The son of the Rev. Thomas Cleveland, vicar of Hinckley (1620–52), Cleveland was born in Loughborough, and educated at Hinckley Grammar School. Admitted to Christ's College, Cambridge, he graduated BA in 1632 and became a fellow of St John's College in 1634, where he became a college tutor and lecturer on rhetoric.
A staunch Royalist, Cleveland opposed the election of Oliver Cromwell as member for Cambridge in the Long Parliament, and lost his college post as a result in 1645. He then joined Charles I, by whom he was welcomed, and was appointed to the office of Judge Advocate at Newark.
In 1646, however, he lost this office, and wandered about the country dependent on the bounty of other Royalists. In 1655 he was imprisoned at Yarmouth, but released by Cromwell, to whom he appealed, and went to London, where he lived till his death.
Cleveland's poems first appeared in The Character of a London Diurnal (1647) and thereafter in some 20 other collections. His real achievement lay in his political, satirical poems, written mainly in heroic couplets. He has been called "both a detached, intellectual, 'metaphysical' poet" and "a committed satirist".
The Poems were published in 1656.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Cousin, John William (1910). A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature. London: J. M. Dent & Sons. Wikisource
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