HOBY, Sir Thomas

Traveler, diplomat, and Italianist, Sir Thomas Hoby translated into English early modern Europe s most important conduct book, The Courtier of Count Baldesar Castiglione.* Hoby was born into a prominent Herefordshire family in 1530 and at the age of fifteen matriculated at St. John's College, Cambridge. Though he did not take a degree, in his two years at Cambridge Hoby came into contact with some of the leading English humanists of the sixteenth century, including the Protestant reformers John Cheke and Roger Ascham.*
In 1547 Hoby set off for the Continent as an educational traveler, no doubt intending to follow in the steps of his half brother Sir Philip Hoby, an established diplomat. In France he stayed with the Protestant theologian Martin Bucer,* whose polemic against Bishop Stephen Gardiner Hoby later translated into En­glish. Hoby then made his way to Italy, where he remained until 1550, traveling extensively and gaining fluency in the Italian language.
Two important literary endeavors came from his European sojourn: a record of his travels and his famous 1561 translation of Castiglione s Il cortegiano, which Hoby rendered as The Courtyer of Count Baldessar Castilio, Divided into Foure Bookes. His journal, A Booke of the Travaile and Life of Me, Thomas Hoby, which was not published until the twentieth century, documents many aspects of educational travel in the sixteenth century and is one of the best firsthand accounts of conditions in Italy during this period.
Hoby's translation of Castiglione's book was hugely influential in Renais­sance England. The work went into five editions by the end of the Elizabethan period and inspired numerous imitations and adaptations well into the next two centuries. It became the central text in a decades- or even centuries-long cultural debate to define the grace, duty, and morality essential to the ideal courtier. Though Hoby was an able linguist, his translation does not always convey the grace, playfulness, and deliberate ambiguity of Castiglione s original. Nonethe­less, scholars have tended to concur that he successfully anglicized a work and a social ideal that needed some degree of domestication in order to take root in England.
In the 1550s and 1560s Hoby continued to travel in various diplomatic ca­pacities, and in March 1566 he was knighted in preparation for a mission to France. He died unexpectedly during that embassy, in Paris on 13 July 1566.
S. J. Masello, "Thomas Hoby: A Protestant Traveler to Circe's Court," Cahiers Elisabethains 27 (1985): 67-81. E. Powell, "Introduction," in The Travels and Life ofSir Thomas Hoby, Kt. ofBisham Abbey, Written by Himself, 1547-1564, Camden Miscellany 10, no. 2, 1902.
Thomas G. Olsen

Renaissance and Reformation 1500-1620: A Biographical Dictionary. . 2001.

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