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Douglas, Gawin

ELIZABETH ELLIOTT


Subject Literature » Renaissance Literature

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405194495.2012.x


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In the Eneados (1513), Gawin Douglas (c.1476–1522) produced the first complete verse translation of a classical poem in any British vernacular. Printed in London in 1553, Douglas's scholarly rendering of Virgil influenced the translation of Henry Howard, earl of Surrey, and bears witness to Douglas's talent as a poet in his own right. A member of one of the most powerful aristocratic families of his day, Douglas was born around 1476. As the younger son of Archibald Douglas, fifth earl of Angus, his ambitions were directed towards an ecclesiastical career; graduating from the University of St Andrews in 1494, Douglas later became bishop of Dunkeld (1516). In the wake of the Scottish defeat at Flodden in 1513, he became increasingly involved in the factional politics of his time, and he died in London as an exile, in 1522. Only two extant poems can be securely attributed to Douglas, but contemporary evidence indicates that his literary output was larger. The allegorical poem King Hart is no longer regarded as being his, although the case for ‘Conscience’, a satirical poem on ecclesiastical corruption ascribed to him in the sixteenth century, is more credible. Douglas's earliest extant work, The palice of honour (c.1501), is an allegorical dream-vision reflecting literary influences encompassing Geoffrey Chaucer, John Gower, and John Lydgate, and perhaps also William Dunbar's ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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