1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Conington, John

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CONINGTON, JOHN (1825–1869), English classical scholar, was born on the 10th of August 1825 at Boston in Lincolnshire. He knew his letters when fourteen months old, and could read well at three and a half. He was educated at Beverley Grammar school, at Rugby and at Oxford, where, after matriculating at University College, he came into residence at Magdalen, where he had been nominated to a demyship. He was Ireland and Hertford scholar in 1844; in March 1846 he was elected to a scholarship at University College, and in December of the same year he obtained a first class in classics; in February 1848 he became a fellow of University. He also obtained the Chancellor’s prize for Latin verse (1847), English essay (1848) and Latin essay (1849). He successfully applied for the Eldon law scholarship in 1849, and proceeded to London to keep his terms at Lincoln’s Inn. The legal profession, however, proved distasteful, and after six months he resigned the scholarship and returned to Oxford. During his brief residence in London he formed a connexion with the Morning Chronicle, which was maintained for some time. He showed no special aptitude for journalism, but a series of articles on university reform (1849–1850) is noteworthy as the first public expression of his views on a subject that always interested him. In 1854 his appointment, as first occupant, to the chair of Latin literature, founded by Corpus Christi College, gave him a congenial position. From this time he confined himself with characteristic conscientiousness almost exclusively to Latin literature. The only important exception was the translation of the last twelve books of the Iliad in the Spenserian stanza in completion of the work of P. S. Worsley, and this was undertaken in fulfilment of a promise made to his dying friend. In 1852 he began, in conjunction with Prof. Goldwin Smith, a complete edition of Virgil with a commentary, of which the first volume appeared in 1858, the second in 1864, and the third soon after his death. Prof. Goldwin Smith was compelled to withdraw from the work at an early stage, and in the last volume his place was taken by H. Nettleship. In 1866 Conington published his most famous work, the translation of the Aeneid of Virgil into the octosyllabic metre of Scott. The version of Dryden is the work of a stronger artist; but for fidelity of rendering, for happy use of the principle of compensation so as to preserve the general effect of the original, and for beauty as an independent poem, Conington’s version is superior. That the measure chosen does not reproduce the majestic sweep of the Virgilian verse is a fault in the conception and not in the execution of the task. Conington died at Boston on the 23rd of October 1869.

His edition of Persius with a commentary and a spirited prose translation was published posthumously in 1872. In the same year appeared his Miscellaneous Writings, edited by J. A. Symonds, with a memoir by Professor H. J. S. Smith (see also H. A. J. Munro in Journal of Philology, ii., 1869). Among his other editions are Aeschylus, Agamemnon (1848), Choëphori (1857); English verse translations of Horace, Odes and Carmen Saeculare (1863), Satires, Epistles and Ars Poëtica (1869).