Thealma and Clearchus. A pastoral History in smooth and easie Verse. Written long since by John Chalkhill, Esq; an Acquaintant and Friend of Edmund Spencer.

London: Printed for Benj. Tooke … 1683.

8vo., [6], 168, lacking the preliminary and terminal blanks; lightly toned, otherwise a fine copy in black crushed morocco by Riviere, gilt, joints neatly repaired; the bookplates of Walter Thomas Walker, James Cox Brady, and Abel Berland.


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First edition, with the corrected state of the title, designating Chalkhill as ‘an acquaintant and friend of Edmund [originally ‘Edward’] Spencer’.

Chalkhill has eluded biographers since 1683, and was long suspected to be a figment of the imagination of Izaak Walton, who contributed the pleasant Preface to this volume – Chalkhill’s only other publications being two lyrics printed in The Compleat Angler. Some details of his life were brought to light by the discovery of a group of autograph manuscripts at Hopton Hall in Derbyshire in 1958 (see P. J. Croft, Autograph Poetry in the English Language, I, 38-9). He was born about 1595 (and thus could hardly have been a friend of Spenser who died in 1599), attended Trinity College, Cambridge, and died in 1642. Walton did not know him personally, but was a distant relation. Thealma and Clearchus is unfinished, ending with the half-line ‘Thealma lives—’ to which Walton adds the terminal comment: ‘And here the Author dy’d, and I hope the Reader will be sorry.’

Wing C 1795; Hayward 130.

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