The Manuscript Translations of an Anonymous Poet, Sir John Harington and Sir William Mure of Rowallan
Manuscript translations reveal a different side of Virgil’s reception than is apparent in printed texts. Several substantial English translations never entered print in any form during the Renaissance. These include an anonymous translation discovered at Castle Ashby in 1977 (now BL Add. MS 60283), the version of Book 6 Sir John Harington presented to King James and Prince Henry in 1604 and Sir William Mure’s rendition of Books 1 and 4 in the Edinburgh University Library. These courtly translations treat Virgil’s epic with a freedom that is rare in printed versions. This chapter shows that Virgil was not always stern and dour in early modern English translation. The more mischievous Aeneids found their audiences through manuscript distribution, while print offered the more obviously useful, or propagandistic, versions of the epic.
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