Read RICHARD MAITLAND, EARL OF LAUDERDALE of The Lives of the Poets of Great Britain and Ireland (1753) Vol. V, free online book, by Theophilus Cibber, on

This learned nobleman was nephew to John, the great duke of Lauderdale, who was secretary of state to King Charles II for Scotch affairs, and for many years had the government of that kingdom entirely entrusted to him.  Whoever is acquainted with history will be at no loss to know, with how little moderation he exercised his power; he ruled his native country with a rod of iron, and was the author of all those disturbances and persécutions which have stained the Annals of Scotland, during that inglorious period.

As the duke of Lauderdale was without issue-male of his own body, he took our author into his protection as his immediate heir, and ordered him to be educated in such a manner as to qualify him for the possession of those great employments his ancestors enjoyed in the state.  The improvement of this young nobleman so far exceeded his years, that he was very early admitted into the privy council, and made lord justice clerk, anno 1681.  He married the daughter of the earl of Argyle, who was tried for sedition in the state, and confined in the castle of Edinburgh.  When Argyle found his fate approaching, he meditated, and effected his escape; and some letters of his being intercepted and decyphered, which had been written to the earl of Lauderdale, his lordship fell under a cloud, and was stript of his preferments.  These letters were only of a familiar nature, and contained nothing but domestic business; but a correspondence with a person condemned, was esteemed a sin in politics not to be forgiven, especially by a man of the Duke of York’s furious disposition.

Though the duke of Lauderdale had ordered our author to be educated as his heir, yet he left all his personal estate, which was very great, to another, the young nobleman having, by some means, disobliged him; and as he was of an ungovernable implacable temper, could never again recover his favour.  Though the earl of Lauderdale was thus removed from his places by the court, yet he persisted in his loyalty to the Royal Family, and, upon the revolution, followed the fortune of King James II, and some years after died in France, leaving no surviving issue, so that the titles devolved on his younger brother.

While the earl was in exile with his Royal master, he applied his mind to the delights of poetry, and, in his leisure hours, compleated a translation of Virgil’s works.  Mr. Dryden, in his dedication of the Aeneis, thus mentions it; ’The late earl of Lauderdale, says he, sent me over his new translation of the Aeneis, which he had ended before I engaged in the same design.  Neither did I then intend it, but some proposals being afterwards made me by my Bookseller, I desired his lordship’s leave that I might accept them, which he freely granted, and I have his letter to shew for that permission.  He resolved to have printed his work, which he might have done two years before I could have published mine; and had performed it, if death had not prevented him.  But having his manuscript in my hands, I consulted it as often as I doubted of my author’s sense; for no man understood Virgil better than that learned nobleman.  His friends have yet another, and more correct copy of that translation by them, which if they had pleased to have given the public, the judges might have been convinced that I have not flattered him.’

Lord Lauderdale’s friends, some years after the publication of Dryden’s Translation, permitted his lordship’s to be printed, and, in the late editions of that performance, those lines are marked with inverted commas, which Dryden thought proper to adopt into his version, which are not many; and however closely his lordship may have rendered Virgil, no man can conceive a high opinion of that poet, contemplated through the medium of his Translation.

Dr. Trapp, in his preface to the Aeneis, observes, ’that his lordship’s Translation is pretty near to the original, though not so close as its brevity would make one imagine; and it sufficiently appears, that he had a right taste in poetry in general, and the Aeneid in particular.  He shews a true spirit, and, in many places, is very beautiful.  But we should certainly have seen Virgil far better translated, by a noble hand, had the earl of Lauderdale been the earl of Roscommon, and had the Scottish peer followed all the precepts, and been animated with the genius of the Irish.’

We know of no other poetical compositions of this learned nobleman, and the idea we have received from history of his character, is, that he was in every respect the reverse of his uncle, from whence we may reasonably conclude, that he possessed many virtues, since few statesmen of any age ever were tainted with more vices than the duke of Lauderdale.