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Thomas Bancroft was a minor 17th-century poet from Swarkestonemarker in South Derbyshiremarker he was an associate of James Shirley and Sir Aston Cockayne. He wrote a number of poems and epigrams addressed to notable people. Many of the facts of his life are known from his poetry.

Biography

Thomas Bancroft (fl. 1633–1658), poet, was a native of Swarkestonmarker, a village on the Trent, in Derbyshiremarker. He is known to have been alive in 1633 and he was in Bradley, Derbyshiremarker in 1658. This we learn from one of his own epigrams, and from Sir Aston Cockayne's commendatory lines. He has also an epigram in celebration of his father and mother, buried in Swarston Church.(sic). He was a contemporary of James Shirley at St Catharine's College, Cambridgemarker, to whom he addresses an epigram. He seems to have lived for some time in his native Derbyshire. Sir Aston Cokaine, as a neighbour and fellow-poet, appears to have visited and been visited by him. He had apparently only a younger son's fortune, his elder brother died in 1639, having broken up the little family-property.

Bancroft's first publication was The Glutton's Feaver, in 1633. This is a narrative poem of seven-line stanzas, of the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus. Thomas Corser, wrote: There is a smoothness and grace, as well as force and propriety, in Bancroft's poetical language, which have not, as we think, been sufficiently noticed.

Bancroft's next and better-known book was his , Two Bookes of Epigrammes and Epitaphs. Dedicated to two top-branches of Gentry : Sir Charles Shirley, Baronet, and William Davenport, Esquire, 1639.' These epigrams were quoted partly because of the notability of the people they celebrate. The names include Sidney, Shakespeare, Ben Jonson, John Donne, Overbury, John Ford, Quarles, Thomas Randolph and Shirley. The extract below concerns Shakespeare (hence the pun):
:Thou so hast us'd thy Pen, (or shocke thy Speare)
:That Poets startle, nor thy wit come neare.
And to John Donne
:Thy muses gallentry does farre exceed
:All ours: to whom thou art a Don indeed>
In 1649 Bancroft contributed to Brome's Lachrymce Musarum, or the Teares of the Muses, a poem To the never-dying memory of the noble Lord Hastings. "

Finally he published, in 1658, The Heroical Lover, or Antheon and Fidelta, and the collection of verse Times out of Tune, Plaid upon However in XX Satyres. This last is a series of moralizing satirical poems directed against (inter alia) whoring, gluttony, alcoholism, hedonism, lying, pride in clothing, false friends, ambition, cowardice, cruelty, and the abuse of poetry. Full of invective, the subjects Bancroft chose for this collection seem to leave few aspects of life to enjoy.

In 1658, Bancroft was living in retirement at Bradleymarker, near Ashbournemarker, Derbyshire. It is probable that he continued there until his death. It was said that Bancroft was 'small of stature', and that he published sermons. He was referred to as 'the small poet,' partly in reference to his stature, and partly in allusion to his small poems.

References

  1. Thomas Corser, Collectanea Anglo-Poetica (pt. 1)
  2. Bancroft wrote that Randolph "drank too much at the Muses spring". ref Randolph in DNB
  3. Epigrammes by Thomas Bancroft - cited by William Shakespeare - A Study of The Facts & Problems E K Chambers
  4. Kelly's Directory of the Counties of Derby, Notts, Leicester and Rutland, London 1891, pp. 54-5


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