John Harington, Knight (c.1561 - 1612) MP

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Nicknames: "Sir John Harrington"
Birthplace: Kelston, Bath and North East Somerset, England, United Kingdom
Death: Died in Kelston, Bath and North East Somerset, England, United Kingdom
Occupation: Godson of Queen Elizabeth, inveted first flush toilet, Writer and poet, Writer, Courtier, Lord Harrington was a soldier, poet, inventor, a prominent member of Queen Elizabeth I's court
Managed by: Nancy Sawalich
Last Updated:

About John Harington, Knight

John Harington (also spelled Harrington) (4 August 1561 – 20 November 1612), of Kelston, was a courtier, author and master of art. He became a prominent member of Queen Elizabeth I's court, and was known as her 'saucy Godson'. But because of his poetry and other writings, he fell in and out of favour with the Queen, as well as with her successor, James I.

From John Harrington (writer) - Wikipedia

The work for which he is best known today, A New Discourse of a Stale Subject, called the Metamorphosis of Ajax (1596) is in fact a political allegory, a 'device' in the contemporary sense of an emblem, not in the modern sense of a mechanical device. It is a coded attack, as his autograph marginal notes make clear, on the 'stercus' or excrement that was poisoning society with torture and state-sponsored 'libells' against his relatives Thomas Markham and Ralph Sheldon. The work enjoyed considerable popularity on its publication in 1596.

Harington is most popularly known as the inventor of the Flush toilet.[1]

He is also remembered for the political epigram, "Treason doth never prosper: what’s the reason? Why, if it prosper, none dare call it treason."

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Godson to Queen Elizabeth I

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from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flush_toilet :

1596: Sir John Harington published "A New Discourse of a Stale Subject, Called the Metamorphosis of Ajax", describing a forerunner to the modern flush toilet installed at his house at Kelston. The design had a flush valve to let water out of the tank, and a wash-down design to empty the bowl. He installed one for his godmother Elizabeth I of England at Richmond Palace, although she refused to use it because it made too much noise. The Ajax was not taken up on a wide scale in England, but was adopted in France under the name Angrez.

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from http://venn.lib.cam.ac.uk/cgi-bin/search.pl?sur=&suro=c&fir=&firo=c&cit=&cito=c&c=all&tex=HRNN576J&sye=&eye=&col=all&maxcount=50

Harington, John

Matric. Fell.-Com. from KING'S, Michs. 1576.

Son of John, of Stepney [ London], Cheshunt Park [Hertfordshire], and Kelston, Somerset, Esq.

School, Eton [ Buckinghamshire].

B.A. 1577/8 (1st in the ordo);

M.A. 1581 .

Adm. at Lincoln's Inn, 27 Nov., 1581; of Somerset.

High Sheriff of Somerset, 1591 .

Accompanied Lord Essex to Ireland, 1598 .

Knighted, 30 Jul., 1599.

Scholar and poet.

Godson of Queen Elizabeth.

Buried at Kelston, Somerset, 01 Dec., 1612.

Will (P.C.C.) 1614 .

(Misc. Gen. et Her., IV. 191; D.N.B., where he is wrongly assigned to Christ's College.)

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Sir John Harington (1561 – November 20, 1612) was known as Queen Elizabeth I's 'saucy Godson'. He was born in Kelston, Somerset, England. Harington the inventor of the first modern Flush toilet as well as the godson of Queen Elizabeth I of England. Mostly as a resullt of his poetry and other various writings, he fell in and ultimately out of favor with the Queen, as well as her successor, King James I of England.

Life

He was the son of John Harington of Kelston (d. 1582), the poet, and his second wife Isabella Markham (d. 1579), a gentlewoman of Queen Elizabeth's privy chamber, and became one of the Queen's 102 god-children.

Although he had intended to study law, Harington was attracted early in life to the royal court, where his freespoken attitude and poetry gained the queen's attention. She encouraged his writing, but Harington was inclined to overstep the mark in his somewhat Rabelaisian and occasionally risqué pieces. His attempt at a translation of Ariosto's Orlando Furioso caused his banishment from court for some years, but was completed in 1591 and received great praise. [1] Angered by the raciness of his translations, the Queen was angered, and told Harrington that he was to leave and not return until he had translated the entire poem. She chose this punishment rather than actually banishing him, but she considered the task so difficult that it was assumed Harrington would not bother to comply. Harrington, however, choose to follow through with the request, and eventually completed translating the poem. His version of the poem is the translation that is still read by Engish speakers today. [1]

He was wed to a woman named Mary Rogers in 1583. Together, they had fifteen children, two named James, John, Frances, Henry, Edward, Robert, Helena, George, Elizabeth, Mary, Hannah, and Robert. The other two children have only been recorded as "son." It is likely that they did not live for very long, or perhaps that they were stillborn.

Around this time, Harington also devised Britain's first flushing toilet — called the Ajax (i.e. "a jakes"; jakes being an old slang word for toilet) — installed at his manor in Kelston, and which was reputed to have been current with the queen herself. Indeed, the American utilisation of the word 'John' as a euphemism for toilet, or bathroom, derives from Harington's invention. In 1596, Harington published a book on his device, entitled The Metamorphosis of Ajax, but his use of certain political allusions led to a further banishment from court, and he was threatened with proceedings in the Star Chamber. He chose to return to his manor house in Kelston and spend more time with his wife Mary, whom he had married around 1586, and their seven surviving children. In time, he was forgiven by the queen. In 1596, Harrington wrote a book called A New Discourse upon a Stale Subject: The Metamorphosis of Ajax about his invention. He published it under the pseudonym of Misacmos. The book made political allusions to the Earl of Leicester that angered the Queen, and he was again banished from the court. The Queen's mixed feelings for him may be the only thing that saved Harrington from being tried at Star Chamber.

In 1599 the queen sent an army, led by Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, to Ireland during the Nine Years War (1595-1603). Following her strong recommendation that Essex include him in his army, Harington was put in command of horseman under Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton. Harington's legacy from this campaign were his letters and journal, which served to give the queen good intelligence about the progress of the campaign and its politics. Harington wrote, "I have informed myself reasonably well of the whole state of the country, by observation and conference: so I count the knowledge I have gotten here worth more than half the three hundred pounds this journey hath cost me." During the campaign Essex confered a knighthood on Harington for his services. Essex fell into disfavour with the queen for concluding the campaign on a truce, and also caused her fury over the large number of knighthoods he awarded. Harington had been present at the truce negotiations, and on accompanying Essex when he returned to court to account to the queen, he experienced the royal wrath. However, his wit and charm soon secured the queen's forgiveness.

After the queen's death, Harington's fortunes faltered at the court of the new King, James I. He spent some time at his manor at Kelston, but then found himself serving time in prison. He had stood surety for the debts of his cousin, Sir Griffin Markham, in the sum of £4000, when the latter had become involved in the Bye and Main Plots. Not able to meet his cousin's debts without selling his own lands, and unwilling to languish in gaol, he escaped custody in October 1603. However, James I had already recognised his loyalty and created him a Knight of the Bath and also granted him the properties forfeited upon Markham's exile.

Towards the end of his life, Sir John Harrington became the tutor to Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales. He annoted for him a copy of Francis Godwin's De praesulibus Angliae. Harington's grandson, John Chetwind later published these annotations in 1653, under the title of A Briefe View of the State of the Church.

Sir John Harrington died on November 20, 1612 at the age of 51. Though he was never able to regain his place in high society in England, his poetry at the time was well known and much admired, despite lacking much place in modern literature.

Harington continued to write, even though he had vowed to give up poetry upon the death of Queen Elizabeth. He published just one more slim volume of verse in 1607, but continued to send letters both to friends and to the king's eldest son, Prince Henry, until 1609. Some of these letters were later collected by Harington's descendant, Henry Harington, and published under the title of Nugae Antiquae in 1769. The volume is a significant source for the history of the Tudor re-conquest of Ireland.

Harington fell ill in May 1612 and died on 20 November 1612; he was buried in Kelston.

An elegy of a pointed diamond given by the author to his wife at the birth of his eldest son

DEAR, I to thee this diamond commend,

In which a model of thyself I send.

How just unto thy joints this circlet sitteth,

So just thy face and shape my fancy fitteth.

The touch will try this ring of purest gold,

My touch tries thee, as pure though softer mold.

That metal precious is, the stone is true,

As true, and then how much more precious you.

The gem is clear, and hath nor needs no foil,

Thy face, nay more, thy fame is free from soil.

You'll deem this dear, because from me you have it,

I deem your faith more dear, because you gave it.

This pointed diamond cuts glass and steel,

Your love's like force in my firm heart I feel.

But this, as all things else, time wastes with wearing,

Where you my jewels multiply with bearing.

Sir John Harington

Of an accident of saying grace at the Lady Rogers who used to dine exceeding late. Written to his wife from Bath

MY Mall, in your short absence from this place,

Myself here dining at your mother's board,

Your little son did thus begin his grace,

The eyes of all things look on thee O Lord,

And thou their food dost give them in due season.

Peace boy (quoth I) not more of this a word,

For in this place this grace hath little reason,

Whenas we speak to God we must speak true,

And though the meat be good in taste and season,

This season for a dinner is not due,

Then peace, I say, to lie to God is treason.

Say on my boy (saith she) your father mocks,

Clowns and not courtiers use to go by clocks.

Courtiers by clocks (said I) and clowns by cocks.

Now if your mother chide with me for this,

Then you must reconcile us with a kiss.

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Harington was born in Kelston, Somerset, England, the son of John Harington of Kelston (d. 1582), the poet, and his second wife Isabella Markham (d. 1579), a gentlewoman of Queen Elizabeth I's privy chamber.

He enjoyed the honor of being accepted as a godson of the childless Queen, becoming one of her 102 god-children. Her god children were persons that the Queen was fond of. If the Queen's friend had a child or children, the Queen would often show extreme niceties to them, and sometimes, would accept them as godchildren. She treated them well. Persons who also made great achievements, such as John Harington, were made god children.

The exact relationship between the John Harington of Kelston and the line of his contemporary John Harington, 1st Baron Harington of Exton has not been established. Apparently John of Kelston did not know the pedigree of his obscure grandfather, Alexander of Stepney. Nevertheless it is generally assumed that he was also descended from the first Lord Harington of Aldingham, a baron in Edward II's time.

He was educated at Eton and King's College, Cambridge.

John Harington’s fortunes, like those of many men of the period, were cyclical. He had the misfortune to become involved with Thomas Seymour, one of King Edward VI’s uncles and the younger brother of the Lord Protector and Duke of Somerset, Edward Seymour. Though John became a member of Parliament in 1547 through Seymour’s influence, he was arrested alongside his patron when the latter was charged with treason early in 1549. Harington was interrogated regarding his knowledge of Seymour’s relationship with Elizabeth Tudor, as well as in regard to his own part in attempting to bring about a marriage between King Edward and Lady Jane Grey. He was sufficiently implicated in both matters that he remained imprisoned in the Tower without charge or trial until the spring of 1550, while his former Seymour patron had been tried and executed in April 1549. Bouncing back in true Tudor-era fashion, Harington recovered his position at court following his release and was among those enriched by the rise of John Dudley in 1550 and 1551. One of the land grants he received at that time involved a half-interest in the Minories, a former convent of nuns of the Order of St Clare that had been closed during the Dissolutions of 1539. The other half interest was granted to Henry Grey, father of the Lady Jane Grey of Harington’s earlier misfortunes. Harington was also appointed by Dudley to the office of Constable of Caernarfon Castle in Wales.

Harington was again imprisoned in early 1554 during Sir Thomas Wyatt’s armed rebellion against Queen Mary’s planned marriage to Prince Philip of Spain. A faction of the rebels under the leadership of Henry Grey and operating in Leicestershire had called for the restoration of Queen Jane, and Harington may have supported that faction. During this second imprisonment, Harington’s 1st wife Ethelreda joined him as a prisoner in her own right. Ethelreda was at that time a lady-in-waiting to Elizabeth Tudor, who had also been implicated as a possible co-conspirator in the rebellion, and Ethelreda faithfully accompanied her mistress to the Tower.

Although he had studied the law, Harington was attracted early in life to the royal court, where his freespoken attitude and poetry gained Elizabeth's attention. The Queen encouraged his writing, but Harington was inclined to overstep the mark in his somewhat Rabelaisian and occasionally risqué pieces. His attempt at a translation of Ariosto's Orlando Furioso caused his banishment from court for some years, but was completed in 1591 and received great praise. Angered by the raciness of his translations the Queen told Harington that he was to leave and not return until he had translated the entire poem. She chose this punishment rather than actually banishing him, but she considered the task so difficult that it was assumed Harington would not bother to comply. Harington, however, chose to follow through with the request, and eventually completed translating the poem. His version of the poem is the translation that is still read by English speakers today.

Harington wed Mary Rogers in 1583 and together they had nine children, two of whom died, as his autograph revisions make clear.

Harington fell ill in May 1612 and died on 20 November 1612, soon after Prince Henry, who died on 6 November; he was buried in Kelston.

Campaigns in Ireland

In 1599 the queen sent an army, led by Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, to Ireland during the Nine Years War (1595–1603). Following her strong recommendation that Essex include him in his army, Harington was put in command of horseman under Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton. Harington's legacy from this campaign were his letters and journal, which served to give the queen good intelligence about the progress of the campaign and its politics. Harington wrote, "I have informed myself reasonably well of the whole state of the country, by observation and conference: so I count the knowledge I have gotten here worth more than half the three hundred pounds this journey hath cost me." During the campaign Essex conferred a knighthood on Harington for his services. Essex fell into disfavour with the queen for concluding the campaign on a truce, and also caused her fury over the large number of knighthoods he awarded. Harington had been present at the truce negotiations, and on accompanying Essex when he returned to court to account to the queen, he experienced the royal wrath. However, his wit and charm soon secured the queen's forgiveness.

Literary works

Harington continued to write, even though he had vowed to give up poetry upon the death of Queen Elizabeth. He published just one more slim volume of verse in 1607, but continued to send letters both to friends and to the king's eldest son, Prince Henry, until 1609. Some of these letters were later collected by Harington's descendant, Henry Harington, and published under the title of Nugae Antiquae in 1769. The volume is a significant source for the history of the Tudor re-conquest of Ireland.

The Metamorphosis of Ajax

Around this time, Harington also devised Britain's first flushing toilet — called the Ajax (i.e. "a jakes"; jakes being an old slang word for toilet) — installed at his manor in Kelston, and which was reputed to have been current with the queen herself. Indeed, the American utilisation of the word 'John' as a euphemism for toilet, or bathroom, derives from Harington's invention. In 1596, Harington wrote a book called A New Discourse upon a Stale Subject: The Metamorphosis of Ajax about his invention.He published it under the pseudonym of Misacmos.

Harington is perhaps better known for his New discourse of a stale subiect, called the metamorphosis of Ajax: written by Misacmos, to his friend and cousin Philostilpnos. The title is a play on the ancient Greek epic poem by Ovid, “The Metamorphosis of Ajax.” The “stale subject” of Harington’s title is, however, the privy or toilet, known in Elizabethan England as “a jakes,” while the name of the fictional author, Misacmos, is Greek for “hater of filth.” The satirical, bawdy, and irreverent text offers a solution to a common problem within sixteenth-century households:

        "There be three special things that I have heard much boasted of, and therefore would willingliest see. The one a fountain standing on pillars, like that in Ariosto, under which you may dine and supp; the second a shooting close with a xii score mark to every point of the card, in which I hear you have hit a mark that many shoot at, viz: to make a barren stony land fruitful with a little cost; the third is a thing that I cannot name well without save-reverence, and yet it sounds not unlike the shooting place, but it is in plain English a shitting place. Though, if it be so sweet and so cleanly as I hear, it is a wrong to it to use “save reverence,” for one told me, it is as sweet as my parlor, and I would think discourtesy, one should say, “save reverence my parlor.” But if I might entreat you (as you partly promised me at your last being here) to set down the manner of it in writing, so plain as our gross wits here may understand it, or to cause your man M. Combe (who I understand can paint prettily) make a draught, or plot thereof  to be well conceived, you should make many of your friends much beholding to you, and perhaps you might cause reformation in many houses that you wish well unto, that will think no scorn to follow your good example. Nay to tell you my opinion seriously, if you have so easy, so cheap, and so infallible a way for avoiding such annoyances in great houses. You may not onlypleasure many great persons, but do her Majesty good service in 

her palace of Greenwich and other stately houses, that are oft annoyed with such savors, as where many mouths be fed can hardly be avoided. Also you might be a great benefactor to the City of London, and all other populous towns, who stand in great need of such conveniences."

The book made political allusions to the Earl of Leicester that angered the Queen, and he was again banished from the court. The Queen's mixed feelings for him may be the only thing that saved Harington from being tried at Star Chamber.

Life as a courtier

After the queen's death, Harington's fortunes faltered at the court of the new King, James I. He spent some time at his manor at Kelston, but then found himself serving time in prison. He had stood surety for the debts of his cousin, Sir Griffin Markham, in the sum of £4000, when the latter had become involved in the Bye and Main Plots. Not able to meet his cousin's debts without selling his own lands, and unwilling to languish in gaol, he escaped custody in October 1603. However, James I had already recognised his loyalty and created him a Knight of the Bath and also granted him the properties forfeited upon Markham's exile.

Towards the end of his life, Sir John Harington became the tutor to Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales. He annotated for him a copy of Francis Godwin's De praesulibus Angliae. Harington's grandson, John Chetwind later published these annotations in 1653, under the title of A Briefe View of the State of the Church.

Sir John Harington died on 20 November 1612 at the age of 52. Though he was never able to regain his place in high society in England, his poetry at the time was well known and much admired, despite lacking much place in modern literature.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Harington_(writer)

HARINGTON'S JOHN

by John H. Lienhard

http://www.uh.edu/engines/epi846.htm

Sir John Harington's father had first been married to the illegitimate daughter of King Henry VIII. But Harington was born to his father's second wife. So he missed being Queen Elizabeth's nephew, and Elizabeth assumed the role of Godmother to young John Harington.

The high-spirited Harington had easy natural wit. He was a fine poet. In his mid-twenties he translated the story of Gioconda -- the raciest part of Ariosto's epic poem, Orlando Furioso. He was probably trying to impress the ladies of Elizabeth's court.

Trouble was, the Gioconda story sounded a little like Elizabeth's marital negotiations with European monarchs. She angrily ordered a very odd punishment. She suspended Harington -- sent him home. He was not to return until he'd finished translating the entire work of almost 40,000 lines.

So he went home and worked. In 1591 he produced a loose English adaptation of Orlando Furioso. It's still the best known translation today. That time in the penalty box hadn't cured him. Five years later he was in hot water again.

This time he'd written another book, titled A New Discourse of a Stale Subject, Called the Metamorphosis of Ajax. It turns out that the word jakes was Elizabethan slang for a privy. Ajax was code for "a jakes." Harington had done a discourse on the design of toilets -- and on obscenity.

The book is loaded with double meaning and literary allusion. On one level, it asks us to recognize true obscenity. Harington's biographer, D.H. Craig, sums up Harington's moral:

... the truly dangerous sinners are those who deny the animal side of humanity and disguise it with finery.

On another level, Harington transcended his own literary gaming to describe the mechanical design of the first flush toilets -- devices he'd actually installed in fancy country houses. Indeed, he'd even equipped the Queen herself with one.

Our modern flush toilets have three elements. A valve in the bottom of the water closet, a wash-down system, and a feedback controller to meter the next supply of wash-down water. Harington had invented the first two -- the valve and wash-down system.

The Ajax book is an unrelenting assault on hypocrisy. The invention of the flush toilet changed life as we know it, but for its inventor it was only a metaphor. When you stop and think about it, all our inventions are metaphors. Automobiles are metaphors for motion. Clocks are metaphors for planetary rotation. Harington's flush toilet was a metaphor for a clean spirit. In the end he wishes readers would, and I quote,

find [an equally sure] way to cleanse, and keep sweete, the noblest part of themselves, ...

-------------------- image at

http://www.npg.org.uk/live/search/portrait.asp?search=ss&sText=harington&LinkID=mp02049&rNo=0&role=sit#

bio at

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Harington#Image -------------------- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Harington_(inventor) -------------------- His god-mother was Queen Elizabeth. He translated "Orlando Furiouso". -- Harrington Genealogical Gazetter, by George Harrington, CS71.H311 1941 -- Harrington Family, by Valentine F. Harrinton, CS71.H311 1939 -------------------- John was highly educated. He installed running water and flush toilets in the family manor "Kelston". John was High Sheriff of Somerset.

His youngest son, John (b 1595) changed his name to Harrington and arrived Boston 1630 with a wife and three children. He died the same year. According to M/M Henry Edward Flake of Waynesboro, Ga, He was the son of John and Ethelreda.

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Sir John Harington's Timeline

1561
August 4, 1561
Kelston, Bath and North East Somerset, England, United Kingdom
August 4, 1561
1561
Cannington, Somerset, , England
1583
September 6, 1583
Age 22
Somersetshire, England, England
1584
1584
Age 22
Kelston, Somerset, England, United Kingdom
1585
1585
Age 23
Bath, Somerset, England, United Kingdom
1589
1589
Age 27
Bath, Somerset, England
1589
Age 27
1590
1590
Age 28
Bath, Somerset, , England
1591
1591
Age 29
Bath, Somerset, , England