, was born at the family's manor house of Stewards in Romford, Essex, the son of James Quarles (d
. 1599) and Joan Dalton (d
. 1606). He was baptized on 8 May 1592 at St Edward's Church, Romford.
Family, education, and early career
Quarles's godfather was Sir Francis Barrington, head of a prominent Essex puritan family. His father, James, made his fortune by accumulating the posts of clerk of the royal kitchen, clerk of the green cloth, and surveyor-general of victualling for the navy. Francis, who alludes to himself as an Essex Quill (Threnodes
, 1641, sig. A3v
), was proud of his native county, the ancient lineage of his family, and his father's work for Queen Elizabeth.
The family lineage is complicated, and Grosart's introduction to Quarles's works requires some correction (Höltgen, Two Francis Quarleses, 1324; also papers deposited by Daisy Quarles in the Library of Congress, no. CS 71. Q 17 1952a). The family originated in the village of Quarles, Norfolk, where Nicholas de Wharfles in 1258 owned the advowson of the church. About 1400, after the black death, the Quarleses withdrew to nearby Gresham. The earliest recorded ancestor of the poet is Thomas Quarles, of Gresham, whose will was proved in 1462 (Norwich consistory court, 75 Betyns). His grandson George, auditor to Henry VIII, settled at Ufford, Northamptonshire. The auditor's son Francis purchased the manor of Ufford in 1555. The eldest son of this Francis with his second wife, Bridget Brampton, was James, the surveyor-general of victualling. The state papers and other records offer glimpses of his important and lucrative activities as purveyor. He was probably a protégé of Lord Burghley, a distant kinsman. In 1588 he bought Stewards. Several years before he had substantially increased his wealth by marrying an heiress, Joan, the daughter of Eldred Dalton, of Moor Place, Much Hadham, Hertfordshire. The marriage took place in 1571 at Farnham, Essex (parish register). For a time he was tenant of the crown manor of Farnham (P. Morant, History of Essex
, 1768, 2.623; Essex RO, crown grant, D/D/Tw/T15, T16). Legal papers submitted by his son Arthur, however, mention Moor Place as Mr. Quarles chief seat in 1580 (Hunt. L., Ellesmere MS 6063). In her will of 1606 (Quarles, Works
, 1.xv), Joan Quarles left my Mansion house and other possessions at Much Hadham to Robert, her eldest, and Arthur, her youngest son.
The family at Romford numbered four sons, Francis being the third, and four daughters. Sir Robert Quarles (15801639), the heir, became MP for Colchester and married three prosperous ladies in succession. Quarles's mother was a puritan. In 1589 the archdeaconry court dealt with the illegal burial of the family's maidservant, without any seremony, and not according to the communion booke, for which Mrs Quarles and John Leech, a schoolmaster and conventicler of Hornchurch, had been responsible (Essex RO, act book 158890, fol. 148, D/AEA/13). An account of discussions at the Hampton Court conference between Puritanes and Antipuritanes in 1604 was addressed to Sir Edward Lewkenor, an MP of puritan sympathies, att Mistress Quarles in Rumford (Townshend MSS, BL, Add. MS 38492, fol. 81).
Quarles was educated initially at a schoole in the Countrey and afterwards at Christ's College, Cambridge (U. Quarles, sig. A3r
). James and Francis remained at the college from 1605 until their graduation in January 1609 (Cambridge University Archives, liber gratiarum, 15981620, p. 112). At Christ's College, Ramism and puritanism were widespread, but government pressure gradually reduced the strength of the latter. In 1610, to complete the education considered necessary for a gentleman, Francis entered Lincoln's Inn. He studied law for some years without aiming at a legal career.
Quarles very likely took part in the Maske of the Middle Temple and Lincolns Inne
arranged by George Chapman and Inigo Jones for the wedding of Princess Elizabeth, the future queen of Bohemia, and Frederick, the elector palatine, in February 1613. The marriage of the Thames and the Rhine had been designed to promote the great protestant anti-papal and anti-Habsburg alliance. On their triumphal progress to Heidelberg the young couple were escorted by four noblemen and a large number of gentlemen. Quarles and Inigo Jones travelled in the entourage of the earl of Arundel, the celebrated art collector. Quarles did not hold the office of cup-bearer to the princess, as his widow suggests, but may have performed this duty on occasion. Three of the four surviving lists show Mr. Quarles in an unspecified honorary position, directly after the earl's steward, Mr Dixe (Höltgen, Quarles
, 31923; see also TNA: PRO, declared accounts, E 351/28012). Like most of the English gentlemen in the bridal party, Quarles returned from Heidelberg to England in the summer of 1613. As Arundel and his countess went on to Italy, Quarles probably travelled home with Viscount Lisle (Robert Sidney, later earl of Leicester), who, on 12 August, was at Flushing, waiting for passage to England. In 1620 Quarles dedicated his first book to him, a paraphrase of the story of Jonah under the unpromising title A Feast for Wormes
. Here he acknowledged the love you did beare to my (long since) deceased Father and the undeserved Favours, and Honourable Countenance towards me in your passage thorow Germany
, where you have left in the hearts of men, a Pyramis
of your Worth (Quarles, Works
, 2.5). Perhaps he found Lisle, a brother of Philip Sidney, and an experienced diplomat and a poet, more congenial than the aloof Arundel, whom he never mentions. The courtly interlude no doubt led to a deeper understanding of the political and religious cross-currents in Europe on the eve of the Thirty Years' War, but not to any preferment or patronage. In September 1615 he obtained a licence to travel abroad, but whether he made use of it is unknown.
In the spring of 1617 Quarles bought a house in the parish of St Vedast, near St Paul's Cathedral, and on 26 May 1618 a marriage licence was issued to Francis Quarles, Gent. of Romford, about 26, and Ursely [Ursula] Woodgate, of St Andrew's, Holborn, Spinster, 17, daughter of John Woodgate, Gent. (Marriage Licences Issued by the Bishop of London
, 1887, 2.60). Two days later Quarles married his young bride at St Andrew's. They had eighteen children including the poet . In 1620 he bought land in Much Hadham from his brother Sir Robert. With an annuity of £50 and, presumably, further income from the family estates, he could, at least for the moment, settle down in London to the life of a cultivated gentleman of scholarly and literary interests to which he devoted himself late and early, usually by three a clock in the morning (U. Quarles, sig. A3r
). The fruits of these labours were a succession of biblical verse paraphrases published from 1620 onwards, and in a revised collection entitled Divine Poems
, from 1630 onwards. Quarles tried to solve the problem inherited from Du Bartas, the French pioneer of a new type of Christian epic, of how to combine narration and devotion, by breaking up the text into sections of History and of Meditation. This crude method and the Ramist habit of exploiting the rhetorical places of invention account for the inordinate length and diffuseness of most of the poems. Despite these shortcomings there was a real demand for such pious light reading in the vernacular. Quarles's insistence, throughout his works, on the need for meditation derives (unacknowledged) from Joseph Hall, who had attempted to reconcile Calvinism with the Catholic meditative tradition (J. Hall, The Arte of Divine Meditation
, 1606). About 1625 Quarles presented The Workes of King James
(1616) to Christ's College, Cambridge. On the flyleaf he wrote in neat calligraphy a flattering poem to the king and the university, Rex pater est patriae, mihi clara academia mater. This is one of the two surviving autographs of the poet. He had read the royal works and in meditation 19 of Hadassa
(1621) he seems to echo James's claims for the divine right of kings. His gift was recorded by an elaborate Latin eulogy in the liber donationum
(Bb.3.8), a document of Quarles's early reputation (photographs of the poem and the eulogy in Höltgen, Two Francis Quarleses, plates 1 and 2).
At this time Quarles is found in the unlikely role of company promoter seeking, together with Sir William Luckyn and Sir Gamaliel Capell (both prominent in Essex) and one William Lyde, an act of parliament giving them a monopoly in a new method of producing saltpetre, an ingredient of gunpowder. Nothing seems to have come out of this venture. Instead, Quarles became secretary to James Ussher, the great church historian and newly appointed archbishop of Armagh. In 1625 Ussher stayed with Sir Gerard Harvy and his lady in Moor Place, Much Hadham, the former house of Quarles's mother. The archbishop was looking for a qualified research assistant, and it seems that the poet was recommended to him by his godfather, Sir Francis Barrington, and by his friend, Dr Ailmer, rector of Much Hadham, whose death Quarles mourned in An Alphabet of Elegies
, 3.3). When Ussher set out for Ireland in July 1626 he was probably joined by his secretary with his wife and two children who were to live with him in the palace at Drogheda. Quarles returned to London before 20 March 1630 when he addressed a letter to Ussher (Bodl. Oxf., MS Rawl. lett. 89, fol. 69). The men remained on cordial terms. Quarles shared Ussher's anti-Catholicism and anti-Arminianism, his insistence on conformity to the established church, and his royalism. Argalus and Parthenia
, a long verse romance written in Ireland, dated from Dublin, 4 March 1629 and published in London in that year, marks Quarles's systematic extension of his literary repertoire. The poem is based on a story from the Arcadia
, a scion taken out of the Orchard of Sir Philip Sidney
, of precious memory (Quarles, Works
, 3.240). Its blend of heroic, erotic, and comic elements remained popular throughout the century. A critical edition was published by David Freeman in 1986. Edmond Malone, in a note in his copy of Langbaine's English Dramatick Poets
(Bodl. Oxf., Malone 131, s. v. Quarles), observes: The original M.S. of his Argalus and Parthenia
is in the Library of the College of Dublin, and is dated from his house in Cole Alley in Castle Street in that City, where he kept a School. This statement lacks confirmation as does another one by John Aubrey, who says that the poet lived at Bath at the Katherine-wheele inne (opposite to the market-house), and wrote there, a yeare or two (Brief Lives
, ed. A. Clark, 1898, 2.176). After petitioning Charles I in May 1631, Quarles received a lease in reversion of the impositions on Tobacco and Tobacco pipes to be imported into the Kingdom of Ireland (Fourth Report
, HMC, 369). This attempt to augment his income failed; the reversion never came his way. About this time he composed the epigrams of Divine Fancies
(1632) in which he established his religious and political stance as an Anglican and royalist, vigorously attacking both puritans and papists. He also presented himself as a critic of social and moral abuses.
The time of achievement: Emblemes and Hieroglyphikes
By 1632 Quarles and his family were living at Roxwell in his native Essex, perhaps in or near Skreens, a large house then occupied by his friend, Sir William Luckyn. An epitaph for Lady Luckyn in the shape of an hourglass, part of the elegy Mildreiados
, 3.26), survives in the church of Abbess Roding nearby. The years 16328 at Roxwell were the most creative and perhaps the happiest period of Quarles's life; his literary reputation and his circle of friends continued to grow. In April 1636 his eldest daughter, Frances, aged seventeen, married Eusebey Marbury, apparently a son of the rector of St James Garlickhythe, London (Marriage Licences Issued by the Bishop of London
, 1887, 2.226). During the 1630s he composed The Shepheards Oracles
(published later, in 1646), which deals with autobiographical, political, and religious matters under the thin guise of pastoral allegory. The poem includes satirical attacks on the radical fringe of the anti-episcopal Root and Branch party, also allegorical portraits of his friend, Phineas Fletcher, and an Arminian Master Shepheard who is severely criticized and must be Archbishop Laud (Quarles, Works
(1635), the work which secured Quarles's fame, was dedicated to his young friend Edward Benlowes, a would-be-poet, wealthy virtuoso, patron, and Essex neighbour: You have put the Theorboe
into my hand; and I have play'd. On the frontispiece, the theorbo, a type of lute, appears as a symbol of divine poetry (and Quarles was himself a lutenist). What Benlowes put into Quarles's hand were the two Jesuit models for Emblemes
which he had brought home from the grand tour, Pia desideria
(1624) by Herman Hugo and Typus mundi
(1627), compiled by nine clever schoolboys at the Antwerp Jesuit college under the direction of their master. The frontispiece of Emblemes
shows a globe in which are inscribed the names of Finchingfield and Roxwell, while an additional name, Hilgay, appears on a globe in emblem V.6. These are the villages inhabited by the three friends Benlowes, Quarles, and Fletcher. All three were involved in attempts to create new forms of allegorical divine poetry. It is Quarles's historical achievement to have established in protestant England the dominant type of the Catholic baroque emblems representing the encounters of Amor Divinus or Divine Love and the Soul. These books were acceptable to moderate Catholics and protestants because they promoted the general tenets of the Christian life, not controversial doctrines. The main figure has sometimes been misunderstood as the infant Jesus, but it is an allegory of Divine Love, God or Christ: Let not the tender Eye checke, to see the allusion to our blessed SAVIOUR figured, in these Types (Emblemes
, To the reader). Quarles uses the forty-five emblems from Pia desideria
in the original order, though he draws selectively from Typus mundi
. Occasional alterations to individual plates are of no major doctrinal or sectarian significance. His poems are largely independent and new. They exploit the mimetic quality of the pictures and transform them into allegories of spiritual truth. They speak in the different voices of dramatic dialogue, meditative soliloquy, spiritual love song, irony, or flippancy. Conceits, sometimes derived from patristic texts, are often elaborated with semantic precision and dense intertextuality and repay close study. The overall structure of the work preserves patterns of the spiritual pilgrimage and the Ignatian meditation. The plates copied by William Marshall, William Simpson, and two other engravers are mostly accurate and refined but fall short of the artistry of the Antwerp originals.
When John Marriot, a major literary publisher at St Dunstan-in-the-West, Fleet Street, brought out the first edition of Emblemes
, it proved such a success that a second edition was called for. The two editions, which can be distinguished by textual variants, are both dated 1635 on the title-page. But there is evidence (inter alia
from dated emblematic decorations at Caerlaverock Castle, near Dumfries) that the first edition actually appeared in 1634. Four years later Quarles produced what he called a second service of the same dish, Hieroglyphikes of the Life of Man
(1638), a shorter book of fifteen emblems. It is the most notable English version of the theme of the ages of man. In 1639 the two works were reprinted and issued in one volume as Emblemes and Hieroglyphikes
, and it is in this form that they have commonly appeared since. There are about sixty editions or issues, more than thirty of them after 1800. Christopher Harvey's School of the Heart
was mistakenly attributed to Quarles and, from the late eighteenth century onward, from time to time included in editions of Emblemes and Hieroglyphikes
Quarles's association with New England is recorded by an Essex neighbour, the traveller John Josselyn, who in July 1639 delivered to Governor Winthrop and John Cotton in Boston six metrical psalms (nos. 16, 25, 51, 88, 113 and 137) from Mr. Francis Quarles
the poet for Cotton's approbation (Höltgen, New verse, 11841). If there was a chance of a handsome fee for supplying the full number of psalms for the proposed Bay Psalm Book
, Quarles lost it. His versions would have lacked puritan plainness and were not included in the book. However, scribal manuscripts of hitherto unknown versions of psalms 1 to 8 by Quarles and of his Threnode on Lady Masham
of 1641 were published in 1998 (ibid.). Manuscript PwV 358 in Nottingham University surely represents a portion of the Psalmes of David left unpublished at the poet's death and mentioned by his widow in a chancery suit (TNA: PRO, C.2 Chas. I/Q1/23). She also mentions a lost Chronicle of the Citty of London, which was written after Quarles's appointment in February 1640, as city chronologer, at the request of the earl of Dorset with an annual stipend of 100 nobles, or just over £33 (CLRO, repertory 54, fol. 86v
.) For this favour Quarles owed thanks to Lady Dorset to whom he had dedicated two books. In Quarlëis
(1634), Benlowes had already requested financial support for Quarles from the city fathers.
Later years: financial troubles and political conflicts
Entries in the parish registers suggest that Quarles must have moved from Roxwell to Terling, another Essex village, between May 1638 and January 1640. Here he lived at Ridley Hall, a house which still stands and at the time was owned by the five Frank sisters, to whom he dedicated Observations Concerning Princes and States upon Peace and Warre
(1642): Sweete Ladies, When the
Drum beates loud, soft language is not heard
, 1.52; Höltgen, Quarles
, 269). Under the impact of constitutional conflicts and civil war and with an eye to the market, he turned to prose writing and became a literary apologist for Charles I. The years at Terling until his death in 1644 were overshadowed by poverty and the hostility of radical puritans and sectaries. In February 1640, with the help of Marbury, his son-in-law, he obtained a loan of £30 upon handing over the plates and copy of Emblemes and Hieroglyphikes
to the stationers Eglesfield and Williams as security. When the loan was not redeemed they attempted to reimburse themselves by preparing a new edition. In a chancery petition Quarles tried to regain the copyright but the court found against him (TNA: PRO, C.2 Chas. I, Q1/84, Q1/10; C.33/182, fols. 235v
). The suit provides useful bibliographical information: Quarles's books were printed in large editions (3000 copies or more) and, as a popular author, he could retain far more control over his copyright than might have been supposed (F. Kellendonk, John and Richard Marriott
, 1978, 31).
(1640, augmented 1641), a book of aphorisms, rivalled Emblemes
in popular appeal and the number of editions. Borrowing from Machiavelli and Bacon, Quarles brings together timeless wisdom tersely expressed, and political advice for a king threatened by civil war. Large portions of these maxims reappeared under the name of King James in a royalist publication, Regales aphorismi
(1650); others were translated into Latin by Constantijn Huygens. There were Dutch, Danish, Swedish, and German translations (Höltgen, Quarles and the Low Countries, Anglo-Dutch Relations in the Field of the Emblem
, ed. B. Westerweel, 1997, 148). The main interest in Quarles's posthumous comedy The Virgin Widow
(1649), which at times turns into a real romp, arises from its topical allusions. The political and ecclesiastical allegory is somewhat obscure, but the heroine, Kettreena, clearly represents the Christian church and the Church of England as the widowed bride of Christ. It can be argued that the play was originally written and performed in 1640 for the Barrington household at Hatfield Broad Oak, and that further topical allusions and a second personification of the church, Lady Temple, were added about February 1641, when the Long Parliament was negotiating with the Scots. It tells that Lady Temple three years ago suffered from a surfeit of Canterbury Duck
(Dr Arthur Duck was one of Laud's officials), and is now beset by a rude rabble of unsanctified Mechanicks (Quarles, Works
, 3.309). Comedies were a regular feature in the puritan and parliamentary Barrington family; a Messenger that came from Mr Quarles concerneing the Comody is noted in their household accounts in August 1640 (Essex RO, D/D Ba A2, fol. 57v
.) Although Quarles was not of a mind with the Barringtons' brand of puritanism he stayed on friendly terms with them. He and Sir Thomas Barrington took an interest in Comenius's plans for educational reform and Ussher's scheme of a moderate or reduced episcopacy acceptable to the puritans; the archbishop had returned from Ireland in 1640 (Höltgen, Quarles
In three anonymous civil war tracts partly written in Oxford and published 16445 Quarles sought to create for himself the persona of a moderate protestant patriot and arbitrator. In The Loyall Convert
he blames England's troubles on a viperous
Generation of desperate enemies of all Order
. He affirms his loyalty to the king, the Lords Anointed
who had by then accepted the reforms of 1641 and the system of mixed monarchy and would defend this constitutional monarchist position against undetermined alteration
, 1.1425). David Lloyd claims that Quarles suffered much in his Peace and Name for writing the Loyal Convert
, and for going to his Majesty to Oxford
(Memoirs of those that Suffered for the Protestant Religion
, 1668, 621). In The New Distemper
Quarles alludes to his troubles in Terling where he suffered from the hostility of John Stalham, the fanatical puritan vicar and his followers, who had preferred a petition against him and spread a malicious rumour that he was a papist. Such circumstances suggest that he left Terling to join the king's court at Oxford in 1643 or 1644. Remarks in The New Distemper
on the activities of royalist writers in Oxford (Quarles, Works
, 1.156), and the fact that his son John served in the Oxford garrison, support this conclusion. Quarles's defence in The Whipper Whipt
of the controversial Dr Cornelius Burges, who was a puritan and a royalist, prompted Anthony Wood's false, but much repeated description of Quarles as an old puritanical poet (Wood, Ath. Oxon.
, 3rd edn, 3.648). A posthumous Oxford edition of the three tracts entitled The Profest Royalist
appeared in 1645. The poet's last book, Barnabas and Boanerges
(1644), which appeared in several versions and in Dutch and German translations, was an ingenious combination of meditation and character essay, and was much in demand.
Death and reputation
Little is known about the last phase of Quarles's life. By May 1644 all unauthorized strangers had to leave Oxford. Quarles died on 8 September 1644, aged fifty-three, in the presence of his wife and friends, probably in Terling or in London and was buried on 11 September at St Olave's Church, Silver Street, London. He died intestate, and is noted as pauper in the entry of the administration granted to his widow (TNA: PRO, PROB 6/20, fol. 29, 4 Feb 1645). Ursula Quarles tried to recover copyrights and unpublished manuscripts from the stationers, but did not succeed and was left in great want. The reasons for Quarles's persisting poverty from the late 1630s onward are not quite clear. It may be that his occasional criticism of abuses in the monarchy prevented the court patronage for which he strove so hard in his numerous dedications. Contemporaries acknowledged the essential goodness of his character and his engaging personality. Quarles was not a puritan but a moderate protestant and royalist with a reverence for the divine institution of the monarchy and who, after 1641, accepted constitutional royalism (I. M. Smart, Francis Quarles: professed royalist and Puritanical Poet, Durham University Journal
, 70, 1978, 18792). He was probably the most successful English poet of his age. His six major works owed their appeal until about 1700 mainly to the mixture of competent Wit with Piety (Richard Baxter, Poetical Fragments
, 1681, preface). The change of taste about that time caused all of them except Emblemes and Hieroglyphikes
to fall into neglect. This book proved a cultural achievement and a durable success. It brought to protestant England, suitably adapted, the spiritual and emotional qualities of the Catholic meditation on pictures. It survived as a work of edification when the emblem tradition itself had declined and it played an important role in the Victorian emblematic revival. It has been found especially rewarding in recent studies of the interaction of word and image. Nearly all of Quarles's works stand in an interesting relationship to public affairs and serve to enrich the picture of Stuart England.
KARL JOSEF HöLTGEN