Soldier, sea captain, freebooter, courtier, writer, reformer, and informer, Barnaby Rich was a man of his time. In the service of Queen Elizabeth, Rich took part in numerous campaigns fraught with hardship and disaster in France, the Low Countries, and Ireland. After twenty years of soldiering, he wrote Riche His Farewell to Militarie Profession, which attracted the attention of the Queen herself, as well as William Shakespeare and many of the lesser among his contemporaries.
"I have preferred to be rich rather than to be called so," punned the Captain ruefully on his title pages, for he was usually in want and as often in trouble. The source of both misfortunes was his disdain for dodging a fight, and much that is known of his life comes from unpublished records of legal actions in which he was involved. Rich directed his satire primarily against the sinecures of the Anglican clergy in Ireland and against the papacy. "Sworne man" of both Elizabeth and James, he protested near the end of his life that his assaults with pike and pen were but the promptings of a "true harted subjecte."
Born in an age bright with stars, Rich must be considered a "minor" Elizabethan. Therein lies the novelty of this study: it treats the not-so-great, using unpublished court records to enrich our knowledge of Great Britain's grandest era. But the story of the man is not lost in the background of the period. With freshness and charm the present volume disinters Barnaby Rich from the footnote crediting him as Shakespeare's source for the plot of Twelfth Night and fleshes him forth a live Elizabethan.