John Harington (writer)

Eyridiki Sellou | Dec 27, 2022

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Sir John Harington (August 4, 1560 (1560-08-04), Somerset - November 20, 1612) was an English poet, courtier to Elizabeth I Tudor (he was her godson). Son of John Harington, poet and associate of King Henry VIII and Princess Elizabeth.

He became famous for his literary works, often obscene by the standards of the time. In 1581 he translated into English the poem "Roland the Furious" by the Italian poet Ludovico Ariosto. The translation was preceded by a program essay - "Preface, or Short Apology of Poetry". He is considered the author of the first practical flushing toilet (toilets) which he described in his allegorical treatise A New Discourse on an Old Subject, subtitled the Metamorphosis of Ajax, a satirical and political reference against the manners of the court. He wrote a number of satirical poems and sharp epigrams. In 1607 he published a collection of his poems, and in 1608 made a free translation of the poem Regimen sanitatis Salernitanum. Later a collection of his letters and smaller works was compiled into Nugae Antiquae (1769-1775).

Early Years

John Harington was born on August 4, 1560, at Kelston, Somerset. He descended from the family of the poet John Harington (1517-1582) and his second wife, royal maid of honor Isabella Markham (1527-1579). His father served as conservator of royal buildings under King Henry VIII, who granted Harington and his first wife Ethelreda Malthe (the king's illegitimate daughter) an estate at Kelston. After the death of his first wife, Harington Sr. was associate of Princess Elizabeth (the future Queen Elizabeth I), who became godmother to their firstborn son John. Since John was the first of the childless queen's 102 godchildren, she was sympathetic to his life, corresponded with him, and valued his intelligence and education. The future poet was educated at the prestigious Eton College and King's College, Cambridge, where he studied law. At a young age he was engaged to work at the King's Court.

Distance from the courtyard

After his father's death in July 1582, he returned to the family estate of Kelston, where he began to translate into English the poem of Italian poet Ludovico Ariosto "The Furious Roland. Work on the vast poem, consisting of three thousand verses, went hard and, by Harington's own admission, took him "many years, months, weeks, and days." The translation was completed in late 1592 and retained the verse size of the original (octavo). It was preceded by a preface, A Preface, or Briefe Apologie of Poetne. He dedicated the first edition of his translation to Queen Elizabeth. This book was reprinted in 1607 and 1634, and his translation is highly praised, still important, and sought after by English-speaking readers to the present day. In 1583 Harington married Mary Rogers. He had nine children (other reports say 15), two of whom died at birth.

The Creation of the Water Closet and the Treatise of Ajax Metamorphosis

Harington is credited with the invention and creation for the elderly Queen Elizabeth I of the water-flush toilet, the first in Europe, described by himself in verse in 1596. Even before his invention there were other variations of toilets with a flush, the authorship of which is not precisely defined. The most famous project is Leonardo da Vinci, who at the end of his life, while living in France, created a version of a flush toilet in the form of a seat, to which was led water for flushing, going into a drain tank or pit. However, this invention by Da Vinci was not put into practice. Harington's invention cost 6 shillings and 8 pence but was not widely used. Some authors have expressed doubts as to whether Harington's toilet was used in practice. A description of such a toilet is contained in an allegorical treatise, A New Discourse on an Old Subject, with the subtitle Metamorphosis of Ajax, under the pseudonym Misakmos (Hater of Mud), which he sent to the Queen in 1596. It contains satirical allusions to the court life and private life of the queen. The book is divided into three parts, with the second part containing a description of the device and a guide to the operation of the toilet, illustrated by Harington's servant, Thomas Coome. When a lever on the side of the seat is pressed, a valve opens and water flows from the cistern into the bottom of the bowl, then flushes into the cesspool below. The book also mentions where to buy the necessary parts and how much they cost. Harington had such a device installed on his estate but it did not survive the burning during the peasant disturbances. According to historian Anne Whitelock, one of the epigrams he addressed "To the ladies of the Queen's inner chambers after cleaning their perfumed latrine at Richmond" is evidence that one water toilet of Harington's design was installed in London's Richmond Palace and was functioning. The authors of the book "World History (Toilet)" hold the same opinion, noting that Harington not only authored Europe's first indoor flushing water closet design, but also managed to make two working examples. The euphemism "John," used in English-speaking countries, particularly in the United States, is believed by some researchers to go back to Harington and his invention, although this claim has its detractors. At the time, the water closet, though famous, was not popular due to the lack of sewage and water supplies, and numerous taunts were directed at its inventor, affecting the queen as well, as some insinuated that Harington's device suspiciously resembled the king's throne. After these events, the poet was in disgrace for several years and lived on his estate.

Late Years

By 1599, when the queen had calmed down and returned his favor, he was assigned to accompany the Earl of Essex to Ireland on a mission to put down a local rebellion. Apparently, Harington was to oversee the actions of the army commander, but he befriended the Earl of Essex and accepted a knighthood from him. The military actions of the English troops were unsuccessful, Essex attempted a coup d'état, after which he was accused of treason, arrested and executed. Harington again found himself in disgrace and sent to his estate, but in early 1601 he returned to court. After the queen's death, he vowed to cease his literary activities, but he did not keep that promise. Thus, he produced a literary account of the war effort during the Irish Expedition. In 1607 he published a collection of his poems, and in 1608 he made a free translation of the poem Regimen sanitatis Salernitanum (Latin: Regimen sanitatis Salernitanum). Sir John Harington died on November 20, 1612, and was buried at his estate of Kelston in St. Nicholas Church. His wife survived him by 20 years.

Harington's letters and small works resulted in the collection Nugae Antiquae (1769-1775). Harington became famous for his satirical poems and epigrams. In all, he wrote more than 400 epigrams, which were distributed in unpublished form. Only one edition of his epigrams was printed during his lifetime. Harington's epigram "On Treason" became famous in the USSR and in Russia, which in his free translation S. Y. Marshak called "The Simple Truth": "Rebellion cannot end with luck, -

Измена никогда не процветает, в чем причина?

The historical and biographical context of this epigram is that Harington was close to Queen Elizabeth I's favorite, the Earl of Essex. When the latter fell into disfavor, Harington tried unsuccessfully to reconcile the queen with the earl, who was eventually executed.


  1. John Harington (writer)
  2. Харингтон, Джон
  3. ^ a b Tate. "'Portrait of Mary Rogers, Lady Harington', Marcus Gheeraerts II, 1592". Tate. Retrieved 7 May 2021.
  4. ^ The most elegant and witty epigrams of Sir Iohn Harrington, Knight digested into foure bookes: three vvhereof neuer before published(1618), ed. John Budge,, Book IV, Epistle 5.
  5. ^ "The History of the Flush Toilet".
  6. ^ "Definition of JOHN".
  7. ^ Kinghorn, Jonathan (1986), "A Privvie in Perfection: Sir John Harrington's Water Closet", Bath History, 1: 173–188 ISBN 0-86299-294-X. Kinghorn supervised a reconstruction in 1981, based on an illustrated account by Harington's assistant, Thomas Coombe, in the New Discourse.
  8. 1 2
  9. 1 2 John Harington, Sir // The LiederNet Archive (англ.) — 1995.
  10. 1 2 Library of the World's Best Literature / под ред. Ч. Д. Уорнер — 1897.
  11. Hamilton, E.L. (16 de abril de 2018). «"Game of Thrones" star Kit Harington has a noble ancestor but not King of the North–John Harington invented the flush toilet in 1596». The Vintage News. Consultado em 5 de julho de 2019
  12. Kinghorn (1986)
  13. Kinghorn, Jonathan (1986), «A Privvie in Perfection: Sir John Harrington's Water Closet», Bath History, 1: 173–188.  ISBN 0-86299-294-X. Kinghorn supervised a modern reconstruction in 1981, based on the illustrated description by Harington's assistant Thomas Coombe in the New Discourse.
  14. In anderen Quellen wird das Geburtsjahr 1560 angegeben.
  15. William Arthur Shaw: The Knights of England. Band 2, Sherratt and Hughes, London 1906, S. 97.
  16. William Arthur Shaw: The Knights of England. Band 1, Sherratt and Hughes, London 1906, S. 157.
  17. Youtube-Video (Memento vom 20. Februar 2014 im Internet Archive)

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