Thomas Carew Analysis

Other literary forms

(British and Irish Poetry, Revised Edition)

Thomas Carew (KEHR-ee, also kuh-REW) wrote a number of songs for plays that were presented at the court of Charles I. The only other major work he produced, however, was his masque Coelum Britannicum (pr. 1634).


(British and Irish Poetry, Revised Edition)

To discuss the achievements of Thomas Carew is a difficult, if not an impossible, task because the first printed edition of his work did not appear until after his death. As a result, his poems were not widely known—which is no reflection on their merit. Whatever impact he had on the literary climate of the Caroline period was limited to a small audience at court who knew his poems from the manuscript copies that were circulated. With this qualification in mind, Carew’s accomplishments can be counted as significant. Although Carew was a minor poet, he was one of the best writing at a time when minor poetry had reached a high level. Certainly Carew achieved this high level in “An Elegie upon the Death of the Deane of Pauls, Dr. John Donne,” his unquestioned masterpiece. He more often produced verse that was trite or contrived. Somewhere between these two levels of achievement, however, lies a body of genuinely agreeable poetry that is valuable to the student of literature not so much because of its own innate merit but because it so effectively captures the spirit of Cavalier poetry. Indeed, one can gain a satisfactory knowledge of the themes and techniques of the Cavaliers through reading Carew alone, for he is in a sense the perfect example of the court poet during the reign of Charles I.


(British and Irish Poetry, Revised Edition)

Benet, Diana. “Carew’s Monarchy of Wit.” In “The Muses’ Common-Weale”: Poetry and Politics in the Seventeenth Century, edited by Claude J. Summers and Ted-Larry Pebworth. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1988. Argues that Carew, using the absolutist rhetoric of James and Charles, consciously constructs a realm of wit in which the writer reigns supreme. Shows the problems faced by writers in the Stuarts’ attempts to limit free speech.

Corns, Thomas N., ed. The Cambridge Companion to English Poetry: Donne to Marvell. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1993. Presents a brief but balanced biography of Carew and an analysis of his work.

Parker, Michael P. “’To my friend G. N. from Wrest’: Carew’s Secular Masque.” In Classic and Cavalier: Essays on Jonson and the Sons of Ben, edited by Claude J. Summers and Ted-Larry Pebworth. Pittsburgh, Pa.: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1982. Surveys the seventeenth century genre of the country-house poem and places Carew’s piece as the turning point between Jonson’s “To Penshurst” and Marvell’s “Upon Appleton House.” Supplies information about Wrest and its owners, which was for many years obscured through historical error. Shows how the structure of the poem owes much to the masque tradition.

Ray, Robert H. “The Admiration of...

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