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Translation and the Poet's LifeThe Ethics of Translating in English Culture, 1646-1726$
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Paul Davis

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780199297832

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199297832.001.0001

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The Secret Lives of Abraham Cowley

The Secret Lives of Abraham Cowley

(p.75) CHAPTER 2 The Secret Lives of Abraham Cowley
Translation and the Poet's Life

Paul Davis (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines the construction of the translator as a disseminator of secrets, with reference to the poet who, over the course of the Interregnum and the Restoration, came to emblematise dilemmas and dubieties surrounding privacy and secretiveness. Cowley first took up translating when he was working as a secret agent for Henrietta Maria in the 1650s, and produced his greatest translations (those from Horace and Virgil contained in his Essays) after he had withdrawn from the court of Charles II to what was known as the ‘secret life’ of rural retirement at Barn Elms and Chertsey. Concentrating on the latter, the chapter argues that, at a time when a campaign was being waged against secretiveness in English culture, particularly by the new scientists with whom Cowley apparently identified, translating became for him a means of defending what his friend and biographer Thomas Sprat called his ‘earnest Affection for Obscurity’.

Keywords:   Thomas Sprat, Horace, Virgil, privacy, secrecy, retirement, science, Essay

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