Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Ozell, John
OZELL, JOHN (d. 1743), translator, son of John Ozell of a Leicestershire family, was educated at the free school of Ashby-de-la-Zouch, and subsequently at Christ's Hospital. He chose to enter an accountant's office rather than proceed to Cambridge and enter the church; and this preference, though it excited the derision of Theophilus Cibber and others of his biographers, enabled him 'to escape all those vicissitudes and anxieties in regard to pecuniary circumstances which too frequently attend on men of literary abilities.' He became auditor-general of the city and bridge accounts, and also of St. Paul's Cathedral and St. Thomas's Hospital. Notwithstanding this 'grave attention to business, he still retained an inclination for, and an attention to, even polite literature that could scarcely have been expected.' His attentions to literature took the form of a series of translations from foreign classics which were tolerably accurate and probably useful in their day, though, as Chalmers significantly says, 'it was his misfortune to undertake works of humour and fancy, which were qualities he seemed not to possess himself, and therefore could not do justice to in others.' Among his translations was one of Homer's 'Iliad,' done from the French of Madame Dacier, and dedicated to Richard Steele (5 vols., London, 12mo, 1712; also 1714 and 1734); this was doubtless the cause of Ozell being promoted to a mention in the 'Dunciad,' which provoked the following extraordinary advertisement in the 'Weekly Medley' for 5 Sept. 1729: 'As for my learning, the envious wretch [Pope] knew, and everybody knows, that the whole bench of bishops not long ago were pleased to give me a purse of guineas for discovering the erroneous translations of the Common Prayer in Portuguese, Spanish, French, Italian, &c. As for my genius, let Mr. Cleland show better verses in all Pope's works than Ozell's version of Boileau's "Lutrin" which the late Lord Halifax was so pleased with … Let him show better and truer poetry in the "Rape of the Lock" than in Ozell's "Rape of the Bucket," which because an ingenious author happened to mention in the same breath with Pope's, viz., "Let Ozell sing the Bucket, Pope the Lock," the little gentleman had like to have run mad, and Mr. Toland and Mr. Gildon publicly declared Ozell's translation of Homer to be as it was prior, so likewise superior to Pope's … (signed) John Ozell.' Pope responded in a satire of eight lines, called 'The Translator,' in which Rowe is also gibbeted as one of Ozell's chief sponsors. Swift seems to have shared his friend's opinion of Ozell's merit, as in his sardonic 'Introduction to Polite Conversation,' speaking of 'the footing upon which he stands with the present chief reigning wits,' he remarks: 'I cannot conceal without ingratitude the great assistance I have received from those two illustrious writers, Mr. Ozell and Captain Stevens. These and some others of distinguished eminence in whose company I have passed so many agreeable hours, as they have been the great refiners of our language, so it has been my chief ambition to imitate them;' and Swift elsewhere speaks of Ozell's 'Monthly Amusement,' generally some French novel or play indifferently translated. In 1728 John Bundy [q. v.] commenced issuing a translation of Catrou and Rouille's 'Roman History,' and thus anticipated Ozell, who considered that he had been ill-used, and gave vent to his irritation in some absurd squibs, 'The Augean Stables cleansed of Historical, Philological, and Geographical Trumpery,' and 'Ozell's Defence.' His only other original work was a rather amusing little volume, entitled 'Common Prayer not Common Sense, in several Places of the Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, French, Latin, and Greek Translations of the English Liturgy. Being a Specimen of Reflections upon the Omissions and Errors in the said translations,' London, 1722, 8vo. Ozell died at his house in Arundel Street on 15 Oct. 1743, and was buried in the church of St. Mary Aldermanbury.
'Though in reality,' says Cibber, 'Ozell was a man of very little genius, yet Mr. Coxeter asserts that his conversation was surprisingly pleasing, and that he had a pretty good knowledge of men and things.' His translations are certainly of mediocre quality. They include: l.'Monsieur de Porceaugnac; or Squire Trelooby,' from the French of Molière, 1704, 4to. 2. ' Characters Historical and Panegyrical of the greatest Men that have appeared in France,' from the French of C. Perrault, 1704, 8vo. 3. 'Lutrin . . .render'd into English from the French of Boileau,' 1708, 8vo (reissues in 1714 and 1752). 4. 'The Jealous Estremaduran,' from the Spanish of Cervantes, 1710, 8vo. 5. Le Clerc's Account of the Earl of Clarendon's History of the Civil Wars,' from the French, 1710, 8vo (pt. i. only). 6. ' Dialogue upon Colouring,' from the French of R. de Piles, 1711, 8vo. 7.'The Works of Monsieur Boileau... to which is prefixed his Life by Mr. Des Maizeaux,' 1712, 8vo. 8. 'Britannicus and Alexander the Great,' from the French of Racine, 1714, 12mo. 9. 'The Cid; or the Heroic Daughter,' from the French of Corneille, 1714, 12mo. 10. 'The Litigants: a Comedy,' from the French of Racine, 1715, 12mo. 11. 'The most celebrated Popish Ecclesiastical Romance; being the Life of Veronica of Milan,' from the French of Freyre (commenced by Geddes and completed by Ozell), 1716, 8vo. 12.'Cato of Utica: a Tragedy from the French of Des Champs,' 1716, 12mo ('damnably translated,' according to Pope). 13. 'Dissertation upon the Whigs and Tories,' from the French of Rapin Thoyras, 1717, 8vo. 14. 'Logic; or the Art of Thinking,' from the French of Nicole, 1717. 12mo. 15.'The Spanish Pole-Cat,' from the Spanish of Castillo Solorzano (commenced by Sir Roger L'Estrange), 1717. 12mo. 16. 'The Fair of Saint Germain,' from the French, 1718, 8vo. 17. 'Memoirs and Observations in his Travels over England,' from the French of Francis Maximilian Misson [q. v.], 1719, 8vo 18. 'Manlius Capitolinus: a Tragedy,' from the French of De la Fosse, 1719, 12mo. 19. 'The History of Don Quixote,' a revision of Motteux's translation, 1719, 12mo (reissued 1725, 1756, 1766, 1803). 20. 'The History of the Revolutions that happened in the Governments of the Roman Republic,' from the French of D'Aubeuf, 1720, 8vo (reissued 1721, 1724, 1732, 1740, 1770). 21. 'An Essay concerning the Weakness of the Human Understanding,' from the French of Huet, 1725, 8vo. 22. 'Spanish Amusements from the Spanish of Castillo Solorzano (commenced by L'Estrange), 1727, 12mo. 23. 'Persian Letters,' from the French of Montesquieu, 1730, 12mo. 24. 'The Cheats of Scapin,' from Molière, 1730. 12mo. 25. 'The Miser: a Comedy from Molière,' 1732, 8vo, 26. 'The Adventures of Telemachus,' translated from Fénelon, 1735, 8vo. 27. 'The Art of Pleasing in Conversation,' from the French of Ortigue de Vaumorière, 1736, 12mo. 28. 'The Works of Rabelais (Urquhart's translation), revised and compared with the new edition of M. Le Du Chat,' 1737, 12mo (reissued 1750, 1784, 1807, 1844, 1849). 29. 'The Life of Cervantes,' from the Spanish of Mayáns y Siscár, 1738, 8vo. 30. 'A Voyage into the Levant,' from the French of Pitton de Tournefort, 1741, 8vo. 31. 'Spanish Rhodomontades,' from the French of Brantôme, 1741, 8vo; 1744.[Chalmers's Biogr. Dict.; Baker's Biographia Dramatica; Nichols's Illustrations of Lit. Hist. ii. 726; Cibber's lives of the Poets, iv. 352-5; Jacob's Lives of Dramatic Poets, p. 198; Swift's Works, ed. Scott, vi. 165, ix. 376; Pope's Works, ed. Elwin and Courthope, iv. 322, 463-85, vi. 222. viii. 30; Chambers's Cyclopædia of Literature. i. 472; Gent. Mag. 1743. p. 554; Brit. Mus. Cat.]