Wednesday, June 15, 2011

William Julius Mickle

'On Monday, June 14, and Tuesday, 15, Dr. Johnson and I dined, on one of them, I forget which, with Mr. Mickle, translator of the Lusiad, at Wheatley, a very pretty country place a few miles from Oxford; and on the other with Dr. Wetherell, Master of University College. ....'

This entry from Boswell's "Life of Johnson" was took place in the year Johnson died; 1784.  “The Lusiad or The Discovery of India" was an epic poem written by Luis de Camoes.  Mickle dedicated his 1776 translation to a friend of Sir Walter Scott’s - Henry Scott, the 3rd Duke of Buccleuch.

My Lord,
The first idea of offering my Lusiad to some distinguished personage, inspired the earnest wish, that it might be accepted by the illustrious representative of that family under which my father, for many years, discharged the duties of a clergyman.

Both the late Duke of Buccleugh, and the Earl of Dalkeith, distinguished him by particular marks of their favour; and I must have forgotten him, if I could have wished to offer the first Dedication of my literary labours to any other than the Duke of Buccleugh.

I am, with the greatest respect,
My Lord,
Your Grace's most devoted
And most obedient humble servant,


Sir Walter Scott mentions Mickle in his Introductory Remarks on Popular Poetry, in the 1830 publication of his “Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border”:

 ‘Of Ritson's own talents as an editor of ancient poetry, we shall have occasion to speak hereafter. The first collector who followed the example of Dr. Purr, was Mr. T. Evans, bookseller, father of the gentleman we have just quoted. His 'Old Ballads, historical narrative, with some of modern date, appeared in two volumes, in 1777, and were eminently successful. In 1T84, a. second edition appeared, extending the work to four volumes. In this collection many ballads found acceptance, which Bishop Percy had not considered as possessing sufficient merit to claim admittance into the Reliques The 8vo. Miscellany of 1723 yielded a great part of  the materials. The collection of Evans contained several modern pieces of great merit, which are not to be found elsewhere, and which are understood to be the productions of William Julius Mickle, translator of the Lusiad, though they were never claimed by him, nor received among his works. Amongst them is the elegiac poem of Cumnor Hall, which suggested the fictitious narrative entitled Kenilworth. The Red-Cross Knight, also by Mickle, which has furnished words for a beautiful glee, first occurred in the same collection. As Mickle, with a vein of great facility, united a power of verbal melody which might have been envied by bards of much greater renown, he must be considered as very successful in these efforts, if the ballads be regarded as avowedly modern. If they are to be judged of as accurate imitations of ancient poetry, they have less merit: the deception being only maintained by a huge store of double consonants, strewed at random into ordinary words, resembling the real fashion of antiquity as little as the niches, turrets, and tracery of plaster stuck upon a modern front.’

Scott dedicated this publication to the 5th Duke of Buccleuch, Walter Francis Montagu Douglas Scott:


&c. &c. &c. My Lord Duke,
In inscribing these volumes* to your Grace, I am fortunately emancipated from the necessity of intruding upon you the commonplace subjects of dedication. Most of these Poems have been long before the public, and were inscribed, at the time of their publication, to the various excellent persons nearly connected with your Grace, whose names they retain. I am, therefore, well aware, that these compositions, of little intrinsic value in themselves, will, like other memorials of dear friends, who have been removed from the world, claim some value in your Grace's estimation, from the names of their former patrons.

May your Grace live long to exercise the virtues of your predecessors, whose duties you inherit along with their rank and possessions. Such is the sincere wish of, My Lord Duke,
Your Grace's early Friend,
And much obliged humble Servant,
WALTER SCOTT. Abbotsford, April 3, 1830.

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