John Bodenham, anthologist, was the patron of some of the Elizabethan poetry anthologies. He was the son of William Bodnam and Katherine Wanton. He was educated at Merchant Taylors’ School.
It is said by Bullen that Bodenham did not himself edit any of the Elizabethan miscellanies attributed to him by bibliographers: but that he projected their publication, and he befriended the editors
John Bodenham is the reputed editor of Elizabethan miscellanies, and was concerned in the publication of ‘Wits Commonwealth,’ 1597, ‘Wits Theater.’ 1598, ‘Belvedere, or the Garden of the Muses,’ 1000, and ‘England’s Helicon,’ 1000.
It has been usually stated that he was the editor of these collections; but the truth appears to be that he merely planned the publication of the series, and left the editorial work to others, giving the benefit of his patronage and advice to the compilers, while they in turn were willing that he should receive such credit as the publications brought. Prefixed to ‘England’s Helicon ‘ is a sonnet by ‘A- B.’ to ‘ his Loving Kinde Friend Maister John Bodenham,’ which begins—
‘Wits Common-wealth ‘ the first fruites of thy paines
Drew on ‘Wits Theater’ the second sonne.
These lines would lead us to suppose that Bodenham was the editor of the collections of sententious extracts, ‘Wits Commonwealth’ and ‘Wits Theater,’ books which passed through many editions, and were very popular throughout the seventeenth century. But on turning to Nicholas Ling’s epistle to Bodenham, prefixed to ‘Wits Commonwealth,’ we find that the materiul for that volume was chiefly collected by Ling, and that Bodenham had done little beyond sug gesting the puhlication of such a collection. In regard to ‘Wits Theater’ there is perfectly clear evidence that the editor was Robert Allott, who compiled ‘England’s Parnassus’ [q. v.] A copy (preserved in the British Museum) of the 1599 edition of ‘ Wits Theater ‘ contains an epistle overlooked by bibliographers, in which Robert Allott dedicates to Bodenham this ‘collection of the flowers of antiquities and histories.’ The anthology, ‘Belvedere, or the Garden of the Muses,’ 1600, has a prefatory sonnet by ‘A. M.’ (Antony Munday ?), in which Bodenham is addressed as
Art’s lover, Learning’s friend,
First causer and collectour of these floures,
words which imply that Bodenham had suggested the compilation of such an anthology, and had himself collected some ma enals for the volume. ‘Belvedere is of small interest, as the extracts are in most instances limited to a single couplet. The authors names are not annexed to the extracts, but a general list given at the beginning. A disparaging notice of ‘Belvedere’ occurs in an anonymous play, the ‘Returne from Pernassus’ (printed in 1606, but acted Elizabeth); nevertheless enjoyed some popularity, and in 1610 a second edition was issued under the title of ‘The Garden of the Muses,’ the first title, ‘Belvedere,’ being dropped. ‘England’s Helicon,’ 1600, the most delightful of early poetical miscellanies, preserves the choicest lyrics of Breton, Barnfield, Lodge, ‘the sheperd Toney,’ and others. Here first appeared the full text of the pastoral song, ‘Come live with me and be my love,’ with the name of ‘C. Marlowe’ subscribed. The editor of the collection appears to have been ‘A.B.,’ who concludes his prefatory sonnet to Bodenham with these lines :—
My paines heerein I cannot terme it great,
But what-so-ere, my love (and all) is thine.
Take love, take paines, take all remaines in me:
And where thou art my hart still lives with thee.
Following the sonnet is a prose epistle by the same ‘A. B.,’ to ‘his very loving friends, M. Nicholas Wanton and M. George Faucet,’ in which the writer says : ‘Helicon, though not as I could wish, yet in such good sort as time would permit, having past the pikes of the presse, comes now to Yorke to salute her rightful Patrone first, and next (as his deare friends and kindsmen) to offer you her kinde service.’ The ‘rightful Patrone’ must be Bodenham. In the face of ‘A. B.’s ‘ sonnet and epistle, it is strange that one authority after another should persist in saying that the editor of ‘England’s Helicon’ was Bodenham. A second edition, containing nine additional pieces, appeared in 1614. A reprint of the second edition was published in 1812 under the editorship of Brydges and Haslewood, and a reprint of the first edition was included in Collier’s ‘Seven English Miscellanies,’ 1867. Mr. W. J. Craig is preparing (1886) a new edition. Of Bodenham’s life no particulars have been discovered