A Select Second Husband For Sir Thomas Overburie's Wife, Now A Widow Quotes

"Beauty's But Skin Deep"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: An English writer and courtier, Sir Thomas Overbury (1581-1613), became acquainted with Robert Carr, an uneducated Scot, who eventually entered the court of King James I. Carr attached himself to the better-educated Overbury, who acted as his tutor. Carr soon became Viscount Rochester and later Earl of Somerset. He became involved in an intrigue with Frances Howard, Countess of Essex, which Overbury encouraged. Overbury became involved with the Countess of Rutland, to whom he wrote a poem on marriage called A Wife, Now the Widow of Sir Thomas Overburie. Overbury opposed a marriage between Carr and the Countess, and perhaps blackmailed him in some way. Carr had Overbury imprisoned in the Tower of London, where the Countess had him poisoned. The case became known and caused a great scandal, with the result that many moralizing imitations of Overbury's Wife were written, of which John Davies' A Select Second Husband is one. It begins by contrasting virtue and beauty; In part it says:

Beauty's but skin deep; nay, it is not so:
It floats but on the skin beneath the skin,
That, like pure air, scarce hides her fullest flow:
It is so subtle, vading, fragile, and thin:
Were she skin-deep, she could not be so shallow
To win but fools her purity to hallow.