The Natural History of Wiltshire eBook

John Aubrey
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 257 pages of information about The Natural History of Wiltshire.

These verses were made by Mr. (William*) Browne, who wrote the “Pastoralls”, and they are inserted there.

(William, Governor afterwards to ye now E. of Oxford. — J. EVELYN.)

[In the Memoir of Aubrey, published by the Wiltshire Topographical Society in 1845, I drew attention to this passage, which shews that although the above famous epitaph on the Countess of Pembroke is almost always attributed to Ben Jonson, it was, in fact, written by William Browne.  That such is really the case does not rest only on the authority of Aubrey and Evelyn; for we find this very epitaph in a volume of Poems written by Browne, and preserved amongst the Lansdowne MSS in the British Museum (No. 777), together with the following additional lines: 

        “Marble pyles let no man raise
        To her name for after-dayes;
        Some kind woman, borne as she,
        Reading this, like Niobe,
        Shall turne marble, and become
        Both her mourner and her tombe.”

To the epitaph is subjoined an “Elegie” on the Countess, of considerable length.  When or by whom the epitaph was first ascribed to Jonson it is not easy to ascertain; but certainly no literary error has been more frequently repeated.  Aubrey is wrong in stating that the lines were printed in Browne’s Pastorals.- J. B.]

Mr. Adrian Gilbert, uterine brother to Sir Walter Raleigh, was a great chymist, and a man of excellent parts, but very sarcastick, and the greatest buffoon in the nation.  He was housekeeper at Wilton, and made that delicate orchard where the stately garden now is. ...........  He had a pension, and died about the beginning of the reign of King Charles the First.  Elias Ashmole, Esq. finds, by Dr. John Dee’s papers, that there was a great friendship and correspondency between him and Adrian Gilbert, and he often mentions him in his manuscripts.  Now there can be no doubt made but that his half-brother Sir Walter Raleigh, which was “tam Marti quam Mercurio”, had a great acquaintance with the Earle Henry and his ingenious Countesse.

There lived in Wilton, in those dayes, one Mr. Boston, a Salisbury man (his father was a brewer there), who was a great chymist, and did great cures by his art.  The Lady Mary, Countesse of Pembroke, did much esteeme him for his skill, and would have had him to have been her operator, and live with her, but he would not accept of her Ladyship’s kind offer.  But after long search after the philosopher’s stone, he died at Wilton, having spent his estate.  After his death they found in his laboratory two or three baskets of egge shelles, which I remember Geber saieth is a principall ingredient of that stone.

J. Donne, Deane of St. Paule’s, was well known both to Sir Philip Sydney and his sister Mary, as appeares by those excellent verses in his poems, “Upon the Translation of the Psalmes by Sir Philip Sydney and the Countesse of Pembroke his sister.”

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The Natural History of Wiltshire from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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