Authors: Nicholas Breton

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

English poet

Author Works


A Smale Handfull of Fragrant Flowers, 1575

The Workes of a Yonge Wyt Trust Up with a Fardell of Pretie Fancies, 1577

A Floorish upon Fancie, 1577

The Toyes of an Idle Head, 1582

A Handfull of Holesome Hearbes, 1584

Brittons Bowre of Delights, 1591

Pilgrimage to Paradise, 1592

The Phoenix Nest, 1593

A Solemne Passion of the Soules Love, 1595

The Arbor of Amorous Devices, 1597

England’s Helicon, 1600

Pasquils Mad-Cappe, Throwne at the Corruptions of These Times, 1600

Pasquils Fooles-Cappe, 1600

Pasquils Passe and Passeth Not, 1600

Pasquils Mistresse: Or, The Worthie and Unworthie Woman, 1600

Melancholike Humours, 1600

The Soules Heavenly Exercise, 1601

The Ravisht Soule, and the Blessed Weeper, 1601

No Whippinge nor Trippinge, but a Kinde Friendly Snippinge, 1601

The Longing of a Blessed Heart: Or, Breton’s Longing, 1601

The Soules Harmony, 1602

The Mothers Blessing, 1602

Olde Mad-Cappes New Gally-mawfrey, 1602

A True Description of Unthankfulnesse, 1602

The Passionate Shepheard, 1604

The Soules Immortal Crowne, 1605

Honest Counsaile, 1605

The Honour of Valour, 1605

The Uncasing of Machiavels Instructions, 1613

I Would, and Would Not, 1614

The Hate of Treason, 1616

The Countess of Pembroke’s Passion, 1853

Poems, 1952 (Jean Robertson, editor)

Long Fiction:

The Strange Fortune of Two Excellent Princes, 1600

Grimellos Fortunes, 1604


The Figure of Foure, 1597

Auspicante Jehova: Maries Exercise, 1597

Wits Trenchmour: Or, A Conference Between a Scholler and Angler, 1597

The Wil of Wit, Wits Will or Wils Wit, 1597

Wonders Worth the Hearing, 1602

A Mad World, My Masters, 1603

A Dialogue Full of Pithe and Pleasure, 1603

A Poste with a Packet of Mad Letters, 1603

An Olde Mans Lesson and a Young Mans Love, 1605

Wits Private Wealth, 1607

A Murmurer, 1607

Divine Considerations of the Soule, 1608

Crossing of Proverbs, 1616

The Court and Country, 1618


Characters upon Essaies, Morall and Divine, 1615 (characterizations)

The Good and the Badde, 1616 (characterizations)

Fantasticks, 1626 (characterizations)

The Works in Verse and Prose of Nicholas Breton, 1879, 1966 (2 volumes; Alexander B. Grosart, editor)


Like Christopher Marlowe and William Shakespeare, two lyricists whom he resembles, Nicholas Breton (BREHT-uhn) had no contemporary biographers. Among his friends and acquaintances, however, he counted, in addition to the two mentioned, Sir Philip Sidney, Edmund Spenser, John Suckling, Thomas Nashe, Ben Jonson, Francis Beaumont, and John Fletcher. Evidence for this and other facts of his life comes from registration of works, prefaces, and dedications and epitaphs. Legal records indicate such facts as his father’s death, his inheritance, his education at Oxford, his marriage, and the birth of two children, but not much more. His devotion to Philip Sidney has led to speculation regarding his relations with Sidney’s sister, the countess of Pembroke, for whom he wrote his finest poems, but no evidence suggesting a liaison has been discovered.{$I[AN]9810000661}{$I[A]Breton, Nicholas}{$I[geo]ENGLAND;Breton, Nicholas}{$I[tim]1545;Breton, Nicholas}

The date and place of Breton’s birth are conjectural, based on the date of his father’s death and the inheritance of a house in Essex. His stepfather was the noted Elizabethan poet George Crascoigne. Breton’s death date and place are more nearly proved: 1626 is the date of his last published work, and London is where he had been active for many years and published more than fifty books.

Breton’s satiric works were often ridiculed and seem heavy-handed and sophomoric in comparison with others of the “tribe of Ben” Jonson, though Jonson himself wrote the preface to Breton’s poems on melancholy. No one disputes his rightful place among the writers of idylls and lyrics, for Breton studied with Spenser and Sidney, and the inclusion of his pastorals in such a work as The Oxford Book of Sixteenth Century Verse shows them to be not inferior to those of his better-known contemporaries.

BibliographyAtkinson, Colin B., and Jo B. Atkinson. “Four Prayer Books Addressed to Women During the Reign of Elizabeth I.” The Huntington Library Quarterly 60, no. 4 (1999): 407-423. Discusses the changes in the place of women in religious thought and practice throughout the sixteenth century. Examines A Table for Gentlewomen, A Handfull of Holesome Hearbes, Breton’s Auspicante Jehova, and The Monument of Matrones.Bullen, Arthur Henry. Elizabethans. New York: E. P. Dutton, 1924. Bullen sketches the life and work of ten English authors of the Elizabethan period. He repeats the sketchy details known about Breton’s life, then shows how the prolific author fits into his historical context. Interesting reading for all students.Garnett, Richard, and Edmund Grosse. English Literature: An Illustrated Record. 2d ed. 2 vols. New York: Macmillan, 1935. Garnett and Grosse include a substantial essay on Breton and place him in context of the English literary history. This is an older study but a valuable one. Suitable for all levels.Kunitz, Stanley, and Howard Haycraft, eds. British Authors Before 1800: A Biographical Dictionary. New York: Wilson, 1952. Provides a short biographical entry that seems to be based on the information provided in Sir Sidney Lee’s article. Points out that Breton’s literary influences come from the medieval period and not from his English Renaissance contemporaries. Breton was thought to have been a little too prolific. His only work of any distinction is his pastoral poems.Lee, Sidney. “Nicholas Breton.” In The Dictionary of National Biography, edited by Leslie Stephen and Lee. Vol. 2. Reprint. London: Oxford University Press, 1921-1922. This essay is the most interesting and detailed article about the life of Breton. Lee describes why Breton’s birth and death dates are in doubt and insinuates that the poet had an affair with his patroness, Mary Sidney, the countess of Pembroke. Provides a detailed primary biography along with the whereabouts of Breton’s few remaining first editions.Tannenbaum, Samuel Aaron, and Dorothy R. Tannenbaum. Nicholas Breton: A Concise Bibliography. New York: S. A. Tannenbaum, 1947. Breton has been almost completely ignored by scholars over the last three centuries. The Tannenbaums have published one of the only sources of any kind available on this Elizabethan poet. It is immensely valuable for the serious Breton student.
Categories: Authors