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The Scottish Nation

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 vols. 8vo.
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, fol.
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. 1677, 4to.
An Actual Survey of the principal Roads of England and Wales, improved by J. Senex. Lond. 1717, 8vo.

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