A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature, by John W. Cousin


Occam or Ockham, William (1270?-1349?). — Schoolman, born at Ockham, Surrey, studied at Oxford and Paris, and became a Franciscan. As a schoolman he was a Nominalist and received the title of the Invincible Doctor. He attacked the abuses of the Church, and was imprisoned at Avignon, but escaped and spent the latter part of his life at Munich, maintaining to the last his controversies with the Church, and with the Realists. He was a man of solid understanding and sense, and a masterly logician. His writings, which are of course all in Latin, deal with the Aristotelean philosophy, theology, and specially under the latter with the errors of Pope John XXII., who was his bête-noir.

Occleve, (see Hoccleve).

Ockley, Simon (1678–1720). — Orientalist, born at Exeter, and ed. at Cambridge, became the greatest Orientalist of his day, and was made in 1711 Prof. of Arabic in his University. His chief work is the Conquest of Syria, Persia, and Egypt by the Saracens (3 vols., 1708–57), which was largely used by Gibbon. The original documents upon which it is founded are now regarded as of doubtful authority. O. was a clergyman of the Church of England.

O’keeffe, John (1747–1833). — Dramatist, wrote a number of farces and amusing dramatic pieces, many of which had great success. Among these are Tony Lumpkin in Town (1778), Wild Oats, and Love in a Camp. Some of his songs set to music by Arnold and Shield, such as I am a Friar of Orders Grey, and The Thorn, are still popular. He was blind in his later years.

Oldham, John (1653–1683). — Satirist and translator, son of a Nonconformist minister, was at Oxford, and was the friend of most of the literary men of his time, by whom his early death from smallpox was bewailed. He made clever adaptations of the classical satirists, wrote an ironical Satire against Virtue, and four severe satires against the Jesuits. He is cynical to the verge of misanthropy, but independent and manly.

Oldmixon, John (1673–1742). — Historical and miscellaneous writer, belonged to an old Somersetshire family, wrote some, now forgotten, dramas and poems which, along with an essay on criticism, in which he attacked Addison, Swift, and Pope, earned for him a place in The Dunciad. He was also the author of The British Empire in America (1708), Secret History of Europe (against the Stuarts), and in his Critical History (1724–26) attacked Clarendon’s History of the Rebellion. All these works are partisan in their tone. O. was one of the most prolific pamphleteers of his day.

Oldys, William (1696–1761). — Antiquary, wrote a Life of Sir W. Raleigh prefixed to an ed. of his works (1736), a Dissertation on Pamphlets (1731), and was joint ed. with Dr. Johnson of the Harleian Miscellany. He amassed many interesting facts in literary history, the fruits of diligent, though obscure, industry. The only poem of his that still lives is the beautiful little anacreontic beginning “Busy, curious, thirsty Fly.” O. held the office of Norroy–King-at-Arms. He produced in 1737 The British Librarian, a valuable work left unfinished.

Oliphant, Laurence (1829–1888). — Novelist and miscellaneous writer, son of Sir Anthony O., Chief Justice of Ceylon. The first 38 years of his life were spent in desultory study, travel, and adventure, varied by occasional diplomatic employment. His travels included, besides Continental countries, the shores of the Black Sea, Circassia, where he was Times correspondent, America, China, and Japan. He was in the Crimean War, Indian Mutiny, Chinese War, the military operations of Garibaldi, and the Polish insurrection, and served as private secretary to Lord Elgin in Washington, Canada, and China, and as Sec. of Legation in Japan. In 1865 he entered Parliament, and gave promise of political eminence, when in 1867 he came under the influence of Thomas L. Harris, an American mystic of questionable character, went with him to America, and joined the Brotherhood of the New Life. In 1870–71 he was correspondent for the Times in the Franco–German War. Ultimately he broke away from the influence of Harris and went to Palestine, where he founded a community of Jewish immigrants at Haifa. After revisiting America he returned to England, but immediately fell ill and died at Twickenham. O. was a voluminous and versatile author, publishing books of travel, novels, and works on mysticism. The most important are as follows: The Russian Shores of the Black Sea (1853), Minnesota and the Far West (1855), The Transcaucasian Campaign (1856), Patriots and Fillibusters (adventures in Southern States) (1860), Narrative of a Mission to China and Japan (1857–59), The Land of Gilead (1880), Piccadilly (1870), and Altiora Peto (1883) (novels), and Scientific Religion.

Oliphant, Mrs. Margaret Oliphant (Wilson) (1828–1897). — Novelist and miscellaneous writer, was born near Musselburgh. Her literary output began when she was little more than a girl, and was continued almost up to the end of her life. Her first novel, Mrs. Margaret Maitland, appeared in 1849, and its humour, pathos, and insight into character gave the author an immediate position in literature. It was followed by an endless succession, of which the best were the series of The Chronicles of Carlingford (1861–65), including Salem Chapel, The Perpetual Curate, and Miss Marjoribanks, all of which, as well as much of her other work, appeared in Blackwood’s Magazine, with which she had a lifelong connection. Others of some note were The Primrose Path, Madonna Mary (1866), The Wizard’s Son, and A Beleaguered City. She did not, however, confine herself to fiction, but wrote many books of history and biography, including Sketches of the Reign of George II. (1869), The Makers of Florence (1876), Literary History of England 1790–1825, Royal Edinburgh (1890), and Lives of St. Francis of Assisi, Edward Irving, and Principal Tulloch. Her generosity in supporting and educating the family of a brother as well as her own two sons rendered necessary a rate of production which was fatal to the permanence of her work. She was negligent as to style, and often wrote on subjects to which her intellectual equipment and knowledge did not enable her to do proper justice. She had, however, considerable power of painting character, and a vein of humour, and showed untiring industry in getting up her subjects.

Opie, Mrs. Amelia (Alderson) (1769–1853). — Novelist, daughter of a medical man, was born at Norwich. In 1798 she married John Opie, the painter. Her first acknowledged work was Father and Daughter (1801), which had a favourable reception, and was followed by Adeline Mowbray (1804), Temper (1812), Tales from Real Life (1813), and others, all having the same aim of developing the virtuous affections, the same merit of natural and vivid painting of character and passions, and the same fault of a too great preponderance of the pathetic. They were soon superseded by the more powerful genius of Scott and Miss Edgeworth. In 1825 she became a Quaker. After this she wrote Illustrations of Lying (1825), and Detraction Displayed (1828). Her later years, which were singularly cheerful, were largely devoted to philanthropic interests.

Ordericus Vitalis (1075–1143?). — Chronicler, born near Shrewsbury, was in childhood put into the monastery of St. Evroult, in Normandy, where the rest of his life was passed. He is the author of a chronicle, Ecclesiastical History of England and Normandy (c. 1142) in 13 books. Those from the seventh to the thirteenth are invaluable as giving a trustworthy, though not very clear, record of contemporary events in England and Normandy. It was translated into English in 1853–55.

Orm, or Ormin (fl. 1200). — Was an Augustinian canon of Mercia, who wrote the Ormulum in transition English. It is a kind of mediæval Christian Year, containing a metrical portion of the Gospel for each day, followed by a metrical homily, largely borrowed from Ælfric and Bede. Its title is thus accounted for, “This boc iss nemmed the Ormulum, forthi that Orm it wrohhte.”

Orme, Robert (1728–1801). — Historian, son of an Indian army doctor, born at Travancore, and after being at Harrow, entered the service of the East India Company. Owing to failure of health he had to return home in 1760, and then wrote his History of the Military Transactions of the British Nation in Indostan from 1745 (1763–78), a well-written and accurate work, showing great research. He also published Historical Fragments of the Mogul Empire, the Morattoes and English Concerns in Indostan from 1659 (1782). His collections relating to India are preserved at the India Office.

Orrery, Roger Boyle, 1st Earl of (1621–1679). — Statesman and dramatist, third son of the Earl of Cork, was ed. at Trinity College, Dublin. After having fought on the Royalist side he was, on the death of the King, induced by Cromwell to support him in his Irish wars and otherwise. After the death of the Protector he secured Ireland for Charles II., and at the Restoration was raised to the peerage. He wrote a romance in 6 vols., entitled Parthenissa, some plays, and a treatise on the Art of War. He has the distinction of being the first to introduce rhymed tragedies.

O’shaughnessy, Arthur William Edgar (1844–1881). — Poet, born in London, entered the library of the British Museum, afterwards being transferred to the natural history department, where he became an authority on fishes and reptiles. He published various books of poetry, including Epic of Women (1870), Lays of France (1872), and Music and Moonlight (1874). Jointly with his wife he wrote Toyland, a book for children. He was associated with D.G. Rossetti and the other pre-Raphaelites. There is a certain remoteness in his poetry which will probably always prevent its being widely popular. He has a wonderful mastery of metre, and a “haunting music” all his own.

Otway, Cæsar (1780–1842). — Writer of Irish tales. His writings, which display humour and sympathy with the poorer classes in Ireland, include Sketches in Ireland (1827), and A Tour in Connaught (1839). He was concerned in the establishment of various journals.

Otway, Thomas (1651 or 1652–1685). — Dramatist, son of a clergyman, was born near Midhurst, Sussex, and ed. at Oxford, which he left without graduating. His short life, like those of many of his fellows, was marked by poverty and misery, and he appears to have died practically of starvation. Having failed as an actor, he took to writing for the stage, and produced various plays, among which Don Carlos, Prince of Spain (1676), was a great success, and brought him some money. Those by which he is best remembered, however, are The Orphan (1680), and Venice Preserved (1682), both of which have been frequently revived. O. made many adaptations from the French, and in his tragedy of Caius Marius incorporated large parts of Romeo and Juliet. He has been called “the most pathetic and tear-drawing of all our dramatists,” and he excelled in delineating the stronger passions. The grossness of his comedies has banished them from the stage. Other plays are The Cheats of Scapin, Friendship in Fashion, Soldier’s Fortune (1681), and The Atheist.

Ouida, (see Ramée).

Outram, George (1805–1856). — Humorous poet, was a Scottish advocate, a friend of Prof. Wilson, and for some time ed. of the Glasgow Herald. He printed privately in 1851 Lyrics, Legal and Miscellaneous, which were published with a memoir in 1874. Many of his pieces are highly amusing, the Annuity being the best.

Overbury, Sir Thomas (1581–1613). — Poet and miscellaneous writer, ed. at Oxford, became the friend of Carr, afterwards Earl of Rochester and Somerset, and fell a victim to a Court intrigue connected with the proposed marriage of Rochester and Lady Essex, being poisoned in the Tower with the connivance of the latter. He wrote a poem, A Wife, now a Widowe, and Characters (1614), short, witty descriptions of types of men. Some of those published along with his are by other hands.

Owen, John (1560–1622). — Epigrammatist, born at Plas Dhu, Carnarvonshire, ed. at Winchester and Oxford, and became head master of King Henry VIII. School at Warwick. His Latin epigrams, which have both sense and wit in a high degree, gained him much applause, and were translated into English, French, German, and Spanish.

Owen, John (1616–1683). — Puritan divine, born at Stadhampton, Oxfordshire, and ed. at Oxford, from which he was driven by Laud’s statutes. Originally a Presbyterian, he passed over to Independency. In 1649 he accompanied Cromwell to Ireland, and in 1650 to Edinburgh. He was Dean of Christ Church, Oxford (1651–60), and one of the “triers” of ministers appointed by Cromwell. After the Restoration he was ejected from his deanery, but was favoured by Clarendon, who endeavoured to induce him to conform to the Anglican Church by offers of high preferment. Strange to say Charles II. also held him in regard, and gave him money for the Nonconformists; and he was allowed to preach to a congregation of Independents in London. His great learning and ability rendered him a formidable controversialist, specially against Arminianism and Romanism. His works fill 28 vols; among the best known being The Divine Original, etc., of the Scriptures, Indwelling Sin, Christologia, or . . . The Person of Christ, and a commentary on Hebrews.

Owen, Robert (1771–1858). — Socialist and philanthropist, born at Newton, Montgomeryshire, had for his object the regeneration of the world on the principles of socialism. His sincerity was shown by the fact that he spent most of the fortune, which his great capacity for business enabled him to make, in endeavours to put his theories into practice at various places both in Britain and America. He was sincerely philanthropic, and incidentally did good on a considerable scale in the course of his more or less impracticable schemes. He propounded his ideas in New Views of Society, or Essays on the Formation of the Human Character (1816).

Oxford, Edward De Vere, Earl of (1550–1604). — Was a courtier of Queen Elizabeth, who lost his friends by his insolence and pride, and his fortune by his extravagance. He married a daughter of Lord Burghley, who had to support his family after his death. He had some reputation as a writer of short pieces, many of which are in the Paradise of Dainty Devices.


Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:53