1844 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Christopher Anstey

Robert Chambers, in Cyclopaedia of English Literature (1844; 1850) 2:123.



CHRISTOPHER ANSTEY (1724-1805) was author of The New Bath Guide, a light satirical and humorous poem, which appeared in 1766, and set an example in this description of composition, that has since been followed in numerous instances, and with great success. Smollett, in his Humphry Clinker, published five years later, may be almost said to have reduced the New Bath Guide to prose. Many of the characters and situations are exactly the same as those of Anstey. The poem seldom rises above the tone of conversation, but is easy, sportive, and entertaining. The fashionable Fribbles of the day, the chat, scandal, and amusements of those attending the wells, and the canting hypocrisy of some sectarians, are depicted, sometimes with indelicacy, but always with force and liveliness. Mr. Anstey was son of the Rev. Dr. Anstey, rector of Brinkeley, in Cambridgeshire, a gentleman who possessed a considerable landed property, which the poet afterwards inherited. He was educated at Eton School, and elected to King's College, Cambridge, and in both places he distinguished himself as a classical scholar. In consequence of his refusal to deliver certain declamations, Anstey quarreled with the heads of the university, and was denied the usual degree. In the epilogue to the New Bath Guide, he alludes to this circumstance—

Granta, sweet Granta, where studious of ease,
Seven years did I sleep, and then lost my degrees.

He then went into the army, and married Miss Calvert, sister to his friend John Calvert, Esq. of Allbury Hall, in Hertfordshire, through whose influence he was returned to parliament for the borough of Hertford. He was a frequent resident in the city of Bath, and a favourite in the fashionable and literary coteries of the place. In 1766 was published his celebrated poem, which instantly became popular He wrote various other pieces — but while the New Bath Guide was "the only thing in fashion," the other productions of Anstey were neglected by the public, and have never been revived. In the enjoyment of his paternal estate, the poet, however, was independent of the public support, and he took part in the sports of the field up to his eightieth year.