Authors: Thomas Campion

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

English poet

Author Works


Poemata, 1595

A Booke of Ayres, 1601 (with Philip Rosseter)

Two Bookes of Ayres, 1613

Songs of Mourning, 1613

The Third and Fourth Booke of Ayres, 1617

The Ayres ThatWere Sung and Played at Brougham Castle, 1618

Thomae Campiani Epigrammatum Libri II, 1619


Lord Hay’s Masque, pr., pb. 1607

The Lord’s Masque, pr., pb. 1613

The Caversham Entertainment, pr. 1613 (masque)

The Somerset Masque, pr. 1613


Observations in the Art of English Poesie, 1602

A New Way of Making Fowre Parts in Counter-point, c. 1617


Thomas Campion (KAM-pee-uhn) was the second child and only son of John and Lucy Campion. He was born in Holborn, Hertfordshire, in 1567, but he probably spent his first ten years in London, his father having been admitted to the Middle Temple to study law in 1565. When Thomas was ten, his father died. A year later his mother remarried; within a few months, she also died. In 1581, a year after his mother’s death, Thomas entered Peterhouse College, Cambridge. At the university he gained a wide knowledge of and reverence for the classics, and it was probably at this time that he met his close friend, Thomas Nash.{$I[AN]9810000698}{$I[A]Campion, Thomas}{$I[geo]ENGLAND;Campion, Thomas}{$I[tim]1567;Campion, Thomas}

In 1584 Campion left the university, and in 1586 he was admitted to Gray’s Inn, London, as a law student. There he made many friends and participated fully in the varied social life of Gray’s; he took part in various dramatic performances and revels, some presented before the queen. It appears that the study of law was not to his taste; however, he continued his connection with the Inn until at least 1595. On the other hand, it is probable that in 1591 Campion was for a short time in France as a soldier and that he saw combat around Dieppe with a number of other “gentlemen adventurers.” He was certainly back at Gray’s Inn by 1595, when he published his Poemata, a collection of Latin poems, many of which are quite personal and tell much about the poet and his associates. The book was very popular. By this time Campion had long been writing both English and Latin verse.

After the appearance of Poemata, Campion seems to have gone abroad to earn a doctorate in medicine; after the turn of the seventeenth century, frequent allusions to him as a composer, poet, and “doctor of physic” appear. It is not known when or where he studied music. In 1601 appeared Campion’s first book of English poems, A Booke of Ayres, and in 1602 he published his Observations in the Art of English Poesie, which inspired the famous refutation of Samuel Daniel, the Defense of Rhyme. These two works are significant in the history of English literary criticism. Between 1607 and 1613, Campion wrote for performance and published a number of masques; his music for these performances was much admired. In 1613 he published his Two Bookes of Ayres. It was also during this period that he became involved in the plot to poison poet Sir Thomas Overbury. Campion played an innocent role in the murder, and though he was questioned, he did not suffer from his involvement.

In 1617 appeared his The Third and Fourth Booke of Ayres, followed shortly afterward by his A New Way of Making Fowre Parts in Counter-point, a work which remained a standard music text for many years. His last publication, an augmented edition of his Latin poems, appeared in 1619.

Campion died on March 1, 1620, and was buried at St. Dunstan’s in the West, Fleet Street, London. As far as can be determined from his Latin poetry, he had always been a frail man of delicate health who had a warm, sensitive, and impetuous nature. He seems never to have married and to have been in a mediocre financial condition when he died.

BibliographyBooth, Mark W. The Experience of Songs. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1981. Booth’s chapter “Art Song” is an exhaustive reading of the musical and lyrical aspects of Campion’s “I Care Not for These Ladies,” an “anticourtly” pastoral song. While he devotes some attention to the music of the poem, Booth focuses on the lyrics, finding them more complex than earlier critics had believed.Coren, Pamela. “In the Person of Womankind: Female Persona Poems by Campion, Donne, Jonson.” Studies in Philology 98, no. 2 (Spring, 2001): 225-250. Analysis of the use of the female persona in Campion’s “A Secret Love or Two, I Must Confesse.”Davis, Walter R. Thomas Campion. Boston: Twayne, 1987. Devotes separate chapters to Campion’s biography, poetry, music, theory, masques (the Renaissance “multimedia show”), and reputation. Contains a two-page chronology, extensive notes, a selected bibliography with brief annotations, and an index. Essential for Campion scholars.Lindley, David. Thomas Campion. Leiden, the Netherlands: E. J. Brill, 1986. Discusses Campion’s poetry, his music, the relationship between his music and poetry, and his masques. Provides literary, musical, and political contexts but focuses on the works. Contains extensive analyses of individual masques and poems and a select bibliography.Lowbury, Edward, Timothy Salter, and Alison Young. Thomas Campion: Poet, Composer, Physician. New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1970. Despite its title, the book stresses music. Reviews Campion’s critical reputation, provides a biographical chapter, discusses the relationship between music and poetry, and examines his masques, his poem/songs, and his literary and music criticism. Six pages are devoted to “interactions.” Select bibliography.Ryding, Erik S. In Harmony Framed: Musical Humanism, Thomas Campion, and the Two Daniels. Kirksville, Mo.: Sixteenth Century Publishers, 1993. Contrasts the poetic and musical work of the Daniel brothers, John and Samuel, with Thomas Campion. The author categorizes Campion with the Renaissance humanists. Includes bibliography.Wilson, Christopher. Words and Notes Coupled Lovingly Together: Thomas Campion, a Critical Study. New York: Garland, 1989. Contains a biographical outline, a review of Campion’s scholarship, an examination of the Campion canon, brief discussions of the poetry and the music, and thorough treatments of Observations in the Art of English Poesie and his musical theories. Includes an extensive commentary on the masques and a comprehensive bibliography.
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