1806 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Thomas Warton the Elder

John Wooll, in Biographical Memoirs of the late Joseph Warton, D.D. (1806) 1-3.



The learned and amiable Subject of the following MEMOIRS, whose exalted imagination and literary knowledge were only equalled by the warmth and benevolence of his heart, was born in the, house of his maternal grandfather, the Rev. JOSEPH RICHARDSON, rector of Dunsfold in the county of Surrey; and baptized in the church of that parish on the 22d of April, in the year 1722. His father, a man of considerable scholarship and sound orthodoxy, had been Professor of Poetry in the University of Oxford; in which place he had not only, by his talents and opinions, but by his intimacy with Dr. King, and other celebrated Tories of that day, rendered himself so conspicuous as to become a very prominent character in the Terrae filius of Amherst. He was afterwards presented, by his college, to the vicarage of Basingstoke in Hampshire, and held with it Cobham in Surrey; to the former of which benefices he retired, and dedicated his time to the instruction of private pupils. The sketch of this ancient and loyal family, to be found in Mr. Mant's valuable edition of the late Laureat's works, would have rendered any farther record unnecessary, had not a misrepresentation of one of the brightest ornaments of the pedigree inadvertently crept into his account. We there read of a Sir MICHAEL WARTON, baronet, of Warton Hall, in the county of Lancaster, who in fact was knighted only in the civil wars (as will be discovered by the annexed extract from the Heralds' College), and was both the proprietor and inhabitant of Beverley Park, in the county of York. If the deprivation of paternal happiness, added to the oppressive horrors of confiscation, could challenge gratitude, and lay claim to reward, his distinction of knighthood was richly earned. His eldest son, a blooming youth of nineteen, fell in the defence of his sovereign; for his whole property he was necessitated to compound by a grievous tax with the commissioners of parliament; and at no great distance of time, his grandson, yet a minor, experienced, by the total ruin of his fortune, the unrelenting severity of fanatic intolerance and republican revenge. From the period of this shock to the prosperity and consequence of the family,

Res fluere et retro, sublapsa, referri
Spes.

If, then, the late Mr. WARTON'S Strictures on Milton and the levelling party be tinged with a faint colouring of spleen; if sometimes in the language of unqualified reproof he laments that the vigorous portion of that man's life, whose epic fame could alone challenge the superiority of Greece and Rome, was unworthily and unprofitably wasted, in the defence of innovation and anarchy; and that, smit with the deplorable polemics of puritanism, he had suddenly ceased "to gaze on such sights as youthful poets dream;" we must in candour reflect on these melancholy distinctions, probably handed down as an heir-loom in the family, and acknowledge that they were calculated to make on the strong mind of Mr. WARTON an indelible impression.