1827 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Henry Kirke White

C—l., "Henry Kirke White, a Literary and Biographical Sketch" Living Poets of England: Specimens of the Living British Poets (1827) 2:530.



HENRY KIRKE WHITE was born at Nottingham, March 21st, 1785. At a very early age his love of reading was decidedly manifested; it was a passion to which every thing else gave way. In 1791, he was sent to a reputable school in his native town, and at the age of fourteen was placed in a stocking loom. This employment, however, proved totally repugnant to his taste and inclinations; and by the exertions of his mother, he was, in 1800, articled to a respectable attorney. Shortly after, he was admitted a member of the Nottingham Literary Society; and here he gave the first public display of the extraordinary endowments of his mind, in a lecture upon Genius, in which he spoke extempore for above two hours. He published a volume of poems at the close of the year 1803, the merit of which procured him the friendship and patronage of Southey, Capel Lofft, and several other lovers of literature, by whose advice and assistance he, in October, 1804, relinquished the profession of the law, and devoted himself entirely to study for a twelvemonth, preparatory to his entrance into Cambridge University. He was admitted a sizar of St. John's College, in 1805, where he was soon distinguished for his classical attainments. His intense application, however, had debilitated his constitution, and engendered an internal disorder, of which he died, October 19, 1806, a martyr to his ardour in the pursuit of knowledge.

His effusions breathe the pure spirit of poetry; he possessed a vigorous imagination, a correct critical judgment, and considerable fluency of thought and expression. If we may judge from the few productions which he left behind him, his genius was of the highest order, and he promised to be one of the brightest ornaments of British literature.