Stanyhurst, Richard (DNB00)

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STANYHURST, RICHARD (1547–1618), translator of Virgil, was born in Dublin in 1547. From the fourteenth to the eighteenth century his family was settled at Corduff, co. Dublin. In 1489 one Richard Stanyhurst was lord mayor of Dublin. Nicholas Stanyhurst (d. 1554), the translator's grandfather, held the same office in 1542; he was interested in medicine, wrote in Latin ‘Dieta Medicorum, lib. i.,’ and was reputed ‘a great and good householder.’

James Stanyhurst (d. 1573), the translator's father, long held a prominent position in Dublin. He was recorder of the city and speaker of the Irish House of Commons in the parliaments of 1557, 1560, and 1568. At the opening of each session he delivered an oration. Although he presided over a parliament in Queen Mary's reign, he proved himself a zealous supporter of protestantism under Elizabeth, and contrived to secure the passing through the house of the statute of uniformity in 1560, by putting the question when its chief opponents were absent from the chamber. In 1570 he recommended to parliament, in a speech which he delivered at the prorogation, a system of national education for Ireland, proposing the establishment of grammar schools throughout the country. At the same time he suggested the formation of a university at Dublin such as was inaugurated a few years later. The speech is said to have been printed. Stanyhurst's educational policy was not accepted by the government, although Sir Henry Sidney, with whom he was on intimate terms, strongly supported it. Edmund Campion [q. v.] was also a close friend, and often enjoyed his hospitality. From the elder Stanyhurst's conversation, and from his collection of books and manuscripts, Campion acknowledged much assistance in writing his history of Ireland. His son Richard, while crediting his father with an exact knowledge of the common law, described him as ‘a good orator and proper divine,’ and attributed to him, besides parliamentary ‘orations,’ a series of ‘Piæ orationes’ and several letters to Thomas O'Heirnan or O'Hiffernan, dean of Cork. James Stanyhurst died at Dublin on 27 Dec. 1573, aged 51. A Latin elegy by his son Richard was printed in the latter's description of Ireland, as well as in the appendix to his translation of Virgil. Besides Richard, James Stanyhurst left another son, Walter, who translated into English ‘Innocent. de Contemptu Mundi.’ A daughter Margaret married Arnold Ussher, one of the six clerks of the Irish court of chancery, and was mother of Archbishop James Ussher [q. v.] The latter was thus Richard Stanyhurst's nephew (cf. Stanyhurst's ‘Description of Ireland’ in Holinshed's Chronicles, 1577, cap. vii. p. 27; W. B. Wright, The Ussher Memoirs, 1889).

Richard was first educated under Peter White, who kept a school at Waterford, and proceeded in 1563 to University College, Oxford. He was admitted B.A. in 1568. While an undergraduate he came to know Edmund Campion. He gave notable proofs of his precocity by writing Latin commentaries on Porphyry which amazed Campion by their learning. They were published in 1570 as ‘Harmonia sive Catena Dialectica in Porphyrianas Constitutiones.’ After graduating, Stanyhurst studied law first at Furnivall's Inn, and afterwards at Lincoln's Inn. But history and literature diverted his attention, and, accompanied by Campion as his tutor, he returned to Ireland, where the combined influence of his father and of Campion led him to devote himself to Irish history and geography. Campion had undertaken to contribute the history of Ireland to the great collection of chronicles which Raphael Holinshed was preparing between 1573 and 1577. Under Campion's guidance, Stanyhurst contributed to the same work a general description of Ireland, after the manner of Harrison's ‘Description of England.’ For Holinshed's undertaking Stanyhurst also compiled a history of Ireland during Henry VIII's reign, in continuation of Campion's work on earlier periods. Stanyhurst's ‘Description of Ireland,’ and his share in the ‘History of Ireland’ forming the third book, both appeared in the first volume of Holinshed's ‘Chronicles,’ 1577. The ‘Description’ was dedicated to Sir Henry Sidney, the lord deputy, his father's friend. Stanyhurst's English prose is remarkable for its bombastic redundancy and unintentional burlesque effects.

Meanwhile Stanyhurst had married, and had removed to Knightsbridge. His wife, Janet, daughter of Sir Christopher Barnewall, died there in childbed on 26 Aug. 1579, aged 19. She was buried at Chelsea. A Latin elegy on her by Stanyhurst is appended to his translation of Virgil. After his wife's death Stanyhurst left England for the Low Countries, and he never returned to England or his native country. There can be little doubt that under Campion's influence his religious views had undergone a change. Although the date of his conversion to Roman catholicism is undetermined, it probably took place soon after he arrived on the continent. At first he resided at Leyden, and there he worked at a translation of Virgil's ‘Æneid’ into English. It was originally published at Leyden in 1582, with the title ‘The first foure Bookes of Virgil his Æneis, intoo English Heroicall Verse, by Richard Stanyhurst. Wyth oother Poëticall deuises theretoo annexed. Imprinted at Leiden in Holland by John Pates, Anno mdlxxxii.’ Only two copies of the Leyden edition are known. One is the property of Mr. Christy Miller at Britwell, the other belonged to the Earl of Ashburnham. Both are slightly imperfect. The work was dedicated from Leyden on 30 June 1582 to Stanyhurst's brother-in-law, Patrick Plunket, lord Dunsany, who had married a sister of his late wife. In the dedication he warmly deprecates the suspicion that he had plagiarised the work of Thomas Phaer [q. v.], whose translation of nine books of the ‘Æneid’ appeared in 1562. The first three books, he affirms, he compiled at his leisure; the fourth he ‘huddled up’ in ten days. In an address to the learned reader he developed that theory of English prosody of which Gabriel Harvey was the champion, maintaining that quantity rather than accent ought to be the guiding principle of English as of Latin metre. Stanyhurst rendered ‘Virgil’ into hexameters by way of proving that position. The result was a literary monstrosity. The Latin was recklessly paraphrased in a grotesquely prosaic vocabulary, which abounded in barely intelligible words invented by the translator to meet metrical exigencies. Frequent inversions of phrase heightened the ludicrous effect. Gabriel Harvey, who proudly boasted that he was the inventor of the English hexameter, wrote of Stanyhurst as a worthy disciple (Four Letters, 1592, pp. 19, 48). But, at the hands of all other critics of his own and later days, Stanyhurst has been deservedly ridiculed. In his preface to Greene's ‘Arcadia’ (1589), Nash justly parodied his effort when he wrote of him:

    Then did he make heaven's vault to rebound with rounce, robble, bobble,
    Of ruff, raffe, roaring, with thwicke, thwack, thurlerie, bouncing.

Subsequently Nash wrote: ‘Master Stanyhurst (though otherwise learned) trod a foule, lumbring, boystrous, wallowing measure in his translation of “Virgil.” He had never been praised by Gabriel for his labour if therein he had not bin so famously absurd’ (Nash, Pierce Pennilesse, 1593). The translation could ‘hardly be digested’ by Puttenham. Bishop Hall was equally contemptuous. More recently Southey, in ‘Omniana, or Horæ Otiosiores’ (i. 193, ed. 1812), wrote in reference to ‘the incomparable oddity’ of Stanyhurst's translation: ‘As Chaucer has been called the well of English undefiled, so might Stanyhurst be denominated the common sewer of the language. He is, however, a very entertaining and, to a philologist, a very instructive writer. … It seems impossible that a man could have written in such a style without intending to burlesque what he was about, and yet it is certain that Stanyhurst seriously meant to write heroic poetry.’

Stanyhurst appended to the translation of Virgil a rendering into English of certain psalms of David, i–iv., in classical metres, with a few lumbering original poems and epitaphs, some in Latin, others in English. The Leyden volume was reissued, with a slight revision, in London in 1583, by Henry Bynneman, and this was reprinted in an edition limited to fifty copies at Edinburgh in 1836, under the direction of James Maidment. The Leyden edition was reprinted by Mr. Arber in his ‘English Scholars' Library’ in 1880 (with new title-page, 1895). A careful philological study of Stanyhurst's ‘Virgil’ was the subject of a thesis by Heinrich Schmidt, issued at Breslau in 1887.

Stanyhurst was not encouraged to repeat his incursion into pure literature, or indeed to publish anything further in English. He thenceforth wrote solely in Latin prose, and confined himself to historical or theological topics. Removing to Antwerp, he published there in 1584, at the press of Christopher Plantin, a treatise on the early history of Ireland down to the time of Henry II, with an annotated appendix of extracts by Giraldus Cambrensis. The title of the volume ran ‘De rebus in Hibernia gestis’ (in four books), and it was dedicated, like the ‘Virgil,’ to his brother-in-law, Baron Dunsany. Combining legendary history with theology in a very credulous spirit, Stanyhurst produced in 1587, again with Plantin at Antwerp, a life of St. Patrick. This was entitled ‘De Vita S. Patricii Hyberniæ Apostoli,’ and was dedicated to Alexander Farnese, archduke of Parma and Placentia. The volume marked the close of Stanyhurst's researches in Irish history and legend.

In all his works on Ireland Stanyhurst wrote from an English point of view. Barnaby Rich, who often met him at Antwerp, criticised adversely, in his ‘New Description of Ireland’ (1610, p. 2), his want of sympathy with the native Irish and his prejudiced misrepresentations. Keating, in his ‘General History of Ireland’ (1723, p. xii), condemns Stanyhurst on the three grounds that he was too young when he wrote, that he was ignorant of the Irish language, and that he was bribed by large gifts and promises of advancement to blacken the character of the Irish nation. The last charge is unsubstantiated. Keating adds, on equally doubtful authority, that Stanyhurst lived to repent of ‘the injustice he had been guilty of,’ and, after formally promising to revoke all his falsehoods, prepared a paper in that sense to be printed in Ireland; of this nothing further is known. Sir James Ware likewise asserts that Stanyhurst's books on Irish history abound in ‘malicious representations.’

According to Barnaby Rich, Stanyhurst, while pursuing his historical researches at Antwerp, also ‘professed alchemy, and took upon him to make gold’ (Rich, Irish Hubbub). At the same time politics attracted his attention. Under the influence of the jesuits he embarked in conspiracy with other catholic exiles in Flanders against the English government, and he became an object of suspicion to English spies. His relations with the catholics grew more equivocal after a second marriage (before 1585) with Helen, daughter of William Copley of Gatton, Surrey, and granddaughter of Sir Thomas Copley [q. v.] (cf. Copley, Letters, ed. Christie, Roxburghe Club, 1897, p. xlviii). Like other members of her family, she was a fervent Roman catholic, and her sister Mary became in 1637 superioress of the abbey of Louvain. About 1590 Stanyhurst visited Spain and, it was stated, professed medicine there; but his chief occupation was the offering of political advice to the Spanish government in regard to the position of affairs in England. He was at Toledo in 1591. Writing from Madrid to Justus Lipsius on 1 Feb. 1592, he refers to an interview with Philip II, and speaks with enthusiasm of the king's kindness and affability. About 1595 it was reported that he had left the Spanish ‘court with a good provision in Flanders, and is not likely to deal more in matters of state or physic’ (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1595–7, p. 157; cf. Cal. State Papers, Dom. Eliz. ccxlvii. 3, 44). His (second) wife died about 1602, soon after the birth of a second son. Thereupon Stanyhurst took holy orders. Rich asserts that he became ‘a massing priest.’ Archduke Albert, the ruler of the Netherlands, appointed him chaplain to himself and to his wife Isabella (Philip II's daughter), and to these patrons Stanyhurst dedicated a devotional treatise: ‘Hebdomada Mariana ex Orthodoxis Catholicæ Romanæ Ecclesiæ Patribus collecta; in memoriam septem festorum Beatissianæ Virginis Mariæ,’ Antwerp, 1609, 8vo. He also appears to have acted as chaplain to the English Benedictine convent at Brussels. In 1605 he wrote commendatory verses for his friend and co-religionist Richard Verstegan's ‘Restitution of Decayed Intelligence,’ which was published at Antwerp in 1605 [see Rowlands, Richard]. In 1614 he brought out another devotional treatise, ‘Hebdomada Eucharistica,’ Douay, 1614, 8vo.

Despite differences in religion, Stanyhurst seems to have maintained an affectionate correspondence with his kinsfolk in Ireland. His nephew, James Ussher, writing to him ‘at the English College in Louvain’ about 1610, asked for a copy of his ‘Margarita,’ ‘presuming on that natural bond of love which is knit betwixt us.’ Ussher sent his mother's ‘most kind remembrance,’ and signed himself ‘your most loving nephew.’ Ussher's biographers represent Stanyhurst as making vain efforts to convert his nephew to his own faith, but there is no hint of this in the many respectful references which Ussher made in his published works to Stanyhurst's ‘Life of St. Patrick’ and others of his uncle's writings (cf. Ussher, Works, ed. Elrington, iv. 550, 562, vi. 374, 380, 447). When Ussher brought out in 1613 his treatise ‘De Successione et Statu Christianæ Ecclesiæ,’ in which he attempted to identify the pope with Antichrist, Stanyhurst replied in ‘Brevis præmunitio pro futura concertatione cum Jacobo Usserio Hiberno Dublinensi,’ Douay, 1615, 8vo. According to Wood, Stanyhurst died at Brussels in 1618. His nephew wrote at the time to Lydiat that ‘my late uncle's answer’ was to come out at Paris (ib. xv. 148).

Two of Stanyhurst's sons by his second wife became jesuits. The elder, Peter, born in the Netherlands, studied humanities under the jesuit fathers at Brussels, entered the society at Mechlin on 18 Sept. 1616, and died in Spain on 27 May 1627 (Foley, Records, vii. 731, Chron. Cat. p. 26). The younger son, William Stanyhurst (1602–1663), born at Brussels in 1602, after studying there, entered the Society of Jesus at Malines on 25 Sept. 1617 (De Backer). He chiefly resided at Brussels, and preached in both English and Flemish. Wood describes him as ‘a comely person endowed with rare parts.’ He died in Belgium on 10 Jan. 1663. He was a voluminous writer of religious works, many of which enjoyed a European vogue. His ‘Dei Immortalis in corpore mortali patientis Historia,’ which appeared at Antwerp in 1660, has been repeatedly reprinted down to the present day, both in the original Latin and in French, Spanish, Flemish, Dutch, German, Polish, and Hungarian translations. His ‘Veteris Hominis … quatuor novissima metamorphosis et novi genesis,’ dedicated to James van Baerlant, Antwerp, 1661 (Prague, 1700; Vienna, 1766), was translated into French, German, Italian, and Spanish. Others of his works, all of which passed through many editions, are: 1. ‘Album Marianum,’ describing God's beneficence to Austria (Louvain, 1641, fol.). 2. ‘Regio mortis sive Domus infelicis æternitatis,’ Antwerp, 1652, 12mo. 3. ‘Quotidiana Christiani Militis tessera,’ Antwerp, 1661, 4to (portions of this reappeared in ‘Selectissima moralis Christianæ præcepta harmonicis metris ac rythmis expressa,’ Antwerp, 1662, 8vo). 4. ‘Ecclesia Militans,’ Antwerp, 4to (Foley; De Backer, Biblioth. des Ecrivains S. J., 1876, iii. 880; Southwell, Bib. Soc. Jesu, 1676, p. 320).

[Arber's admirable introduction to his reprint of Stanyhurst's Translation of Virgil, 1895; Wood's Athenæ Oxon. ed. Bliss, ii. 252–8; Foley's Records, vii. 732; Simpson's Life of Campion, chap. ii.; Wright's Ussher Memoirs, 1889; information kindly supplied by the Rev. Ethelbert Taunton.]

S. L.