Francis Meres (1565/6 – 29 January 1647) was an English churchman and author. His 1598 commonplace book includes the first critical account of poems and plays by Shakespeare.
Francis Meres was born at Kirton in the Holland division of Lincolnshire in 1565. He was educated at Pembroke College, Cambridge, where he received a B.A. in 1587 and an M.A. in 1591. Two years later he was incorporated an M.A. of Oxford. His relative, John Meres, was high sheriff of Lincolnshire in 1596, and apparently helped him in the early part of his career. In 1602 he became rector of Wing in Rutland, where he also ran a school. Both his son, Francis, and his grandson, Edward, also received their B.A. and M.A. from Cambridge and became rectors.
Meres is especially well known for his Palladis Tamia, Wits Treasury (1598), a commonplace book that is important as a source on the Elizabethan poets, and more particularly because it is the first critical account of the poems and early plays of William Shakespeare. Its list of Shakespeare's plays is an important source for establishing their chronology. A sermon entitled Gods Arithmeticke (1597), and two translations from the Spanish of Luís de Granada entitled Granada's Devotion and the Sinners' Guide (1598) complete Meres' list of works.
Marriage and issue
Meres had a wife named Mary (1576/7–1631) whose maiden name is unknown, by whom he had a son, Francis, born in 1607. In Shakespeare's Sonnets (1904), Charlotte Stopes stated that Meres was the brother-in-law of John Florio; however investigation by George Greenwood suggests that Stopes was in error.
Meres died in 1647 and was buried in the parish church of St Peter and St Paul in Wing, Rutland.
- Allen, Don C. "The Classical Scholarship of Francis Meres" PMLA, XLVIII: 1 (March 1933), 418–425.* Meres, Francis. Palladis Tamia. Wits Treasury. Printed by P. Short for Cuthbert Burbie. 1598. Facsimile Reprint of the Church copy in the Henry E. Huntington Library. Introduction by Don C. Allen.
- Bentley, Gerald Eades. "John Cotgrave’s English Treasury of Wit and Language and the Elizabethan Drama" Studies in Philology, Vol. XL, 1943.
- Greenwood, George (1916). "Francis Meres and John Florio". Notes and Queries. 12th series. London. I. Retrieved 2 January 2014.
- Kathman, David (2004). "Meres, Francis (1565/6–1647)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/18581.(Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
- Stopes, Charlotte Carmichael, ed. (1904). Shakespeare's Sonnets. London: Alexander Moring Limited. Retrieved 2 January 2014.