HARINUTON, SIR JOHN, was born at Kelaton near Bath, in the year 1561. His mother was a natural daughter of lieury VIII., and his father held an office in the court of that monarch. This pair having on one occasion shown great fidelity to the princess (afterwards queen) Elizabeth, she manifested her gratitude by standing godmother to their son John. She was afterwards wont to speak of him as "that witty fellow, my godson," or "that merry poet, my godson," or in some such way.
Having been educated at Eton and at Christ's College, Cambridge, and having afterwards for a short time made a pretence of etudying law, be, by means of his wit and many accomplishments, gained the notice of Queen Elizabeth, and became a member of her court. He had exercised his wit, on one occasion, in translating a tale out of Ariosto'e Orlando Furioso,' (the story of Gioconda, in the twenty eighth book), and he circulated this among the ladies of the court, who were greatly pleased with it. When the queen saw it, we are told that she affected great iudignation at the indelicacy of some pas sages, and, by way of punishment, forbad Harington the court until he had trauslated the whole poem. This he accomplished in 1591, and dedicated it to the queen.
When the Earl of Essex was appointed Lord Lieutenant of Ireland in 1599, Ilariugton was made a commander of horse under Lord Southampton, in his service. When Essex shortly after made his precipitate return to England, Harington was one of the fcw officers whom he chose to accompany him, and be came in fur a share of the queen'• Indignation. She was angry also, we are told, that Essex
had, In Ireland, conferred on Harington the honour of knighthood. " I came to court," writes Ilarington to one of his friends, " in the very at and height of all displeasure'; after I had been there but an hour, I wal threatened with the Fleet; I answered poetically that 'coming so late from the land-service, I hoped that I should not be pressed to serve lu her majesty's fleet in Fleet Street.' After three days every man wondered to see mo at liberty." But the queen shortly relented, and then, writes Sir John in the true style of a courtier, " I seemed to myself, for the time, like St. Paul, rapt up in the third heaven, where he heard words not to be uttered by men." On the accession of James L in 1602, Harington continued in posses sion of royal favonr. He now wrote for the private use of Prince Henry his ' Brief View of the State of the Church,' which is an account of the bishops who lived in the reigns of Elizabeth and Jamea L Ile died in 1612.
Besides the translation of the Orlando Furioso' and the 'Brief View of the State of the Church,' which have been mentioned, Sir John Harington wrote a satirical poem entitled the 'Metamorphoses of Ajax,' a volume of epigrams, and several occasional pieces in verse, several of which remain unpublished. His epigrams and letters, many of which are preserved in Ilarington's 'Nugm Antiquee,' show him to have been a man of wit and taste; and the ' View of the State of the Church' is pleasantly written.