Sir John Harington

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Harington, Sir John (1560–1612). Epigrammatist. Son of two of Elizabeth's loyal servitors, thereby her godson, ‘Boye Jacke’ was educated at Eton and Cambridge. Witty and well-read, he divided his time between the court and his estate at Kelston, near Bath, according to the queen's smiles or frowns. In 1599 he accompanied Essex to Ireland, where he was knighted, but weathered Elizabeth's displeasure on his return. Ever loyal to her, he nevertheless favoured James's accession to the English throne but failed to obtain his favour, despite preparing manuscripts for the young Prince Henry. Irrepressible, extravagant, and disarmingly candid, Harington has been dismissed as a Rabelaisian trifler, but his miscellaneous writings demonstrate keen observation and a more tolerant attitude towards the Irish than many of his contemporaries. His design for the first water-closet, installed at Kelston c.1595, may possibly have been used at Richmond palace.

A. S. Hargreaves

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Sir John Harington, 1560?–1612, English author. He spent most of his career at the court of Queen Elizabeth I, where he became known for his indelicate humor. His Rabelaisian Metamorphosis of Ajax (1596; ed. by E. S. Donno, 1961) uses ornate style and classical allusions to discuss at length the construction of an Elizabethan privy. He also did a translation (1591) of Ariosto's Orlando Furioso. His Letters and Epigrams (ed. by N. E. McClure, 1930) are vivid sketches of Elizabethan social life and writings.