William Alabaster 1568-1640
William ALABASTER 1568-1640
Born at Hadleigh, Suffolk, son of Roger Alabaster, a merchant. BA Trinity College, Cambridge 1588, fellow 1589, MA 1591, catechist 1596, in which year he also joined the Earl of Essex as chaplain on the Cadiz expedition. Rector of Landuplh, Cornwall 1596. Converted to Roman Catholicism in 1597-8, deprived of his preferments, and briefly imprisoned before escaping to the continent. He returned to England in 1599, and after more imprisonment he went through a period of divided loyalties and conflicts with English Catholics, before reverting to the Church of England and being pardoned by James I. DD and Rector of Therfield, Hertfordshire, 1614; admitted to Gray's Inn 1618; Rector of Little Shelford, Cambridgeshire 1622. Alabaster is remembered chiefly as a minor poet and dramatist; his verses, in both Latin and English, circulated in manuscript during his lifetime but were not published until much later. His play Roxana, originally performed in Cambridge in the 1580s, was printed in 1632 and he published a number of works on prophetic and cabbalistic aspects of theology.
Books of Alabaster’s are found in a number of libraries today, suggesting that he had an appreciable library which was probably dispersed around the time of his death. His will is very brief and includes no mention of possessions of any kind. Examples: Cambridge UL Adv.c.26.1; St John’s, Cambridge E.7.37-39; Westminster Abbey P.1.48; Marsh’s Library, Dublin A.3.5.15; Christopher Edwards catalogue 77 (2020)/78.
Cambridge UL Adv.c.26.1 (Aeschylus, 1557) has the inscription “Guilielmus Allibaster” on the titlepage, with the motto Pietati eruditae sacer, and the price paid; it is extensively annotated throughout, in Latin and Greek.
- Will of William Alabaster PCC PROB 11/182.
- Bremer, Francis J. '"Alabaster, William (1568–1640), Church of England clergyman and writer'." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography".
- Sparrow, J., The earlier owners of books in John Selden’s library, Bodleian Library Quarterly 6 (1931).
- William Alabaster, Catalogue of English Literary Manuscripts 1450-1700.