The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume IV. Prose and Poetry: Sir Thomas North to Michael Drayton.

IX. The Successors of Spenser

§ 4. Fulke Greville

Fulke Greville, lord Brooke, belonged to an elder generation than that of the other poets in this chapter, and was an exact contemporary of Sir Philip Sidney, whose life he wrote. Unlike Browne or Drummond, he was not primarily a poet; he belonged rather to the older school of men, who, like Castiglione’s courtier, cultivated the germ of poetry as a faculty which should belong to every properly constituted man. Wither was a poet masquerading as a man of arms. His soldierly achievements cannot be taken with perfect seriousness. Fulke Greville, primarily, was a statesman and man of affairs. In 1598, he became treasurer of the navy and, in 1614, chancellor of the exchequer. Born at Beauchamp court, Warwickshire, in 1554, Fulke Greville entered Shrewsbury school on the very same day as Philip Sidney, 17 October, 1564, and, from Shrewsbury, he went to Jesus college, Cambridge, four years later. With Sidney, he came to the court in 1577, and travelled to Heidelberg with him in the same year. Like Sidney, he was rapidly taken into the queen’s favour, and him, too, the queen forbade to go far from her presence. The secretaryship to the principality of Wales was given him before the age of thirty.

Fulke Greville was a great patron of letters. Camden was appointed Clarencieux through his influence. He freed John Speed’s “hand from the daily employment of a manual trade.” He endowed a history chair at Cambridge into which he put the renowned Dorislaus of Holland; Samuel Daniel, Henry Lok, John Davies, William D’Avenant were glad to acknowledge their indebtedness to him.

Except for an elegy on Sidney, which appeared in the miscellany The Phoenix Nest (1593), two poems in the first edition of England’s Helicon (1600) and the tragedy of Mustapha (1609), the work of lord Brooke remained unpublished during his lifetime. In 1633, five years after his death, appeared a volume containing, as the title-page recounts, Certaine learned and elegant workes written in his Youth and familiar exercise with Sir Philip Sidney. They include A Treatise of Humane Learning, An Inquisition upon Fame and Honour, A Treatie of Warres, his tragedies Mustapha and Alaham and a set of poems which, according to the fashion of the time, are named sonnets, called Caelica. In 1652, appeared his life of Sir Philip Sidney, and, in 1670, the Remains of Sir Fulke Greville, Lord Brooke, being poems of Monarchy and Religion, never before printed.

The reason which prevented the publication of his poems is, probably, the same as that which restrained him from publishing his life of Sidney and from writing his history of queen Elizabeth. With the exception of some of the poems in Caelica, they deal with subjects of statecraft which might have been easily misinterpreted by enemies. As Elizabeth grew old, the question of her successor and of the best form of government in general for the country troubled all the finest minds in England. Her death was not only a personal grief to such men as Greville and Ralegh; it foreshadowed to them the eventual death of monarchy. “Their author,” writes Charles Lamb of his two tragedies, “has strangely contrived to make passion, character and interest, of the highest order subservient to the expression of state dogmas.” Fulke Greville was forty-nine years old when the queen died. To his feeling for her he gives beautiful expression in his digression in the life of Sidney in which he recounts the features of her reign and policy, and this feeling merged into his conception of the place which, to his thinking, she filled admirably, that is to say, into his conception of monarchy. This is why, through the cold, intellectual force of his treatment and reasoning, there shines the living glow of personal passion. Nor is it necessary to search for the original of Caelica; internal evidence strongly points to the fact that these poems afford one more proof of the power of Elizabeth.

Most of the “sonnets” in Caelica, and the whole of the poems Of Humane Learning, Of Fame and Honour, Of Warres and on Monarchy and Religion are written in a six-lined stanza, riming ababcc. The versification of the tragedies is of peculiar interest, for, although the choruses, for the most part, are written in riming couplets, in the speeches great care has been taken to obtain the effect of the couplet without its monotony. Consecutive couplets rarely occur; most speeches of any length conclude with a couplet: there are many instances of unriming lines, and many rimes run in quatrains abab.

Brooke’s death was sudden and tragic. He was murdered in 1628 by his servant Haywood, who thought he had been omitted from his master’s will. He wrote the epitaph which was cut on his tombstone. It amply epitomises his life: “Fulke Grevil—Servant to Queene Elizabeth—Councellor to King James—and Frend to Sir Philip Sydney. Trophaeum Peccati.”