1812 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Lauder

John Nichols, in Literary Anecdotes of the XVIII Century (1812-15) 2:136-37n.



William Lauder (mentioned above) was a Scotchman educated at the University of Edinburgh, where he finished his studies with great reputation, and acquired a considerable knowledge of the Latin tongue. He afterwards taught with success in the class of Humanity [Latin] students who were recommended to him by the Professor thereof. On May 22, 1734, he received a testimonial from the heads of the University, certifying that he was a fit person to teach Humanity in any school or college whatever; and in 1742 was recommended by Mr. Patrick Cuming and Mr. Colin Maclaurin, Professors of Church History and Mathematicks, to the mastership of the grammar-school at Dundee, then vacant. Whether he succeeded in this application or not is uncertain; but a few years afterwards we find him in London, contriving to ruin the reputation of Milton, an attempt which ended in the destruction of his own. His reason for this attack probably sprung from the virulence of a violent party spirit, which triumphed over every principle of honour and honesty. He began first to retail part of his design in the Gentleman's Magazine, 1747; and, finding that his forgeries were not detected, was encouraged in 1751 to collect them, with additions, into a volume, intituled An Essay on Milton's Use and Imitation of the Moderns in his Paradise Lost, 8vo. The fidelity of his quotations had been doubted by several people, and the falsehood of them was soon after demonstrated by Mr. (afterwards Bp.) Douglas, in a pamphlet intituled Milton vindicated from the Charge of Plagiarism brought against him by Lauder; and Lauder himself convicted of several Forgeries and gross Impositions on the Publick. In a Letter humbly addressed to the Right Honourable the Earl of Bath, 1751 8vo. The appearance of this detection overwhelmed Lauder with confusion. He subscribed a confession, dictated by his learned friend Dr. Johnson; wherein he ingenuously acknowledged his offence, which he professed to have been occasioned by the injury he had received from the disappoint of his expectations of profit from the publication of Johnston's Psalms. This misfortune he ascribed to the couplet in Mr. Pope's Dunciad cited in the following page ["On two unequal crutches prompt he came, | Milton's on this, on that one Johnston's name"], and from thence originated his rancour against Milton. He afterwards imputed his conduct to other motives, abused the few friends who continued to countenance him; and, finding that his character was not to be retrieved, quitted the kingdom, and went to Barbadoes, where he some time taught school. His behaviour there was mean and despicable; and he passed the remainder of his life in universal contempt. He died some time about the year 1771, as my late friend Isaac Reed was informed by the gentleman who read the funeral service over him.