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William Alabaster

(1568—1640) Church of England clergyman and writer


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(1568–1640),

an Elizabethan divine and Latin poet. Between 1588 and 1592 he produced two notable works in Latin; an unfinished epic on Queen Elizabeth, praised by Spenser; and the tragedy Roxana which Dr Johnson thought contained the best Latin verse written in England before Milton. In 1597 he became a Roman Catholic and was arrested and deprived of Anglican orders. His sonnets (first pub. in 1959) are among the earliest metaphysical poems of devotion. It was as a theologian that Alabaster was chiefly known in his own day. His first major essay in mystical theology, Apparatus in Revelationem Iesu Christi was declared heretical by the Holy Office. By 1613–14 he was again a Protestant, later becoming a doctor of divinity at Cambridge and chaplain to the king. He devoted his later years to theological studies: De Bestia Apocalyptica (Delft, 1621), Ecce Sponsus Venit (1633), Spiraculum Tubarum (1633). In 1635 he published a scholarly abridgement of Schindler's Hebrew lexicon.


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