Richard Lovelace

Biographical Information

Richard Lovelace (1618-1658) was born in 1618 in either Woolich, Kent, or Holland. The exact place of his birth is unknown. He was the son of Sir William Lovelace, and the eldest of four brothers. He came from a family of considerable wealth. His father was a soldier in the Low Countries who died in action in the war between Spain and Holland in 1627. Richard was only nine. Because of his father’s services he was given a courtly education and studied at the Charterhouse School and at Gloucester House in Oxford. Here he wrote a comedy, The Scholars. In college he was known more for being a social connoisseur than a good student; the ladies loved him. Thus, it was while at Oxford that he gained the reputation for being a Cavalier. King Charles I and Queen Henrietta Maria visited Oxford and were impressed by Lovelace’s work and demeanor. In 1634 he was made M. A. at the request of one of the Queen’s ladies-in-waiting.

Lovelace integrated himself into courtly life and served in the King’s military expeditions in Scotland. In 1639 he served under Lord Goring and wrote the poem "Sonnet". To General Goring about his experiences. He was given the position of a “Gentlemen Wayter Extraordinary,” and wrote a volume of elegies to the Princess Katherine. For a time he was a general in the royalist army. After the campaign in Scotland failed, he returned to his home in Kent. It is said that he met Sir John Suckling during this time.

In 1641 Lovelace was involved in the destruction of a petition asking for the removal of Episcopalian rule. Then in 1642, he presented a royalist petition to Parliament asking for the inclusion of Anglican Bishops that had been excluded from the Long Parliament. He was imprisoned in the Gatehouse prison in Westminster for these actions. During this two-month period he wrote "To Althea. From Prison." From this work comes the famous quote "Stone walls do not a prison make, nor iron bars a cage."

Following his release from prison he joined General Goring to fight in the Low Countries like his father. Here he was wounded in battle at Dunkirk. He remained in Holland and France until 1646, and then returned to London. Upon his return he was imprisoned for complications probably involving disturbances in Kent. He was released from prison in 1649, and shortly after published Lucasta. He died in poverty of his battle wounds in 1658. The church he was buried in was burned down in the great fire of London in 1666.

Literary Works

Lovelace wrote almost 200 poems from his time at Oxford to his death. He is known for the comedy The Scholars and the tragedy The Soldier. During his time as a soldier under General Goring, he wrote his sonnets "To General Goring," "The Rose," and "The Scrutiny". He also wrote a series of poems describing small insects and animals including "The Grasse-hopper," the most famous of these, "The Ant," "The Snayl," "The Falcon," and "The Toad and the Spyder". His most famous works are "To Lucasta. Going to the Wars" and "To Althea. From Prison."

Lovelace’s tone is very light and bouncy. His poems read like songs. He makes uses of conceits such as in the grasshopper and by using the names Lucasta and Althea, but lacks the metaphor heavy lines of John Donne.

Lucy Sacheverell was the inspiration for the character Lucasta. Lovelace would fondly call her Lux casta, or “chaste light”/”pure light”.

"To Althea. From Prison. Song. Set by Dr. John Wilson:" Lucasta is also represented by the divine character Althea in "To Althea. From Prison." This poem is known for it’s paradox of internal freedom of external freedom. The “grates” and “gates” mentioned in the first stanza refer to his prison walls. In this poem he writes of his freedom through his love for Althea despite his imprisonment.

"To Lucasta. Going to Wars:" In the poem, "To Lucasta. Going to Wars." the speaker has to leave his love behind to fight. He describes her being very pure and innocent, using phrases like “sweet” and "quiet mind”. He refers to her presence as a “nunnery”, thus alluding that she would not be able to understand war. In the poem he tries to explain it to her in terms she would understand. He describes the war as a “new mistress” and something that will require a stronger faith. In the last stanza and attempts to defend his leaving by claiming that his inconstancy (leaving her to fight) is for honor.

"Grasshopper. Ode. To My Noble Friend, Mr. Charles Cotton:" The poem the "Grasshopper. Ode. To My Noble Friend, Mr. Charles Cotton," makes reference to the fable of the ant and the grassgopper, where the ant saves up food for the coming winter while the grasshopper is lazy and enjoys himself. It is different from the fable in that the grasshopper does not suffer from being ill prepared but rather warms himself before a fire, reads Greek, and enjoys the company of his friend. There is also no evidence of the two friends saving up food for the winter as in the fable. This could be because the conceit is describing two country gentlemen who have likely inherited their wealth. Instead of storing up food in the material sense, they have been preparing for winter in a cultural sense. This way they can endure the winter in the company of good friends, whose “sacred hearts shall burn eternally” (25).

Isn’t it ironic that a poet named Lovelace never married?


1. Picture from:
2. "Richard Lovelace: Poem analysis»To Althea From Prison." Crossref-it. 2011. Web. <>.
3. "Richard Lovelace: Poem Analysis» The Grasshopper: Ode." Crossref-it. 2011. Web. <>.
4. Jokinen, Anniina. "The Life of Richard Lovelace." Luminarium.
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5. "Richard Lovelace." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc, 2011. Web. <>.
7. Poems from: <>.

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