The Corbett One Name Study


Richard Corbett (1582-1635)
Bishop and Poet


Richard was the son of Vincent, a wealthy gardener or nurseryman (with a nursery at Whitton) of Ewell, Surrey. (Aubrey's Brief Lives says it was at Twickenham and The History and Antiquities of Surrey says it was at Kingswood, Ewell.) He was educated at Westminster School and Broadgate Hall (afterwards Pembroke College, Oxford) and entered the church. In 1598 he was elected a student at Christ Church and proceeded B.A. on 10 June 1602 and M.A. on 9 June 1605.

He was a celebrated and esteemed wit at university, which often passed into buffoonery. A. Wood remarks on 'his poems, Jests, Romantic fancies and exploits, which he made an performed extempore'. Aubrey says 'he was a very handsome man of admirable, grave and venerable aspect but something apt to abuse and a coward' and 'unworthy in some respects of the Episcopal office'.

Stories are told of his merrymaking in London taverns in his youth in company with Ben Jonson and other well known dramatists. Even in advanced years he continued to play practical jokes. In his younger days he wrote a humorous poetical piece to his friend Sir Thomas Aylesbury following a tour in France in 1618. (Journey to France.)

In 1612 while proctor of the university and senior student at Christ Church he pronounced the funeral oration at Oxford on Prince Henry, son of James I. His father died in 1619 and left him a little landed property in the city of London. He was made a Doctor of Divinity, and chaplain in the ordinary to King James I by whom he was promoted on 20 June 1620 to Dean of Christchurch at the early age of 37. At the same time he was Vicar of Cassington near Woodstock, and Prebendary of Beminster Seunda in the Church of Salisbury. Even after being made a Doctor of Divinity he would still put on a leather jerkin and sing ballads at Abingdon Cross.

On 19 October 1624 he was consecrated Bishop of Oxford and on 7 April 1632 was elected to the See of Norwich and confirmed 7 May 1632. He preached before Charles I at Newmarket on 9 March 1633 and contributed œ400 to the rebuilding of St Pauls in 1634.

Aubrey also relates that one time, as he was confirming, the country folk were pressing close to see the ceremony and he said 'Be off there or I'll be confirming you with my staff'. Another time upon laying his hand upon the head of a very bald man he turned to his chaplain Lushington, and said 'Some dust, Lushington', to keep his hand from slipping. To a man with a great venerable beard he said 'You, behind the beard.'

He and his learned chaplain, Dr Lushington, were very good friends. Aubrey writes 'he would sometimes take the key of the wine cellar and he and his chaplain (Dr Lushington) would go and lock themselves in and be merry. He would lay down his episcopal hat and say 'There lies the Doctor'. Then he would take off his gown and say 'There lies the bishop'. Then its was 'here's to thee, Corbett' and 'here's to thee, Lushington'.

Ben Jonson was on very friendly terms with him and would often stay at the deanery Christ Church. Jonson wrote a poem on Corbet's father which attested to his affection for the father and son. Jonsons obituary to Vincent reads

'His mind as pure and neatly kept
As were his nurseries, and swept
So of uncleanness or offence
That never came ill odour thence.'

Richard's poems, which are often merely doggerel, and in a rollicking satiric vein, were not published until after his death. Corbet's Poem (1647) reflects the jovial temper of the man. His longest piece is ITER BOREALE, a holiday tour of four students from Oxford to Newark. His best and best known is The Fairies Farewell (or Farewell to the Fairies) and extract of which follows.

Farewell rewards and Fairies
Good Housewives now may say
But now fould sluts in dairies
Do fare as well as they
And though they sweep their hearths no less
That maids were wont to do,
Yet who of late for cleanliness,
Finds sixpence in her shoe.
By which we note the fairies
Were of the old profession;
Their songs were Ave Maries,
Their dances were procession.

He married Alice, the daughter of Dr Leonard Hutton, Vicar of Flowers in Northamptonshire. They had one son, Vincent, and one daughter, Alice. To his son, Vincent Corbet, he wrote:

Nor too much wealth nor wit come to thee
So much of either may undo thee
I wish thee all they mother's graces
Thy father's fortunes and his places.

However his son proved a disappointment to him. Aubrey writes 'He went to school at Westminster with Ned Bagshawe, a very handsome youth, but he is run out of all, and goes begging up and down to gentlemen.' His daughter Alice married a member of the Gresham family.

He is buried at the upper end of the Choir in his Cathedral at Norwich with the following inscription on a brass plate on his gravestone:

RICHARDUS CORBET, Theologie Doctor; Ecclesiae Cathedralis Christi OVONINSIS PRIMUM ALUMNIS, INDE Decanus, exinde Episcopus. Illinc huc translatus, et hinc in Coelum, Julie 18 Anno 1635.
A portrait of Corbet by Cornelius Jansen is in Christ Church Hall, Oxford.


Regarding Richard's father: is parents were Richard Pointer and Rose Corbet.

Twickenham has been long celebrated for its gardens. Bishop Corbet's father is said to have had a famous nursery there in Queen Elizabeth's time. (Archæolog. vol. vii. p. 121.) Richard Pointer, in the same reign, was "a most curious planter and improver of all manner of rare trees." (M.S. Oldys; in the possession of Craven Ord, Esq.) The fruit now raised there contributes very considerably to the supply of the London markets. One gardener (Mr. West) has, in a good season, sent 4110 gallons of raspberries to a distiller in the course of fifteen days.From: 'Twickenham', The Environs of London: volume 3: County of Middlesex (1795), pp. 558-604. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.asp?compid=45451. of 

PRO: 1: C 142/408/139 22 James I - Pointer, alias Corbett, Vincent: London 2: WARD 7/68/51 22 Jas I. - Pointer, alias Corbett, Vincent: London.
http://www.documentsonline.nationalarchives.gov.uk/ : Will of Vincent Poynter alias Corbett, Gentleman of Twickenham, Middlesex - Date 11 May 1619 - Catalogue reference PROB 11/133 - Dept Records of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury 

Will proved May 1619: "Vincent Poynter alias Corbet of Twickenham, Middlesex gen : 27 Jan 1603, sicke in bodie, to be buryed in Christian buriall in the Parishe Church of Twickenham whereof I am a Parishioner, as my Executrix shall think firr, and I give to the poore of Twickenham 40s. on the date of my buriall and 4 loades of Charrecoles within 2 yeares, and to everie of my Maiden servants 40s. each and to Robert Crofton 20s. I give to Anne Samwell wief of George Samwell, notary Public a ringe of gold of 50s. I give to Robert Corbett alias Poynter my soone £500 at 25 in full satisfaction of all goods and chettels he may claym for his childes part, either by the custom of the Realm of England, or Citty of London, and if he dies before, to Bennett Corbett alias Poynter my well beloved wief, and to her assignees for ever, and I give my said wief all residue of my goods and chattells whatsoever and appoint her my sole Executrix. George Samwell my very good Friend to be my overseer, and to have £5 for his paines. And as to my tenements and hereditaments being in the Parishe of St Augustine in Watling St. and elsewhere in London, I give them to Richard Corbett alias Poynter, my sonne, and to the heires of his bodie lawfullie to be begotten, and for want of such to my wief, and to her heires for ever, and my wief shall enjoy copiehold land, tenements and hereditaments in the Parishe of Twickenham and Thistleworth for life paying only the lords' rent. Gabriel Cary, Theophilus Rither (Witnesses). Proved in PCC by Bennet Pointer alias Corbett the Relist."
Ben Jonson's epitaph on Vincent Corbet, a Twickenham nurseryman who died in 1619, turns market-gardening into a moral art: 
AN EPITAPH ON MASTER VINCENT CORBET. 

I have my piety too, which, could
It vent itself but as it would,
Would say as much as both have done
Before me here, the friend and son :
For I both lost a friend and father,
Of him whose bones this grave doth gather,
Dear VINCENT CORBET, who so long
Had wrestled with diseases strong,
That though they did possess each limb,
Yet he broke them, ere they could him,
With the just canon of his life,
A life that knew nor noise, nor strife ;
But was, by sweetning so his will,
All order and disposure still.
His mind as pure, and neatly kept,
As were his nurseries, and swept
So of uncleanness, or offence,
That never came ill odor thence !
And add his actions unto these,
They were as specious as his trees.
'Tis true, he could not reprehend —
His very manners taught t' amend,
They were so even, grave and holy ;
No stubbornness so stiff, nor folly
To license ever was so light,
As twice to trespass in his sight :
His looks would so correct it, when
It chid the vice, yet not the men.
Much from him, I profess I won,
And more, and more, I should have done,
But that I understood him scant,
Now I conceive him by my want ;
And pray who shall my sorrows read,
That they for me their tears will shed ;
For truly, since he left to be,
I feel, I'm rather dead than he ! 
Source: Jonson, Ben. The Works of Ben Jonson. Boston: Phillips, Sampson, and Co., 1853. 814.
http://books.guardian.co.uk/lrb/articles/0,6109,1177118,00.html: Jonson clearly thought his readers would be worrying about manure, so insists that Corbett's nurseries were spotless. 

YALE UNIVERSITY
BEINECKE RARE BOOK AND MANUSCRIPT LIBRARY
JAMES MARSHALL AND MARIE-LOUISE OSBORN COLLECTION
Sacred to the memory of Vincent Corbet : 1619 [Apr-Jul]
1 leaf; 58 cm. x 56 cm.
Manuscript on vellum. 
The funerary placard for Vincent Corbet, containing three elegies for Corbet: "Vincent Corbet, farther knowne by Pointer's name than by his owne", by Richard Corbet; "Ad ejusdem Manes" ("Aeterna requie jaces beatus") by John Selden; and "On the Same" ("I have my Pietie too, which could/ It vent it self here as it would") by Ben Jonson. Central architectural decoration of a pillar in red and brown ink, with an epitaph ("To the Reader") for Corbet at the foot, followed by the date of his death; geometric border decoration, also in red and brown ink, on left and right borders.

Chalmers' Biographical Dictionary: Under Richard Corbet, his son: (Vincent) attained the age of eighty, appears to have been a man of excellent character, and is celebrated in one of his son's poems with filial ardour. For some reason he assumed the name of Pointer, or, perhaps, relinquished that for Corbet, which seems more probable: his usual residence was at Whitton in the county of Middlesex, where he was noted for his skill in horticulture, and amassed considerable property in houses and land, which he bequeathed to his son at his death in 1619.
London Review of Books (http://www.lrb.co.uk/v26/n05/letters.html): Poor Sir Hugh From Malcolm Thick : Colin Burrow dismisses 'the notorious Hugh Platt' as a 'quick fit artist' who wrote 'quack books' on gardening (LRB, 19 February). Sir Hugh Plat (as he spelled his surname) produced one complete book on gardening, Floreas Paradise, in 1608 but mentioned the subject in several other works. A further volume was published posthumously in 1660. The lack of organisation of the short sections of advice in Floreas Paradise may have influenced Burrow's impression of the work, but this was down to haste because of Plat's approaching death, as he explains in the preface: 'not knowing the length of my dayes, nay assuredly knowing that they are drawing to their periode'.
Plat had hands-on experience in the garden at his home in Bethnal Green (where, for instance, he sowed artichokes and herbs). More significantly, he collected gardening advice from gardeners to the gentry such as Mr Fowle, the queen's gardener and a melon expert; Lord Burghley's gardeners; and nurserymen, most notably Vincent Pointer, a tree specialist of Twickenham. Mr Andrews, 'the greate saltmaker of Ireland', told Plat how caterpillars might be killed and spring onions raised the year round in pots; and Sir Edward Denny, adventurer at sea, soldier in Ireland and MP, told Plat that he had, in Ireland, raised liquorice in 'such grownde as by Nature is stony or rocky underneath the earth'. Some of Plat's most innovative ideas were provided by Master Jacob, a London glass-maker, who piped surplus heat from his factory to hothouses where he grew carnations in the winter.
Some of this advice was false and some falsehoods were included in Plat's published works, but there is much good material mixed with the dross.
Malcolm Thick of Harwell, Oxfordshire
From: British History Online - Source: Twickenham: Economic and social history. A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume III, Susan Reynolds (Editor) (1962).URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.asp?compid=22291