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SIR JOHN HARRINGTON.
The respectable family of the Harringtons originally came from Harrington, in Cumberland ; of which they were the 'barons for many generations. When, or on what occasion they removed to Kelston, near Bath, in Somersetshire, we have not been able to find ; unless it was when Sir James Harrington was attainted in the reign of king Henry VII. for bearing armis at the battle of Towton, and taking Henry VI. prisoner : in consequence of which his estates were confiscated, being no less than twenty-five considerable manors in the north. Queen Elizabeth did one of the family the high honour to stand godmother to him. This was Sir John Harrington, who afterwards became so distinguished at her court for his wit and gallantry; but he is now chiefly known as the translator of Ariosto's Orlando Furioso, and as the author of a volume of Epigrams.
Iu 1596, Sir John published a tract, entitled, “ A new Discourse of a State Subject, called the Metamorphosis of Ajax, written by Misacmos, to his friend and cousin Philostilpnos. London: printed for Richard Field, 8vo.” This work, of which the title page points out the subject, is executed with a considerable degree of humour, and is frequently alluded to by contemporary
writers; in 1598, says,
writers ; as in Shakespeare's Love's Labour Lost, Act 5, sc. 2, and the several writers quoted by Mr. Steevens in his note on that passage. It is remarkable that for writing this pamphlet, Sir John fell into disgrace with queen Elizabeth. Mr. Robert Markham writing to him two years after,
“Since your departure from hence, , you have been spoken of, and with no ill-will, both by the nobles and the queene herselfe. Your booke is almost forgiven, and I may say forgotten; but not for its lacke of wit or satyr. Those whome you feared moste, are now bosoming themselves in the queene's grace; and though her highnesse signified displeasure in outward sorte, yet she did like the marrow of your booke. Your great enemye, Sir James, did once mention the Star-chamber ; but your good esteeme in better mindes outdid his endeavors, and all is silente againe. The queene is minded to take you to her favoure; but she sweareth that she believes you will make epigrams, and write Misacmos againe on her, and all the courte. She hath been heard to say, " That merry poet, her god-son, must not come to Greenwich* till he hath grown sober, and leaveth the ladies' sportes and frolickes." She did conceive much disquiet on being told
had aimed a shaft at Leicester. I wish
• The court was then held there,
author of that ill-deed; I would not be in his jerkin for a thousand markes.*»
The indulgence shewn him by his royal mistress contributed to the number of his writings, as well as to their poignancy. He was the Martial of his day, having written a book of epigrams which were once much adınired, and still are thought highly respectable. His reputation for that species of writing, soon gained him both love and fear. We are told that at an ordinary at Bath, where our author dined with much company, the servant maid who attended was observed to be more particularly attentive to him, than to the rest of the guests ; this partiality occasioned an enquiry, why Harrington was to be observed, and the rest neglected. To which the simple damsel replied, to the diversion of the company, “I fear if I dont serve that gentleman, he will make epigrams upon me.”
It is not surprising that a man of so volatile a disposition, and gay a turn, amidst the favours of a court, and flattery of friends, should be profuse in his expenses. Although his fortune was considerable (for Fuller tells us he was a poet in all things but poverty) yet his extravagance was still greater ; and he was obliged to part with his estates, particularly one called Nyland, in Somersetshire, or Dorsetshire. Soon after he was ri
Nugæ Antiquæ, Vol. II. p. 242:
ding over the very spot, and with his usual pleasantry, said to his man Joho:
John, John, this Nyland,
To whom John, as merrily and truly replied:
If you had had more wit, Sir,
Sir John married the daughter of lady Rogers, to whom he addressed several epigrams. These are appended to a copy of the Orlando Furioso, in the author's hand-writing, now in the public library at Cambridge, and prefixed thereto is the following curious lętter :
To the right vertuous and his kynde mother-in
law, the ladie Jane Rogers :
I HAVE sent you my long promised Orlando, and that it maie properly belonge to you and your heire femall, I have added to it as manie of the toyes I have formerly written to you and your daughter, as I could collect out of my scattered papers ; supposing (though you have seene some of them long since) yet now to renew them againe, and remember the kynde and sometime the unkynde occasions on which some of them were written, will not be unpleasant; and because there was spare roome, I have added a few others that were showed to our soveraigne lady, and some that I durst never show any ladie but you two. And so wishing you to lock me up as safe in your love, as I know you will lay up this booke safe in your chest, I commend me to you,
And in love, Dec. 19, 1600.
From this collection we transcribe the following; which will shew the writer's talents at easy and humourous rhyme to great advantage. Some readers, perhaps, may think that the wight, calling himself Peter Pindar, has been more indebted to Harrington for his manner, than to the obscure bard of antient Greece.
TO HIS WIFE.-OF WOMEN'S VERTUES.
A well learn'd man, in rules of life no stoyk,
Yet one that careless epicures derided,
Of women's virtues talking, them devided
He first egan discoursing of the private,
Which each playn country huswife may arrive at,
To beat, strip, spin the wooll, the hemp, the flax,
Breed poultry, gather honey, try the wax,
Was civill virtue fitter for the city
With modest lookes, good clothes, and answers witty, Those baser thangs not done, but guided by her.