Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Nicholas, Thomas (fl.1560-1596)

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NICHOLAS, THOMAS (fl. 1560–1596), translator, was employed in the service of the Levant Company, and lived unmolested in Palma, one of the Canary Isles, for some time before the death of Queen Mary [see under Nichols, Thomas (fl. 1550), for a Thomas Nichols, who wrote a description of the islands, and spent some time among them at the same date as Nicholas]. In 1560 Nicholas and his companion, Edward Kingsmill, were charged with heresy by the Spanish governor of the islands. Nicholas was thrown into prison and kept in irons for nearly two years on a charge of having spoken against the mass.

On 16 Aug. 1561 he requested Sir William Chamberlain, the English ambassador in Spain, to intercede for him with the king of Spain and the Archbishop of Seville, inquisitor-general of Spain (Cal. State Papers, 1560, p. 313, and 1561–2, pp. 251, 256). He was released for a short time, but was soon imprisoned again for another two years, on the false witness of his enemy, Francisco de Coronado, ‘a Jewish confessor.’

Upon Queen Elizabeth's intervention with the king of Spain, he was brought in 1564 to Seville, and kept in chains in the castle for seven months. In March 1565 he was acquitted at the public court in Seville, yet commanded never to leave the city (ib. 1564–5, 137, 149). His release was probably soon after arranged, and he seems to have returned to England, where he published his translations of Spanish works, either written during his imprisonments or from originals conveyed from Spain. Of his subsequent career no information appears.

His works are: 1. ‘The strange and marueilous Newes lately come from the great Kingdome of Chyna, which adjoyneth to the East Indya. Translated out of the Castlyn tongue by T. N. Imprinted at London nigh vnto the Three Cranes in the Vintree, by Thomas Gardyner and Thomas Dawson,’ small 8vo, six leaves, b. l., begins ‘In the moneth of March 1577.’ The copy in the Britwell Library is apparently unique. 2. ‘The Pleasant Historie of the Conquest of the Weast India, now called New Spayne, atchieued by the worthy Prince Hernando Cortes, Marques of the Valley of Huaxacac, most delectable to read. Translated out of the Spanishe tongue by T. N. anno 1578. Imprinted at London by Henry Bynneman.’ Licensed at Stationers' Hall, 7 Feb. 1677–8 (Arber, Transcripts of the Registers, 1554–1640, ii. 145). This was a translation of Lopez de Gomara's ‘La Conquista de Mexico,’ being part ii. of ‘La Istoria de las Indias y Conquista de Mexico,’ Saragossa, 1552. Purchas included it in his ‘Pilgrimes,’ but errs in calling it part iii. He says (edit. 1625, part iii. Lib. v. p. 1123) he has ‘in divers places amended it by the Italian translation of Agostino di Cravaliz; for the Spanish original he has not.’ It is dedicated to Sir Francis Walsingham [q. v.], and contains verses by Stephen Gosson [q. v.] ‘in praise of the translator.’ Of the two copies at the British Museum, only that in the Grenville Library is perfect. It was republished, London, Thomas Creede, 1596. 3. ‘The strange and delectable History of the Discouerie and Conquest of the Prouinces of Peru, in the South Sea. And of the notable things which there are found: and also of the bloudie Ciuill Warres which there happened for Gouernment. Written in foure bookes by Augustine Sarate, Auditor for the Emperour his Maiestie in the same prouinces and firme land. And also of the ritche Mines of Potosi. Translated out of the Spanish tongue by T. Nicholas. Imprinted at London by Richard Jhones, dwelling ouer against the Fawlcon, by Holburne Bridge,’ 1581, 4to. This is the translation of the first four books of Sarate's ‘Historia del Descvbrimiento y Conqvista del Perv,’ &c., Anvers, 1555, with the addition of ‘The Discovery of the ritche Mynes of Potosi, & how Captaine Carauajall toke it into his power,’ with woodcuts.

[Preface to the Pleasant Historie; Brydges's Censura Literaria, iii. 351, vi. 126; Lowndes's Bibl. Man. i. 438; Ames's Typogr. Antiq., ed. Herbert. ii. 963, 1044; Purchas his Pilgrimes, pt. iii. lib. v. 1118.]

C. F. S.