Richard Lovelace

Richard Lovelace.

Richard Lovelace (1618–1657) was an English poet in the seventeenth century. He was a cavalier poet who fought on behalf of the king during the Civil war. His best known works are To Althea, from Prison, and To Lucasta, Going to the Warres.



Early life and family

Richard Lovelace was born in 1618. His exact birthplace is unknown, but it is documented that it was either Woolwich, Kent, or Holland.[1] 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 and the Lovelace family owned a considerable amount of property in Kent.

His father, Sir William Lovelace, knt., was a member of the Virginia Company and an incorporator in the second Virginia Company in 1609. He was a soldier and he died during the war with Spain and Holland in the siege of Grol Holland, a few days before the town fell. Richard was only 9 years old when his father died.[2][3]

Richard's father was the son of Sir William Lovelace and Elizabeth Aucher who was the daughter of Mabel Wroths and Edward Aucher, Esq. who inherited, under his father's Will, the manors of Bishopsbourne and Hautsborne. Elizabeth's nephew was Sir Anthony Aucher (1614 – 31 May 1692) an English politician and Cavalier during the English Civil War. He was the son of her brother Sir Anthony Aucher and his wife Hester Collett.

Richard Lovelace's mother, Anne Barne (1587–1633), was the daughter of Sir William Barne and the granddaughter of Sir George Barne III (1532- d. 1593), the Lord Mayor of London and a prominent merchant and public official from London during the reign of Elizabeth I; and Anne Gerrard, daughter of Sir William Garrard, who was Lord Mayor of London in 1555.

Richard Lovelace's mother was also the daughter of Anne Sandys[4] and the granddaughter of Cicely Wilford and the Most Reverend Dr. Edwin Sandys, an Anglican church leader who successively held the posts of the Bishop of Worcester (1559–1570), Bishop of London (1570–1576), and the Archbishop of York (1576–1588). He was one of the translators of the Bishops' Bible.

Anne Barne Lovelace married as her second husband, on 20 January 1630, at Greenwich, England, the Very Rev. Dr. Jonathan Browne[5] They were the parents of one child, Anne Browne, who married Herbert Crofte, S.T.P. and D.D and were the parents of Sir Herbert Croft, 1st Baronet.[6]

His brother, Francis Lovelace (1621–1675), was the second governor of the New York colony appointed by the Duke of York, later King James II of England. He was also the great nephew of both George Sandys[7] (2 March 1577 – March 1644), an English traveller, colonist and poet; and of Sir Edwin Sandys[8] (9 December 1561 – October 1629), an English statesman and one of the founders of the London Company.

In 1629, when Lovelace was eleven, he went to Sutton’s Foundation at Charterhouse School, then located in London.[1] 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”.[1] 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”.[1] He then went on to Gloucester Hall, Oxford, in 1634.

Collegiate career

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.[2] 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.[9] 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.[2] Lovelace 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.[10] 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.[10]

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.[10] 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.[10]


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. The 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 wrote 'The Rose,' following with 'The Scrutiny' and on 14 May 1649, 'Lucasta' was 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, "Lucasta: Postume Poems" was published; it contains 'A Mock-Song,' which has a much darker tone than his previous works.[2]

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 aquaint
Lest Men adore in one
A Scholar, Souldier, Lover, and a Saint [10]

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.


  1. ^ a b c d e Weidhorn, Manfred. Richard Lovelace. New York: Twayne Publishers, Inc., 1970
  2. ^ a b c d Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 131: Seventeenth-Century British Nondramatic Poets, Third Series. A Bruccoli Clark Layman Book. Edited by M. Thomas Hester, North Carolina State University. The Gale Group, 1993. pp. 123-133
  3. ^ Letters from Constantijn Huygens. Letter 3816. London, october 1644
  4. ^
  5. ^ Jonathan Browne, Doctor of Laws. Browne matriculated at Gloucester Hall, Oxford 13 October 1620, aged19, and received the degree of B. C. L. 1624/5, D. C. L. 1630 and L. L. D. He held the following preferements: rector of Shelly, Essex, 1621; rector of St. Faith's, London, 1628; rector of Hertingfordbury, Herts, 1630; president of Sion College, 1636-1637; canon of Hereford Cathedral,1636; dean of Hereford Cathedral 1636; canon of Westminster Abbey 1639. He outlived his wife and died December, 1643, and his will (undated and unregistered) was proved 8 April 1645 (Oxford Wills; Prerogafive Court of Canterbury, 1645).
  6. ^ Croft Baronets
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ “The Early Seventeenth Century” The Norton Anthology of English Literature: The Sixteenth Century, The Early Seventeenth Century. Ed. Barbara K. Lewalski and Katharine Eisaman Maus. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2006. 1681-1682.
  10. ^ a b c d e Wilkinson, C.h., ed. The Poems of Richard Lovelace. Oxford, Great Britain: Oxford, 1963.

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