Thomas Carew Biography


(British and Irish Poetry, Revised Edition)

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...

(The entire section is 616 words.)


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Thomas Carew (kuh-REW) belongs to the group of young courtier poets who gathered around Charles I during the first decade of his reign. Carew’s family belonged to the minor nobility and the increasingly powerful merchant class; his father, Sir Matthew Carew, was a well-known lawyer knighted by James I in 1603, and his mother was the daughter of a lord mayor of London. Almost nothing is known of the poet’s early childhood. In 1608 he entered Merton College, Oxford; his bachelor’s degree was granted three years later. He apparently intended to follow his father’s profession, for he entered the Middle Temple to begin his legal training in 1612. During his few months at the Inns of Court he undoubtedly enjoyed the company of the numerous wealthy young men who made their study an excuse for expensive amusements in London. However, his father’s financial reverses soon made it necessary for him to take a position as secretary to Sir Dudley Carleton, the ambassador to Venice.

Because much of Carleton’s correspondence has survived among the English state papers, Carew’s career is well documented. The young man spent a year and a half in Italy with his employer, learning Italian and reading poetry and philosophy. He went to The Hague when Carleton was named ambassador to the Netherlands in 1616, but he lost his position that summer when a paper on which he had written insulting remarks about the Carletons was discovered. Carleton tried to shield Sir...

(The entire section is 582 words.)