Lucy Hutchinson

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Lucy Hutchinson

Lucy Hutchinson (1620–1681) was an English translator, poet, and biographer, and the first person to translate the complete text of Lucretius's De rerum natura ("On the Nature of Things") from Latin into English, during the years of the interregnum (1649–1660).[1]


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 (1615-1664). 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 addition to her works in poetry and translation. 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. In 1664, John Hutchinson died in prison.[1]

Literary works[edit]

Memoirs Of The Life Of Colonel Hutchinson throws lights upon the characteristics and conditions of the life of Puritans of good family.[2] 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. Published after her husband's death, the series of elegies mourned her spouse and offered political critiques of the royal court. The manuscript was primarily made up of a sequence of 23 poems with some attempt at putting them in a coherent order. Throughout her poems, Hutchinson lamented her husband's death, honored his life, and moved toward an acceptance of his death, while commenting on the English political structure following the Restoration.[3] In Memoirs of the Life of Colonel Hutchinson she included this dedication: "To the right honourable Arthur, Earl of Anglesey, Lord Keeper of his Majesty’s Privy Seal, and one of his Majesty’s most honourable Privy Council." Lord Anglesy added the manuscript to his extensive library and penned this note to the flyleaf: "Anglesey. Given me, June 11, 1675, by the worthy author, Mrs Lucy Hutchinson."[4]

Hutchinson's verse translation of De Rerum Natura was also dedicated to Lord Anglesey. In the dedication, she diminished her own translation and emphasized the sinfulness of the philosophical text. The manuscript was sold to the British Library by his heirs in 1853, however it did not at first attract much attention and seemed at odds with her Puritan faith.[5] The text explores epicurean philosophy to explain the natural world. Hutchinson's translation was published for the first time in 1996 under the editorship of Hugh de Quehen.[1] 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).

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 also wrote On the Principles of the Christian Religion, a personal and comprehensive statement of the theology of a seventeenth-century Puritan, and dedicated the work to her daughter.[6] Hutchinson also authored a set of poems referred to as the "Elegies"; these were unpublished during her life, but were brought to modern critical attention by David Norbrook in 1997.[7]


John and Lucy Hutchinson had nine children. Their son John Hutchinson was born in 1650 in Owthorpe, Nottinghamshire.


  1. ^ a b c 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
  2. ^  Firth, Charles Harding (1891). "Hutchinson, John (1615-1664)". In Lee, Sidney. Dictionary of National Biography. 28. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 
  3. ^ NORBROOK, DAVID (1997-01-01). "Lucy Hutchinson's "Elegies" and the Situation of the Republican Woman Writer (with text)". English Literary Renaissance. 27 (3): 468–521. JSTOR 43447764. 
  4. ^ Hutchinson, Lucy (1906). Memoirs of Colonel Hutchinson. London: GEORGE ROUTLEDGE & SONS. 
  5. ^ Hutchinson, Lucy; Barbour, Reid; Norbrook, David. The Works of Lucy Hutchinson. pp. xvi. 
  6. ^ Hutchinson, Lucy (1817). On the Principles of the Christian Religion. London: LONGMAN, HURST, REES, ORME, & BROWN. 
  7. ^ Norbrook, David (1997-09-01). "Lucy Hutchinson's "Elegies" and the Situation of the Republican Woman Writer (with text)". English Literary Renaissance. 27 (3): 468–521. doi:10.1111/j.1475-6757.1997.tb01115.x. ISSN 0013-8312. 

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