The English poet, composer, and physician Thomas Campion (or Campian) exemplifies the basically collaborative nature of Renaissance literature and mu­sic. Campion's parents were gentry who died when he was a child. He was sent to Cambridge at age fourteen, but apparently left without a degree. He was admitted to Gray's Inn at age nineteen, but rather than becoming a lawyer, he began to write poetry in Latin and drama such as masques; he may also have performed in some of these entertainments. He became friends with the com­posers John Dowland* and Philip Rosseter, both of whom began setting Cam­pion's poems to music around 1600. Campion wrote a dedicatory epigram to Dowland's First Booke of Songs (1597). Campion began to write poems in English for Rosseter to use as lyrics, and then to compose his own music, which Rosseter published in his Book of Ayres (1601).
Campion's main goal in composing music was that the words should be heard, and with their correct stresses. His Observations in the Art of English Poesie (1602) dismissed rhyme as old-fashioned, an idea well in advance of its time and refuted to general contemporary satisfaction by Samuel Daniel's* Defense of Ryme (1603). Campion's other idea has never caught on: to use Latin meters for English poetry. Apparently having exhausted the modest 260 pounds he had inherited from his mother, Campion studied medicine at the University of Caen, finishing his degree in 1605 or 1606. Returning to England, he practiced med­icine while continuing to publish poetry and music, frequently in collaboration with Rosseter: Songs of Mourning (for Prince Henry, 1613), Two Books of Ayres (c. 1613), The Third and Fourth Books of Ayres (c. 1617), Ayres That Were Sung and Played at Brougham Castle (1618), and two volumes of Latin epi­grams and elegies (1619). His book of musical theory, A New Way of Making Fowre Parts in Counterpoint (c. 1618), was dedicated to Prince Charles (later Charles I).
In competition with Samuel Daniel and Ben Jonson,* Campion wrote masques for the court, with sets and costumes designed in at least two cases by the prominent Inigo Jones. The Caversham Entertainment was performed for the queen, and The Lord's Masque for the wedding of Princess Elizabeth. Both were published in 1613, as was The Masque on St. Stephen's Night, which was commissioned for the wedding of Lady Frances Howard to Robert Carr, the earl of Somerset, one of the king's favorites. Soon after the wedding, the couple was charged with the fatal poisoning of Sir Thomas Overbury,* who had opposed his friend Somerset's marriage and Lady Frances's divorce from her first hus­band. Campion was cleared of complicity in the murder, but his friend and patron Sir Thomas Monson was imprisoned in the Tower for over a year.
Campion apparently never married. On his death in 1620, he left his estate of twenty pounds to Rosseter, with the wish that it had been more. Campion's lyric poems in English have been admired by later critics and poets; his music has been performed and adapted frequently in recent years.
W. Davis, Thomas Campion, 1987.
C. Wilson, Words and Notes Coupled Lovingly Together: Thomas Campion, A Critical Study, 1989.
Jean Graham

Renaissance and Reformation 1500-1620: A Biographical Dictionary. . 2001.

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  • Campion, Thomas — ▪ English poet and musician Campion also spelled  Campian   born Feb. 12, 1567, London died March 1, 1620       English poet, composer, musical and literary theorist, physician, and one of the outstanding songwriters of the brilliant English… …   Universalium

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  • Campion,Thomas — Cam·pi·on (kămʹpē ən), Thomas. 1567 1620. English poet and composer of songs for voice and lute. * * * …   Universalium

  • Campion, Thomas — (1567 1620)    English poet and composer. His devotion to ancient Roman prosody appears in his Observations in the Art of English Poesie (1602), which attacks the medieval use of rhyme and urges modern poets to follow classical practice. On this… …   Historical Dictionary of Renaissance

  • Campion, Thomas — (c. 1575 1620)    Poet and musician, b. at Witham, Essex, and ed. at Camb., and on the Continent, studied law at Gray s Inn, but discarding it, practised medicine in London. He wrote masques, and many fine lyrics remarkable for their metrical… …   Short biographical dictionary of English literature

  • Thomas Campion — Thomas Campion, (sometimes Campian) (12 February 1567 ndash; 1 March 1620) was an English composer, poet and physician. BiographyCampion was born in London and studied at Peterhouse, Cambridge, but left without taking a degree. He later entered… …   Wikipedia

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