WILLIAM JULIUS, translator of The Lusiad, was born at
Langholm, Dumfries-shire, September 29, 1734. He was the third
son of the Rev. Alexander Mickle or Meikle, minister of Langholm,
who, during his residence in London, previous to his obtaining
that living, superintended the translation of Bayles
Dictionary, to which he is said to have contributed the greater
part of the additional notes. His son William received the early
part of his education at the grammar school of his native
parish, and on the removal of his father, in his old age, to
Edinburgh, was sent to the High school of that city, where he
acquired a competent knowledge of the Latin and Greek languages.
His father having, on the death of Mr. Myrtle, his
brother-in-law, a brewer in the neighbourhood of Edinburgh,
purchased the business for his eldest son, the poet was, in his
sixteenth year, taken from school to be employed as a clerk in
the counting-house, and five years afterwards the brewery was
transferred to him. Before he was eighteen he had written
several pieces, and some of his poems appeared in the Scots
Magazine; two of which, one On passing through the Parliament
Close at Midnight; and the other, entitled Knowledge, an Ode,
were reprinted in Donaldsons Collection. In 1762 he sent to
London an ethic poem, entitled Providence, which was published
anonymously, but did not meet with much success. Having
sustained considerable losses in business, which led to his
bankruptcy, he quitted Edinburgh hastily, in April 1763, and on
the 8th of May arrived in London. He had previously written a
letter to Lord Lyttleton, to whom he submitted some of his
pieces, but without producing any other result than a
complimentary correspondence. He had hoped to have obtained
through his lordships interest some civil or commercial
appointment, either in the West Indies of at home; but in this
he was disappointed, and hearing that the humble situation of
corrector to the Clarendon press, at Oxford, was vacant, he
offered himself as a candidate, and being successful in his
application, he entered upon his duties in 1765. During the same
year he published Pollio, an Elegiac Ode, and in 1767 appeared
The Concubine, a poem, in two cantos, in the manner of
Spenser. The former did not attract much notice, but the latter
was most favourably received, and after it had gone through
three editions, the title, to prevent misapprehension, was
changed to Sir Martyn.
In 1771 Mickle
issued proposals for printing by subscription a translation of
the Lusiad, by Camoens, to qualify himself for which he learnt
the Portuguese language. He published the first book as a
specimen, and from the encouragement he received, he was induced
to resign his situation at the Clarendon press, with the view of
devoting his whole time to the work, when he took up his
residence at a farm-house at Forest-hill, about five miles from
Oxford. During the progress of the translation he edited
Pearchs Collection of Poems, in which he inserted several of
his own, particularly Hengist and Mey, a ballad, an Elegy on
Mary Queen of Scots. To Evans Collection he also contributed
his beautiful ballad of Dumnor Hall, founded on the tragic
story of the lady of the earl of Leicester, the favourite of
Queen Elizabeth. His translation was finished in 1775, and
published in a quarto volume, under the title of The Lusiad, or
the Discovery of India, to which he prefixed an Introduction,
containing a defence of commerce and civilization, in reply to
the misrepresentations of Rousseau, and other visionary
philosophers; a History of the Portuguese conquests in India; a
Life of Camoens; and a Dissertation on the Lusiad, and
Observations on Epic Poetry. The work obtained for him a high
reputation, and so rapid was its sale, that a second edition was
called for in June 1778. By the two editions he is said to have
realized about £1,000. Previously to its publication he had
written a Tragedy, entitled the Siege of Marseilles, which was
rejected by Garrick, and afterwards by Mr. Harris, and was never
In May 1779 he
was, by Commodore Johnstone, a distant relation of his own,
appointed his secretary, and he sailed on board of the Romney,
man-of-war, with a small squadron, destined for the Tagus. In
the ensuing November he arrived at Lisbon, where, as the
translator of the national poet of Portugal, he received many
flattering marks of attention from the nobility, gentry, and
literati of that country, and was admitted a member of the Royal
Academy, at its opening. While in that capital he wrote his poem
of Almada Hill, an Epistle from Lisbon, published in 1781, but
without adding to his reputation. In 1780 the squadron returned
to England, and Mickle remained for a time at London, as joint
agent for the disposal of some valuable prizes taken during the
expedition. He had acquired considerable wealth, and in 1783 he
married Miss Mary Tomkins, the daughter of the farmer with whom
he had resided at Foresthill, and with this lady he received a
handsome dower. He now went to reside at Wheatley, near Oxford,
where he employed his leisure in writing some occasional pieces,
in revising his published poems, and in contributing a series of
Essays, entitled The Fragments of Leo, and some other
articles, to the European Magazine. He died, after a short
illness, October 28, 1788. He left one son, for whose benefit a
volume of his collected poems was published by subscription in
1795. His works are:
Providence, or Arandus and Emilée; a Poem. London, 1762.
1765. 2d edition, under the title of Sir Martyn; a Poem, in the
manner of Spenser. London, 1778, 4to.
The first book of
the Lusiad; published as a specimen of a Translation of that
celebrated Epic Poem. Oxf. 1771, 8vo.
The Lusiad, or
the Discovery of India; an Epic Poem. From the original
Portuguese of Camoens. Oxf. 1775, 4to, 2d edit. 1778, 4to. Also
in 2 vols, 8vo.
Examination of the Reasons for depriving the East India Company
of its Charter. 1779, 4to. This pamphlet is written in defence
of the Company.
The Siege of
Marseilles; a Tragedy.
Alamada Hill; an
Epistle from Lisbon. Lond. 1781, 4to.
The Prophecy of
Queen Emma; a Ballad. 1782.
A Letter to Dr.
Harwood, whereby some of his evasive glosses, false
translations, and blundering criticisms, in support of the Arian
Heresy, contained in his liberal translation of the New
Testament, are pointed out and confuted.
Voltaire in the
Shades; or, Dialogues on the Deistical Controversy.
Poems, and a
Tragedy. Lond. 1791, 4to. This contains an account of his life,
by Mr. Ireland.
A more full and
correct collection of his poems appeared in 1807, with a Life,
by the Rev. John Sim.
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