TOWNSHEND, AURELIAN (flourished 1601 - 1643), poet, was son of John Townshend of Dereham Abbey, Norfolk, and great-grandson of Sir Roger Townshend of Raynham. He was at one time Steward to Sir Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury, and letters from him to Cecil, written in 1601-02, are preserved among Lord Salisburys manuscripts. From an early age he had a reputation as a writer of graceful verse, which gained him many friends amongst courtiers who shared his literary tastes, as well as amongst professional men of letters. In 1608 Townshend was invited by Lord Herbert of Cherbury to accompany him on a continental tour. He was useful to Herbert for his perfect colloquial knowledge of French, Italian and Spanish. With Herbert he was the guest of the Duke of Montmorenci, and visited the Court of Henry IV.
At Charles Is Court, Townshend enjoyed a high literary reputation, and became apparently a gentleman of the Privy Chamber. In 1631, Townshend succeeded Ben Johnson as composer of Court Masques. On Jan. 8, 1632 one entitled Albions Triumph was presented by the King and his Lords at Whitehall. This masque contained an allegorical representation of London and the Court. This and other masques were designed and planned by the renowned architect Inigo Jones, Townshend being employed simply to supply the words.
At least as early as 1622 Townshend was married and settled as a housekeeper in Barbican, London near the Earl of Bridgewaters residence. In 1643 Townshend presented a petition to the House of Lords setting forth that he was threatened with arrest at the suit of one Tully, a silkman, for commodities ordered for Lewis Boyle (Lord Kinalmeakey). He pleaded that he was the Kings ordinary servant, and that he himself owed Tully nothing, and asked for protection. In March 1643 the House of Lords decided to grant him their protection, and bestowed on him the freedom of privilege of Parliament. Townshend has been undeservedly neglected as a poet. Many of his lyrics, which possess much charm and grace, are scattered through manuscript miscellanies.
In the confusion of the Civil War of the 1640s, Townshend disappears. The baptism of 5 of his children - George, Mary, James, Herbert, and Frances - are recorded in the register of St. Giles, Cripplegate, between 1622 and 1632.
(Note - Townshend descendants of these children are not pursued herein, but they would be related to the Raynham Townshends by blood, unlike descendants of Sir Robert.) I was unable to use the opening biographical statement that Aurelian was the son of John T. and the great-grandson of Sir Roger T. of Raynham, in my efforts to locate him. Heres an enigmatic comment from English Literature in the Early 17th Century by Bush (p.126):- In the next generation we have such definitely metaphysical lyrists as the poor and pocky Aurelian Townshend (1583?.-1651?). Townshend produced masques but he lives on in a handful of lyrics like Victorious Beauty and Through regions farr divided -in which manly gallantry and wit are wedded to manly music.
(Note: The fact that it was 1662 when Horatio signed the instrument for the name change, supports the presumption that Aurelian lived, not to 1651 but into the 1660s) Aurelian was a favorite of Henrietta, King Charles Is wife. About her he wrote (in 1637) -Never an earthly thing sung so true, so sweet, so clear - I was then in heaven, not here. Inigo Jones admired Aurelian as a poet, and used his talents in those court masques. But he stated that Aurelian was so self-effacing that he is as loath to be brought upon the stage as an unhandsome man is to see himself in a great glass. (These quotes are in a book titled Henrietta Maria.
As already mentioned, Aurelian provided the drive to get his stepsons name changed from Agborough to Townshend. I will quote in the next chapter the entire deed which accomplished this, but Ill provide here some of its preliminary remarks which relate to Aurelian.
The, Right Hon. Horatio Lord Townshend..... Takeing notice of the quality, virtue and merit of Sir Robert Agborough, Knight, who being from his infancy educated by his father-in-law Aurelian Townshend Esq., hath been by custom commonly known by, and hath had the surname of Townshend applied to him.....
|Tis not how witty, nor how free,
Nor yet how beautiful she be,
But how much kind and true to me.
Freedom and wit none can confine,
And beauty like the sun doth shine,
But kind and true are only mine.
AURELIAN TOWNSHEND ( 1583 ?-1643).