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Theodore Martin in United Kingdom

Life and Work

Theodore Martin (1816-1909), British author and translator, the son of a solicitor, was born at Edinburgh on the 16th of September 1816, and educated at the Royal High School and the University, from which he subsequently received the honorary degree of LL.D. He practised for some time as a solicitor in Edinburgh, but in 1846 went to London, where he became senior partner in the firm of Martin & Leslie, parliamentary agents. He early contributed to Fraser’s Magazine and Tait’s Magazine, under the signature of “Bon Gaultier,” and in 1856, in conjunction with Professor Aytoun, he published the Book of Ballads under the same pseudonym. This work at once obtained popular favour. In 1858 he published a volume of translations of the Poems and Ballads of Goethe, and this was followed by a rendering of the Danish poet Henrik Hertz’s lyric drama, King René’s Daughter.

The principal character in this drama, Iolanthe, was sustained by Helena Faucit (q.v.), who in 1851 became the author’s wife. Martin’s translations of Öhlenschläger’s dramas, Correggio (1854) and Aladdin, or the Wonderful Lamp (1857), widened the fame of the Danish poet in England. In 1860 appeared Martin’s metrical translation of the Odes of Horace; and in 1870 he wrote a volume on Horace for the series of “Ancient Classics for English Readers.” In 1882 his Horatian labours were concluded by a translation of the poet’s whole works, with a life and notes, in two volumes. A poetical translation of Catullus was published in 1861, followed by a privately printed volume of Poems, Original and Translated, in 1863. Then came translations of the Vita Nuova of Dante, and the first part of Goethe’s Faust. A metrical translation of the second part of Faust appeared in 1866. Martin wrote a memoir of his friend Aytoun in 1867, and while engaged upon this work he was requested by Queen Victoria, to whom he was introduced by his friend Sir Arthur Helps, to undertake the Life of His Royal Highness the Prince Consort. The first volume of this well-known work was published in 1874.

In 1878 Martin’s translation of Heine’s Poems and Ballads appeared. Two years later the Life of the Prince Consort was brought to a successful conclusion by the publication of the fifth volume. A knighthood was then conferred upon him. In the following November he was elected lord rector of the university of St Andrews. Martin’s Life of Lord Lyndhurst, based upon papers furnished by the family, was published in 1883. In 1889 appeared The Song of the Bell, and other Translations from Schiller, Goethe, Uhland, and Others; in 1804 Madonna Pia, a Tragedy, and three Other Dramas; a translation of Leopardi’s poems in 1905; and in 1901 he published a biography of his wife. The kindly relations which subsisted between Queen Victoria and Sir Theodore Martin were continued after the completion of the Life of the prince consort up to the queen’s death. Sir Theodore’s account of these relations was privately printed in 1902, and, with King Edward’s consent, for general publication in 1908. This little book, Queen Victoria as I knew her, throws a good deal of light on the Queen’s character and private life. Sir Theodore Martin died on the 18th of August 1909.(1)

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Notes and References

  1. Encyclopedia Britannica (11th Edition)

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  • Article Name: Theodore Martin
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  • Description: Life and Work Theodore Martin (1816-1909), British author and translator, the son of a solicitor, was born at Edinburgh on [...]

This entry was last updated: November 3, 2016



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