1662 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Sir John Harington

Thomas Fuller, in History of the Worthies of England (1662) 3:28.



SIR JOHN HARINGTON Knight; where born I know not, sure I am he had a fair Estate at Kelston neer Bath in this County [Somersetshire], and is eminent for his Confessor Extraction.

His father only for carrying a Letter to the Lady (afterwards Queen) Elizabeth, [was] by Bishop Gardiner kept twelve months in the Tower, and made to spend 1000 pounds ere he could get free of that trouble.

His Mother servant to the Lady Elizabeth, was by Gardiners command sequestered from her, as an Heretick, and her husband enjoyned, not to keep company with her.

Queen Elizabeth was Godmother to this Sir John, and he was bred in Cambridge, where Doctor Still was his Tutor, but whether whilst he was Fellow of Christs or Master of Saint Johns, is to me unknown. He afterwards proved one of the most ingenious Poets of our English Nation, witnesse his translation of Orlando Furioso out of the Italian, dedicated to the Lady Elizabeth, since Queen of Bohemia, and the several pieces of his own invention.

It happened that while the said Sir John repaired to an Ordinary in Bath, a female Attendress at the Table, neglecting other Gentlemen which sat higher, and were of greater Estates, applyed himself wholly to him, accommodating him with all necessaries, and preventing his asking anything with her officiousnesse. She, being demanded by him, the reason of her so careful waiting on him, "I understand," said she, "you are a very Witty man, and if I should displease you in anything, I fear you would make an Epigram of me."

A posthume Book of his is come forth, as an Addition to Bishop Godwins Catalogue of Bishops; wherein (besides mistakes) some tart reflections in Uxoratus Episcopos, might well have been spared. In a word, he was a Poet in all things save his wealth, leaving a fair Estate to a Learned and Religious son, and died about the middle of the reign of King James.