OGILBY, JOHN, a
miscellaneous writer, born at or near Edinburgh, in November 1600,
removed in his youth with his parents to London. His father, a gentleman
of a respectable family, having spent his patrimony, was thrown into the
King’s Bench prison for debt, and his son became apprentice to a
dancing-master. In the salutatory art he showed so much proficiency that
the pupils subscribed sufficient money for him to buy up his indentures,
and begin business as a teacher of dancing on his own account. While
officiating at a masque given by the duke of Buckingham, by a false step
he unfortunately sprained his ankle, and was thereby rendered lame for
life. In 1633, when the unfortunate earl of Strafford went to Ireland as
lord deputy, Ogilby accompanied him as teacher of dancing to his
children. He also acted occasionally as his lordship’s amanuesis, and
became one of the earl’s troop of guards. Having composed poetical
versions of some of Æsop’s Fables, and a humorous piece, entitled ‘The
Character of a trooper,’ the earl made him deputy-master of the revels.
He now erected a little theatre in Dublin, where he exhibited dramatic
entertainments, but in the rebellion of 1641 he lost all his property.
He quitted that country about 1646, but was shipwrecked on his passage
to England, and reached London in a most destitute condition.
Soon after he proceeded
on foot to Cambridge, where he was patronized by many of the scholars,
and having devoted his attention to classical studies, he became a
complete master of the Latin language. In 1649 he published a
translation of the works of Virgil, and in 1651 ‘The Fables of Æsop,
paraphrased in verse.’ At the age of 54 he learnt Greek, and removing to
London, in 1660 he published a magnificent version of Homer’s Iliad,
dedicated to Charles II., with engravings by Hollar and other artists,
and annotations by Shirley. The same year he published at Cambridge,
with the assistance of Dr. John Wortington, and other learned men, a
superb edition of the ‘English Bible,’ embellished with illustrative
maps and engravings. A copy of this work was presented to the king, and
another to the house of commons, and from the latter he received a
gratuity of £50.
On the coronation of
Charles II. in 1661, Ogilby was employed to supply the poetical part of
the pageantry, including the speeches, emblems, mottoes, and
inscriptions. He accordingly wrote ‘The Relation of his Majesty’s
Entertainment passing through the City of London to his Coronation,’
&c., in ten sheets folio. This work, afterwards, by his majesty’s
command, published in a large folio volume on royal paper, with five
engravings, is said to have been found useful in succeeding coronations.
In 1662 Ogilby obtained
the patent of master of the revels in Ireland, when he again went to
Dublin, and built a larger theatre than his former one. Soon after he
returned to England, and in 1665 published a second volume of
Translations from Æsop, with some fables of his own. The same year he
produced a translation of the Odyssey, with notes and embellishments.
Though Ogilby’s poetry
was of inferior merit, he contrived to get rid of his different works as
they were published, by means of a lottery, by which he acquired large
sums of money. In the great fire of London, his house in Whitefriars,
with all that it contained, was burnt to the ground. Besides his whole
stock of published works, there perished in the flames three unpublished
poems of his own, two of them heroic poems, entitled ‘The Ephesian
Matron’ and ‘The Roman Slave,’ and the third an epic, in twelve books,
styled ‘The Carolics,’ in honour of Charles I. He immediately set about
reprinting all his former publications, and revived his lottery scheme,
whereby he obtained money to the amount of £4,210, which enabled him to
set up a printing office. By his interest at court he received the
appointment of cosmographer and geographic printer to the king, and in
this capacity he projected a General Atlas of the World, of which
several parts were published. He also produced several minor works,
illustrative of the topography of England, and issued several Maps of
London. Ogilby died September 4, 1676.
His works are:
The Character of a Trooper; a Humourous Piece.
The Works of Virgil, translated and published; with his Portrait.
London, 1649-50, 8vo. Elegantly reprinted in 1654, royal folio. Also, a
beautiful edition of it in Latin. 1658, folio. Again, with sculptures
and annotations. 8vo.
Fables of Æsop paraphrased, in verse; adorned with sculptures, and
illustrated with Annotations. 1651, 4to. 1665, 2 vols. Folio. 16733-4, 2
Homer’s Iliad, translated into English verse; adorned with engravings by
Hollar and others. 1660.
Relation of the Entertainment of his Majesty Charles II., in his Passage
through the city of London, to his Coronation; containing an exact
account of the whole Solemnity; the Triumphal Arches and Cavalcade,
delineated in sculpture; the Speeches and Impresses illustrated from
Antiquity; to these is added, a brief Narrative of his Majesty’s solemn
Coronation, with his magnificent Proceeding and Royal Feast in
Westminster Hall; with cuts. London, 1661, 1662, 1669, folio.
A Translation of Homer’s Odyssey. 1665.
Africa; being an accurate Description of the Regions of Egypt, Barbary,
Libya, and Billedulgerid, the Land of Negroes, Guinea, Æthiopia, and the
Abyssines, with all the adjacent Islands, either in the Mediterranean,
Atlantic, Southern, or Oriental Seas, belonging thereunto. Lond. 1670,
America; containing the Original of the Inhabitants, and the remarkable
Voyages thither; the Conquest of the vast Empires of Mexico and Peru,
and other large Provinces and Territories, with the several European
Plantations in those parts. Lond. 1670, folio.
Atlas Japanensis; being remarkable Addresses, by way of Embassy, from
the East India Company of the United Provinces to the Emperor of Japan;
containing a Description of their several Territories, Cities, Temples,
Fortresses, &c., with the Character of the Ancient and Modern Japannese.
Lond. 1670, 1671, 1673, folio.
Atlas Chinensis; being a relation of remarkable Passages in two
Embassies from the East India Company of the United Provinces to the
Vice-Roy Singlamong and General Taising, Lipovi, and to Konchi, Emperor
of China and East Tartary; containing a more exact Geographical
Description than formerly, of the whole Empire of China, from the
original of A. Montanus. Lond. 1671, 1673, 2 vols. Folio.
Asia, the first part; being an accurate description of Persia, the
Empire of the Great Mogul, and other parts of India, and their several
Kingdoms and Regions; with the Description of their Cities, Towns, the
various Customs, Religion, and Languages of the inhabitants, their
Government and Commerce; also the Plants and Animals peculiar to each
country. Part ii.; containing an Embassy from the East India Company of
the United Provinces to the Grand Tartar Cham, Emperor of China,
delivered by their Excellencies Peter Goyer and Jacob de Keyzer, at his
Imperial City of Pekin; together with a general description of the
Empire of China. Lond. 1673, 2 vols. Folio.
Britannia; being an Illustration of the Kingdom of England, and Dominion
of Wales, by an Historical and Geographical description of the Principal
roads thereof; described by 100 Maps on copperplates. London, 1675,
1698, folio. 1719, 4to.
Survey of the Roads of England. Lond. 1675, 1698, folio.
Explanation of the large Map of London, by T. Ogilby and W. Morgan.
An Actual Survey of the principal Roads of England and Wales, improved
by J. Senex. Lond. 1717, 8vo.