1832 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Lewis Theobald

William Clarke and Robert Shelton Mackenzie, in The Georgian Era: Memoirs of the most eminent Persons who have flourished in Great Britain (1832-34) 3:525.



LEWIS THEOBALD, the son of an attorney, at Sittingbourne, in Kent, was born there about the year 1690, and was himself brought up to the law, but soon quitted it for literature. He engaged in a paper called The Censor, published in Mist's Weekly Journal, and exposed himself to the resentment of the wits, by delivering his opinion somewhat too freely and acrimoniously. He however, praised Pope's Homer in the most extravagant terms, but afterwards thought proper to abuse it, which, with other circumstances, induced Pope to make him the hero of his Dunciad; and it is not improbable that Theobald's publication of a translation of the first book of the Odyssey, was an additional instigation of Pope's virulence. In 1720, he introduced upon the stage a tragedy, entitled The Double Falsehood, the greatest part of which he affirmed to be Shakspeare's, though Dr. Farmer assigns it to Shirley. Pope insinuated that the whole or greatest part was his own, quoting from it the line — "None but thyself can be thy parallel."

In 1726, he published Shakspeare Restored, or Specimens of Blunders committed and unamended in Pope's edition of that author; of which he had the impudence to aver, "that to expose any errors in it was impracticable;" and, that "whatever care might, for the future, be taken, either by Mr. Pope, or any other assistants, he would give above five hundred emendations that would escape them all." Theobald died in September, 1744. He appears to have been a vain man, but not without a portion of both talent and learning; though his application exceeded both. He was the author of several plays, now forgotten, some miscellaneous poems, and translations from Ovid's Metamorphoses; but it is chiefly as an editor of Shakspeare, that a permanent place is assigned him among authors.