Arthur Golding’s Bio and Bibliography

ARTHUR GOLDING: Brief Biography and List of Works

By Barboura Flues copyright © 2002

The prolific translator Arthur Golding (1536-1606) was a younger son born into a family of considerable substance, especially within the influential Puritan ranks. Although his older brothers had attained considerable wealth, Golding’s life was one of financial insecurity, proof that literary fame during that period carried little commensurate monetary reward. Married, with seven children, the death of an older brother left him temporarily a wealthy man. The properties, however, had been mortgaged to the Queen; and other encumbrances finally drained the resources he had inherited.

Notwithstanding a large body of work and a number of wealthy and influential patrons, Golding’s finances reached a low ebb in 1593 when he was put into the Fleet Prison for debt. Possible help came from his family, and Louis Golding suggests that William Brooke, Lord Cobham (a close friend of Cecil), may have been of assistance [Golding, pp. 105-106]. Golding died in 1606, as noted in the Parish Register of Belchamp St.Paul’s (May 13, 1606): “Mr. Arthur Golding, Esquire.”

Golding dedicated to Sir William Cecil his first publication, Aretine’s History of the Wars between the Imperials and the Goths for the possession of Italy (1563). This was the first of five classical translations that were to bring him fame.

In 1564 he dedicated to his young nephew the Earl of Oxford, Cecil’s ward, a translation of Justine’s Abridgement of Trogus Pompeius, urging him to let the example of classic heroes “encourage you to proceed in learning and virtue and yourself thereby become equal to any of your predecessors in advancing the honor of your noble house.” [Golding, An Elizabethan Puritan, p. 48]

Abraham’s Sacrifice is Golding’s only known dramatic work.

Arthur Golding’s Translation of Ovid’s Metamorphoses

In 1565 Golding published the first four books of the work that was to insure lasting fame: his translation of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, dedicated to the Earl of Leicester. Notably the Puritan included in both the Dedication and an accompanying Preface suitable admonishments to the reader to read these racy stories in a manner that would ensure the appropriate moral lessons.

The success of Golding’s charming translation was perhaps inevitable in an age so newly dedicated to the classical tradition. What was surprising in the translation was an innovation unexpected from the staid and (in his other works) stolidly unimaginative Golding. In poetry far inferior in quality to that of the master whose work he was translating, and often inaccurate in rendering the original Latin, Golding transformed a graceful, elegant account of the adventures of the classical gods and goddesses into bawdy and irreverent stories of the adventures and misadventures of a mad cast of characters closely resembling English country type of the 16th century. Hunters hunt and are hunted; the gods and nobles as country gentry plot, sin, are punished, repent, sin again; the peasants cope as best they can, sometimes with simple dignity, sometimes with clownish excess. In short, the Metamorphoses is in some passages a very funny book; in others it achieves genuine excitement and/or pathos as its muddled characters try to respond to situations beyond their comprehension, such as: why am I turning into a deer? Through Golding’s muse the stately gods and goddesses have metamorphosed once again, into stock rustic characters suitable to Gammer Gurton’s Needle or Ralph Roister Doister.

Golding’s poetic abilities seem unsuited to his accomplishment. The meter is often forced and uncertain, its irregular pauses, interpolations and awkward inversions of syntax contrasting starkly with the irreproachable competence of Ovid. Rhyming is similarly awkward, relying on inversions, varying pronunciations of the same word, sometimes even using repetition of a word to achieve the desired rhyme. But these irregularities may well add to the robust vitality of the work at its best. The classicists Wilkinson and Thompson lament the transformation of Ovid’s elegant masterpiece, missing the excitement and humor of Golding’s exuberant folly. In the story of Actaeon, the story seems to explode beyond the bounds of its genre, the pathos of Actaeon’s situation evoking an empathetic response that is suddenly transformed to the excitement of the hunt: the reader (as the hunted Actaeon) becomes the hunter glorying in the fierce onslaught of that famous pack. In other passages it is hard to determine the author’s intent. The story of Baucis and Philemon is dignified, restrained, and touching. Pyramus and Thisbe, on the other hand, are almost as funny as their counterparts in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, while the crazed sexual cravings of Byblis and her sinful counterparts in other parts of the Metamorphoses, told in prosaic terms that completely belie their lunatic yearnings, pose a clear question. Was the author completely sincere, as constant denunciations of such “filthy lusts” seems to indicate, or is this entire work based on a concept of parody and/or satire not seen again until the 20th-century advent of such authors as St. John Erskine, Alfred Duggan, Maurice Druon, and above all Robert Graves?

Golding and Edward Vere, Earl of Oxford

Titus Andronicus (IV.1) Young LUCIUS: Grandsire, ’tis Ovid’s Metamorphoses; mother gave it me.

During much of the period of its composition, the translator of the Metamorphoses was living at the estate of William Cecil, guardian of Golding’s young ward Edward Vere, the Earl of Oxford. This association is important especially to those dedicated to the theory that Oxford was the author of the works of Shakespeare. It has been theorized that Golding was his nephew’s tutor: the evidence shows only that Oxford’s tutors were the famed Sir Thomas Smith and Lawrence Nowell, Dean of Litchfield. However, Oxford’s close relationship with Golding is evident in recorded fact: the dedications to Oxford of translations of Aretine’s History (1563) and of The Psalmes of David and others, With M. John Calvins Commentaries (1571). The letter dedicatory to the Psalmes expresses Golding’s fear that Oxford might desert the Protestant religion, saying: “But if you should become either a counterfeit Protestant or a professed Papist or a cool and careless neuther (which God forbid) the harm could not be expressed which you should do to your native country,” warning that “the devil hath more shapes than Proteus; first and foremost, the obstinate-hearted Papists, the sworn enemies of God, the pestilent poisons of mankind, and the very welsprings of all errors, hypocrisy and ungraciousness” [Golding, pp. 65-667]

The theory that Oxford worked with Golding on the Metamorphoses, or even composed the entire work, is conjecture, to be fully embraced only upon appropriate comparative analysis of the works of Oxford, Golding and Shakespeare. That he would have been aware of this momentous project by a favored relative and possible father-figure during its creation cannot be doubted; that he exerted influence on least parts of the text is demonstrable: names inserted into the famed pack of Actaeon are directly traceable to place-names at Castle Hedingham, the Oxford family seat. This does not prove Oxfordian authorship; the impoverished uncle may well have placed within his epic a device to increase the interest of his wealthy young relative.

Louis Thorn Golding [p. 131] suggests a falling-out between Oxford and Golding, possibly because Golding disapproved of his nephew’s profligate ways. Golding seems to have turned to the Leicester-Sidney faction (leaders of the Puritan cause) for patronage; religious and or political differences, financial need, and Oxford’s increasingly erratic behavior and reduced resources, might have facilitated a rift with his nephew.

Whatever the Golding/Oxford relationship, it cannot be doubted that Golding’s bumptious, exciting and possibly irreverent masterpiece must have pleased enormously his young nephew and other English youths heretofore exposed to the concept of the classics as dull, drab matter to be studied for attainment of competence in language, history and rhetorical expertise. Sexual excitement and adventure (modified by Golding’s cautious and possibly prudish sensibility) had previously been found more often in the Bible, religious drama, and the colorful and often inflammatory harangues and religious debates of the pulpit.

Published Works

A briefe treatise concerning the burnynge of Bucer and Phagius at Cambrydge, in the tyme of Queene Mary, with theyr restitution in the time of our moste gracious souerayne Lady that nowe is. Wherein is expressed the fantasticall & tirannous dealynges of the Romishe Church, togither with the godly,& modest regimet of the true Christian Church, most slaunderouslye diffamed in those dayes of heresye. Translated from the Latin. Thomas Marsh, original member of the Stationers Company, Printer. 16 Mo. London, 1562.

The history of Leonard Aretine, concerning the warres betweene the Imperialles & the Gothes for the possession of Italy: a worke very pleasant & profitable. Translated out of Latin into English by Arthur Goldyng. Dedicated “To Sir William Sicill Knighte principall Secretarie to the Queenes Maiestie, and Maister of her hyghnesse Court of wardes & liueries. Finished at your house in ye Strond the second of Aprill. 1563. Arthur Golding.” Rowland Hall, printer. 16 Mo. 360 pages. London, 1563. [note: A fanciful interpretation of the wars between the Latins and the Goths was the major subject of Shakespeare’s play Titus Andronicus, major source unknown.]

Thabridgemente of the Historie of Trogius Pompeius, gathered & written in the Laten tung, by the famous Historiographer Iustine, and translated into Englishe by Arthur Goldinge: a worke conteyning briefly great plentye of moste delectable Historyes, and notable examples, worthy not only to be Read, but also to bee embraced & followed by al men. Dedicated “To the right Hon. — Edward de Veer, Erle of Oxinforde L. great Chamberlayne of England, Vicount Bulbeck, &c.” Thomas Marsh, printer. Quarto, 400 pages, London, 1564. Reprinted in 1570, 1578.

The Fyrst Fower Bookes of P. Ouidius Nasos Worke, intitled Metamorphosis, translated oute of Latin into English meter. Dedicated to Robert, Earl of Leicester, from Cecil-House, December 23, 1564. Willyam Seres, printer. Quarto. 106 pages. London, 1565.

The eyght bookes of Caius Iulius Caesar conteyning his Martiall exploytes in the Realme of Gallia and the Countries bordering vppon the same, translated oute of latin into English by Arthur Goldinge, G. It is dedicated “To the ryghte honorable Syr William Cecill knight, principal Secretarye to the Queenes Maiestie, and maister of her highnes Courtes of wardes and liueries. — At Powles Belchamp the xii. of October. Anno. 1565. — Arthur Golding.” Willyam Seres, printer. Octavo. 544 pages. London, 1565. Reprinted by Thomas Easte in 1590.

The XV Bookes of P. Ouidius Naso, entytled Metamorphosis, translated oute of Latin into English meeter. Dedicated “To Robert, Earl of Leicester, from Barwicke, the xx. of Aprill, 1567.” Willyam Seres, printer. Quarto. 400 pages. London, 1567. Reprinted in 1575 by Seres; 1584 by John Windet and Thomas Judson; 1587 by B. Waldegrave; 1593 by John Danter; 1593 by W. W. (William White); 1603 by W. W.; 1612 by Thomas Purfoot.

John Caluin his Treatise concerning offences, whereby at this day diuers are feared, & many also quite withdrawen from the pure doctrine of the Gospell: a worke very needful and profitable, transl. out of Latine. Willyam Seres, printer. Octavo. London, 1567.

A Posthill, or Expositions of the Gospel read in the Churches of God on Sundayes & feast dayes of Saincts. “Written by Nich. Heminge, and translated into English by Arth. Goldinge.” Dedicated “To Sir Walter Myldmay Knight, &c, London, the xij of October, 1569.” Then, a warning “Too all servants of God, and Ministers of Jesu Chryst, — within the famous Realmes of Denmarke and Norway by Nich. Heminge, Minister of the Gospell in the Vniusersitie of Hafnie. — the xxx. of March, The yere since Chryst was borne. 1561.” H. Binneman, printer. Quarto. 690 pages. London, 1569. Reprinted 1574, 1577, 1579.

A Postil or orderly disposing of certeine Epistles vsually red in the Church of God vppon the Sundayes & Holydayes throughout the whole yeere. Written in Latin by Dauid Chytraeus and translated into English by Arthur Golding. Dedicated “To Sir Walter Myldmay Knight, Chancelour of the — Exchequer, &c. — Finished at Powles Belchamp, the last day of March, 1570.” H. Binneman, printer. Quarto. 489 pages. London, 1571. Reprinted 1577.

The Psalmes of Dauid and others. With M. John Caluins Commentaries. Anno Do. MDLXXI. Dedicated “To Lord Edw. De Vere Erle of Oxinford, by Arth. Golding, the translator.” 20 Octo. 1571. In two parts: the first of 574 pages, the second of 518. Tho. East and H. Middleton, printers. London, 1571. Reprinted in 1576. The entire work can be found on the Internet at []

A Booke of Christian Question and answers. Wherein are set forth the cheef points of the Christian religion in manner of an abridgement. A worke right necessary and profitable for al such as shal haue to deal with the captious quarelinges and the wrangling aduersaries of Gods truth. Written in Latin by the lerned clarke Theodore Beza Vezelius, and newly translated into Englishe by Arthur Goldinge. Dedicated “To Lorde Henry Earle of Huntingdon, Baron Hastinges, Knight of — the Garter. — London, the 12. of June, 1572.” W. How, printer. Octavo. 180 pages. London, 1572. Reprinted in 1574, 1577, 1578.

A Confutation Of the Popes Bull which was published more than two yeres agoe against Elizabeth the most gracious queene of England, Fraunce and Ireland, and against the noble Realme of England: together with a defence of the sayd true Christian Queene, and of the whole Realme of England. By Henry Bullenger the Elder. Translated from the Latin and dedicated to the Earl of Leicester. John Day, printer. Quarto. 172 pages. London, 1572.

ORIGINAL. A Brief Discourse of the Murther of Master George Sanders, a worshipful citizen of London. H. Binneman, printer. Octavo. 30 pages. London, 1573-77.

The benefit that Christians receyue by Iesus Christ crucified. Translated our of French into English, by A. G. It has two epistles prefixed: one, To the English Reader; in which states that the treatise was first written in Italian, and printed at Venice, after that translated into French, and printed at Lions: the other, to all Christians vnder Heaven. Thomas Dawson, printer, for Lucas Harrison and G. Bishop. Octavo. London, 1573. Reprinted by Dawson for Thomas Woodcock and G. Bishop, 1580. [accreditation probable but not certain]

Sermons of M. John Caluine vpon the Epistle of Saincts Paule to the Galathians. Dedicated “To Sir William Cecill knight, &c. Written at my lodging in the forestreet without Cripplegate the 14. of Nouember, 1574. Arthur Golding.” H. Middleton, printer. Quarto. 658 pages. London, 1574.

Sermons by M. John Caluin vpon the Booke of Job. Translated out of French. Dedicated “the last of December 1573” to Robert, Earl of Leicester. H. Binneman, printer. Large folio. 751 pages. London, 1574. Reprinted 1580, 1584.

A Catholike Exposition vpon the Reuelation of Sainct John. Collected by M. Augustine Marlorate, out of diuers notable Writers. Dedicated to Sir Water Mildmay. “Finished at my lodging in London the last day of August 1574.” H. Binneman, printer. Quarto. 636 pages. London, 1574,

The Testamentes of the twelue Patriarches, the Sonnes of Jacob: translated out of Greeke into Latine by Robert Grosthed, sometime bishop of Licolne, and out of hys copy into French and Dutch by others: Now englished by A. G. To the credit whereof an auncient Greeke copy written in Parchment, is kept in the Vniuersity of Cambridge. John Day, printer. 12 Mo. 154 pages. London, 1575, 1581. Reprinted in 1589 by Richard Day and in 1590 by the “assigns” of Richard Day. [credited to Anthony Gilby in the British Museum Catalogue]

A Justification of cleering of the Prince of Orendge, agaynst the false Sclaunders wherwith his Illwillers goe about to charge him wrongfully. John Day, printer. Octavo. 188 pages. London, 1575.

The Warfare of Christians: Concerning the conflict against the Fleshe, the World, and the Deuill. Dedicated to Sir William Drewrie. H. Binneman, printer. Octavo. 75 pages. London, 1576.

The Lyfe of the most godly valeant and noble capteine & maintener of the trew Christian Religion in Fraunce, Jasper Colignie Shatilion sometyme greate Admirall of Fraunce. (Written by Jean de Serres). Translated out of Latin. Thomas Vautroullier, printer. Octavo, London, 1576.

An Edict, or Proclamation set forthe by the Frenche Kinge vpon the Pacifying of the Troubles in Fraunce, with the Articles of the Same Pacification: Read and published in the presence of the sayd King, sitting i his Parliament, the XIIIJ day of May, 1576. Translated out of Frenche. Thomas Vautroullier, printer. 16 Mo. 64 pages. London, 1576.

The Sermons of M. John Caluin vpon the Epistle of S. Paule too the Ephesians. Translated out of French into English by Arth. Golding. Dedicated “To Edmund — Archbishop of Canterbury, &c. — At Clare in Suffolke, the vii of January, 1576.” “To all Christians baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Sonne, and of the holy Ghost, dwelling or abyding in Fraunce. Your brethren in our Lord, the causers of these sermons too bee brought to lyght.” H. Middleton, printer. Quarto. 694 pages. London, 1577.

A Tragedie of Abraham’s Sacrifice. (Illustrated), Written in french by Theodore Beza. … Finished at Pouules Belchamp in Essex, the XI. of August, 1575. Thomas Vautroullier, printer. Octavo. 63 pages. London, 1577.

The woorke of the excellent Philosopher Lucius Annaeus Seneca concerning Benefyting, that is to say the dooing, receyuing, and requyting of good Turnes. Translated out of Latin by Arthur Golding. Dedicated “To the right honorable Sir Christopher Hatton Knight, Capiteine of the Queenes Maiesties Gard, vice chamberlaine to her highnesse, and one of her — priuie Counsell. Written at my House in the Parish of All Hallowes in the Wall in London the xvii. day of Marche, 1577.” John Day, printer. Quarto. 240 pages. London, 1578.

ORIGINAL. Πdiscourse vpon the Earthquake that hapned throughe this realme of England and other places of Christendom, the sixt of Aprill, 1580, between the hours of five and six in the evening. H. Binneman, printer. Octavo. 25 pages. London, 1580.

The Joyful and Royal entertainment of the ryght High and mightie Prince, Francis the Frenche Kings only brother, Duke of Brabande at his entry into his noble citie of Antwerpe. Thomas Woodcock, printer. Octavo. London, 1582.

The Sermons of M. John Calvin vpon the fifth booke of Moses, called Deuteronomie: Faithfully gathered word for word as he preached them in open Pulpit; together with a preface of the Ministers of the Church of Geneua, and an admonishment made by the Deacons there: Also there are annexed two profitable Tables, one containing the chiefe matters, the other the places of Scripture herein alledged. Translated out of French by Arth. Golding. Dedicated ” To Syr Thomas Bromley Knight, Lord Chancelour of England, & c — 21 Dec. 1582.” H. Middleton, printer. Folio. 1397 pages of which the sermons occupy 1247. London, 1583.

The Rare and Singular worke of Pomponius Mela, That excellent and worthy Cosmographer, of the situation of the world … with the Longitude and Latitude of euerie Kingdome, Regent, Prouince, Riuers, Mountaines, Citties and Countries. Dedicated to Sir William Cecil, Lord Burghley, on Feb. 6, 2584-5. Thomas Hackett, printer. Quarto. 248 pages. London, 1585. Also in 1590 together with the Julius Solinus. Editions were also published in 1711, 1719, 1739, 1761, and 1775, all Quartos with maps.

The excellent and Pleasant Worke of Iulus Solinus Polyhistor. Contayning the noble actions of humaine creatures, the secretes & prouidence of nature, the description of Countries, the maners of the people: with many maruailous things and strange antiquities, seruing for the benefit and recreation of all sort of persons. Translated out of Latin into English by Arth. Golding, Gent. I. Charlewood, printer. Quarto. London, 1587.

A woorke concerning the Trewnesse of the Christian Religion, written in French; Against Atheists, Epicures, Paynims, Iewes, Mahumetists, &c. By Philip of Mornay, Lord of Plessie Marlie. Begunne to be translated by Sir Philip Sidney, knight, and at his request finished by Arth. Golding. Dedicated to Robert, Earl of Leicester. George Robinson, printer. Quarto. 552 pages. London, 1587. Reprinted 1592 by Robert Robinson. Revised and corrected by Thomas Wilcocks and dedicated to Henry Frederick Prince of Wales, it was reprinted by George Potter in 1604 and by George Purslowe in 1617.

Politicke, Morall and Martial Discourses. Written in French by M. Iaques Hurault, lord of Vieul & of Marais, and one of the French kings priuie Councell. Dedicated “To William Lord Cobham, warden of the Cinque ports, &c.” 27, Jan. 1595. Adam, Islip, printer. Quarto. 495 pages. London, 1595.

A Godly and Fruteful Prayer, with an Epistle to the right rev. John (Aylmer) bishop of London, from the Latin of Abraham Fleming. T. Purfoot, printer. Octavo. London, not dated.

Epitome of Frossard’s Chronicles written in Latin by John Sleydane. T. Purfoot, printer. Quarto. 215 pages. London, 1608, 1611.

Source: Louis Thorn Golding. An Elizabethan Puritan. New York: Richard R. Smith, 1937.