1780 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Walter Harte

John Nichols, in Select Collection of Poems with Notes Biographical and Historical (1780-82) 7:303-04.



Son of the Rev. Walter Harte, who died at Kentbury in Bucks, Feb. 10, 1736, aged 85, and who had been fellow of Pembroke College, Oxford, prebend of Wells, and canon of Bristol, but resigned at the Revolution. The son first distinguished himself by a volume of Poems on several Occasions, 1727, 8vo. inscribed to the earl of Peterborough, and written before he was nineteen. These were followed by his Essay on Reason, 1727, folio, a very fine poem, which was much laboured, and went through Mr. Pope's hands. In a letter to Mr. Pattison (printed in the Memoirs of that writer, prefixed to his Poems, 1728) Mr. Harte very frankly gives his sentiments on a projected version of Ovid's Epistles, and says, "I have studied his manner much, and have often endeavoured to make a sort of mixed writing from him and Statius." He took the degree of M.A. January 10, 1730; and published that year An Essay on Satire, particularly the Dunciad, 8vo. He published also two Sermons, one called The Union and Harmony of Reason, Morality, and Revealed Religion, preached at St. Mary's Oxford, Feb. 27, 1736-37, which went through at least five editions; the other, a Fast Sermon, preached at the same place, Jan. 9, 1739-40. He was afterwards vice-principal of St. Mary Hall, Oxford, a tutor of great reputation there; and was much patronized by Mr. Pope and Mr. Lyttelton, who recommended him to Lord Chesterfield as a fit praeceptor to his natural son Mr. Stanhope, with whom he travelled from 1746 till 1750. Mr. Harte is described by the noble lord as "A man of consummate erudition;" but was ill qualified to polish the manners of his pupil. He was awkward in his person and address, had an unhappy impediment in his speech, and a total want of ear; yet he so well performed his office, that Lord Chesterfield rewarded him with a canonry of Windsor, "procured with great difficulty;" a difficulty which certainly arose from his college connections; as St. Mary Hall, of which Dr. King was principal, was at that time noted for Jacobitism. The materials of his History of Gustavus Adolphus, 1759, two volumes 4to, are excellent; but he has marred his book by a strange affected style, "full of Latinisms, Gallicisms, Germanicism, and all isms but Anglicisms." He dedicated it to his patron, who says, "I was forced to prune the luxuriant praises bestowed upon me, and yet have left enough to satisfy a reasonable man." The success of the history being unequal to his hopes, his health was sensibly affected by it. He published however an improved edition of it in 8vo. in 1763; but continued at Bath dejected and dispirited, between real and imaginary distempers, till in November 1766 he had a stroke of the palsy, which deprived him of the use of his right leg, affected his speech, and in some degree his head. In October 1768 he had entirely lost the use of his left side; and in that melancholy condition lived till 1773. He published a treatise on Agriculture in 1764, "in good and elegant English, and scattered forth such grace upon his subject, that in prose he came very near Virgil's Georgics in verse." I wish I could have found room in this collection for his Essay on Painting, his Essay on Reason, or for his Vision of Death, which appeared in The Amaranth, 1767, the "great poetical work" alluded to by Lord Chesterfield in his Letters to his Son, Lett 341, 377. He knew many anecdotes of Pope, Swift, Pultney, Chesterfield, Fenton, &c.