Sir Thomas North (28 May 1535 – c. 1604) was an English translator, military officer, lawyer, and justice of the peace. His translation into English of Plutarch's Parallel Lives is notable for being the main source text used by William Shakespeare for his Roman plays.
|Born||28 May 1535|
|Died||1604 (aged 68–69)|
|Alma mater||Peterhouse, Cambridge|
|Occupation||Justice of the Peace, author and translator|
|Known for||Translating Plutarch's Lives into English|
|Parent(s)||Edward North, 1st Baron North, Alice Brockenden|
|Relatives||Roger North, 2nd Baron North (brother); Christina North, Mary North (sisters)|
Thomas North was born between 9 and 10 o'clock at night on Friday, 28 May 1535, in the parish of St Alban, Wood Street, in the City of London. He was the second son of the Edward North, 1st Baron North.
He is supposed to have been a student of Peterhouse, Cambridge, and was entered at Lincoln's Inn in 1557. In 1574 he accompanied his brother, Lord North, on a diplomatic mission to the French court in Lyon. He served as captain of a band of footmen in Ireland in 1580, was appointed to defend the Isle of Ely in the year of the Armada, and was knighted about three years later. He returned again to Ireland in 1596.
His name is on the roll of justices of the peace for Cambridge in 1592 and again in 1597. He was presented with a reward of £25 for his part in putting down Essex's Rebellion in 1601, and received a small pension (£40 a year) from Queen Elizabeth that same year.
He translated, in 1557, Guevara's Reloj de Principes (commonly known as Libro áureo), a compendium of moral counsels chiefly compiled from the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, under the title of Diall of Princes. The English of this work is one of the earliest specimens of the ornate, copious and pointed style for which educated young Englishmen had acquired a taste in their Continental travels and studies.
North translated from a French copy of Guevara, but seems to have been well acquainted with the Spanish version. The book had already been translated by Lord Berners, but without reproducing the rhetorical artifices of the original. North's version, with its mannerisms and its constant use of antithesis, set the fashion which was to culminate in John Lyly's Euphues.
North published his translation of Plutarch in 1580, basing it on the French version by Jacques Amyot. The first edition was dedicated to Queen Elizabeth, and was followed by another edition in 1595, containing fresh Lives. A third edition of his Plutarch was published, in 1603, with more translated Parallel Lives, and a supplement of other translated biographies.
According to the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition, "[i]t is almost impossible to overestimate the influence of North's vigorous English on contemporary writers, and some critics have called him the first master of English prose".
The Lives translation formed the source from which Shakespeare drew the materials for his Julius Caesar, Coriolanus, Timon of Athens, and Antony and Cleopatra. It is in the last-named play that he follows the Lives most closely, whole speeches being taken directly from North.
- Allen, P. S. (1922). "The Birth of Thomas North". English Historical Review. 37 (148): 565–566. doi:10.1093/ehr/xxxvii.cxlviii.565. ISSN 0013-8266.
- Chisholm 1911, p. 759.
- "North, Thomas (NRT555T)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
- Davis, Harold H. (May 1949). "The Military Career of Thomas North". Huntington Library Quarterly. 12 (3): 315–321. doi:10.2307/3816099. ISSN 0018-7895. JSTOR 3816099.
- Acts of the Privy Council, 1600-1601. p. 238.
- Lockwood, Tom (2008) . "North, Sir Thomas (1535–1603?)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/20315. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
- McCarthy, Dennis (2007). "Thomas North was the 'T. N.' Who Prefaced Belleforest's Tragicall Hystories". Notes and Queries. 54 (3): 244–48. doi:10.1093/notesj/gjm131.
- Quinn, K. A. (2000). "Sir Thomas North's marginalia in his Dial of Princes". Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America. 94 (2): 283–7. doi:10.1086/pbsa.94.2.24304350. S2CID 163336002.