Henry Hawkins, SJ, was not the only son of Sir Thomas Hawkins of Nash Court with literary accomplishments to his name. Henry’s older brother, another Sir Thomas Hawkins, was a poet and translator who moved in London literary circles. Thomas Hawkins the younger was baptised in the parish church of Boughton under Blean, Kent, on 20th July 1575. He was the eldest son and heir of Sir Thomas Hawkins the elder and his wife Ann Pettit (I’m aware that in an earlier post I described this Thomas Hawkins as ‘the younger’ to distinguish him from his father, the first Sir Thomas Hawkins. Apologies for any confusion. Perhaps I should have labelled them Thomas Hawkins I, II and III.)

Churchyard, Ashby Folville (via woodforde.co.uk)

Churchyard, Ashby Folville (via woodforde.co.uk)

Like his brother Henry, Thomas Hawkins was probably educated at home by the recusant schoolmaster Mr Greene, before going up to Gloucester Hall, Oxford, where he matriculated on 15th October 1591, though he left Oxford without taking his degree. The precise date of Thomas’ marriage is unknown. His wife was Elizabeth Smith, daughter of George Smith of Ashby Folville; the Smiths were another noted Catholic family. Thomas and Elizabeth Hawkins had two sons, John and Thomas, but both died at a young age.

When Sir Thomas Hawkins senior died in 1617, the younger Thomas inherited Nash Court and extensive property in Boughton, Faversham, Herne Hill, Seasalter and elsewhere in Kent. Thomas’ recusancy seems to have been no barrier to finding favour at court, and on 4th May 1618 he was knighted by King James at Whitehall. However, this does not mean that his religious loyalties escaped censure. In 1626 he and Elizabeth were indicted for recusancy and in December 1633 the Privy Council ordered a search of Nash Court, describing Thomas as ‘a great papist and harbourer of priests’. However, Elizabeth Hawkins refused entry to the officers without a warrant, on the grounds that her husband had the great seal in his trunk to protect the house, and the matter seems to have been dropped. This appears to be another example of the Hawkins family escaping the worst effects of the penal laws due to their social status. On the other hand, members of the family continued to be pursued for nonconformity, with a number of indictments being issued in the years following.

Ben Jonson, by Abraham van Blyenberch, circa 1617 (via wikimedia.org)

Ben Jonson, by Abraham van Blyenberch, circa 1617 (via wikimedia.org)

In 1624 Thomas Hawkins was one of the nominees for Edmund Bolton’s proposed Royal Academy (Bolton had been brought up as a Catholic). He was also a friend and correspondent of the author and traveller James Howell, as well as the Catholic poet Sir John Beaumont, for whom he wrote an elegy in 1629. It is also apparent that Thomas Hawkins was connected with Ben Jonson’s circle. In April 1636 a letter from Howell began by noting that Hawkins had been ‘deeply remember’d’ at a dinner with the poet. Hawkins knew Jonson’s patron, Sir Kenelm Digby (another Catholic), and Hawkins composed this elegy on Jonson for the commemorative collection Jonsonus virbius (1638):

To the Memory of Master Benjamin Jonson

To press into the throng, where wits thus strive

To make thy laurels fading tombs survive,

Argues thy worth, their love, my bold desire,

Somewhat to sing, though but to fill the quire:

But (truth to speak) what muse can silent be,

Or little say, that hath for subject, thee?

Whose poems such, that as the sphere of fire,

They warm insensibly, and force inspire,

Knowledge, and wit infuse, mute tongues unloose,

And ways not track’d to write, and speak disclose.

But when thou put’st thy tragic buskin on,

Or comic sock of mirthful action,

Actors, as if inspired from thy hand,

Speak, beyond what they think, less, understand;

And thirsty hearers, wonder-stricken, say,

Thy words make that a truth, was meant a play.

Folly, and brain-sick humours of the time,

Distemper’d passion, and audacious crime,

Thy pen so on the stage doth personate,

That ere men scarce begin to know, they hate

The vice presented, and there lessons learn,

Virtue, from vicious habits to discern.

Oft have I seen thee in a sprightly strain,

To lash a vice, and yet no one complain;

Thou threw’st the ink of malice from thy pen,

Whose aim was evil manners, not ill men.

Let then frail parts repose, where solemn care

Of pious friends their Pyramids prepare;

And take thou, BEN, from verse a second breath,

Which shall create Thee new, and conquer death.

Hawkins was described by the antiquary Anthony Wood as an ‘ingenious man … as excellent in the fac[ulty] of music as in poetry’. However, it is as a translator that he is mainly remembered. In 1625 he published a translation of Horace, The Odes of Horace the Best of Lyrick Poets, which was republished in 1631, 1635, and 1638. Hawkins also translated works by Giovanni Botero (The Cause of the Greatnesse of Cities, 1635), Giovanni Battista Manzini (Political Observations upon the Fall of Sejanus, 1634) and three works by Pierre Matthieu (including another on Sejanus) and the translation A Saxon Historie, of the Admirable Adventures of Clodaldus and his Three Children (1634).

Thomas Hawkins’ skills as a translator were employed by the Jesuits. The following extract from Thomas’ entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography provides the details:

In addition to this literary and historical work his translating skills were used extensively by the Jesuits, presumably through his brother Henry, to produce pious works aimed at the English market. Between 1626 and 1638 came Hawkins’s translation, with the assistance of Sir Basil Brooke, of the massive four-volume work, Holy Court, by the French Jesuit Nicholas Caussin. Published in France these volumes were dedicated to Queen Henrietta Maria, the earl of Dorset, the countess of Portland, and the duchess of Buckingham respectively. The work, which included biographies and portraits of Mary, queen of Scots, and Cardinal Pole, proved immensely popular among Catholics; at least three editions of the work were published in London between 1650 and 1678. Hawkins also translated Caussin’s Christian Diurnal (Paris, 1632), dedicated to Viscountess Savage (this edition differs from the Cambridge edition of 1648 which was aimed at protestant readers), and Étienne Binet’s The Lives and Singular Vertues of Saint Elzear (Rouen, 1638), dedicated to the earl and countess of Shrewsbury. Hawkins has also been plausibly identified as the translator of The Angel-Guardian’s Clock (Rouen, 1630) by the Jesuit Jeremias Drexelius; Hawkins’s brother Henry had already produced a translation of another of Drexelius’s works.

Thomas Hawkins died at some point between the drawing up of his will on 29th October 1639 and its proving on 13th April 1641, probably towards the end of 1640. He would have been about sixty-five years old. Thomas is said to have died in the parish of St Sepulchre, London, where he must have kept a house. Although he asked to be buried in Boughton parish church, as close to his parents as possible, his burial is not recorded in the parish registers.

The will of Sir Thomas Hawkins’ the younger is a useful source of information about his family and associates, and I’ll reproduce a transcription of it in the next post.

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