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John Barclay
John Barclay by Claude Mellan
Born28 January 1582
Died15 August 1621 (aged 39)
Notable workArgenis

John Barclay (28 January 1582 – 15 August 1621) was a Scottish writer, satirist and Neo-Latin poet.


He was born in Pont-à-Mousson, Lorraine, France, where his Scottish-born father, William Barclay, held the chair of civil law. His mother was a Frenchwoman. His early education was obtained at the Jesuit College at Pont-a-Mousson. While there, at the age of nineteen, he wrote a commentary on the Thebaid of Statius.[1]

The Jesuits endeavored to induce him to join their order; but his father refused to give his consent and took him to England in 1603. Barclay had persistently maintained his Scottish nationality in his French surroundings, and probably found in James VI and I's accession an opportunity which he would not let slip. In early 1604 John Barclay presented James with a Latin poem, "Kalendae Januariae", and afterward dedicated to him the first part of his Euphormionis Satyricon (Euphormionis Lusinini Satyricon) against the Jesuits. He returned to France by 1605, when a second edition of that book appeared in Paris, having spent some time in Angers. He was the husband of a Frenchwoman, Louise Debonaire. Barclay and his wife returned to London in 1606, and there published his Sylvae, a collection of Latin poems. In 1607 the second part of the Satyricon appeared in Paris. In 1616 he went to Rome and resided there until his death on 15 August 1621, aged 39.[1] His departure from England may have been prompted by the threat that his children would be brought up as Protestants, since they had been born in England. To the Catholic Barclay, this was unacceptable. In addition he may have been seeking a more generous patron than the somewhat parsimonious King James. In fact Barclay received a pension of some 150 pounds from the Pope.[2] He wrote his major novel, Argenis, in Rome and, according to his contemporaries, indulged in gardening. He was a member of several learned and literary societies in Rome, including the Accademia dei Lincei.[3] His wife outlived him and died in 1652. One son became bishop of Toul in France and survived until 1673.[4]


In 1609 Barclay edited the De Potestate Papae, an anti-papal treatise by his father, who had died in the preceding year. In 1611 he issued an Apologia or "third part" of the Satyricon, in answer to the attacks of the Jesuits. A so-called "fourth part," with the title of Icon Animorum, describing the character and manners of the European nations, appeared in 1614.[1]

He appears to have been on better terms with the Church and notably with Robert Bellarmine, for in 1617 he issued, from a press at Rome, a Paraenesis ad Sectarios, an attack on the position of Protestantism. Later editions were published in Cologne. The literary effort of his closing years was his best-known work the Argenis, a political romance, resembling in certain respects the Arcadia of Philip Sidney, and the Utopia of Thomas More. The book was completed about a fortnight before his death, which has been said to have been hastened by poison.[1]

Richard Crashaw's poem, "Description of a Religious House and Condition of Life", beginning, "No roofs of gold o'er riotous tables shining,/Whole days and suns devour'd with endless dining;" was translated "Out of Barclay."[5]


  1. ^ a b c d Chisholm 1911.
  2. ^ John Barclay (2004) Argenis, Mark Riley and Dorothy Pritchard Huber (ed.). Uitgeverij Van Gorcum. ISBN 0866983163.
  3. ^ accessed9/7/2017
  4. ^ John Barclay (2013) Icon Animorum, Mark Riley (ed.). Leuven University Press. ISBN 9789058679451.
  5. ^ Richard Crashaw (1914), The Religious Poems of Richard Crashaw, Roehampton, England: Manresa Press, p. 122.

Further reading

4 Annotations

First Reading

Michael Robinson  •  Link

John Barclay -- Catholic Encyclopedia

Author of the political novel "Argenis" and other Latin works in prose and verse, was b. 28 January, 1582, at Pont-à-Mousson; d. in Rome, August, 1621. His father was William Barclay. John Barclay received his early schooling from the Jesuits, and at the age of nineteen he published a commentary on the "Thebais" of Statius. In 1603 father and son, perhaps attracted by the union of the Scotch and English crowns, tried their fortunes in London. The son dedicated to James his "Euphormionis Lusinini Satyricon". After a brief stay in France, John returned to England in 1605.


Terry F  •  Link

"John Barclay (January 28, 1582 -- August 15, 1621) was a Scottish satirist and Latin poet....The literary effort of his closing years was his best-known work the Argenis, a political romance, resembling in certain respects the Arcadia of Sidney, and the Utopia of More, completed about a fortnight before his death, which has been said to have been hastened by poison."…

Second Reading

Bill  •  Link

BARCLAY (John), son of the preceding [William Barclay], born in France, 1582, at Pontamousson, where his father was professor. He studied under the Jesuits, who became so fond of him, on account of his capacity and genius, that they used their utmost endeavours to engage him in their society, which was the reason of his father's breaking with them, and of his retiring with his son to England. Soon after his arrival in England, John Barclay wrote a Latin poem on the coronation of King James, and in 1603 dedicated the first part of his "Euphormio" to his majesty. The king was highly pleased with these two pieces, and would have been glad to have retained young Barclay in England; but his father, not finding things answer his expectations, took a resolution of returning to France, and being afraid of his son's becoming a Protestant, he insisted on his going along with him. John continued at Angers till the death of his father, when he removed to Paris, where he married, and soon after went to London. After ten years residence in London, he went to Paris again. The year following he went to Rome, being invited thither by Pope Paul V. from whom he received many civilities, as he did likewise from Cardinal Bellarmin. He died at Rome, 1621.
---A New and General Biographical Dictionary. 1793.

Bill  •  Link

BARCLAY, JOHN (1582-1621), author of the 'Argenis,' born at Pont-a-Mousson; perhaps educated by jesuits; lived in London, 1606-16, and in Rome, 1616-21; published 'Satyricon,' 1603-7, 'Sylvas ' (Latin poems). 1606, 'Icon Animorum,' 1614, and 'Argenis,' a Latin satire on political faction and conspiracy, 1621.
---Dictionary of National Biography: Index and Epitome. S. Lee, 1906.

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Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.



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