Read SIR ROBERT HOWARD of The Lives of the Poets of Great Britain and Ireland (1753) Vol. III, free online book, by Theophilus Cibber, on

This gentleman was a younger son of Thomas earl of Berkshire, by Elizabeth his wife, one of the daughters and coheirs of William lord Burghley, and received his education at Magdalen-college, Oxford, under the tuition of Dr. E. Drope.  During the civil wars, he suffered with the rest of his family, who maintained their loyalty to the unfortunate King Charles I. Upon the restoration, our author was made a knight, and was chosen one of the burgesses for Stockbridge in Hampshire, to serve in the Parliament which began at Westminster 8th of May 1661; he was quickly preferred to the place of auditor of the Exchequer, then worth some thousand pounds per annum, and was reckoned one of King Charles’s creatures, whom he advanced, on account of his faithful services in cajoling the Parliament for Money.

In the year 1679 he was chosen burgess for Castle-rising in Norfolk, to serve in that Parliament which began at Westminster on the 17th of October 1680.  When the revolution was effected, and King William ascended the throne, he was elected burgess again for Castle-rising, to fit in the Parliament which began the 22d of January 1688, was made one of the privy council, about the 16th of February took the usual oaths, and commenced from that moment a violent persecutor of the Non-jurors, and disclaimed all manner of conversation and intercourse with any of that character.  He is said to have been a man extremely positive, and a pretender to a more general understanding than he really possessed.  His obstinacy and pride procured him many enemies, amongst whom the duke of Buckingham was the first; who intended to have exposed Sir Robert under the name of Bilboa in the Rehearsal; but the plague which then prevailed occasioned the theatres to be shut up, and the people of fashion to quit the town.  In this interval he altered his resolution, and levelled his ridicule at a much greater name, under that of Bayes.

Thomas Shadwell the poet, tho’ a man of the same principles with Sir Robert, concerning the revolution and state matters, was yet so angry with the knight for his supercilious domineering manner of behaving, that he points him out under the name of Sir Positive At All, one of his characters in the comedy called the Sullen Lovers, or the Impertinents; and amongst the same persons is the lady Vain, a Courtezan, which the wits then understood to be the mistress of Sir Robert Howard, whom he afterwards thought proper to marry.

In February 1692, being then in the decline of life, he married one Mrs Dives, maid of honour to the Queen.  The merit of this author seems to have been of a low rate, for very little is preserved concerning him, and none of his works are now read; nor is he ever mentioned, but when that circumstance of the duke of Buckingham’s intending to ridicule him, is talked of.

Had Sir Robert been a man of any parts, he had sufficient advantages from his birth and fortune to have made a figure, but the highest notice which he can claim in the republic of letters, is, that he was brother-in-law to Dryden.

His works are,

Poems, containing a panegyric on the King, and songs and sonnets, Lon, and a panegyric on general Monk.

His plays are six in number, viz.

1.  The Blind Lady, a Comedy.

2.  The Committee, or the Faithful Irishman, a Comedy, printed folio, London 1665.  This comedy is often acted, and the success of it chiefly depends upon the part of Teague being well performed.

3.  The Great Favourite, or the Duke of Lerma, a Tragi-Comedy, acted at the theatre-royal 1668.  This play was criticised by Mr. Dryden.

4.  The Indian Queen, a Tragedy.

5.  Surprizal, a Tragi-comedy, acted at the theatre royal 1665.

6.  The Vestal Virgin; or the Roman Ladies, a Tragedy, 1665.  In his prologue to this play, Sir Robert has the following couplet, meant as an answer to Dryden’s animadversions on the Duke of Lerma.

  This doth a wretched dearth of wit betray,
  When things of kind on one another prey.

He has written likewise,

The History of the Reigns of Edward and Richard ii. with Reflections and Characters on their chief ministers and favourites.  As also a comparison between these princes Edward and Richard ii. with Edward I. and Edward iii.  London printed 1690.

A Letter to Mr. Samuel Johnson, occasioned by a scurrilous pamphlet, entitled, Animadversions on Mr. Johnson’s Answer to Jovian, in three Letters to a country friend, Lon.  At the end of this letter is reprinted the preface before the history of the reigns of Edward and Richard ii. before mentioned.

The History of Religion, Lon.

The 4th book of Virgil translated into English, which contains the loves of Dido and AEneas, 1660.

Likewise P. Papinius Statius, his Achilles, in five books; to each of which he has subjoined Annotations.