Lucy Hutchinson (1620–1681) was an English biographer and the first person to translate the complete text of Lucretius's De rerum natura ("On the Nature of Things") into English, during the years of the interregnum (1649–1660). A rare female Latin scholar, she found her liberation in science.
The daughter of Sir Allen Apsley, Lieutenant of the Tower of London, and Lady Lucy St. John, she was married on 3 July 1638 in St. Andrew Holborn to Colonel John Hutchinson. He was one of those who signed the death-warrant of King Charles, but who afterwards protested against the assumption of supreme power by Oliver Cromwell.
She has a place in literature for her biography of her husband, Memoirs Of The Life Of Colonel Hutchinson. In the book she records that he had many notable victories in the Civil War, including at Shelford Manor on 27 October 1645. In this battle he defeated his kin Colonel Philip Stanhope, the fifth son of the 1st Earl of Chesterfield. Lucy may have even seen the battle, as their estate of Owthorpe was only a few miles away.
John Hutchinson retired to Owthorpe. After the Restoration, he was arrested for the regicide and imprisoned in Sandown Castle, Kent. However, he was not tried. Lucy went before the House of Lords to gain his release, but to no avail.
Memoirs Of The Life Of Colonel Hutchinson throws lights upon the characteristics and conditions of the life of Puritans of good family. Intended for her family only, it was printed by a descendant in 1806, and cleared away many false impressions about the narrowness and austerity of the educated Puritans.
Hutchinson's works included Order and Disorder, possibly the first epic poem written by a woman in the English language. The work is a verse rendition of the Book of Genesis, offering parallels to John Milton's Paradise Lost. Although only five cantos of the work were published in her lifetime, in 2001 the critic David Norbrook published the work in full.
Hutchinson's verse translation of De Rerum Natura was dedicated to Lord Anglesy, who added the manuscript to his extensive library. The manuscript was sold to the British Library by his heirs in the mid-nineteenth century. It was published for the first time in 1996 under the editorship of Hugh de Quehen. Her title as first English translator of the De Rerum Natura is challenged by an anonymous manuscript prose translation, likely of the same decade, now preserved at Oxford (Bodleian MS Rawl. D.314).
John and Lucy Hutchinson had nine children:
- son John Hutchinson, born 1650 in Owthorpe, Notts, England.
- This article incorporates public domain text from: Cousin, John William (1910). A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature. London, J. M. Dent & sons; New York, E. P. Dutton
- Watts, Ruth (2007). Women in science : a social and cultural history (New ed.). Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge. p. 51. ISBN 0415253071.
- Firth, Charles Harding (1891). "Hutchinson, John (1615-1664)". In Lee, Sidney. Dictionary of National Biography 28. London: Smith, Elder & Co.
- Full text of the 1679 edition of Order and Disorder from Bartleby.com.
- Memoirs of the life of colonel Hutchinson, publ. by J. Hutchinson. To which is prefixed The life of mrs. Hutchinson, written by herself Edition: 2, Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, 1808
- Memoirs of the life of Colonel Hutchinson ...: with original anecdotes of many of the most distinguished of his contemporaries, and a summary review of public affairs, Bohn's standard library, Edition 5, H. G. Bohn., 1846
- The Lucy Hutchinson Project: http://www.cems-oxford.org/projects/lucy-hutchinson