Sir Francis Quarles, Poet Laureate

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Francis Quarles

Birthdate: (52)
Birthplace: Romford, Greater London, England, United Kingdom
Death: September 8, 1644 (52)
Cheshire East, England, United Kingdom
Immediate Family:

Son of James Stewards Quarles and Joan Quarles
Husband of Ursula Woodgate
Father of Frances Marbury; John Quarles, Poet; Robert Quarles; Edward Quarles and Philadelphia Quarles
Brother of Martha D'Oyly (Quarles); Sir Robert Quarles, MP, Knight; James Quarles; Mary Quarles; Arthur Quarles and 2 others

Occupation: Poet
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Sir Francis Quarles, Poet Laureate

Francis Quarles (8 May 1592 – 8 September 1644) was an English poet most famous for his Emblem book aptly entitled Emblems.

Francis was born in Romford, Essex, (now London Borough of Havering), and baptised there on 8 May 1592. He traced his ancestry to a family settled in England before the Norman Conquest with a long history in royal service. His great-grandfather, George Quarles, was Auditor to Henry VIII, and his father, James Quarles, held several places under Elizabeth I and James I, for which he was rewarded with an estate called Stewards in Romford. His mother, Joan Dalton, was the daughter and heiress of Eldred Dalton of Mores Place, Hadham. It is believed that there were eight children in the family; the eldest, Sir Robert Quarles, was knighted by James I in 1608, and another, John Quarles, also became a poet.

Francis matriculated at Christ's College, Cambridge, in 1608, and subsequently at Lincoln's Inn. He was made cupbearer to the Princess Elizabeth, in 1613, remaining abroad for some years; and before 1629 he was appointed secretary to Ussher, the primate of Ireland. About 1633 he returned to England, and spent the next two years in the preparation of his Emblems. In 1639 he was made city chronologer, a post in which Ben Jonson and Thomas Middleton had preceded him. He was named Poet Laureate to King Charles II.

At the outbreak of the Civil War he took the Royalist side, drawing up three pamphlets in 1644 in support of the king's cause. It is said that his house was searched and his papers destroyed by the Parliamentarians in consequence of these publications.

Francis Quarles married Ursula Woodgate in 1618, by whom he had eighteen children. His son, John Quarles (1624–1665), was exiled to Flanders for his Royalist sympathies and was the author of Fons Lachrymarum (1648) and other poems. Quarles descendants, Charles Henry Langston and John Mercer Langston were American abolitionists whom pressed for greater freedom and suffrages among the African Americans in the 19th century. Charles Henry Langston's grandson (and Quarles' descendant), Langston Hughes, was a celebrated author and poet during the Harlem Renaissance.

His best known work, the Emblems, was originally published in 1635, with grotesque illustrations engraved by William Marshall and others. The forty-five prints in the last three books are borrowed from the designs by Boetius à Bolswert for the Pia Desideria (Antwerp, 1624) of Herman Hugo. Each "emblem" consists of a paraphrase from a passage of Scripture, expressed in ornate and metaphorical language, followed by passages from the Christian Fathers, and concluding with an epigram of four lines. The Emblems was immensely popular with the common people, but the critics of the 17th and 18th centuries had no mercy on Quarles. Sir John Suckling in his Sessions of the Poets disrespectfully alluded to him as he "that makes God speak so big in's poetry." Pope in the Dunciad spoke of the Emblems, "Where the pictures for the page atone And Quarles is saved by beauties not his own."

See the Wikipedia article on him for a complete list of his published works.

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Sir Francis Quarles, Poet Laureate's Timeline

May 8, 1592
Romford, Greater London, England, United Kingdom
May 8, 1592
Romford, Essex, England
Age 17
Age 31
Essex, England
Age 41
Age 42
Age 44
September 8, 1644
Age 52
Cheshire East, England, United Kingdom