Francis Quarles was a younger son of an old gentry family settled in Essex. He was born in 1592 at his father’s manor of Stewards at Romford and baptized on May 8 of the same year. One of his sisters became by marriage an aunt of the poet Dryden. Quarles attended Christ’s College, Cambridge, receiving the degree of B.A. in 1608 while still in his teens. Afterward he spent some time at Lincoln’s Inn studying law, although there is no indication that he ever pursued the law as a profession. In 1613, he embarked on what promised to be a career as a courtier with an appointment as cup-bearer to Princess Elizabeth on her marriage to Frederick V, elector of the Palatinate. Quarles accompanied the couple to Germany, but he had returned to England before the terrible reversal of their fortunes in 1620, when the armies of the emperor expelled them from Bohemia, where Frederick had served briefly as elective king.
Back in England, Quarles married Ursula Woodgate on May 28, 1618. He and his wife had eighteen children. The eldest son, John, grew up to become a minor poet in his own right. It was shortly after his marriage that Quarles began publishing poetry, and numerous volumes of his biblical paraphrases and other religious poems issued from the press in rapid succession.
As a result of a reputation for piety that grew as each new volume was published, Quarles was offered the post of private secretary to James Ussher, then bishop of Meath, later...
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