Sir John Harington

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John Harington, Knight

Also Known As: "Sir John Harrington", "Sir John "The Writer" Harington"
Birthdate: (51)
Birthplace: Kelston, Bath and North East Somerset, England, United Kingdom
Death: Died in Kelston, Bath and North East Somerset, England, United Kingdom
Place of Burial: Somerset, England
Immediate Family:

Son of John 'the Poet' Harington, of Kelston, MP and Isabella Harington
Husband of Mary Harrington
Father of James Harrington, died young?; Edward Harrington; James Harrington; Frances Egerton; George Harrington and 11 others
Brother of Robert Harrington; Elizabeth Harrington; Francis Harrington; James Harrington; Hester Harington and 1 other

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, High Sheriff of Somerset
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Sir John Harington

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.


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.


Harrington is spelled with either one or two "r's". Harington married Mary Rogers, daughter of George Rogers of Cannington (son of Sir Edward Rogers) and Joan Winter, on 6 September 1583. Together they had nine children, two of whom died young, as his autograph revisions make clear. John Harington, of Kelston, Somerset, England. Baptized London 1560. Godson of Queen Elizabeth I, a well known writer and courtier of Elizabeth and James I. He had been involved in the surrender in Ireland with Robert Devereux and Henry Wriothesley, and he felt the wrath of Queen Elizabeth I. During the campaign Essex conferred a knighthood on Harington for his services. Essex fell into disfavour with the Queen for concluding the campaign by making a truce with Tyrone, which amounted to a virtual capitulation to the Irish rebels ("if I had meant to abandon Ireland, it had not been necessary to send you there" she quite understandably snapped at Essex), and also caused her fury over the large number of knighthoods he awarded. His father had also for a time feared going to jail for acting as surety for the debts of his cousin, Sir Griffin Markham. Markham had become involved in the Bye and Main plots, and was sent into exile. Eventually, he recovered his lands, but a a long period of time he and his family must have suffered under the disfavour of Elizabeth I and for a time under James. He eventually recovered and was made Knight of the Bath under James I.

Complete Biography: Harington, Sir John (bap. 1560, d. 1612), courtier and author, was the first of two sons of John Harington (c.1517–1582), courtier, and his second wife, Isabell Markham (d. 1579). He was baptized in the church of All Hallows, London Wall, on 4 August 1560. Thanks to his parents' high favour, his godparents were Queen Elizabeth and William Herbert, second earl of Pembroke. By 1570 he was at Eton College, where he and his schoolfellows translated into Latin the story of Elizabeth's sufferings during the reign of Mary Tudor, from Foxe's book of martyrs; the resulting volume, no longer extant, was presented to the queen. The queen sent ‘Boye Iacke’ a copy of her 1576 end-of-session speech to parliament defending her right to celibacy, telling him that although ‘it cannot be suche striplinges have entrance into Parliamente Assemblyes as yet’, he would if he studied her words ‘perchance, fynde some good frutes hereof when thy godmother is oute of remembraunce’ (Nugae antiquae, 2.154). Harington matriculated at King's College, Cambridge, in 1576, graduated BA in 1578, and proceeded MA in 1581. While at Cambridge he received advice on his studies from the lord treasurer, William Cecil, and acknowledged the support of the secretary of state, Sir Francis Walsingham. In November 1581 he was admitted to Lincoln's Inn, but his time there was cut short by the death of his father; he took possession of the family estate in Kelston, near Bath, in June 1583. On 6 September of the same year he married Mary (d. 1634), daughter of George Rogers (c.1528–1582) of Cannington, Somerset, and granddaughter of Edward Rogers (c.1500–1568), a prominent office-holder under Henry VIII, Edward VI, and Elizabeth I. The translator of Ariosto Harington refused to subscribe to the 1584 bond of association, believing it prejudicial to James VI's claim to the English throne. In 1586, in the company of his brother-in-law Edward Rogers, he visited Ireland with an eye to participating in the plantation of Munster. Probably he began to sit as justice of the peace around this time, initiating an involvement in county government which would continue throughout his life. But in general the 1580s are a poorly documented part of Harington's life. This is doubtless because ‘some yeeres, & months, & weeks, and dayes’ (Letters, 176) of this decade were devoted to the huge task which earned him his place in literary history, the first complete translation into English of Ludovico Ariosto's epic romance poem Orlando Furioso. A celebrated anecdote (first recorded in the late eighteenth century) relates that these labours were a penance; when his godmother the queen caught him circulating a translation of the lewd tale of Fiametta from canto 28 of the Orlando among her ladies-in-waiting, she banished Harington from the court until he had translated all thirty-three thousand lines of it. The folio volume, published by Richard Field in 1591, was a triumph of book design, lavishly illustrated and indexed, each canto furnished with highly individual, gossipy notes. It was dedicated to Elizabeth, but Harington also presented large-paper copies, some of them hand-coloured, to potential patrons, including James VI, William Cecil, and Sir Thomas Coningsby; the work's title-page, incorporating portraits of the translator and of his beloved dog Bungay, covertly advertised Harington's desire for public office. The translation was reprinted, with revisions, in 1607; a third edition appeared in 1634. Although Ben Jonson's damning judgement that Harington's Ariosto ‘under all translations was the worst’ (C. H. Herford and P. Simpson, eds., Ben Jonson, 11 vols., 1925–52, 1.133) has coloured much subsequent commentary, the work has won admirers and is often seen as part of a key moment in the history of Anglo-Italian literary relations, alongside Spenser's Faerie Queene (1590–96) and Fairfax's translation of Tasso's Gierusalemme liberata (1600). The Metamorphosis of Ajax Harington's next published work grew out of a convivial gathering at Wardour Castle in Wiltshire, home of the fanatical horse-lover Sir Matthew Arundell; the company included Henry Wriothesley, earl of Southampton, and his sister Mary. The conversation turned to matters of sanitary technology, and the idea of keeping a permanent cistern of water above a privy, with a primitive flushing mechanism, was conceived. Harington outlined the design (with illustrations supplied by his servant, the emblematist Thomas Combe) in his New Discourse of a Stale Subject, called the Metamorphosis of Ajax (1596). ‘Ajax’ played on ‘a jakes’, meaning ‘a privy’, a device here transformed in the manner of Ovid's Ajax. The punning title gives some idea of the work that follows, a complex blend of scatological comedy, moral reflection, and social satire. Although Harington wrote the New Discourse under the pseudonym Misacmos (‘hater of filth’), he dropped many clues to his identity throughout, so that he became known as Sir Ajax Harington. On the basis of his first two publications, critics have speculated about his relevance to the Jacques and Orlando of his contemporary Shakespeare's As You Like It. As a result of the New Discourse's satire, Harington was threatened with Star Chamber suits; for a derogatory remark about the earl of Leicester, ‘the great Beare that caried eight dogges on him when Monsieur [the duke of Alençon] was here’ (New Discourse, 171), he languished for some time in royal disfavour. Harington avowed to Elizabeth Russell that his aim in writing the pamphlet was to ‘give some occasion to have me thought of and talked of’ (Letters, 66), and in this he was undoubtedly successful. The work enjoyed considerable if short-lived popularity, going through four editions in 1596 and attracting an anonymous response in an animadversion entitled Ulysses upon Ajax. Although the New Discourse was merely an octavo pamphlet, there is evidence that Harington tried to use it to further his career. In the final section of the book (the ‘Apologie’) he created a complex fictional vehicle which allowed him to flatter potential patrons and to promote the toleration of conformist recusants such as his friend Ralph Sheldon and his uncle Thomas Markham. And Harington's water-closet itself became a gift in the patronage economy; he installed one at the royal palace of Richmond and sent another to Robert Cecil for use at Theobalds.

In 1599 Harington returned to Ireland, this time with the army sent to crush the rebellion of Hugh O'Neill, second earl of Tyrone. Robert Devereux, earl of Essex, newly appointed lord lieutenant, wrote directly to Harington appointing him to lead a mounted troop under the command of the earl of Southampton. On 30 July Harington became one of the scores of soldiers knighted by Essex in the course of his ill-fated campaign. From Ireland he sent letters describing the English military defeat at the Curlew Mountains in Connaught, and recounting his meeting with Tyrone in the company of Sir William Warren. He recalled proudly that he had presented Tyrone's sons with a copy of his Orlando and, asked by the earl to read a section aloud, turned ‘(as it had been by chance)’ to the beginning of canto 45, a passage describing how fortune's wheel raises men up and throws them down again. Then they had breakfasted together on Tyrone's ‘fern table and fern forms, spread under the stately canopy of heaven’ (Letters, 78). Harington returned to England ‘in the very heat and height of all displeasures’ (ibid., 79), sharing in the wrath which Elizabeth vented at Essex. Soon, however, he was granted a private audience and restored to favour.

Throughout the 1590s Harington had been engaged in writing epigrams in imitation of Martial, and on 19 December 1600 he made two manuscript collections of them. He sent one to Lucy, countess of Bedford, the daughter of Sir John Harington of Exton. In it his poems followed three psalm paraphrases by Mary Sidney, attending them ‘as a wanton page is admitted to beare a torche to a chaste matrone’ (Letters, 87). The other, larger collection Harington gave to his widowed mother-in-law, Jane Rogers; here the epigrams followed a copy of the Orlando, with printed and manuscript sections joined in an elaborate gold-tooled binding. For this collection Harington chose those poems he had written on domestic occasions, recapitulating a troubled history of relations between the courtier, his wife, Mall, and her mother. Harington decreed that the gift should descend through the female line, a stipulation which betrays the book's part in his broader project to oust his scapegrace brother-in-law Edward as Lady Rogers's heir. In this he appears to have been successful. Jane Rogers died on 19 January 1602, naming as her executors Mary Harington and Francis Rogers; the latter, Edward's eldest son, was a minor. The events which followed her death were hotly disputed in Star Chamber between December 1603 and July 1604. Harington claimed that Edward Rogers had besieged him in Lady Rogers's house at Cannington, subsequently locking him up for nine hours and ransacking his personal belongings. Edward claimed that Harington had conferred with a physician in order to predict the likely date of his mother-in-law's death, and that he had kept the news of that event under wraps while he carried away her possessions. The terms of the arbitrated settlement of the dispute remain obscure. The search for patronage Meanwhile Harington had also been speculating about his godmother's death and, although discussion of the question was prohibited by law, he completed a substantial Tract on the Succession to the Crown in 1602. This work adduced writers from the three most populous sects, ‘Papists, protestants, and purytans’, in order to convince the whole spectrum of confessional opinion of the justice of the Stuart claim to the English throne. The work survives in a single manuscript copy in the chapter library at York, among the books of Archbishop Tobie Matthew. Matthew, at this time bishop of Durham, was known to be hostile to James's claim, and Harington may well have given him the manuscript to win him round. The Tract was one of several gestures which Harington made in anticipation of James's accession. In 1602 he sent the Scottish king a richly symbolic lantern, comparing himself with the good thief crucified alongside Christ and asking his lord to ‘remember me when you come into your kingdom’. He also sent James a manuscript of his epigrams, which were now over four hundred in number, arranged into four books. Before the death of Elizabeth, Harington made contact with Sir William Maurice, a vociferous supporter of union between England and Scotland in the early Jacobean parliaments.

On 14 April 1603, as the nation awaited the arrival of its new king, Harington bade ‘Farewell to his muse’ at Eton. Ironically, he saw her off in verse, and less than a fortnight later he was in Rutland, presenting the new king and queen with ‘gratulatorie Elegies’. But his hopes of gaining public office in the dawn of a new regime were dashed by extreme misfortune. In the summer of 1603 he was incarcerated in the Gatehouse prison, Westminster, as guarantor of a £4000 debt incurred by his uncle Thomas Markham. In this period of enforced otium he revised a translation he had made of the sixth book of Virgil's Aeneid, which he presented to King James in June 1604 for use in the instruction of Prince Henry. From this point forward Henry became the focus of Harington's search for patronage. In 1605 he gave him a collection of his epigrams, and in 1608 he presented him with a weighty quarto volume containing Bishop Francis Godwin's printed Catalogue of the Bishops of England (1601), to which he had added marginalia, two indexes, and a ‘Supplie or addicion’, a substantial supplement updating Godwin with colourful biographies of the Elizabethan episcopate. Harington claimed that his work was a defence of the established church hierarchy, written in response to a prophecy which ran: Henry the 8. pulld down Abbeys and Cells But Henry the 9. shall pull down Bishops and bells. None the less, Harington's opposition to clerical marriage, which he argued out in correspondence with Bishop Joseph Hall around this time, gave a critical edge to many of his portraits. The Catalogue was first printed by Harington's grandson John Chetwind in 1653 as a justification for the dismantling of episcopacy. Harington's support for the ecclesiastical hierarchy is perhaps best evidenced by his extraordinary attempt to join it. In 1605 he sent Robert Cecil and Charles Blount, earl of Devonshire, manuscript copies of a ‘short relation … contayning my humble and zelows offer for his Majesties sarvyce in Ierland’ (Letters, 118). Having heard that the lord chancellor of Ireland, Adam Loftus, was sick, Harington applied for his job in a treatise outlining his solutions to Anglo-Irish conflict; and with it he asked for Loftus's other position, as archbishop of Dublin. This extraordinary request was perhaps inspired by the example of Prince Henry's tutor Adam Newton, a layman whose successful bid for the deanery of Durham Harington had supported. Harington's suit was rejected. Yet it was part and parcel of his behaviour under James. He seems to have viewed the accession of an adult male monarch, after decades of ‘anomalous’ rule by women and children, as a return to Henrician values, with courtiers as bishops and humanists in high office. In his final years Harington remained active, completing a metrical paraphrase of the psalms and pursuing a scheme to persuade Thomas Sutton, the richest commoner in England, to declare Prince Charles his heir. He died on 20 November 1612, and was buried at Kelston on 1 December; his wife, Mary, died in 1634. Their eldest son, John (1589–1654), became a noted parliamentarian and diarist.

Thanks largely to the care of his descendants, whose pride in their ancestry led to the publication of the historical miscellany Nugae antiquae (1769–75; 2nd expanded edn 1779), Harington is one of the best-documented writers of his age. The printer's copy for large sections of the Orlando and New Discourse survives; we also have memoranda, first drafts, reworkings, and texts customized for presentation. From the last few years of his life we have two remarkable booklists, one of which shows that he owned a large collection of printed playtexts. Combined with this documentary wealth, the fact that he devoted so much effort to publicizing himself in his writings makes him seem an unusually knowable figure. Since his self-presentation was always designing, it is unreliable; indeed, much of the foregoing biographical narrative should be treated with caution, since Harington is often our only source for what we ‘know’ about him. Assessment Historical estimates of Harington are divided; some dismiss him as a failed careerist and minor writer, others celebrate him as a maverick figure, the licensed fool of Queen Elizabeth and King James. His letters, which offer cool analyses of the machinations of these monarchs from the perspective of a disaffected suitor, are enduringly fascinating. Equally involving is the sheer intricacy of his attempts to win favour and public office through textual transactions, involving sophisticated exploitation of the media of manuscript and print. But Harington was far from being merely self-interested; he had a humanistic concern for ‘the commonweal’, and his works promote many causes, from the restoration of Bath Abbey to religious toleration. He had a strong leaning towards Catholicism, although he called himself a ‘protesting Catholicke Puritan’ (New Discourse, 263). The complex blend of ‘high’ and ‘low’ cultural elements in his writings made them broadly popular. His epigrams, particularly those which satirized ‘puritans’, circulated widely in manuscript in the seventeenth century; partial (and censored) collections were printed in 1615 and 1618. His Englishmans Docter, a translation of the medieval medical poem Regimen sanitatis Salernitanum, went through five editions between 1607 and 1624, only the last of which bore Harington's name; it may well have reached print without his knowledge.

Harington justified his references to friends and kinsfolk in the notes to his Orlando by recalling that Plutarch had criticized Homer for leaving no account of himself; his translation, ‘a worke that may perhaps last longer then a better thing’ (Letters, 15), would not be thus blamed. In the event, it is the unashamedly personal element in Harington's writings which has made them last.

Jason Scott-Warren Sources The letters and epigrams of Sir John Harington, ed. N. E. McClure (1930) · J. Harington, Nugae antiquae, ed. H. Harington, 2nd edn, 3 vols. (1779) · D. H. Craig, Sir John Harington (1985) · Sir John Harington's A new discourse of a stale subject, called the metamorphosis of Ajax, ed. E. S. Donno (1962) · J. Harington, A tract on the succession to the crown (AD 1602), ed. C. R. Markham (1880) · J. Harington, A supplie or addicion to the catalogue of bishops to the yeare 1608, ed. R. H. Miller (1979) · Ludovico Ariosto's Orlando furioso, translated into English heroical verse by Sir John Harington (1591), ed. R. McNulty (1972) · The sixth book of Virgil's Aeneid, translated and commented on by Sir John Harington, ed. S. Cauchi (1991) · A short view of the state of Ireland, ed. W. D. Macray (1879) · P. Beal, Index of English literary manuscripts, ed. P. J. Croft and others, 1/1–2 (1980) · J. Scott-Warren, ‘Sir John Harington as a giver of books’, PhD diss., U. Cam., 1997 · S. Cauchi, ‘Recent studies in Sir John Harington’, English Literary Renaissance, 25 (1995), 112–25 · R. Hughey, John Harington of Stepney (1971) · CSP Ire., 1600, 233–4 · will of George Rogers, TNA: PRO, PROB 11/64 · will of Mary Harington, TNA: PRO, PROB 11/173 Archives BL, family archive, Add. MSS 46366–46384 · BL, Add. MS 27632 · Hatfield House, Hertfordshire, corresp. and MSS Likenesses attrib. H. Custodis, oil on panel, c.1590–1595, NPG [see illus.] · attrib. H. Custodis, oils, c.1590–1595, Ampleforth College, York; on loan · T. Cockson, line engraving, BM, NPG; repro. in L. Ariosto, Orlando furioso, trans. J. Harington (1591), title-page · attrib. H. Custodis, double portrait, oils (with his wife); Sothebys, 11 July 1983, lot 52 · attrib. H. Custodis, oils, NPG © Oxford University Press 2004–16 All rights reserved: see legal notice Oxford University Press

Jason Scott-Warren, ‘Harington, Sir John (bap. 1560, d. 1612)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, May 2015 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/12326, accessed 25 Sept 2016]

Sir John Harington (bap. 1560, d. 1612): doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/12326

[Previous version of this biography available here: January 2008]

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Sources: Jason Scott-Warren, ‘Harington, Sir John (bap. 1560, d. 1612)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, May 2015 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/12326, accessed 25 Sept 2016]


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Sir John Harington's Timeline

1561
August 4, 1561
Kelston, Bath and North East Somerset, England, United Kingdom
1565
September 25, 1565
Age 4
1582
1582
Age 20
1583
1583
Age 21
Bath, Somerset, Englbell, England
1584
1584
Age 22
Bath, Somerset, England
1584
Age 22
Kelston, Somerset, England, United Kingdom
1585
1585
Age 23
Bath, Somerset, England, United Kingdom
1589
1589
Age 27
Bath, Somerset, England
1590
1590
Age 28
Bath, Somerset, , England