a comedy, The Scholars.
1636- On 31 August, the degree of M.A. is presented to him.
1637- On 4 October, he enters Cambridge University.
1638-1639- His first printed poems appear: ‘An Elegy” on Princess Katherine; prefaces to several books.
1639- He is senior ensign in General Goring’s regiment - in the First Scottish Expedition. “Sonnet to Goring.”
1640- Commissioned captain in the Second Scottish Expedition; writes a tragedy, The Soldier. He then returns home at 21, into the possession of his family’s property.
1641- Lovelace tears up a pro-Parliament, anti-Episcopacy petition at a meeting in Maidstone, Kent.
1642- 30 April, he presents the anti-Parliamentary Petition of Kent and is imprisoned at Gatehouse. After appealing, he is released on bail, 21 June.
The Civil war begins on 22 August, he writes “To Althea, from Prison
,” “To Lucasta.”
In September, he goes to Holland with General Goring. He writes “The Rose.”
1642-1646-Probably serves in Holland and France with General Goring. He writes “The Scrutiny.”
1643- Sells some of his property to Richard Hulse.
1646- In October, he is wounded at Dunkirk, while fighting under the Great Conde against the Spaniards.
1647- He is admitted to the Freedom at the Painters’ Company.
1648-On 4 February, Lucasta is licensed at the Stationer’s Register.
On 9 June, Lovelace is again imprisoned at Peterhouse.
1649- On 9 April, he is released from jail. He then sells the remaining family property and portraits to Richard Hulse. On 14 May, Lucasta is published.
1650-1657- Lovelace’s whereabouts unknown, though various poems are written.
1657- Lovelace dies.
1659-1660- Lucasta, Postume Poems is published.