John Lyly - A Life
John Lyly was born in Kent in 1553 or 1554, the eldest of eight children.
As can be imagined accurate records dating so far back of his early life are few and far between. It is most probable that Canterbury, Kent was his actual birthplace.
At age sixteen he became a student at Magdalen College, Oxford, and obtained his bachelor's degree in 1573 and his master's two years later.
Lyly became the private secretary of Lord Burghley's son-in-law, Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, himself a playwright (and to whom the second part of 'Euphues' is dedicated).
He began his own literary career with 'Euphues', or 'The Anatomy of Wit', which was published in the spring of 1579.
'Euphues and his England' appeared in 1580, and, like the first part of the book, won immediate popularity. For a time Lyly was the most successful and fashionable of English writers, hailed as the author of 'a new English'.
After the publication of 'Euphues' Lyly changed literary direction; from writing novels to writing plays.
His 'Campaspe' and 'Sapho and Phao' were produced at Court in 1582. In total, probably eight Lyly plays were acted before the queen by the Children of the Chapel and by the Children of Paul's between the years 1584 and 1591, and some repeated before a popular audience at the Blackfriars Theatre. Lyly used quick, lively dialogue, classical colour and frequent references to people and events of the day that sustained his popularity with the court which 'Euphues' had won.
Aside from his writing Lyly also sat in parliament as a member for Hindon in Wiltshire in 1580, for Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire in 1593, for Appleby in Westmorland in 1597 and finally for Aylesbury again in 1601.
After 1590 his works steadily declined in influence and he in reputation although he continued to serve in parliament; in 1598 he served on a parliamentary committee about wine abuse.
In the early weeks of November 1606, John Lyly passed away from an unknown disease. He was buried in London at St Bartholomew-the-Less on 20th November 1606.