1832 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Joseph Warton

William Clarke and Robert Shelton Mackenzie, in The Georgian Era: Memoirs of the most eminent Persons who have flourished in Great Britain (1832-34) 3:542-43.



JOSEPH WARTON, son of the Rev. Thomas Warton, professor of poetry at Oxford, was born in 1722, at Dunsfold, in Surrey. He was principally educated by his father, till he arrived at his fourteenth year, when he was admitted on the foundation of Winchester College, where he remained till 1740, when he was entered of Oriel College, Oxford. Here he pursued his studies with great diligence, and, during his leisure hours, composed several poems of merit. He took his degree of B.A. in 1744, and was ordained to his father's curacy at Basingstoke, which he served till February, 1746, when he removed to Chelsea; and, in the same year, published a small volume of odes. In 1747-8, the Duke of Bolton presented him to the small rectory of Winslade, in Buckinghamshire; and about the same time he married. In 1753, he published his famous edition of Virgil; the Aeneid, translated by Pitt; and, the Eclogues, Georgics, and the whole of the notes, by himself; with dissertations, and three essays, from his own pen, on pastoral, epic, and didactic poetry. The work gained him great reputation, and reached a second edition before 1759, in which year the University of Oxford conferred upon him, by diploma, the degree of M.A. In 1754, the Jervoise family presented him to the living of Tamworth; and, in 1755, he succeeded the Rev. Samuel Speed, as second master of Winchester College. He now found leisure to complete his first volume of his famous Essay on the Writings and Genius of Pope, which he published, anonymously, in 1756; but the objections raised against it were so powerful, that he did not add the second and concluding volume, until twenty-six years afterwards. In 1766, he was advanced to the head mastership of Winchester College; and he soon after visited Oxford, and proceeded to the degrees of B.D. and D.D. In 1772, his first wife died, leaving him six children; and, in the following year, he married a daughter of Robert Nicholas, Esq. In 1782, he obtained a stall in St. Paul's; and, in 1788, a prebend in Winchester Cathedral, together with the rectory of Easton, which he was permitted to exchange for Upham. In 1793, he resigned his mastership at Winchester, and retired to Wickham, where he employed his leisure in superintending a new edition of the works of Pope, which appeared in nine volumes, in 1797. His next undertaking was an edition of Dryden, but he was prevented from finishing more than two volumes, by his death, which took place at Wickham, on the 23rd of February, 1800. As a poet the reputation of Warton has scarcely survived him, though many of his odes attest no ordinary genius. Johnson observes of him, as a critic, that he taught us "how the brow of criticism may be smoothed, and how she may be enabled, with all her severity, to attract and to delight." In private life he was much beloved, and his abilities and elegant manners caused him to be equally courted by men of learning and of rank. "Whilst he was head master at Winchester," says his biographer, Mr. Wooll, "his brother Tom, who was an usher, used to supply some of the boys with themes and verses, when they had omitted to do theirs. On one of these occasions, a copy of verses was shown up to the doctor; he immediately recognized them to be his brother's; and, calling to him, took out five shillings from his pocket, and presented it to the boy, observing, to Tom's no small chagrin, 'this youth has produced such excellent verses, that I have rewarded him with a crown; and I have no doubt but you will do the same!'" It was either the subject of our memoir, or his brother, who, on snuffing a candle out, exclaimed

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