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A Short Biographical Sketch of JOHN SKELTON (1460? to 1529)

by John W. Cousin

SKELTON, JOHN (1460?-1529). —Poet, b. in Norfolk, and ed. at Oxf. and Camb., of both of which he was cr. Poet Laureate, and perhaps held the same office under the King. He was appointed tutor to Henry VIII., and notwithstanding his sharp tongue, enjoyed some favour at Court. In 1498 he entered the Church, and became Rector of Diss in his native county. Hitherto he seems to have produced some translations only, but about this time he appears to have struck upon the vein which he was to work with such vigour and popularity. He turned his attention to abuses in Church and State, which he lashed with caustic satire, conveyed in short doggerel rhyming lines peculiar to himself, in which jokes, slang, invectives, and Latin quotations rush out pell-mell. His best works in this line are Why come ye not to Court? and Colin Clout, both directed against the clergy, and the former against Wolsey in particular. Piqued at his inconstancy (for S. had previously courted him) the Cardinal would have imprisoned him, had he not taken sanctuary in Westminster, where he remained until his death. Other works of his are The Tunning (brewing) of Elynor Rummynge, a coarsely humorous picture of low life, and the tender and fanciful Death of Philip Sparrow, the lament of a young lady over her pet bird killed by a cat.

Book: Reflection on the Important Things