fuller trinity college poet
ALABASTER, WILLIA.m, D.D., poet and scholar. If to have been commemorated with golden words by Edmund Spenser in his Colin Clouts come Home Againe,11. 400-415, and by Herrick in his Hesperides; and to have been reckoned " foeman worthy of his steel " by Bishop Bedell ; and to have had his portrait painted by Cornelius Jansen, and engraved by Payne ; and to have been pronounced by Fuller " a most rare poet as any our age or nation hath produced ;" and to have drawn from Samuel Johnson unequivocal eulogium, may be regarded as entitling to a claim on our interest at this later day, Dr William Alabaster unites in himself all these memorable tributes. Alabaster was his own spelling, as it was Bedell's and Fuller's ; but it is found contemporaneously " Arblastier." The name is derived from arcubalista (in arms of the family, a cross-bow bent in pale), and the same probably as Arblastier. He was born at Hadleigh, Suffolk, about 1567, was educated at Westminster School, and went thence to Trinity College, Cambridge. He was also incorporated at Oxford in 1592. He became fellow of Trinity. Having been appointed chaplain to Robert, Earl of Essex, he attended him in that expedition, designed to aid Henry IV. against the League in 1591, celebrated by Dr Donne in " The Storm" and " The Calm." While in France (in his twenty-fourth year), he was converted to Roman Catholicism, and a quaint English sonnet, " Of his Conversion," survives, wherein he defies the "frowne and scorne and purblind pittie " of the world, as having a vision of perdition if he yielded thereto. He did not long remain a Roman Catholic. In the preface to his work entitled Ecce Sponsus Venit (1633), he relates that certain doctrines of his having become obnoxious to the court of Rome, he was enticed to that city and imprisoned there by authority of the Inquisition ; and that on his liberation he was confined within the city walls, but escaped at the peril of his life, and returned to England. On his return he became prebendary of St Paul's and rector of Hatfield. Dr Alabaster was famous as a Hebraist; but his studies of Hebrew took a twist in the direction of the cabalistic learning, by which he luxuriated in discussions on the mystical meanings imagined to be hidden in the words of the Old Testament. The investigation and application of this supposed mystical meaning of Scripture was the main object of his Apparatus in Revelationem Jesu Christi (Antwerp, 1607); and, indeed, it runs through all his critical writings, as in his singular Spiraculunt Tubarum, sive Fons Spiritualium, Expositionem ex equivocis Pentaglotti Signiftcationibus (n.d., folio), his Lexicon Pentaglotton (1637, folio), and the Commentarius de Bestice Apocalyptica (1621). It was of these books Herrick wrote as making Alabaster " the one, one onely glory of a million." A MS. of Alabaster's Elisceis is among Emanuel College MSS. ; a better one, with additional poems, entitled " Inuenta Bellica " - recalling Herbert's " Triumphus Mortis," so headed - and " Inuenta Adespota," is in the Chetharn Library, Manchester. The poem is unfinished, but has lines in it which account for Spenser's lofty praise and hopes. It has never been printed. His best known verse is a Latin tragedy called Roxana. This is praised by Fuller, stirred Anthony h Wood into enthusiasm, and is regarded by Dr Johnson as the only Latin verse in England worthy to be named previous to Milton. It was prepared for his college (Trinity), and never meant for publication. Having been surreptitiously published in 1632, the author thereupon reprinted it, with this on the title-page, " A plagiariis unguibus vindicate, aucta et agnita." It is a curious composition. The subject is an oriental tale which had previously been dramatised in the Dalida of Groto, an Italian. The scenes consist of conversations between real and allegorical personages. The first act is entirely carried on between the ghost of one of the characters and personifications of Death and Suspicion. Hallam charges Alabaster with plagiarism from Dalida, but he cannot have really read the two. Alabaster died about 1640.