Biography of Scottish Prodigy James The Admirable Crichton Part 2

About the Scottish intellectual prodigy James Crichton, history and biography of the young man who excelled in alll things.


JAMES "THE ADMIRABLE" CRICHTON (1560-1582), Intellectual prodigy

In Padua in 1581, Crichton heightened his fame by writing Latin verses. He dedicated one ode to his friend Manutius. Also while in Padua, he clashed with several university professors concerning their interpretations of Aristotle, and he demonstrated that the mathematics of these scholars was faulty.

In 1582 the young Crichton entered the service of the Duke of Mantua, offering advice and recommendations on the fortifications of the ducal palace. Some sources indicate that Crichton became the tutor of the duke's son, Vincenzo Gonzaga, while others claim that the Scot served only as a member of the duke's council.

There is general agreement, however, that Crichton did usurp the affections of Prince Vincenzo's mistress, thus angering the young Gonzaga. It appears that on the night of July 3, 1582, Crichton was attacked by masked swordsmen on the streets of Mantua. One account says, "Walking one night through the streets of Mantua, returning from a visit he had paid his mistress, and playing, as he went along, his guitar, he found himself suddenly attacked by a riotous company of persons in masks."

He routed all but one, who, when unmasked, proved to be Prince Vincenzo. Surprised, Crichton "instantly dropped upon one knee and taking his sword by the point, with romantic devotion, presented it to the prince, his master. Vincenzo . . . received Crichton's sword and instantly, with equal meanness and brutality, employed It in piercing [the] defenseless and injured [Crichton] through the heart."

According to another source, "The whole court wore mourning for him full three quarters of a year together; his funeral was very stately, and on his hearse were stuck more epitaphs, elegies, threnodies, and epicediums than, if digested into one book, would have outbulk't all Homer's works. . . ."

In 1603 a Scottish poet, John Johnston, in his Heroes Scoti, used the epithet "the Admirable Crichton," a term used frequently thereafter to describe not only the Scottish prodigy whose youthful life ended so tragically, but also any precocious individual. The original prototype should not be confused with James Barrie's butler in The Admirable Crichton.

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