Brass of the Month

May 2009: Dorothy Brewster, 1613, Willingale Doe, Essex


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    Dorothy Brewster was the daughter of Sir Thomas Jocelyn of Willingale Doe. She was in her mid-twenties when she died on 27 June 1613 and was buried some three weeks later at Willingale Doe amongst her Jocelyn relations. Her husband was Thomas Brewster of the Middle Temple. When Thomas was admitted to the Middle Temple in 1603, he was described as Mr. Thomas Brewster, late of New Inn, gent., son and heir-apparent of John Brewster of the Middle Temple, esquire. He was bound to his father and Humfrey Brewster, the latter being the second son of Humfrey Brewster, whose brass is at Wrentham in Suffolk. John and Humfrey were distantly related and Humfrey had been bound to Messrs John and Francis Brewster when he had entered Lincoln's Inn himself in late 1596.

    At the time that Thomas and his father were at the Middle Temple, links with Lincoln's Inn were close, as the two co-operated when staging occasional entertainments for royal occasions. On 15 February 1613, the two Inns presented a masque at Whitehall on the occasion of the marriage of Princess Elizabeth to the Elector Palatine. The Brewsters would presumably have thus come into contact with Christopher Brooke of Lincoln's Inn, the author of the verses on Dorothy Brewster's brass, who was in charge of the expenditure on the masque. Brooke had been a member of Lincoln's Inn since the 1590s, when his chamber fellow was John Donne. Brooke and Donne remained close friends until Brooke's death in 1628. Their careers diverged, with Brooke remaining a lawyer and eventually becoming a Member of Parliament while Donne's career in the church culminated in his appointment as Dean of St Paul's Cathedral. Brooke published a number of poems, some of them as 'C.B.' and was able to attract such poets as George Chapman and Ben Jonson to write commendatory lines for his major work, The Ghost of Richard the Third, which was published in 1614.

     Brooke was much better regarded as a poet by some of his contemporaries than he has been since. He was perhaps at his best in the four lines from A Funerall Poem that he suggested to might be omitted on publication lest they cause offence in his letter to ‘the gentlemen  that shall licence this poem for the presse’. The licencer struck through these four and the following four but the poem was, in fact, never published.

                                                               The worthles Knights that now and then are made,

                                                               Some fooles, some clownes, some yeomen, some of trade:

                                                               That when wee speake of them (as 'twere in scoffe)

                                                               It may be ask't what trade the knight is of:

    The Brewster brass is from one of the Southwark workshops that were coming to their ends at this time, although they still had a few years to run. Dorothy is shown in a farthingale, a fashion also coming to an end during this decade. But for the epitaph, it is in most respects an unexceptional brass.   


Lack, Stuchfield & Whittemore, The Monumental Brasses of Essex, 2 vols (London, 2003), pp. 812-3.

Rev Alexander B Grosart (ed), The Complete Poems of Christopher Brooke in Miscellanies of the Fuller Worthies' Library, vol 4 (1876).

W P Baildon (ed), The Records of the Honorable Society of Lincoln's Inn: The Black Books, vol 2, 1586-1660 (London, 1898)

C H Hopwood & C T Martin (eds), Middle Temple Records: vol 1, 1501-1603, & vol 2, 1603-1649 (both London, 1904)

(The full texts of all bar the first of the above are available via Google Book Search)

    Like most poets of the time, Brooke wrote epitaphs. They were not necessarily intended to be engraved on the monuments of the deceased. Two were formerly on boards in the church of St James, Clerkenwell and were transcribed in a later edition of Stowe's Survey of London. One of these was for Elizabeth, first wife of Charles Croftes of Bardwell in Suffolk, who died in 1597. She was the mother of Charles Croftes, who was bound to Messrs John and Francis Brewster of the Middle Temple in late 1598. A third can be found at the end of A Funerall Poem, commemorating Sir Arthur Chichester, who died in 1625. All three can be found in in The Complete  Poems of Christopher Brooke, but the one at Willingale Doe is not included.    

An Epitaph: Consecrated to the memorie of

Mris Dorothie Brewster, late the wife of

    Tho: Brewster Esquier, and Daughter

           of Sr Tho: Ioseline Knight

Behould heere Youth and beautie lyinge,

    Nurst by nature's Hande, and fed;

    And thus timelie layd to bed;

From wayward griefes and woefull cryinge,

Whose Lyfe is but a vitall dyinge.

Yet seeke Her not whose name I keepe

    In the Grave; for she's ascended;

    Earth with Earth alone is blended;

And Angells singe; though wee do weepe,

Shee wakes in Heavne, though heere she sleepe

Vanish thy Blood: thy lyfe shall springe,

    From thy Vertues; ever deathles;

    Fame hath Breath, though thow be Breathles

My pen thus Impes, thy Praises winge;

Which stones shall speak, & Tyme shall singe,

  Obiit 27 Iunij 1613. Devosio Christopheri Brooke

Copyright: Jon Bayliss