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2005 articles 1986 articles

John Denham: new letters and documents

Hilton Kelliher


IT was inevitable that the fundamental divisions made in English society by the Civil Wars should affect the ranks of the poets and playwrights, and unsurprising that the former largely and the latter almost entirely would adhere to the king's party. Not that, from our more distant vantage-point at least, the literary advantage lay with the larger faction. When the lines were drawn the Parliamentarians could muster Milton, Marvell, the young Dryden, and, proximum longo intervallo the elderly George Wither, who had done his best work in the reign of James L Edmund Waller occupied an unenviable position between the two camps; while Cowley, Denham, Fanshawe, Lovelace, Quarks, and Suckling, along with the dramatists Davenant, the two Killigrews and Shirley, are the most notable of those who either served Charles I or his successor in exile or suffered directly on their behalf. Among the latter party John Denham occupied in political terms a moderately distinguished place, acting as agent at home and as envoy abroad to both Charles Stuarts in turn.

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