1790 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Thomas Warton

Anonymous, Obituary in Gentleman's Magazine 60 (May 1790) 480-81.



21 May. At Trinity College, Oxford, in consequence of an apoplectic fit, which had been preceded by a lingering disposition, aged 64, the Rev. Thomas Warton, B.D. senior fellow of that College, Camden's reader of ancient history, poet laureat (in which he succeeded the late Mr. Whitehead in 1785), and formerly professor of poetry in that University. He had been some time ill with the gout, but was thought in a fair way of recovery. On Thursday he appeared remarkably cheerful, and supped and passed the evening in the Common-room. Between 10 and 11 o'clock he sunk in his chair. His friends thought him only dosing, but, on approaching, found him struck with the palsy, and quite dead on one side. He was immediately conveyed to his room, and continued insensible till his death on Friday, about two o'clock. His social qualities had long endeared him to the members of his own society, among whom he constantly resided. The brilliancy of his wit, the solidity of his judgement, and the affability of his temper, give to all who had the happiness of his acquaintance the most poignant regret for his irreparable loss. His literary productions have rendered him peculiarly eminent as an annotator, a biographer, an antiquary, and a poet; and he may be deservedly considered as the ornament, not only of the university, but of the literary world at large. Such, indeed, was the vigour of his mind, the classical purity of his learning, that his memory will be for ever revered as a profound scholar, and a man of true genius. Learning must deplore him as one of her host and most valuable ornaments. The fame which his History of English Poetry has obtained will remain an immortal ornament of his industry, the correctness of his judgement, and the penetration of his understanding; and whoever reads the Odes which Loyalty dictated at two periods of the year, will shed a tear when he finds that the benevolence and philanthropy of the Monarch are no longer to receive their merited panegyricks from the pen of a lover of the Muses, who scorned to flatter, and who detested mercenary adulation.

Anthony Warton, vicar of Godelming, Surrey, from 1662 to 1715, and buried in the chancel there, with a monument, was son of Anthony, vicar of Breamore, Hants, (younger brother of the family of Michael W. esq. of Beverley, but originally of Warton-hall, co. Lancaster,) and was admitted of Trin. Coll. Oxf. afterwards became gentleman-commoner of Magdalen College, where he took the degree of LL.B. 1673. He was the father of Thomas Warton, B.D. fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford, and afterwards professor of poetry in that University, and vicar of Basingstoke, Hants. and of Chobham, Surrey, who, by Elizabeth, daughter of the Rev. Joseph Richardson, rector of Dunsfold, had two sons, John [sic], the present able and worthy master of Winchester School, and Thomas, the subject of this article, and one daughter, Jane. Thomas proceeded M.A. 1750; B.D. 1767; was elected poetry professor on the death of Hawkins, 1756, which he resigned before 1771, when he was elected F.A.S. and Camdenian professor, 1785, on the resignation of Dr. Scott. In 1768 he was presented to the vicarage of Shalfield, Wilts; and, 1782, to the donative of Hill Farrance, Somerset.

The Professor's writings are,

A Companion to the Guide, and a Guide to the Companion; being a complete Supplement to all the Accounts of Oxford hitherto published, 1760; a burlesque of Oxford guides and companions.

The Triumph of Isis, 1753, in answer to Mr. Mason's Isis, an Elegy, 1758. Both poems were rejected from the collection of their respective authors' pieces.

The Life and Literary Remains of Ralph Bathurst, M.D. Dean of Wells, and President of Trinity College, Oxford, 1761, 8vo.

The Life of Sir Thomas Pope, Founder of Trinity College, Oxford, 1772, 8vo.

A Description of the City, College, and Cathedral of Winchester, without date or name.

Newmarket, a Satire, 1751, 4to.; reprinted in The Poetical Calendar, vol. X. p. 50, in a VIIth, or supplemental, volume of Dodsley's Collection, p. 240, and in Pearch's Collection, vol. I. p. 204.

In Dodsley's Collection we have by him, vol. IV. p. 253, The Progress of Discontent; VI. p. 258, A Panegyrick on Ale; ibid. The Pleasures of Melancholy.

His other poetical effusions were,

Elegies on the Deaths of the Prince of Wales and the late King. Verses on the Marriage of his present Majesty, and the Birth of the Prince of Wales. The Complaint of Cherwell, an Ode. Sonnets written at Wynslade, in Hampshire, and on Bathing, which were all collected together in a small octavo volume, 1777, with the addition of the following pieces: Inscription on a Hermitage at Ansley Hall, in Warwickshire. Monody written near Stratford on Avon. Nine Odes: 1. to Sleep. 2. The Hamlet. 3. Written at Vale Royal Abbey. 4. The First of April. 5. To Mr. Upton, on his new Edition of Spenser's Faerie Queene. 6. To Suicide. 7. To a Friend, on leaving a favourite Village in Hampshire. 8. The Crusade. 9. The Grave of King Arthur. Sonnets written in a Blank Leaf of Dugdale's Monasticon; — at Stonehenge; — after seeing Wilton House; — to Mr. Gray; — on King Arthur's Round Table at Winchester; — on the River Loddon; and another without title. (See our vol. XLVII.) To these should now be added the Odes written in the years 1785, 6, 7, and 8, since his appointment to the place of poet laureat, 1785. These were only the lighter productions of Mr. W's genius. In 1754, he published Observations on the Faerie Queene of Spenser, which, after he was elected professor of poetry in the University of Oxford, he corrected and enlarged, in 2 vols. 12mo. 1761. He communicated many excellent notes to the variorum edition of Shakespeare, 1786. But his chef d'oeuvre was, The History of English Poetry, from the Close of the Eleventh to the Commencement of the Eighteenth Century. To which are prefixed, Two Dissertations, on the Origin of Romantic Fiction in Europe, and on the Introduction of Learning into England. The first volume appeared in 1775, the second in 1778, the third in 1781, and, if we are not mis-informed, a considerable part of the fourth is actually printed. It is scarcely necessary to mention that a writer of acknowledged, but misapplied, talents vented a few spiteful Observations on these Volumes, in a familiar Letter to the Author,1782, but only verified the old proverb, that "too much familiarity breeds contempt." See some vindication of Mr. W. in our vol. LII. Pp. 16, 517, 571, 575; some by Mr. Bowle, LIII. 42, 45, 126, 416, 585, 765. — A review of the History of English Poetry, vol. I see in our vol. XLIV. pp. 370, 415; II. XLVIII. 225, 269; III. LI. 181, 228; corrections of it, ibid. 265; Mr. Gibbon's character of the first volume, ibid, 522; anachronisms noted in the first XLIV. 466; his account of Rowley in vol. II. Objected to by Mr. Chalmers, XLVIII. 201; defended, in a Letter from Mr. Gray to him, on the History of English Poetry, LIII. 100.

Mr. W. engaged, as might naturally be expected, in the Rowleian controversy; and his Enquiry into the Authenticity of the Poems attributed to Thomas Rowley, 1782, carries conviction with every unprejudiced mind. See our vol. LII. pp. 129, 195.

His last publication was, Poems on several Occasions, English, Latin, and Italian, with Translations, by John Milton; viz. Lycidas, L'Allegro, Il Penseroso, Arcades, Comus, Odes, Sonnets, Miscellanies, English Psalms, Elegiatum, Epigrammatum, & Sylvarum Libri; with Notes critical and explanatory, and other Illustrations, 1785, 8vo.; of which, see our vol. LV. pp. 290, 374, 457, 513; hypercriticisms on his critic, ibid, 513; remarks on it, LVI. 211.

Mr. W.'s History of Kiddington Parish (see vol. LII. p. 244), to the rectory of which he was presented in 1771, by the Earl of Lichfield, printed for private use, 1781, and afterwards made public, is an admirable specimen of parochial history, and of his general idea of such history, which serves but to make us regret that he had not opportunity to execute more of such a plan. But why regret this exertion of his talents, when — his History of GOTHIC ARCHITECTURE, which he more than promised in the History of English Poetry, is now, it is to be feared, lost to the world? — An excellent portrait of him, by Sir Joshua Reynolds, was scraped in mezzotinto, by C. Hodges, 1784.

In the afternoon of May 27, his remains were interred in the ante-chapel of Trinity College, near those of Dr. Huddesford, their late President, with the highest academical honours. The Vice Chancellor, the Heads of Houses, the Professors, and the Proctor, had previously requested permission of the President and Fellows, to attend the funeral. They assembled in the Delegates Room; and thence, preceded by the Beadles, walked in procession to Trinity College, where they were met by the Society in the College-hall. At five o'clock, the time of divine service, the general procession, now composed of the Society and University, began to move. They walked three times round the Quadrangle, consisting of, first, the Beadles, then the President of the College, who performed the service, the Body, eight Senior Fellows supporting the pall; next, three Gentlemen of the College, mourners; afterwards came the Vice Chancellor, then the Bishop of Chester, Principal of Brazen Nose College, and other Heads of Houses, the Professors, the Proctors, the Junior Members of the Society, and other Gentlemen of the University, friends of the deceased, two and two. The whole formed a scene of solemnity superior to what has appeared in the University for many years past; and various descriptions of Academics flocked from the different Colleges, to pay the last tribute of respect to the memory of this celebrated genius and profound scholar. — His father was buried at Basingstoke in 1745; his mother at Winchester, 1762. See their respective epitaphs in The Topographer, vol. II. p. 107.

In digging Mr. W's grave, at the depth of about six feet, were found some few remains of a body, which appeared to have been interred with his boots and other apparel, though they had been evidently inclosed in a coffin. A girdle-buckle, about the bigness of a crown-piece, was also dug up; and there were found about the middle of the body some fine silver thread, which might probably have belonged to the fringe of the girdle; but no conjecture can be formed either as to the date or personage.