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Constable, Henry


Subject Literature » Renaissance Literature

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405194495.2012.x


Henry Constable (1562–1613) not only authored one of the first Elizabethan sonnet sequences, his poems also exemplify both the characteristic sonnet types: amatory and religious. Further, the marked stages in his life, first as a diplomat in the service of Anglican Protestantism, then as a Catholic in exile, coincide respectively with these two styles of verse. By leading a life of public service, Constable followed in the footsteps of his family. He was born in 1562 to Christina Forster and Robert Constable, who was knighted on a Scottish battlefield in 1570. Following his matriculation from St John's College, Cambridge in 1580, Constable's diplomatic missions in service of the Protestant cause took him to the courts of Scotland and France, as well as to Germany, Italy, and Poland, all under the auspices of principal secretary of state Sir Francis Walsingham, his patron and long-time friend of his father. Back at the English court in the late 1580s, Constable entered the circle of those for whom, in the fashion of Sir Philip Sidney, interests in religion, politics, and literature coincided. His literary productions during this time took the form of single sonnets addressed to such personages as Penelope Rich, Arbella Stuart, King James VI of Scotland, and his bride, Anna of Denmark. Constable's sonnet sequence Diana appeared first in 1592; this publication was followed in 1594 ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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