A biographical sketch
This biography was originally published in Chief Elizabethan Dramatists. Ed. William Allan Neilson. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1911. p. 869.

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John Lyly was born in Kent about 1554. His father was Peter Lyly, Registrar of Canterbury, and his grandfather the well-known grammarian, William Lyly, the friend of Colet and More. He entered Magdalen College, Oxford, in 1569, whence he graduated B.A. in 1573, and M.A. in 1575. Here he was more distinguished for wit than for scholarship. Going up to London, and living at first under the protection of Burleigh, he produced in 1578 his Euphues: the Anatomy of Wit, which was followed in 1580 by Euphues and his England, both of which gained a great and immediate popularity. He was now attached to the Earl of Oxford. Campaspe, his first play, was performed in 1581, and most of his dramatic work was done in that decade. The Woman in the Moon, however, may have been produced as late as 1594-5. In 1583, Lyly married Beatrice Brown, a well-connected lady, who bore him eight children. From 1588 he seems to have held an honorary position as Esquire of the Body to the Queen, and he lived for years in the vain hope of succeeding to the office of Master of Revels. Between 1589 and 1601 he sat in four parliaments, and in his Pappe with an Hatchet (1589) he took part with the Bishops in the Marprelate controversy. In spite of the distinction which Lyly won by his literary work, he failed to obtain from the Queen the substantial preferment which he craved, and he died in 1606, a disappointed place-seeker. Lyly's reputation has depended largely on the extraordinary vogue of his Euphues, and the immense influence of the style of that work on the prose of the time; but he holds also a highly important position in the development of polite comedy in England.

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