The son of a Hampshire clergyman, Joseph Spence attended Eton before being elected scholar at Winchester (1715); he was admitted to Magdalen College Oxford in 1717 (B.A. from New College Oxford 1724, Fellow 1724, M.A. 1727). Spence was vicar of Great Horwood (1742), Prebendary of Durham (1754-68), Oxford Poetry Professor (1728-38) and Professor of Modern History (1742-68). He was on terms of friendship with Whig and Tory writers alike. A serious bibliophile, Spence was able to retire on the proceeds from his major work, Polymetis.
1740 ca.Anecdotes, Observations, and Characters of Books and Men.
1746The Three First Stanza's of the 24th Canto of Dante's Inferna made into a Song.
1747Defects of our Modern Poets, in their Allegories: instanced from Spenser's Fairy Queen.
1747The Picture of Human Life. Translated from the Greek of Cebes, a Disciple of Socrates.
1748Allegory of Art and Nature.
1753The Choice of Hercules: A Lesson of Socrates; recorded by Xenophon.
An essay on Pope's Odyssey. 1726, 1727.
A full and authentick account of Stephen Duck. 1731.
Some account of Lord Buckhurst; Gorbuduc. 1736.
Polymetis: or an enquiry concerning the agreement between the works of the Roman poets and the remains of the ancient artists. 1747.
An apology for Mr Pope. 1749.
Crito: or a dialogue on beauty. 1752.
A particular account of the Emperour of China's gardens near Pekin. 1752.
Letter to Revd. Mr. G. R. 1753?
Moralities: or essays, letters, fables, and translations. 1753.
Works of Virgil ... with several new observations by Mr. Spence. 1753.
An account of the life, character, and poems of Mr. Blacklock. 1754.
A parallel, in the manner of Plutarch, between a most celebrated man of Florence, and one, scarce ever heard of, in England. 1758.
The picture of human life [Cebes, trans. Spence?]. 1789.
Observations, anecdotes and characters of books and men, ed. Singer. 1820.
Observations, anecdotes, and characters of books and men, ed. James M. Osborn. 2 vols, 1966.