We are honoured to follow our publication of Peter Thornton’s translation of Dante’s Inferno with his new, rhymed verse translation of Petrarch, Scattered Rhymes. we flew to Chicago, and Peter’s home in nearby Evanston, for powerful yet poignant days of putting the final edits in place. Sadly Peter passed away a few days later – but satisfied that this masterwork of translation was complete.
His brother John Thornton wrote this following obituary:
Peter was born in Key West, Florida, during World War II, and moved to New York City with his parents shortly after the war. He was a greatly accomplished attorney, professor, poet, translator, and scholar.
Throughout his life, Peter was a voracious reader and a serious scholar. He spoke and read, to varying degrees, eight languages: In addition to his native English, Peter knew Italian, French, Spanish, Latin, Greek, German, and Arabic. He went to Regis High School, a Jesuit high school for gifted students, in Manhattan, followed by a full scholarship to Boston College. Peter received a Ph.D. in English literature from Stanford, doing his dissertation on Milton’s Paradise Lost. Finally, Peter received his J.D. from the University of Illinois College of Law, where he was editor-in-chief of the law review, followed by a clerkship with the Illinois Supreme Court.
In his academic career, Peter was a very popular English professor at Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois. In his legal career, he practiced for thirty-six years, specializing in utilities law. Peter represented Exelon, the parent company of Commonwealth Edison, for most of his career, both in-house as an assistant general counsel, and as outside counsel at several prominent law firms: Eimer Stahl, Sidley Austin, and Isham, Lincoln, and Beale.
While he practiced law, Peter never lost his love for great poetry. He spent nearly twenty years translating Dante’s Inferno from the medieval Italian to modern English, writing vivid modern poetry that remained faithful to the original. He spent nearly as many years translating the poetry of Petrarch, which was also written in medieval Italian. Again, Peter kept his translation faithful to the original while writing stellar modern poetry. Peter’s translation of the Inferno was recently published in the U.S. by Arcade Publishing, and in the U.K. by Barbican Press. His forthcoming volume of Petrarch’s Scattered Rhymes will be published in the U.K. in 2020 by Barbican Press.