Gervase Markham

Gervase Markham

Gervase (or Jervis) Markham (ca. 1568 – February 3, 1637) was an English poet and writer, best known for his work The English Huswife, Containing the Inward and Outward Virtues Which Ought to Be in a Complete Woman first published in London in 1615.



Markham was the third son of Sir Robert Markham of Cotham, Nottinghamshire, and was probably born in 1568.

He was a soldier of fortune in the Low Countries, and later was a captain under the Earl of Essex's command in Ireland. He was acquainted with Latin and several modern languages, and had an exhaustive practical acquaintance with the arts of forestry and agriculture. He was a noted horse-breeder, and is said to have imported the first Arabian horse.

Very little is known of the events of his life. The story of the murderous quarrel between Gervase Markham and Sir John Holles related in the Biographia (s.v. Holles) has been generally connected with him, but in the Dictionary of National Biography, Sir Clements R. Markham, a descendant from the same family, refers it to another contemporary of the same name, whose monument is still to be seen in Laneham church. Gervase Markham was buried at St Giles's, Cripplegate, London, on 3 February 1637.


He was a voluminous writer on many subjects, but he repeated himself considerably in his works, sometimes reprinting the same books under other titles. His booksellers procured a declaration from him in 1617 that he would produce no more on certain topics. Markham's writings include:

  • 1593: A Discourse of Horsemanship was followed by other popular treatises on horsemanship and farriery;
  • 1595: The most Honorable Tragedy of Sir Richard Grinvile (1595), reprinted (1871) by Professor E. Arber, a prolix and euphuistic poem in eight-lined stanzas which was no doubt in Tennyson's mind when he wrote his stirring ballad;
  • 1595: The Poem of Poems, or Syon's Muse, dedicated to Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Philip Sidney;
  • 1597: Devoreux, Virtue's Tears;
  • 1600: The Teares of the Beloved and Mary Magdalene's Tears (1601), long and rather commonplace poems on the Passion and Resurrection of Christ, both reprinted by Dr. A. B. Grosart in the Miscellanies of the Fuller Worthies Library (1871);
  • 1602: A translation of the satires of Lodovico Ariosto;
  • 1607: Cavelarice, or The English horseman, featuring secrets of William Bankes, master of the performing horse Marocco;
  • 1607: The English Arcadia, part 1. A sequel to Sidney's Arcadia. Part 2 appeared in 1613;
  • 1608: The Dumb Knight, a comedy, with Lewis Machin;
  • 1622: Herod and Antipater, a Tragedy, written in conjunction with William Sampson;
  • 1624: Honor in his Perfection, in praise of the earls of Oxford, Southampton and Essex;
  • 1625: Soldier's Accidence turns his military experiences to account;
  • 1634: The Art of Archerie, Shewing how it is most necessary in these times for this Kingdom, both in Peace and War, and how it may be done without Charge to the Country, Trouble to the People, or any Hindrance to Necessary Occasions. Also, of the Discipline, the Postures, and whatsoever else is necessary for the attaining to the Art (London, Ben Fisher, at the Signe of the Talbot without Alders Gate, 1634)
  • He edited Juliana Berners's Book of Saint Albans under the title of The Gentleman's Academy (1595), and produced numerous books on husbandry, many of which are catalogued in Lowndes's Bibliographer's Manual (Bohn's ed., 1857–1864).


Further reading

  • Michael R. Best (editor), The English Housewife, Toronto: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1986. ISBN 0-7735-0582-2.
  • Frederick Noel Lawrence Poynter, A Bibliography of Gervase Markham, 1568?-1637, Oxford: Oxford Bibliographical Society, 1962.

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