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An essay by Arthur Thomas Quiller-Couch

Thomas Carew

Title:     Thomas Carew
Author: Arthur Thomas Quiller-Couch [More Titles by Quiller-Couch]

July 28, 1894. A Note on his Name.

Even as there is an M alike in Macedon and Monmouth, so Thomas Carew and I have a common grievance--that our names are constantly mispronounced. It is their own fault, of course; on the face of it they ought to rhyme with "few" and "vouch." And if it be urged (impolitely but with a fair amount of plausibility) that what my name may or may not rhyme with is of no concern to anybody, I have only to reply that, until a month or so back, I cheerfully shared this opinion and acquiesced in the general error. Had I dreamed then of becoming a subject for poetry, I had pointed out--as I do now--for the benefit of all intending bards, that I do not legitimately rhyme with "vouch" (so liable is human judgment to err, even in trifles), unless they pronounce it "vooch," which is awkward. I believe, indeed (speaking as one who has never had occasion to own a Rhyming Dictionary), that the number of English words consonant with my name is exceedingly small; but leave the difficulty to the ingenious Dr. Alexander H. Japp, LL.D., F.R.S.E., who has lately been at the pains to compose and put into private circulation a sprightly lampoon upon me. As it is not my intention to reply with a set of verses upon Dr. Japp, it seems superfluous to inquire if _his_ name should be pronounced as it is spelt.

But Carew's case is rather important; and it is really odd that his latest and most learned editor, the Rev. J.F. Ebsworth, should fall into the old error. In a "dedicatory prelude" to his edition of "The Poems and Masque of Thomas Carew" (London: Reeves & Turner), Mr. Ebsworth writes as follows:--

"Hearken strains from one who knew
How to praise and how to sue:
_Celia's_ lover, TOM CAREW."

Thomas Carew (born April 3d, 1590, at Wickham, in Kent) was the son of Sir Matthew Carew, Master in Chancery, and the grandson of Sir Wymond Carew, of East Antony, or Antony St. Jacob, between the Lynher and Tamar rivers in Cornwall, where the family of Pole-Carew lives to this day. Now, the Cornish Carews have always pronounced their name as "Carey," though, as soon as you cross the Tamar and find yourself (let us say) as far east as Haccombe in South Devon, the name becomes "Carew"--pronounced as it is written. The two forms are both of great age, as the old rhyme bears witness--

"Carew, Carey and Courtenay,
When the Conqueror came, were here at play"--

and the name was often written "Carey" or "Cary," as in the case of the famous Lucius Carey, Lord Falkland, and his descendants. In Cornwall, however, where spelling is often an untrustworthy guide to pronunciation (I have known people to write their name "Hix" and pronounce it as "Hic"--when sober, too), it was written "Carew" and pronounced as "Carey"; and there is not the slightest doubt that this was the case with our poet's name. If anyone deny it, let him consider the verse in which Carew is mentioned by his contemporaries: and attempt, for instance, to scan the lines in Robert Baron's "Pocula Castalia," 1650--

"Sweet _Suckling_ then, the glory of the Bower
Wherein I've wanton'd many a genial hour,
Fair Plant! whom I have seen _Minerva_ wear
An ornament to her well-plaited hair,
On highest days; remove a little from
Thy excellent _Carew_! and thou, dearest _Tom_,
_Love's Oracle_! lay thee a little off
Thy flourishing _Suckling_, that between you both
I may find room...."

Or this by Suckling--

"_Tom Carew_ was next, but he had a fault,
That would not well stand with a Laureat;
His Muse was hard-bound, and th' issue of 's brain
Was seldom brought forth but with trouble and pain."

Or this, by Lord Falkland himself (who surely may be supposed to have known how the name was pronounced), in his "Eclogue on the Death of Ben Jonson"--

"_Let Digby, Carew, Killigrew_ and _Maine,
Godolphin, Waller_, that inspired train--
Or whose rare pen beside deserves the grace
Or of an equal, or a neighbouring place--
Answer thy wish, for none so fit appears
To raise his Tomb, as who are left his heirs."

In each case "Carey" scans admirably, while "Carew" gives the line an intolerable limp.

Mr. Ebsworth's championship.

This mistake of Mr. Ebsworth's is the less easy to understand inasmuch as he has been very careful to clear up the popular confusion of our poet Thomas Carew, "gentleman of the Privy Chamber to King Charles I., and cup-bearer to His Majesty," with another Thomas Gary (also a poet), son of the Earl of Monmouth and groom of His Majesty's bed-chamber. But it is one thing to prove that this second Thomas Gary is the original of the "medallion portrait" commonly supposed to be Carew's: it is quite another thing to saddle him, merely upon guess-work, with Carew's reputed indiscretions. Indeed, Mr. Ebsworth lets his enthusiasm for his author run clean away with his sense of fairness. He heads his Introductory Memoir with the words of Pallas in Tennyson's "Œnone"--

"Again she said--'I woo thee not with gifts:
Sequel of guerdon could not alter me
To fairer. Judge thou me by what I am,
So shalt thou find me fairest.'"--

from which I take it that Mr. Ebsworth claims his attitude towards Carew to be much the same as Thackeray's towards Pendennis. But in fact he proves himself a thorough-going partisan, and anyone less enthusiastic may think himself lucky if dismissed by Mr. Ebsworth with nothing worse than a smile of pity mingled with contempt. Now, so long as an editor confines this belligerent enthusiasm to the defence of his author's writings, it is at worst but an amiable weakness; and every word he says in their praise tends indirectly to justify his own labor in editing these meritorious compositions. But when he extends this championship over the author's private life, he not unfrequently becomes something of a nuisance. We may easily forgive such talk as "There must assuredly have been a singular frankness and affectionate simplicity in the disposition of Carew:" talk which is harmless, though hardly more valuable than the reflection beloved of local historians--"If these grey old walls could speak, what a tale might they not unfold!" It is less easy to forgive such a note as this:--

"Sir John Suckling was incapable of understanding Carew in his final days of sickness and depression, as he had been (and this is conceding much) in their earlier days of reckless gallantry. His vile address 'to T---- C----,' etc., 'Troth, _Tom_, I must confess I much admire ...' is nothing more than coarse badinage without foundation; in any case not necessarily addressed to Carew, although they were of close acquaintance; but many other Toms were open to a similar expression, since 'T.C.' might apply to Thomas Carey, to Thomas Crosse, and other T.C. poets."

It is not pleasant to rake up any man's faults; but when an editor begins to suggest some new man against whom nothing is known (except that he wrote indifferent verse)--who is not even known to have been on speaking terms with Suckling--as the proper target of Suckling's coarse raillery, we have a right not only to protest, but to point out that even Clarendon, who liked Carew, wrote of him that, "after fifty years of his life spent with less severity and exactness than it ought to have been, he died with great remorse for that license, and with the greatest manifestation of Christianity that his best friends could desire." If Carew thought fit to feel remorse for that license, it scarcely becomes Mr. Ebsworth to deny its existence, much less to hint that the sinfulness was another's.

A correction.

As a minor criticism, I may point out that the song, "Come, my Celia, let us prove ..." (included by Mr. Ebsworth, with the remark that "there is no external evidence to confirm the attribution of this song to Carew") was written by Ben Jonson, and is to be found in _Volpone_, Act III., sc. 7, 1607.

But, with some imperfections, this is a sound edition--sadly needed--of one of the most brilliant lyrical writers of his time. It contains a charming portrait; and the editor's enthusiasm, when it does not lead him too far, is also charming.

[The end]
Arthur Thomas Quiller-Couch's essay: Thomas Carew