Sir John Davies

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Davies, Sir John (1569–1626). Lawyer and poet. Davies was born in Wiltshire, sent to Queen's College, Oxford, and became a lawyer. In 1597 he was elected to Parliament for Shaftesbury. Appointed solicitor-general in Ireland in 1603 through the patronage of the earl of Devonshire, Davies was knighted and spent much of his life in Ireland, serving as attorney-general from 1606 and as speaker of the Irish House of Commons in 1613. His letters and reports on conditions in Ireland are of great value. He returned to England in 1619 and was appointed chief justice of King's Bench in 1626, but died before he could take up office. His best-known poem, Nosce teipsum (1599), dealt with the immortality of the soul, was admired by James I, and was quoted approvingly by Coleridge in Biographia literaria. Davies's wife claimed the gift of prophecy and, predicting his death, irritatingly adopted mourning in advance of the event.

J. A. Cannon

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