Bellenden, John (fl.1533-1587) (DNB00)

BELLENDEN, or BALLENDEN, or BALLENTYNE, JOHN (fl. 1533–1587), poet, is generally supposed to have been a native of Haddington or of Berwick, and to have been born in the last decade of the fifteenth century. He matriculated as a student at the university of St. Andrews in 1508, as ‘of the Lothian nation.’ He proceeded from Scotland to Paris, and took the degree of D.D. at the Sorbonne. He was again in Scotland during the minority of James V. He brought over with him Hector Boece's ‘Historia Scotorum’ (Paris,1527), and, having gained access to the court of the young monarch, was admitted into high favour. He was appointed by the king to translate into the Scottish vernacular Boece's great work. This he did, and was engaged upon it from 1530 to 1531-2. His translation was delivered to the king in 1533, and appeared in 1536, and remains an interesting example of the Edinburgh press of the period. On the title-page of Boece, Bellenden is designated thus: ‘Translaitit laitly be Maister Johne Bellenden, archdene of Murray, channon of Ros’ (Moray and Ross). From various incidental expressions the folio must have been semi-privately printed for the king and nobles and special friends. The translation is a close yet original rendering. To it Bellenden added two poems of his own, one entitled ‘The Proheme to the Cosmographe,’ and the other ‘The Proheme of the History.’ He also wrote for it in prose an 'Epistil direckit be the Translatoure to the Kingis Grace.’ Some enemies apparently caused Bellenden to be dismissed from the royal service. He tells us in the first ‘Proheme’—

How that I was in seruice with the kyng
Put to his grace in zeris tenderest
  Clerk of his comptis.

But he adds—

Quhil hie inuy me from his seruice kest
  Be thaym that had the court in gouerning,
As bird bot plumes heryit of the nest.

His office at court as ‘clerk of his comptis’ included undoubtedly the superintendence of his sovereign s education.

Contemporaneous with, or perhaps immediately following upon, the translation of Boece, Bellenden was similarly commanded by the king to translate Livy. In the treasurer's accounts we have these entries—‘1533 July 26. Item to Maister John Ballentyne, in part payment of the translation of Titius Livius, 8l.;’ ‘1533, August 24°. To Maister John Ballentyne, in part payment of the secund buke of Titius Livius, 8l.;' ‘1533, Nouember 30°. To Maister John Ballentyne be the kinges precept for his laubores done in translating of Livie, 20l.’ This was the first version of a Roman classic executed in Britain. The ‘Livy’ was first published in 1822 by Maitland, Lord Dundrennan, uniform with his excellent reproduction of the ‘Boece,’ from the manuscript in the Advocates' Library, Edinburgh.

Bellenden has been supposed to have entered the service of Archibald, earl of Angus, because one of both his names was the earl's secretary in 1528; but according to Hume (History of the Houses of Douglas and Angus, p. 258) this was Sir John Bellenden, afterwards a distinguished lawyer and judge. The royal treasurer's accounts show that Bellenden received at various times considerable amounts. He was appointed archdeacon of Moray during the vacancy of the see, and about the same time canon of Ross. He also received the forfeited property of two clergymen convicted of treason. But in the succeeding reign, being an adherent to Roman catholicism, he opposed the reformation and fled beyond seas. Some accounts state that he died at Rome in 1550, but Lord Dundrennan alleges that he was certainly still alive in 1587.

[Bellenden's Works; Irving's Scottish Poets; Sibbald's Chronicle; Carmichael's Collection of Scottish Poems; Bannatyne MS. has poems by Bellenden, recently given in the Huntorian Society reproduction of the entire MS.]

A. B. G.