Howard, Henry, Earl of Surrey

(ca. 1517-1547)
   English poet, associated with his friend Sir Thomas Wyatt (1503-1542) in the introduction of the sonnet, a form developed in Italy during the 13th century and perfected in the works of Petrarch, into English poetry. Wyatt became familiar with the sonnet during travels in France and Italy in 1526-1527 and used the genre in his own writing, beginning with a free translation of many of Petrarch's Rime into English sonnets. He introduced a characteristic English modification into the rhyming scheme of the sestet (the last six lines) of the fourteen-line sonnet. He also produced poetry in such forms as the satire and the rondeau. Surrey adopted the sonnet and is usually credited with perfecting it. The work of both Wyatt and Surrey, together with that of several contemporaries, was included in an influential collection published in 1557 by Richard Tottel under the title Songes and Sonettes but usually known as Tottel's Miscellany. The first 32 pages of the collection presented Surrey's poems. This publication established both the reputation of the author and the popularity of the sonnet form in England. Surrey is also famous for his translation of portions of Vergil's Aeneid into English blank verse (first edition ca. 1554), both because his translation itself was greatly admired and because he seems to have originated the use of blank verse (that is, omitting the use of rhyme, as in classical poetry) in English. Surrey had the ill fortune to be the son of the Duke of Norfolk, the leading conservative nobleman under Henry VIII and a determined opponent of the king's religious policy. In 1547 Surrey was arrested on patently specious charges of high treason, condemned, and beheaded at the age of 30.

Historical Dictionary of Renaissance. . 2004.

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