1809 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William King of Oxford

Nathan Drake, in Essays Illustrative of the Rambler (1809-10) 2:337-39.



The author of this paper [The Dreamer] was Dr. WILLIAM KING, who was born at Stepney, in Middlesex, in 1685; he was entered at Baliol College, Oxford, July the 9th, 1701; took his degree of Doctor of Laws in 1715; and was appointed principal of St. Mary's-Hall, in 1718.

Dr. King inherited a patrimony adequate to the supply of all his wants, and possessed a vigorous and independent mind, together with a large fund of classical learning and taste. On the dedication of the Radcliffian library, in 1749, he composed and delivered, in a style of great elegance and effect, a Latin oration in the theatre of Oxford, which was as much admired for its manly political sentiments as for the beauty of its composition. Mr. Warton, in his Triumph of Isis, has, on this memorable occasion, paid a noble tribute to his talents and patriotism;—

See on yon Sage how all attentive stand,
To catch his darting eye and waving hand.
Hark! he begins with all a Tully's art
To pour the dictates of a Cato's heart.
Skill'd to pronounce what noblest thoughts inspire,
He blends the speaker's with the patriot's fire.
Bold to conceive, nor tim'rous to conceal,
What Britons dare to think, he dares to tell.
'Tis his dike the ear and eye to charm,
To win with action, and with sense to warm.
Untaught in flow'ry diction to dispense
The lulling sound of sweet impertinence;
In frowns or smiles he gains an equal prize,
Nor meanly fears to fall, nor creeps to rise:
Bids happier days to Albion be restored,
Bids ancient justice rear her radiant sword;
From me, as from my country, wins applause,
And makes an Oxford's a Britannia's cause.

On account of the strenuous manner in which he supported his political tenets, he was exposed to much calumny and accusation, and published about 1755 a very satisfactory vindication of his conduct, under the title of his Apology. Dr. King was the author of numerous publications, both in Latin and English, political and literary; of these, The Toast, a satirical poem, with notes, published in Ireland, and the Templum Libertatis, in three books, are the principal. He was the editor also of South's sermons. Dr. King died December 30th, 1763.

The Dreamer, which was published in 1754, occupies an octavo volume of two hundred and forty pages, independent of a copious index and explanatory advertisement; it contains a series of dreams, forming an indirect satire on the abuses of religion, literature, and the learned professions. These Dreams are entitled, The Paper Mill. The Rosicrusians, or Knights of the Rosy Cross. The Court of Judicature, or Temple of Mercury. The Temple of Health. Pallantis, or The City of Pallas; with an Account of the Onocentaurs, and The Temple of Hercules. There is much ingenuity exhibited in the conception and conduct of the imagery, and the style is generally easy, elegant, and correct; but though the author enumerates himself among the periodical writers, there is nothing in the form or fashion of these Dreams which entitles him to the character of an essayist.