A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature/Harrington, James

Harrington, James (1611-1677). -- Political theorist, s. of Sir Sapcotes H., was b. at Upton, Northamptonshire, and ed. atpage 179 Oxf., where he was a pupil of Chillingworth. After leaving the university he travelled on the Continent, visiting, among other places, The Hague and Venice, where he imbibed republican principles. He was for some time a groom of the bedchamber to Charles I. On the outbreak of the Civil War he sided with the Parliament, but disapproved of the execution of the King, for whom he appears, notwithstanding his political theories, to have cherished a personal attachment. Thereafter he withdrew from active life, and devoted himself to composing his political romance (as it may be called) of Oceana, which he pub. in 1656, and in which Oceana represents England, Marpesia Scotland, and Panopæa Ireland. In this work he propounds the theory that the natural element of power in states is property, of which land is the most important. He further endeavoured to propagate his views by establishing a debating society called the Rota, and by his conversations with his friends. After the Restoration he was confined in the Tower, and subsequently at Plymouth. He issued several defences of Oceana, and made translations from Virgil. In his later years he laboured under mental delusions. Aubrey describes him as of middle stature, strong, well-set, with quick, fiery hazel eyes, and thick curly hair.