The Queen's Godson; Sir John Harington of Kelston, 1560 – 1612


Southern, Antonia


Historian and biographer, Principal, WestminsterTutors, author of Forlorn Hope: Soldier Radicals of the Seventeenth Century and Player, Playwright and Preacher's Kid: The Story of Nathan Field, 1587 - 1620

A full scale biography of Sir John Harington of Kelston, courtier, place-seeker, writer, inventor satirist and would-be Bishop of Dublin has long been needed and wished for by historians as various as Namier, Butterfield, Carr, MacFarlane and AJP Taylor. Antonia Southern's new monograph is an literary/historical biography of this multi-faceted and controversial character, living in times euphemistically described by contemporaries as 'tricky', and deserving to be better known and understood for his great gifts and achievements. To Queen Elizabeth he was 'Boy Jack', 'that merry poet, my godson' and to King James he was 'a merry blade'. The official Calendar of State Papers in 1599 referred to him as 'Sir Ajax Harington' because his authorship of the popular New Discourse of a Stale Subject called the Metamorphosis of Ajax, published anonymously, was an open secret. In the early 20th Century his reputation suffered---he was dismissed by C S Lewis as 'a wag' and described by T.S. Eliot as a 'modest if self-satisfied amateur'. He should not so be written off according to Dr Southern. His literary reputation has been redeemed in recent years by scholars including Robert McNulty, D.H. Craig, Simon Cauchi and Gerald Kilroy. Jason Scott-Warren has written an excellent article on him in the new Oxford DNB and the explanation for the motives behind his writings and his use of books is now seen not only as a carefully calculated search for patronage but an advancement of deeply held beliefs in an age of shifting political and religious realities.

Thus this study fills the need for a one volume life that would supply historical detail to Harington's life and work as well as arbitrate between conflicting views of his character whilst supplying new research details as to his life and, especially, his beliefs. To some, such as Gerard Kilroy, he has been seen as a scholar, disillusioned by court corruption, preferring always the seclusion of Kelston to the very real perils of the world outside. Others, like Jason Scott-Warren see him as a consummate courtier, a privileged hanger-on, ruthlessly seeking advancement and office first under Elizabeth and then under James 1. This study attempts a synthesis of these views as well as discussing at length the question of religion which tore not only at Harington's soul but at the very fabric of his family, his class and his friendships.

Among the topics that the author discusses are the Martin Marprelate tracts (anti-English Church), his secret press, his Catholicism, the succession question of the 1590s, the contemporary problem of Ireland which so interested Harington (he visited Ireland twice) and the very nature of the English monarchy in an age of shifting allegiances and brutal compromise.

Sir John Harington, Elizabethan literature and history, Anglican Church history, Recusants (Catholic) under Elizabeth and James, Elizabethan Ireland/Irish Studies, the Irish Church, the Stuart Succession. AVAILABLE IN THE UK/ IRISH REPUBLIC VIA EUROSPAN GROUP (LONDON)
Release Date: 
978-1-936320-03-5/ 1936320-03-7
Trim Size: 

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