23 March 2014

Pitt's Translation of Rowe's Lucan

Fig. 1: Nicholas Rowe (1674-1718) by the studio of Sir Godfrey Kneller

In Lord Fitzharris's notebook of 1806, he recalled that "...Pitt was constantly taking down and quoting from Lucan [the Roman poet], of which author he [Pitt] appeared to be extremely fond. Nothing could be more playful, and at the same time more instructive, than Pitt's conversation on a variety of subjects while sitting in the Library at Cirencester [Park, the home of Pitt's friend Lord Bathurst]. You never would have guessed that the man before you was Prime Minister of the country, and one of the greatest that ever filled that situation. His style and manner were quite those of an accomplished idler." [1]

Pitt was fond of translating classical texts in his spare time, and fortunately some examples of this still remain. One such instance is a passage Pitt translated in 1801 from the 'Additional Lines at the Conclusion of the last Book of [Nicholas] Rowe's Lucan:'

"Some looser Muse perhaps, who lightly heads
The devious paths where wanton fancy leads,
In Heav'ns high Coast would feign the Queen of Love
Kneeling in Tears before the Throne of Jove,
Imploring sad th' almighty Father's Grace
For the dear Offspring of her Julian Race:
While to the just recording Roman Eyes,
Far different Sights and different Gods arise;
The Guardian Furies round him rear their Heads,
And Nemesis the Shield of safety spreads;
Justice and Fate the floating Chief convey;
And Rome's glad Genius wafts him on his Way,
Freedom and Laws the Pharian darts withstand,
And save him, - for avenging Brutus' Hand."


1. 3rd Earl of Malmesbury (ed.) (1845) Diaries and Correspondence of James Harris, First Earl of Malmesbury, 2nd edition. London: Richard Bentley, p. 355.

2. Devon Record Office. William Pitt's translation of 'Additional Lines at the Conclusion of the last Book of Rowe's Lucan.' Sidmouth MSS: 152M/C1801/F48.

Image Credit:

Fig 1: Nicholas Rowe (1674-1718), Poet Laureate c. 1700, by the studio of Sir Godfrey Kneller. Source.

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