Richard Lovelace (1618-1657); biography and famous works

Richard Lovelace (1618-1657) was an English poet of the 17th century. He was a cavalier poet who fought on behalf of the king during the Civil War. He was born into a wealthy family. His father, Sir William Lovelace was honored by King James I with knighthood for his service in the Low Countires. Together, Sir William Lovelace and his wife, Anne Barne Lovelace had eight children, with Richard Lovelace being the eldest. He was educated at Charterhouse School and Gloucester Hall, Oxford, the heir to great estates in Kent. Wealthy, handsome, and elegant, he was a courtier and served in the Scottish expeditions of 1639. Lovelace lived at a time when the English monarchy was under violent attack. In 1644, when Parliament challenged the king’s authority and civil war bro ke out, Lovelace was chosen to go to Parliament and demand that Charles I be restored to power. This didn’t go over very well, and he was immediately arrested and imprisoned by Parliament, where he is supposed to have written the song “To Althea’ (‘stone walls do not a prison make’). He rejoined Charles I in 1645 and served with the French king in 1646. According to Anthony Wood, his betrothed Lucy Sacheverell married another on a false report of his death. He was imprisoned again in 1648 and in prison prepared for the press his Lucasta: Epodes, Odes, Sonnets, Songs etc., which includes the well-known lyric ‘On Going to the Wars’. He died in extreme poverty. After his death his brother published his remaining verses, Lucasta: Posthume Poems. He wrote two plays, now lost.

His most quoted excerpts are from the beginning of the last stanza of “To Althea, From Prison”:

Stone walls do not a prison make,
Nor iron bars a cage;
Minds innocent and quiet take
That for an hermitage

and the end of “To Lucasta. Going to the Warres”:

I could not love thee, dear, so much,
Lov’d I not Honour more.

During the earlier part of the 18th century, his work was entirely neglected, until Thomas Percy reprinted two of his lyrics in his Reliques(1765) when his reputation as a Cavalier poet steadily increased. His works were edited by C. H. Wilkinson (2 vols, 1925).

Also read; John Lydgate, and his Famous Works