Sir Thomas Urquhart

c.1611 - 1660

Eccentric author, translator and royalist. Born in Cromarty, Urquhart entered King's College, Aberdeen at the age of just eleven. He then took a 'Grand Tour', travelling to France, Spain and Italy before returning to Scotland in 1636. His Royalist convictions led him to join the army of Charles I and he fought against the Covenanters at Turriff in 1639. However, defeat meant Urquhart had to flee and he joined Charles' court in London. He was knighted in 1641.

In 1649, he took up the Royalist cause once again to oppose Cromwell. He was imprisoned after the Battle of Worcester (1651) and his family estates at Cromarty were confiscated.

Many of his works are eccentric, he enjoyed using incomprehensible and occasionally ridiculous language. Trissotetras (1645) was a mathematical work, taking as its core John Napier's theory of logarithms. His Pantochronochanon (1652), claimed to trace his ancestry back to Adam. and he enthusiastically proposed a universal language in Logopandecteision (1653), although never provided any words.

He also produced one of the earliest Scottish novels in 1652, a romance entitled Ekskybalauron or The Discoverie of a most Exquisite Jewel. This had The Admirable Crichton as its hero, based on the real-life exploits of James Crichton (1560-82).

Urquhart is best known for his excellent translation of the comic masterpiece Gargantua and Pantagruel by the 16th C. French novelist Francois Rabelais, which is said to be one of the most original and vivid translations into English.

It seems likely that Urquhart's release from prison was on condition that he moved overseas. He lived for a time in the Netherlands and is said to have died in a fit of uncontrollable laughter, on hearing that Charles II had been restored to the throne.

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