William Warner was born in London about 1558. He was educated at Magdalen Hall, Oxford, but left the university without taking a degree. He practised in London as an attorney, and gained a great reputation among his contemporaries as a poet. Warner died suddenly at Amwell in Hertfordshire on 9 March 1609.
His chief work is a long poem in fourteen-syllabled verse, entitled Albion's England (1586), and dedicated to Henry Carey, 1st Baron Hunsdon. His history of his country begins with Noah, and is brought down to Warner's own time including the beheading of Mary, Queen of Scots. The chronicle is by no means continuous, and is varied by fictitious episodes, the best known of which is the idyll in the fourth book of the loves of Argentine, the daughter of the king of Deira, and the Danish prince, Curan. Here Warner's simple art shows itself at its best. His book, perhaps on account of its patriotic subject, was very popular, but it is difficult to understand how Francis Meres came to rank him with Spenser as the chief heroical poets of the day, and to institute a comparison between him and Euripides.
His other works are Pan his Syrinx, or Pipe, Compact of Seven Reedes (1584), a collection of prose tales; and a translation of the Menæchmi of Plautus (1595). Albion's England consisted originally of four "books," but the number was increased in successive issues, and a posthumous edition (1612) contains sixteen books. It was reprinted (1810) in Alexander Chalmers's English Poets.