Thomas North

From Academic Kids

Sir Thomas North (1535? - 1601?), English translator of Plutarch, second son of the 1st Baron North, was born about 1535.

Contents

Life

He is supposed to have been a student of Peterhouse, Cambridge, and was entered at Lincoln's Inn in 1557. In 1574 he accompanied his brother, Lord North, on a visit to the French court. He served as captain in the year of the Armada, and was knighted about three years later. His name is on the roll of justices of the peace for Cambridge in 1592 and again in 1597, and he received a small pension (£40 a year) from the queen in 1601.

Translations

Guevara

He translated, in 1557, Guevara's Reloj de Principes (commonly known as Libro Šureo), a compendium of moral counsels chiefly compiled from the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, under the title of Diall of Princes. The English of this work is one of the earliest specimens of the ornate, copious and pointed style for which educated young Englishmen had acquired a taste in their Continental travels and studies.

North translated from a French copy of Guevara, but seems to have been well acquainted with the Spanish version. The book had already been translated by Lord Berners, but without reproducing the rhetorical artifices of the original. Norths version, with its mannerisms and its constant use of antithesis, set the fashion which was to culminate in John Lyly's Euphues.

Eastern fables

His next work was The Morall Philosophie of Doni (1570), a translation of an Italian collection of eastern fables.

Plutarch's Lives

The first edition of his translation of Plutarch, from the French of Jacques Amyot, appeared in 1579. The first edition was dedicated to Queen Elizabeth, and was followed by another edition in 1595, containing fresh Lives. A third edition of his Plutarch was published, in 1603, with more translated Parallel Lives, and a supplement of other translated biographies.

Reception

It is almost impossible to over-estimate the influence of North's vigorous English on contemporary writers, and some critics have called him the first master of English prose.

Shakespeare

The Lives translation formed the source from which Shakespeare drew the materials for his Julius Caesar, Coriolanus and Antony and Cleopatra. It is in the last-named play that he follows the Lives most closely, whole speeches being taken direct from North.

Tudor Translations

North's Plutarch was reprinted for the Tudor Translations (1895), with an introduction by George Wyndham.

References and links

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