Sir Thomas Urquhart (AKA Urchard), lived from 1611 to 1660; he was a Scottish writer and translator, best known for his translation of Rabelais. He is also known, to a much lesser extent, for overly long and verbose thickets of borderline non-sense.

Urquhart was born in Cromarty (in the north of Scotland). He attended the King's College in Aberdeen at age eleven, and afterwards he travelled through Europe, returning to Scotland in 1636.

In 1639, he took part in the Trot of Turriff (a Royalist uprising), which earned him a knighthood; on April 7th, 1641 he was knighted by King Charles I's own hand at Whitehall. While he was in London, he took the opportunity to have his first book printed. It was entitled Epigrams and was, you guessed it, a collection of epigrams. While this sort of thing was popular at the time, Urquhart's book was poorly regarded by the critics.

Urquhart's family was poor (very much in debt, in fact), but so old and powerful that they straggled along without too much trouble -- until Urquhart's father died, and Urquhart came into his inheritance in 1642. This inheritance left Urquhart with monetary problems that would plague him for the rest of his life.

In 1648 Urquhart took part in the Royalist uprising at Inverness (this is under Charles II now). Parliament declared him a rebel and a traitor, although this doesn't actually seem to have had much of an effect on his life. In 1650 he marched with Charles II and fought in the Battle of Worcester. Charles' forces were badly beaten, and Urquhart was taken prisoner. All of his property was confiscated, and his manuscripts lost (except for parts of the preface to Universal Language) He was imprisoned in the Tower of London, and later at Windsor, but was released on Cromwell's orders in 1651.

In 1652 he published two works; Pantochronachanon, a genealogy of his family back to Adam and Eve (probably a joke), and The Jewel (Ekskybalauron), a self-proclaimed "vindication of the honor of Scotland" among other random things, including an explanation of Urquhart's universal language. These are two of his wackier works, and The Jewel contains his best known writings, aside from his translations. These border on unintelligibility (that's part of their charm).

He published two other books: Logopandecteision in 1653, with more on his universal language and polemic against his creditors, and his best known work by far, The Works of Rabelais. It is considered to be one of the best translations of any work into English. It's not a very literal translation, but Urquhart's writing style communicates the spirit of the original text better than any literal translation could. Urquhart published the first two books in 1653; the third book was edited and completed by Peter Anthony Motteux, and published after Urquhart's death.

We don't know much about Urquhart's latter years. He returned to Europe at some point after 1653, but we don't know when, or what he really did there. His return to Europe may have been part of the terms of his release from prison. We know that he was dead by 1660, because that's the year his younger brother took over his hereditary titles.

There is a legend of Urquhart's death that tells of him dying in a fit of joyous laughter on receiving news of the Restoration of Charles II.

"A pedantry which is gigantesque and almost incredible,"
-- George Saintsbury, on the writings of Urquhart.

The complete works
Epigrams, Divine and Moral (1641)
Trissotetras (1645)
Pantochronachanon (1652)
The Jewel (Ekskybalauron) (1652)
Logopandecteision (1653)
The Works of Rabelais (Books I and II, 1653; Book III, 1693)

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