John Skelton

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Skelton, John,

1460–1529, English poet and humanist. Tutor to Prince Henry (later Henry VIII), he later (c.1502) became rector of Diss, Norfolk. In 1512 he began to call himself royal orator, a position that may have been conferred by Henry VIII requiring that Skelton carry on some royal correspondence and write occasional official poems. He wrote a long allegorical poem, The Garland of Laurel (1523), but is remembered for his scathing and often obscene satires on the court, the clergy, and Cardinal Wolsey—The Bowge of Court (1499), Speak, Parrot (1521), Colin Clout (1522), and Why Come Ye Not to Court? (c.1522)—and the mock dirge "Philip Sparrow." Many of his works are written in verse forms he himself devised, called Skeltonics. They consist of short lines and insistent rhymes, sometimes repeated through several sets of couplets; they also employ alliteration.


See Skelton's works (ed. by Rev. Alexander Dyce, 2 vol., 1843); biography by A. S. Edwards (1981); studies by A. R. Heiserman (1961), S. E. Fish (1965), M. Pollet (tr. 1971), A. F. Kinney (1987), and G. Walker (1988).