|This biography was originally published
in Chief Elizabethan Dramatists. Ed. William Allan Neilson.
New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1911. p. 869.
by John Lyly
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.