Creech, Thomas

, an English poet, chiefly noted for his translatious of ancient authors, was son of Thomas Creech, and born near Sherbourne in Dorsetshire, 1659. He was educated in grammar learning under Mr. Gurganven of Sherbourne, to whom he afterwards dedicated a translation of one of Theocritus’s Idylliums; and entered a commoner of Wadham college in Oxford, 1675. Wood tells us, that his father was a gentleman; but Jacob says, in his “Lives and Characters of English Poets,” that his parents were not in circumstances sufficient to support him through a liberal education, but that his disposition and capacity for learning raised him up a patron in colonel Strangeways, whose generosity supplied that defect. Creech certainly distinguished himself much; and was accounted a good philosopher and poet, and a severe student. June 13, 1683, he took the degree of M. A. and not long after was elected probationer fellow of All-souls college; to which, Jacob observes, the great reputation acquired by his translation of Lucretius recommended him. Wood tells us, that upon this occasion he gave singular proofs of his classical learning and philosophy before his examiners. In 1696 he took his degree of bachelor of divinity, and began to be well known by the works he published; but they were of no great advantage to his fortune, since his circumstances were always indifferent. In 1699, having taken orders, he was presented by his college to the living of Welwyn in Hertfordshire; but while at Oxford, on another occasion, in June 1700, he put an end to his life. The motives of this fatal catastrophe have been variously represented. M. Bernard informs us, in the “ | Republic of Letters,” that in 1700, Creech fell in love with a, woman, who treated him contemptuously, though she was complaisant enough to others; that not being able to digest this usage, he was resolved not to survive it; and that he hanged himself in his study, in which situation he was found three days after. Jacob says nothing of the particular manner of his death, but only that he unfortunately made away with himself: which he ascribes to a naturally morose and splenetic temper, too apt to despise the understandings and performances of others. “This,” says Jacob, “made him less esteemed than his great merit deserved; and his resentments on this account frequently engaged him in those heats and disputes which in the end proved fatal to him.” But from an original letter of Arthur Charlett, preserved in the Bodleian library, it has lately been discovered, that this unhappy event was owing to a very different cause. There was a fellow collegian of whom Creech frequently borrowed money; but repeating his applications too often, he met one day with such a cold reception, that he retired in a fit of gloomy disgust, and in three days was found hanging in his room: and Mr. Malone has more recently published a letter from Dr. Tanner, by which it appears that Creech had before exhibited marks of insanity.

The following is a list of his translations; for we do not find him to have been the author of any original works. 1. A translation of “Lucretius,” printed in 8vo, at Oxford, 1682. Dryden, in the preface to the “Miscellany Poems,” which were published by him, speaks of this translation in the highest terms of approbation, calling Creech “the ingenious and learned translator of Lucretius” and every body else entertained the same opinion of it.' In the edition of 1714, in 2 vols. 8vo, all the verses of the text, which Creech had left untranslated, particularly those in the fourth book about the nature of love, are supplied; and many new notes added and intermixed by another hand, by way of forming a complete system of the Epicurean philosophy. Creech had published in 1695 an edition of Lucretius in Latin, with notes, which were afterwards printed at the end of the English translation. Another edition of this, much enlarged, but very incorrect, was published in 1717 in 8vo. The best is that of Glasow, 1759, 12 mo. He will perhaps be far longer rememred as the editor than the translator of Lucretius. 2. In | 1684 he published a translation of “Horace” in which, however, he has omitted some few odes. As to the satires, he was advised, as he tells us in the preface, “to turn them to our own time; since Rome was now rivalled in her vices; and parallels for hypocrisy, profaneness, avarice, and the like, were easy to be found.” But those crimes,“he declares,” were out of his acquaintance; and since the character is the same whoever the person is, he was not so fond of being hated, as to make any disobliging application. Such pains,“says he,” would look like an impertinent labour to find a dunghill.“3. The” Idylliums“of Theocritus, with Rapin’s discourse of pastorals, 1684,- 8vo. 4. The second elegy of Ovid’s first book of elegies the sixth, seventh, eighth, and twelfth of the second book; the story of Lucretia, out of the Fasti; and the second and third of Virgil’s eclogues; printed in a collection of miscellany poems, 1684. 5. The thirteenth satire of Juvenal, with notes. Printed in the English translation of the satires, 1693, in folio. 6. A translation into English of the verses prefixed to Quintinie’s Complete Gardener. 7. The Lives of Solon, Pelopidas, and Cleomenes, from Plutarch. 8. The Life of Pelopidas, from Cornelius Nepos. 9. Laconic apophthegms, or remarkable sayings of the Spartans, from Plutarch. 10. A discourse concerning Socrates’s da3mon, and the two first books of the Symposiacs, from Plutarch. These translations from Plutarch were published in the English translations of his” Lives“and” Morals.“11. A translation of Manilius’s Astronomicon, dated from All-Souls, Oct. 10, 1696. On his father’s monument he is called” the learned, much admired, and much envied Mr. Creech.“By whom he could have been envied, we know not, yet there is a ridiculous story that Dryden became so jealous of him, as to incite him to translate Horace that he might lose as much reputation by that poet, as he had gained by Lucretius. His poetry will scarcely at present be deemed an object which calls for much criticism, as he is rather a good scholar than a good poet; and in the instance of Lucretius, a most judicious editor. Dr. Warton, however, who will be allowed Jto be an admirable judge, has spoken of him in terms of applause.” Creech,“says the doctor,” in truth, is a much better translator than he is usually supposed and allowed to be. He is a nervous and vigorous writer: and many parts, not only of his Lucretius, but of his | Theocritus and Horace (though now decried) have not been excelled by other translators. One of his pieces may be pronounced excellent; his translation of the thirteenth satire of Juvenal; equal to any that Dryden has given us of that author.“Pope certainly paid him no small compliment by beginning his epistle to Mr. Murray (afterwards lord Mansfield) with two lines from Creech’s Horace. Pope used to say that” he hurt his translation of Lucretius very much by imitating Cowley, and bringing in turns even into some of the most grand parts. He has done more justice to Manilius." 1


Biog. Brit. Malone’a Dryden, vol. I. p. 505 vol. IV. p. 43, 225. Gibber’s Lives. Warton’s Essays. —Ath. Ox. vol. II. Warton’s Life of Bathxust, p. lyS.Spence’s Anecdotes, ms.