Edward Fairfax - Encyclopedia

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EDWARD FAIRFAX (c. 1580-1635), English poet, translator of Tasso, was born at Leeds, the second son of Sir Thomas Fairfax of Denton (father of the 1st Baron Fairfax of Cameron). His legitimacy has been called in question, and the date of his birth has not been ascertained. He is said to have been only about twenty years of age when he published his translation of the Gerusalemme Liberata, which would place his birth about the year 1580. He preferred a life of study and retirement to the military service in which his brothers were distinguished. He married a sister of Walter Laycock, chief alnager of the northern counties, and lived on a small estate at Fewston, Yorkshire. There his time was spent in his literary pursuits, and in the education of his children and those of his elder brother, Sir Thomas Fairfax, afterwards baron of Cameron. His translation appeared in 1600, - Godfrey of Bulloigne, or the Recoverie of Ierusalem, done into English heroicall Verse by Edw. Fairefax, Gent., and was dedicated to the queen. It was enthusiastically received. In the same year in which it was published extracts from it were printed in England's Parnassus. Edward Phillips, the nephew of Milton, in his Theatrum Poetarum, warmly eulogized the translation. Edmund Waller said he was indebted to it for the harmony of his numbers. It is said that it was King James's favourite English poem, and that Charles I. entertained himself in prison with its pages. Fairfax employed the same number of lines and stanzas as his original, but within the limits of each stanza he allowed himself the greatest liberty. Other translators may give a more literal version, but Fairfax alone seizes upon the poetical and chivalrous character of the poem. He presented, says Mr Courthope, "an idea of the chivalrous past of Europe, as seen through the medium of Catholic orthodoxy and classical humanism." The sweetness and melody of many passages are scarcely excelled even by Spenser. Fairfax made no other appeal to the public. He wrote, however, a series of eclogues, twelve in number, the fourth of which was published, by permission of the family, in Mrs Cooper's Muses' Library (1737). Another of the eclogues and a Discourse on Witchcraft, as it was acted in the Family of Mr Edward Fairfax of Fuystonc in the county of York in 1621, edited from the original copy by Lord Houghton, appeared in the Miscellanies of the Philobiblon Society (1858-1859). Fairfax was a firm believer in witchcraft. He fancied that two of his children had been bewitched, and he had the poor wretches whom he accused brought to trial, but without obtaining a conviction. Fairfax died at Fewston and was buried there on the 27th of January 1635.

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