Ogilby, John

, a very industrious adventurer in literary speculations, was born in or near Edinburgh in | November 1600. He was of an ancient family in that country; but his father, having spent the estate, became a prisoner in the King’s Bench, and could give his son but little education. The youth, however, being very industrious, acquired some little knowledge of Latin grammar; and afterwards got so much money, as not only to release his father from the gaol, but also to bind himself apprentice to one Draper, a dancing-master in London. He had not been long under this master before he made himself perfect in the art, and by his obliging behaviour to the scholars, acquired money enough from them to buy out the remainder of his time. He now began teaching on his own account, and being soon accounted one of the best masters in the profession, he was selected to dance in the duke of Buckingham’s great masque; in which, by an unlucky step in high capering, the mode of that time, he hurt the inside of his leg, which occasioned some degree of lameness, but did not prevent his teaching. Among others, he taught the sisters of sir Ralph, afterwards lord Hopton, at Wytham in Somersetshire and at leisure hours he learned of that accomplished knight how to handle the pike and musket. In 1633, when Wentworth earl of Stafford became lord deputy of Ireland, he took him into his family to teach his children; and Ogilby, writing an excellent hand, was frequently employed by the earl to transcribe papers for him.

While in this family he first gave a proof of his inclination rather than genius for poetry, by translating some of “Æsop’s Fables” into English verse and, being then one of the troop of guard belonging to his lord, he composed a humourous piece, entitled “The character of a Trooper.” As a poet, however, he ranks among the very lowest. About that time he was appointed deputy-master of the revels in Ireland; built a little theatre in Dublin, and was much encouraged; but, upon the breaking out of the rebellion in 1641, this scheme was interrupted, and he lost all his property. To add to his misfortune he was shiprecked in his passage from Ireland, and arrived in London in a most destitute condition. He had an enterprizing spirit, however, and was not easily discouraged. After a short stay in London he went on foot to Cambridge; where his great industry, and greater love of learning, being discovered, he was encouraged by several scholars in that university. By their assistance he became so complete a master of | Latin, that he translated the “Works of Virgil,” and published them with his portrait in a large octavo volume, London, 1649-50*; with a dedication to William marquis of Hertford, whom he calls his most noble patron. Wood observes that thereby he obtained a considerable sum of money in his pocket. Thus encouraged, he proceeded to print “Æsop’s Fables” in verse, in 1651 f. This was published in 4to; and, as Wood archly observes, procured him a degree among the minor poets, being recommended in some verses for the purpose, both by sir William Davenant and James Shirley.

About 1654 he learned the Greek tongue of one of his countrymen, David Whitford, or Whitfield, at that time usher to James Shirley, who then taught school in White Friers. This was a remarkable instance of indefatigable industry at his age; and he made the best use of his new acquisition, by translating into English verse “Homer’s Iliad and OdysseyJ *, in which, however, he was assisted by his friend Shirley. This was printed in a most pompous manner, with a dedication to Charles II. in 1660; and the same year he edited at Cambridge, with the assistance of Dr. John Worthington, and other learned men, a finer edition of the “English Bible” than had been extant before. This he adorned with chorographical and other sculptures, and presented a sumptuous copy of it to his majesty, on his first coming to the royal chapel at Whitehall, He presented another copy to the House of Commons, for which he received a gratuity of 50l. from that house; as he did also, not improbably, from the convocation, to whom he presented a petition, with the king’s recommendatory letters concerning the expence of


It was reprinted in 1654, in a royal folio; and Wood says, was the fairest edition that the English press ver produced. It has his picture before it, as most of his books have. He also published a beautiful edition of it in Latin, in 1658, folio; and again, with sculptures and annotations, in a large 8vo.

It was in 4to, with this title, “Fables of Æsop paraphrased, in verse, &c.” and in 1665, a second volume, with several of his own, in folio. Both came out in two volumes 8vo, in 1673-4.

The “Iliad” was published in 1660, and the “Odyssey” in 1665, both on imperial paper, adorned with engravings by Hollar and other eminent engravers which recommended. the “Iliad” to Pope, then a boy at school, who, as Spence informs us, by reading it, was inspired first with a relish for poetry, though he afterwards said it was beneath criticism and ridiculed Ogilby in the Dunciad. Pope, as a child, might have been pleased with the pictures, but it is hardly conceivable that he could, as Granger says, discern the majesty of the Grecian poet through Ogilby’s miserable lines.

| printing the book. He also petitioned the House of Commons that his Biblemight be recommended to be made use of in all churches.” It was printed by Field.

In the same year (1661) he received orders from the commissioners for the solemnity of his majesty’s coronation, to conduct the poetical part, viz. the speeches, emblems, mottoes, and inscriptions upon which he drew up “The relation of his Majesty’s Entertainment, passing through the city of London to his Coronation with a description of the triumphal Arches and Solemnity” in ten sheets folio. This he also published, by his majesty’s command, in a large folio volume, on royal paper, with fine engravings, and speeches at large, in 1662; and it has been made use of in succeeding coronations. His interest was now so powerful with the king, that he obtained this year the patent for master of the revels in Ireland, against sir William Davenant, who was his competitor. This post carried him once more into that kingdom; and, his former theatre in Dublin being destroyed in the troubles, he built a new one, at the expence of 100O/. On his return to London he continued the employment of translating and composing books in poetry *, till the fire of London in. 1666, in which his house in White Friers was consumed, and his whole fortune, except to the value of 5l. destroyed. He soon, however, procured his house to be re-built, set up a printing-house, was appointed his majesty’s cosmographer and geographic printer, and printed several great works, translated or collected by himself and his assistance t; all which were printed on imperial paper, adorned with maps and curious engravings, by Hollar and others, and were carried on by way of proposals and standing lotteries. The scheme of one of his lotteries, a very curious article, was lately published in the Gent. Mag. vol. LXXXIV. Part I. page 646. He died September 4, 1676, and was


These were, the “Ephesian Matron,” and the “Roman Slave,” two heroic poems. 2. An epic poem, entitled, “Carolies,” in twelve books, in honour of Charles I. but this was entirely lost in the fire which consumed his house.

These were, his “Atlas,” comprised in several folio volumes;“The Traveller’s Guide, or a most exact Description of the Roads, &,c. 1674,” folio; afterwards improved by John Bowen, under the title of “Britannia Depicta, &c.” in 1731, 8vo. There goes also in his name a new map of the city of London, as it was new built, in one sheet folio; and, jointly with William Morgan, his grandson and successor as cosmographer, he made a new and accurate map of the city of London, distinct from Westminster and Southwark; and a Survey of Essex, with the roads, having the arms of the gentry on the borders.

| interred in St. Bride’s church, Fleet-street, leaving the character of a very industrious, enterprizing, and honest man. 1

Biog. Brit. Atb. Ox. vol. II. in art. Shirley. —Cibber's Lives.