Dr Favour’s Northerne Poems

At the British Museum Mr F. C. Francis drew the attention of my son to an anonymous book of poems which he considered was the work of Dr John Favour, Vicar of Halifax. The evidence for this attribution was in an entry in Arber’s Transcript of the Stationers’ Register from 1587 to 1640 (Vol. III, p. 260).

14 May, 1604.

Edmund Weaver Entered for true Copys under the handes of Master Doctor Favour, master Pasfield and the Wardens, A booke Called Northerne poems, etc.

Edmund Weaver, bookseller, was the copy-holder or, as we should say, the holder of the copyright, or publisher. Favour acted as corrector. The Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of London had a panel of names from which the correctors were usually selected; their duty was to see that no seditious or heretical words passed into print. The entrance in the Register was, in most cases, by one or both of the Wardens of the Stationers’ Company, less Often by the Court, rarely by the Master. The Wardens made use of the Archbishop’s correctors, but at the same time they continued to accept, as warrant for entrance, the hands of many more, who only appear once or twice, and who can obviously have had no official recognition. For this account of the censoring and licensing of books, I am indebted to a paper by Mr W. W. Greg — “Entrance, License and Publication,” in The Library, Vol. XXV, 1944.

“So long as, in fact, no books were entered that offended authority, no one would question by whom they had been licensed: and that was all the Wardens cared about. My point is,” writes Mr Greg, “that the fact of a particular person putting his ‘hand’ to a copy is not only no evidence that he possessed the right of licensing for the press, but is not even evidence that he held a recognised position as ‘corrector.’”

Dr Favour was not an official corrector, and it is fair to assume that the Master and Wardens of the Stationers’ Company put the responsibility on him as the author of the book and a man of standing, of not having written anything offensive. With his guarantee, they felt safe in making the entrance to the Register.

The find was reported to me and I was able to obtain photostats of the book. I scanned it to see if it would reveal evidence of the vicar’s opinions, keeping one eye open for ‘the signature tune of Favour’ — to use the phrase of the leader-writer of The Times Literary Supplement (). Thomas Cox, in his History of Heath Grammar School, points out that Favour had a love for his own name. ‘In Favorem’ commences the inscription over the school entrance; ‘cum favore’ in a testimonial for the schoolmaster; and there are a few more such instances. I had not to search far for his favourite word, for on the first page — the dedication — he had not written ten lines before the word ‘favour’ slips in; and before he finished the page he wrote, ‘which may it please you to Grace with your Favour.’

The reference in the poems to Roman Catholics are consistent with Dr Favour’s zeal in disputing with the recusant priests. We also know that the vicar had the habit of writing topical poems, and for half-an-hour he read his witty verses on papists to Father Rountree in the gaol at York in 1613.

The bibliographical description of the book is:

tulating the Kings Maiesties
most happy and peaceable en—
trance to the Crowne of
Sorrowe was ouer night,
But ioy came in the morning.
Serò, quamuis seris
Sat cuo si sat bene.
These come too late, though they import thy loue:
Nay, soone enough, if good enough they proue.
Printed at London by Iohn Windet,
for Edmund Weauer, and are to be solde at
the great North doore of Paules.

4° A-C4 D1

A1 Title.

A2a To … Lord Shefield.

A2b To the Reader.

A3 – D1 (PP. 1–22) Text

John Windet was a good printer, says Timperley, and was printer to the Honourable City of London, and dwelt at the sign of the White Boar in Adling (Addle) Street near Barnard’s Castle. He commenced business in 1585 The two preliminary pages — the dedication and the preface — are nice specimens of typographical art.

The King’s Council in the North by Dr R. R. Reid gives a political account of the problem of Elizabeth’s successor as viewed from a northern standpoint, and I have taken the liberty of quoting freely from its pages. The struggle between Essex and Cecil might easily have led to Civil War between the North and the South. The control of the North was an important factor, and when Essex secured the election of Archbishop Hutton to be Head of the Council in the North with a policy of toleration towards recusants, in February, 1596 Sir Robert Cecil was able to prevent the Archbishop assuming the title of President.

In August, 1599, Cecil’s own brother, Lord Burghley, was appointed Lord President of the Council in the North, with instructions to put the defence in readiness against either a Catholic rising or a Scottish invasion, and to proceed against recusancy. When Essex revolted in 1601, there was no rising in the North. The southern nobles and gentry, with Roman Catholic sympathies, who followed the policy of maintaining a good understanding with Spain and Flanders against France and Scotland, were bitterly opposed to the succession of the Scottish King, preferring his cousin, Lady Arabella Stuart. Cecil saw clearly that any attempt to bring the other sovereign than James on the Queen’s death would lead to civil war between North and South, in which the North would be aided by Scotland and probably by France; the South would seek Spanish aid, and the subversion of Protestantism would almost certainly follow, no matter which side won. James sent ambassadors to London to demand from Elizabeth the recognition of his right, and to arrange with Essex for an armed rising to force her consent. They arrived in March, 1601, a few days after Essex had been beheaded. Cecil arranged with them at a meeting in his own house in the Strand, to begin a secret correspondence with their master which ended only when James became King of England. Thanks to Cecil’s diplomacy, James’s accession to the throne in March, 1603, was entirely peaceful, save for one outburst by three or four hundred men in the north- west. In July, 1603, Burghley was dismissed, as he was too closely identified with the anti-Catholic policy that had hitherto suited Cecil’s plan, for James was not yet prepared to undeceive the Catholics, whose hopes of toleration had been so long fed by his promises.

Edmund, Lord Sheffield, a friend of Cecil, became Lord President of the Council in the North. He had served with some distinction in the Netherlands campaign of 1585–7, and commanded the ‘White Bear,’ against the Spanish Armada; and was rewarded in 1591 with a grant of the lordship and castle of Mulgrave, near Whitby. After the death of the Earl of Huntingdon in 1595, Sheffield had asked for his place as Lord President, but it was refused because his wife was a recusant. 0n James’s accession, he attained his ambition because it was hoped that his Romanist connections and his milder rule would reconcile the Catholics to the breaking of the King’s promise of legal toleration, and also to free James from Sheffield’s importunate demands for a reward for services, of which the King truly said he never heard until informed of them by Lord Sheffield himself. Lord Sheffield was a hopelessly tactless person of mediocre ability, with an overweening sense of his own importance, and heavily in debt. He quarrelled with all whose good will he should have sought, and his lack of principle and ability brought the Council into contempt and disfavour. When the Court policy changed, the Lord President and Council in the North became active in 1615 and 1617 in enforcing the laws against priests and recusants. In 1618, the Spanish Ambassador, champion of English recusants, demanded that Sheffield should be deprived of his office, and James readily consented. He surrendered the Presidency to Lord Scrope for the sum of £5,000. Amid all these shifts and changes, Dr Favour was steadfast in championing the Protestant cause, disputing with Henry Walpole, John Ingram, Leonard Rountree and other priests; and in his magnum opus, Antiquitie Triumphing over Noveltie, he elaborated these arguments.

The book, Northerne Poems, is dedicated to Lord Sheffield, Lord President of the Council in the North. Dr Favour was chaplain to Lord Huntingdon, President 1572–1595, but I do not know whether he held the office under Sheffield, who was appointed in July, 1603. Most of the verses were written a month or two previous. The poet had not intended to circulate written copies, much less to print them for common view, but well-wishing friends persuaded him to publish. They were written in Latin for the King, in English for the Queen; though he ‘never durst presume to press with them into their Highnesses presence.’ To the reader, Favour wrote:

Gentle Reader, I knowe there is nothing offensiue in my Poems for the matter, if the maner answere not the curiosity of thy more quicke conceipts for the present, yet I hope thou wilt pardon that in me now, which thou maiest haply finde in thy selfe hereafter, when thou hast beene as long discontinued from such studies as I haue beene. Stay thy captious censure but till then, and I will vnder go it with all my heart.

The Dedication reads:

To the Right Honourable my very good Lord, Edmond L. Shefield, Lord President of his Maiesties Councell, established in the North parts, and Knight of the most Noble order of the Garter: Grace and prosperity in this world, Life and glory in the world to come.

These following Verses (Right Honourable) were made at his Maiesties most happy entrance to the Crowne of England, without purpose to be divulged so much as by written Copies to any, much lesse to bee published to common view, by printing to many. Yet Importuned by earnest intreaty of diners my welwilling friends, I was content to commit them to the presse, and for the more securitie of my credit, to commend them to your Honorable protection, with hope of your Lordships fauour, that, as you are the worth President of the North countrey, so it will please you bee the honourable Patrone of these Northerne Poems. I wrote them in Latine for the King, in English for the Queene, that if there were either pleasure of profit in them, both might haue their desires satisfied, though I neuer durst presume to presse with them into their highnesse presence. I haue shewed in them my dutie, ioy, and love to their Maiesties, which notwithstanding remaineth with mee more deeper imprinted in my hart, then [than] can be expressed by my penne, though my penne hath playd his best part, in vttering the secrets of my hart. I beseech your Lordship pardon my slackness the presumption, my slackness in gratifying your honour no sooner, my presumption in presenting a thing no better: which may it please you to Grace with your Favour, then shall I haue my desire, and your Lordship shall sure of my hartiest Prayer.

Next, Favour addresses the King, in Latin:

In Jacobi Insularum Occidentalis Oceani Imperatoris Potentiff. Angliae, Scotiae, Franciae, & Hiberniae Regis inuict fidei defensoris Catholiciss. fidelium protectoris Christianiss. foelicia auspicia Carmina Boreaha, Encomiastica, & Congratulatoria.

Having sketched in the historical background, given the bibliographical details, and transcribed the preliminary pages, we turn to the text. But before doing so, dare we speculate whether Favour would have written so fulsomely of his King and President, after he had known them longer and better?

The first poem is his apology for the Northern title; remember that Favour was a native of Southampton, and so knew both the south and the north of England.


England seemes fertile onely in the South,
These North parts yeelde but few things that are good:
The learned Schools haue filde their flowing mouth
With James his prayse, in verse and pleasant moode,
Vnlearned with learnd haue sundry poems wrote,
From Norths cold clime the muses haue sent nought.

This grieude my thoughts, with sighs I cald at last,
Vpstart a rurall Muse and brake the ice
With these vnpolisht verses made in hast
And send to thee (O King) her weake deuise
Pardon to me the tringer of her letter,
Vouchsafe, the Muse deliuered me no better.

The second poem commences with a reference to Joshua, ‘Captaine of Gods holy host,’ who prayed that the daylight might be prolonged. Under Elizabeth:


Full forty yeares and more that day did last.

Eliz’ is set, king Iames doth beautifie
Our heauens faire, and shines like glorious sunne:
Long may he shine in this our Orient skie,
That night may cease, and day be neuer done.

Now he turns to the North again —


Al euill from the North saith proverbe olde, But we may say, the North sends vs most good, Our gratious king with ofspring manifold From thence deriues his stocke and royall bloud. Let Boreas blastes to others euill bring, All good to vs that sends vs such a king.

Then Favour turns to the question of who has the right of succession. Should the King be chosen or does the next of kin inherit the throne? —


Wouldst thou a chosen king should raign, Or one the next of bloud? O England both these wishes now Doe serue vnto thy good. For whome could thou desire to chuse, Then [than] in whose sacred brest, All virtues and religious faith As in a closet rest? Or who by righter line descends From our most auncient Kinges, Then [than] our King Iames, who double right From double title brings.

He returns to the question again in these verses —


Sage Salomon deem’d that people blest, Whose King was born of noble bloud: But Plato thought Philosopher best, And iudgement mixt with counsell good. Now England answeres Platoes wish, England enioyes Salomons desire, For Englands King Philosopher is.

For noble birth he hath no Peere.

There are several verses on the text, difficult to preach from: ‘The King is dead. Long live the King.’ Here is a specimen —


The vnlookt for death of our Eliza Queene England in sable weed hath iustly mournde, Whose soule with God in highest blisse is seene, Whose earth to heauen, death to life is turnd. Cease now to weepe, for our Eliza dwels With glorious Saints in glory that excels.

Learne now thy time to turne, learne to reioyce, Prayse God with heart, with shout let heauens ring, In change thou couldst haue neuer better choyce, Then [than] God hath made in sending Iames thy King. Liue Iames, foule Rome and Antichrist confound, Gods blessed lore let sway in Britan ground.

A poem for the new Queen, Anne of Denmark, and the Prince of Wales, plays on the ancient names of Denmark (Cimbria) and Wales (Cambria) —


This name may well presage th’old Britans good, That Denmarke should in times past Cimbria hight, One letter change, set a where I once stoode, And Wales this name will clayme of ancient right, Nay both those names do on that Countrey light.

Our Noble Queene in Cimbria land was borne, That she to Cambria might bring forth a sonne. Let Cimbria ioy which her birth doth adorne, Let Wales reioyce to whome this grace is wonne, A better worke for them was neuer done. Seeing Cimbria hath the worthy Cambrians blest, Let Cambrias loue to Cimbria neuer rest.

On Elizabeth’s motto, ‘Semper eadem’ —


Elizabeth our noble Queene was wont to write,
Alwayes the same, the same in deed and word,
Our King may alwayes vse the same by right,
Whose deeds with words, whose words
With deedes accord.

There are three poems on the new Royal Arms adopted by James I. He retained the Tudor coat of arms, France and England quarterly, as a grand quarter, and used it in the first and fourth places; he put the arms of Scotland in the second grand quarter, and the arms of Ireland in the third grand quarter. Sir William St John Hope’s description of the arms of Scotland is: ‘Gold, a lion and a double tressure counter-flowered gules.’ The tressure with the fleurs-de-lys is said to commemorate treaties between the French and Scots.


Three Lions do our English Armes adorne,
And one hath Scotland euer iustly borne:
The flowers of France doth England clayme of right,
As fairly flowers the Scottish Scutcheon dight.
To make an harmony adde Lions three
To one, and flowers to flowers adioyne comly:
This match is fayre, when like with like are met,
Lion with Lions, and flowers with flowers set.


These Lions strong are tipes of fortitude:
The Lillies fayre are signes of gentlenesse;
The Harpe notes conscience cleare with ioy include,
(For mirth is seldome found in guiltinesse).
Walke thus in vertues lore as in an euen trod,
Feard of thy foes, honour’d of frends, belo’ud of God.


Fierce Lions call for iust reuenge on wicked trayne,
But flowers with mercy bid good subiects loue to gain
The Harp concord of harts in peace doth triumph sound
Here make thy stand, this shalt thou find thy safest ground.

For a specimen of the anti-papist poems, I have selected this —


The cruell Papists long haue sought the vntimely death,
Of Gods handmaid our Queene Elizabeth:
By teares, by prayers, curses, and by secret treason,
By wars by all meanes could be found by wit or reason.
This was their onely hope and drift for many day,
That she might dye, or they might take her life away.
Yet force nor fraud, could this effect (O viperous broode:)
Shee died in peace, and went to graue when God saw good.
Her death was ioyous to her selfe, we had the losse.
Her passage hence might wel haue beene our greater crosse.
She gathered is to Saints in blisse, in a good age,
Till her last breath God her preserude from popish rage.
Now Romish brood tell in good sooth what haue you got?
But speake the very truth, (its hard) this once lie not.
Our gratious God a king hath plaste in royall seate,
Who doth equall in godly zeale that princes greate,
From hart he hates the Romish crue as well as shee,
A rest for them within his lands shall neuer be.
Our glorious powerfull God hath thought vpon our case,
And in his mercy stablished our perfect peace.
So to vs miserable men, he giueth ioy,
Your hopes and mirth, your harts and soules do now annoye.
Our harts are warnde hereby, but yours are waxen cold:
O Lord of might, remember still thy mercies old.

The final verse is a plea for Union between the Kingdoms of England and Scotland, desired by James, but which had to wait a century for consummation.


Olde Albion is but one by natures lore,
Inuirond round with the vast Ocean shore.
To make it two nature denies it bounds
It is vnited fast by solid grounds.

T. W. Hanson April 2nd, 1946