1798 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Dr. John Wolcot

David Rivers, in Literary Memoirs of Living Authors (1798) 2:355-56.



Better known by his assumed name, PETER PINDAR. This comical genius is descended from a respectable family in Devonshire, was bred to the study of physic, and practised for some time, with success, in the county of Cornwall. He afterward followed the fortunes of his friend, the late Sir William Trelawny to Jamaica, and became Physician General to the Island. It is said that during his residence there, he was induced, upon a prospect of important preferment, to assume the clerical function; but, that being disappointed in his views, he resigned that office before his return to England, and has never since resumed it. On his arrival here he pursued his original profession, for several years, but, at last relinquished it entirely. It is to the credit of Dr. Wolcot's benevolence as well as discernment, that the art of painting is indebted to him for Mr. Opie. That artist was found by him in the Mines of Cornwall, where his genius first discovered itself to the Doctor, and he was encouraged by him to trust for his future fortune to the cultivation of his intellectual capacity.

Of his celebrated satirical pieces, the first was a poetical Epistle to the Reviewers, which appeared in the year 1778, and was followed by the first set of Lyric Odes to the Royal Academicians, in 1782. These, and his numerous subsequent productions were originally published separately in quarto pamphlets, and were, not long ago, published in collection, in four octavo volumes, and likewise in three duodecimo volumes; after several surreptitious collections of them, printed in Ireland. Few, indeed, have been the writings which have succeeded in commanding so large a share of attention as the detached pieces of Peter Pindar! Such was the demand for them, that a certain number of the London booksellers agreed to allow him two hundred pounds per annum, for the exclusive privilege of selling his works! They are characterized by a species of humour, which, though not elegant and tasteful, is not destitute of nature, and is irresistible in its power of exciting laughter. We consider BOZZY AND PIOZZI, THE LOUSIAD, and PINDARIANA as the best among them; but have never contemplated the character of this writer without a mixture of surprise and concern, that such talents and attainments as his writings discover him to possess, should never have been applied to better purposes than to a ludicrous display of his contempt of all decent respect, and to the composition of such trifles, as must inevitably perish with the age in which they were written.