The broad outlines of Richard Lovelace’s life are easy enough to sketch, but when it comes to filling in the details, much remains conjectural. Born in 1618 either at the family manor of Bethersden, Woolwich, Kent, or in Holland, Lovelace was the eldest son of Sir William Lovelace and his wife, Anne (Barne). (The Woolwich church register does not commence until 1663.) His mother spent some time in Holland, where his father served under Sir Horace Vere and was later killed at the siege of Groll in 1627. Her references to her son Richard in her will make it seem likely that he was born while she was with her husband in the Low Countries.
Richard had four brothers, Thomas, Francis, William, and Dudley (the last of whom was responsible for seeing Lucasta: Posthume Poems through the press after his brother’s death), and three sisters, Anne, Elizabeth, and Johanna. There are no records of Lovelace’s childhood. In January, 1630, Lady Lovelace married Jonathan Brown or Browne of London, doctor of laws, and it may be presumed that the family’s fortunes were enhanced as a result. The poet was educated at Charterhouse and entered Gloucester Hall, now Worcester College, Oxford, as a gentleman commoner in 1634.
By all accounts, the young scholar was handsome and amiable. In his second year, according to Anthony à Wood, a not very reliable authority in the case of Lovelace, he attracted the attention of an eminent lady of the queen, who prevailed on the archbishop of Canterbury, then chancellor of the university, to have him awarded a master of arts, though he was only of two years’ standing. The following year, Lovelace was at Cambridge University, where he met several young men then in residence who were to contribute commendatory verses to Lucasta twelve years later; among them was Andrew Marvell.
Upon leaving the university, Lovelace joined the court, where he attracted the attention of George, Lord Goring, later earl of Norwich, and was sent by him as an ensign in the first expedition against the Scots in 1639, under the earl of Northumberland. During the second of these ineffectual campaigns, he was commissioned captain. Although he apparently wrote the tragedy titled The Soldier during the second campaign, the only direct reference to the Scottish campaigns is the drinking song “To General Goring, after the pacification of Berwick.” Among those who rode northward with Lovelace was the poet Sir John Suckling, whose “Ballad upon a Wedding” is traditionally thought to address Lovelace, although there is little, if any, substantive evidence for the attribution.
Following the Scottish campaigns, Lovelace returned to Kent and took possession...
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