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) into English verse, 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, Lucy Hutchinson (née Apsley) was born on 29 January 1620 in the Tower of London. She was the second of ten children. She was married on 3 July 1638 in St. Andrew Holborn to Colonel John Hutchinson (1615-1664). According to her own Memoirs of the Life of Colonel Hutchinson, he was in part attracted to her intellectual and poetic accomplishments.[2] John Hutchinson was one of the signatories of King Charles's death-warrant, but he later protested against the assumption of supreme power by Oliver Cromwell.

Lucy Hutchinson 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.

After the Restoration, her husband John Hutchinson 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] His death deeply affected her and her writing, as attested by her "Elegies" series of poems.

Lucy Hutchinson was an ardent Puritan, and she held fast to her Calvinist convictions after the Restoration of the monarchy in 1660.[2] She died at Owthorpe in Nottinghamshire in October 1681, and was buried in her husband's tomb.[2]

Literary works[edit]

Memoirs of the Life of Colonel Hutchinson throws lights upon the characteristics and conditions of the life of Puritans during the English Civil War.[3] Intended for her family only, it was printed by a descendant in 1806, and became a popular and influential account of that period.[2]

Lucy Hutchinson is the first named translator of the full text of Lucretius's De Rerum Natura into English verse. She is likely to have begun her translation during the 1650s.[2] An unauthorised copy of her translation circulated in manuscript and, in a 1675 manuscript of the work she dedicated to her friend Arthur Annesley, earl of Anglesey, she repudiated her translation, declaring it to be in conflict with her Puritan values.[2] This manuscript was sold to the British Library by his heirs in 1853, however it did not at first attract much attention.[4] 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 translation was published for the first time in 1996 under the editorship of Hugh de Quehen.[1] It was republished in a comprehensive edition by Oxford University Press in 2018.[5]

A series of original poems by Hutchinson was re-discovered in a manuscript in the Nottinghamshire Archives (DD/Hu 2) by David Norbrook.[6] This work is likely contemporaneous in composition with the Memoirs.[6] This manuscript, referred to as the "Elegies", contains 23 numbered poems. 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.[7] These poems were unpublished in her lifetime and the manuscript, which is not in her hand, has no dedication.

Hutchinson's other works included Order and Disorder, arguably the first epic poem written by a woman in the English language. The work is a verse paraphrase of the Book of Genesis, offering parallels to John Milton's Paradise Lost. Only five cantos of the work were published during her lifetime, in 1679. In 2001 the critic David Norbrook published the work in full. Hutchinson also wrote On the Principles of the Christian Religion,[8] an articulation of the Puritan beliefs of herself and her husband. It was dedicated to her daughter Barbara and likely intended as a work of religious instruction.[9] The work was posthumously published in 1817.[2]

Amongst her other religious writings is a lost translation of Congregationalist divine John Owen's work Theologoumena pantodoupa.[2]


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. ^ a b c d e f g h Norbrook, David (26 May 2016). "Hutchinson [née Apsley], Lucy (1620–1681), poet and biographer". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/9780198614128.001.0001 (inactive 20 August 2019). Retrieved 6 September 2017.
  3. ^ Firth, Charles Harding (1891). "Hutchinson, John (1615-1664)" . In Lee, Sidney (ed.). Dictionary of National Biography. 28. London: Smith, Elder & Co.
  4. ^ Hutchinson, Lucy; Barbour, Reid; Norbrook, David. The Works of Lucy Hutchinson. pp. xvi.
  5. ^ Clarke, Elizabeth; Norbrook, David; Stevenson, Jane, eds. (15 February 2018). The Works of Lucy Hutchinson: Volume II: Theological Writings and Translations. Collected Works of Lucy Hutchinson. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780199247356.
  6. ^ a b NORBROOK, DAVID (1997). "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.
  7. ^ NORBROOK, DAVID (1997). "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. JSTOR 43447764.
  8. ^ Hutchinson, Lucy (1817). On the Principles of the Christian Religion. London: LONGMAN, HURST, REES, ORME, & BROWN.
  9. ^ Burden, Mark (3 April 2015). "Lucy Hutchinson and puritan education" (PDF). The Seventeenth Century. 30 (2): 163–178. doi:10.1080/0268117x.2015.1046700. ISSN 0268-117X.

Further reading[edit]

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