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PARLIAMENT OF ENGLAND,
WHICH BEGAN NOVEMBER THE THIRD, M.DC.XL.;
A SHORT AND NECESSARY VIEW OF SOME PRECEDENT YEARS.
IMPRINTED BY MOSES BELL, FOR GEORGE THOMASON, AT THE SIGNE OF THE ROSE AND
CROWN IN ST. PAUL'S CHURCH-YARD,
AND NOW REPRINTED BY ROBERT WILKS, 89, CHANCERY-LANE,
PRESENT EDITION OF THIS HISTORY
THE following History of the Parliament of England, which begun on the 3rd day of November, in the year 1640, and which has since been usually distinguished by the name of the Long Parliament, was written by Thomas May, Esquire, a Gentleman of great Genius and Litterary attainments, who flourished in the reign of King Charles the First. He was born at Mayfield, in the County of Sussex, in the year 1595, and was the eldest son of Sir Thomas May, a Knight, who lived at that place, and who seems to have been possessed of a competent estate in that neighbourhood, which was sufficient to maintain him in the condition of an Independant Gentleman; as it does not appear that he was engaged in any of the Professions. And the liberal education which he gave his eldest son, our Author, seems to confirm this supposition of the Independance of Sir Thomas May's circumstances : for, after having sent him to some good school in the neighbourhood of May. field, in the early part of his youth, in which he made an uncommon progress in the acquisition of the learned Languages ;) Sir Thomas May entered him at Sidney-Sussex College, in the University of Cambridge, in the rank of a Fellow-commoner, which is the upper Class of Students there, into which the eldest sons of the afluent and independant gentlemen of England are usually admitted. And here our Author continued his classical studies with great assiduity and success, and laid-in a copious stock of that elegant Litera. ture, and familiar acquaintance with the best Poets and Historians of Antiquity, for which he was afterwards so much celcbrated. And in the year 1612, he took the Degree of Bachelor of Arts, being then only 17 years of age; it being the custom, in those days, to remove young scholars from Grammar-schools, to the two Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, about three years earlier than is done at present, or for the last 60 or 70 years. But, after taking the Degree of Bachelor of Arts in the University of Cambridge, it does not appear that our Author ever took any other Degree there.
From the year 1612, (when he was 17 years old,) to the year 1615 (when he was twenty years of age,) it does not appear where Mr. May resided : though it seems reasonable to suppose that it was partly at Cambridge, and partly with his father in Sussex. But in the month of August, 1615, he was admitted a Student of the Law in the Society of Gray's Inn. And from that time he resided chiefly either at that Inn of Court, or in some other part of London, for more than twenty years; during which time he devoted himself much to the study and cultivation of Poetry, and, in consequence of his success in that elegant Art, became familiarly acquainted with the most eminent Courtiers and Wits of those times, and particularly with Sir Kenelm Digby, Sir Richard Fanshaw, Sir John Suckling, Sir Aston Cokaine, Mr. Thomas Carew (one of the Gentlemen of the Privy-chamber to King Charles,) and Endymion Porter, (one of the Gentlemen of his Bed-chamber,) besides Ben. Jonson (the celebrated Dramatic Poet,) and many other persons of higher quality, who were Poets themselves, and lovers of Poetry in others, amongst whom they admitted Mr. May to have a strong claim to be distin. guished. And it was in the course of these 20 years (from the year 1615, to the year 1635,) that Mr. May made an excellent translation, in verse, of Lucan's noble historical Poem on the Civil War of Rome, between Pompey the Great and Julius Cæsar, jotitled Pharsalia: wliich translation was first published in the year 1627, or the second year of the Reign of King Charles the First, and when Mr: May was 32 years old; and was published a second time in the year 1630, or when Mr. May was 35 years old; and was then accompanied with a continuation of the Poem in seveir additional books, in English verse (like the translation of Lucan's work,) which carry the History of that destructive Civil War, to the death of Julius Cæsar in the Capitol,
by the hands of several Senators of Rome, who had conspired against him; who, for the most part, (or with the exception of only Marcus Brutus and Caius Cassius, and, perhaps, two or three persons more,) were Officers of his own Army, but yet thought it to be their duty to put him to death, when they found that he was resolved to terminate the long series of Victories which they had helped him to gain, with a total suppression of the Liberties of their Country. With this grand and awful event, (which afforded an example of the punishment due to ambitious men, who employ their great talents to the đestruction of Publick Liberty,) Mr. May thought the Poem ought to end : and it may reasonably be supposed that he thought that Lucan himself would have closed his Poem with the description of that catastrophe, if he had lived to bring it to a conclusion.
And, after having published this Continuation of Lucan's Poem, in seven, additional Books in English verse, in the year 1630, he translated it into Latin Verse, and caused the translation to be printed at Leyden in Holland, where it was much admired by learned Foreigners, and thought to be not inferiour, in the purity of the Latin, and the harmony of the Verses, to the Verses of Lucan himself.
This translation of Lucan's Pharsalia, with the Continuation of it in English Verse, and the translation of the said Continuation into Latin Verse, are the principal works that have contributed to the reputation of Mr. May as a Poet. But they are not the only ones. For he also distinguished himself as a Dramatick writer, by writing five Plays, two Comedies, and three Tragedies. The first of his Comedies was intitled The Heir, and was acted at London in the Reign of King James the First, in the year 1620, when our Author was but 25 years old; and it was afterwards published in the year 1633; and it is spoken of by the writers of those times as an excellent performance. And his other Comedy, which was called The Old Couple, is thought to have been written about the same time as the former, and was also brought upon the Stage at London, and well received by the Publick, and it is said to have been esteemed but little inferiour to his former Comedy. His three Tragedies were intitled Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt; Agrippina, Empress of Rome; and Antigoné, the Theban Princess : but they seem to have been less admired than his Comedies. And he distin,