Despite the recurring popularity of his verse and his reputation as a significant Cavalier poet, little is known about the life of Thomas Carew other than that which one might infer from his poems or speculate about the life of a courtier at the court of Charles I. Carew was born in Kent in 1594. His father, Matthew, was a master in Chancery, and his mother, Alice Rymers, was descended from a noble family. Although nothing is known of Carew’s boyhood, there is a record of his having begun study at Merton College, Oxford, in 1608. In 1610, he entered Cambridge, and apparently he took his degree in 1612. Again, one can only speculate about Carew’s academic career, but he no doubt studied the basic curriculum in rhetoric, mathematics, and philosophy.
After graduating from Cambridge, Carew studied law, although his father’s letters about his son’s preparation for the bench suggest that Carew’s inclinations were not toward a legal career. Rhodes Dunlap, in The Poems of Thomas Carew (1949), speculates that Carew may have been distracted by the notoriously frivolous life of an Inns of Court student. Matthew Carew shared this and other concerns with his friend Sir Dudley Carleton, English ambassador to Italy, who, at the request of his friend, employed the youthful Carew in 1613. Although records do exist about Carleton’s Italian activities, no mention is made of Carew. No doubt the intelligent and lively Carew availed himself of the opportunities for learning and licentiousness...
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