THOMAS WARTON was descended from an ancient and honourable family of Beverley in Yorkshire: different from the Duke of Wharton's, but the same with that of Sir Michael Warton, Bart. of Warton-hall, Lancashire. Antony Warton, who appears to have been the first of the family that settled in Hampshire, was a member of Magdalen College in Oxford, and Rector of Breamore in the New Forest. He had three sons; of whom it is remarkable, that two were deaf and dumb. Of these one, who had been placed under the care of Mr. Lely, nephew to Sir Peter Lely, and promised to be a good painter, died young; the other lived to about 60. The third son, Thomas, father of the subject of the present sketch, was born at Godalming, Surrey, in 1687; and became fellow of Magdalen College in Oxford, and afterwards Vicar of Basingstoke, Hants, and Cobham, Surrey. He appears to have been in politics a warm Tory; and is said to be "the reverend poetical Gentleman" spoken of in the 15th and 16th numbers of Amhurst's Terrae Fillus. It is to the credit of his, as it would be to that of any man's character, that he was an intimate friend of Mr. Digby, through whom he was acquainted with Pope; and to the public respect, in which he was held, the University bore testimony by electing him to the office of Poetry-Professor, which he held from 1718 to 1728. He married Elisabeth, daughter of the Rev. Joseph Richardson, Rector of Dunsfold, Surrey; and had by her three children, Joseph, the late head-master of Winchester College; Thomas, the subject of these memoirs; and a daughter, Jane, now living unmarried at Wickham, Hants. He died in 1745; and is buried under the rails of the altar in his church at Basingstoke, where his sons placed an inscription to his memory. It does not appear that he published any thing himself; but in 1748 a volume of his poems, from which he seems to have been a man of some poetical taste, was published by subscription by his eldest son: at the end of the volume are two pleasing elegies on his death, the one by his daughter, and the other by the editor. He is also said to have been the author of a well-known epigram, occasioned by a regiment of horse being sent to Oxford, by George the Second, at the same time that he gave a collection of books to the University of Cambridge.
His son, Thomas, was born at Basingstoke in 1728, and is said to have discovered at a very early age a fondness for study, and a maturity of mental powers, unusual in a boy. As a proof of this, it has been mentioned, that in the excessive cold winter of 1739-40, when he was but eleven years old, he would quit the family fire-side, and retire to his chamber, and there apply himself assiduously to his books, not as a talk, but an amusement.
He had commenced his poetical career at a still earlier age; and I shall hope for the indulgence of my readers, if I here insert his first composition, written in a letter to his sister, when he was about nine years old, and by her kindly communicated to me. Dr. Joseph Warton always preserved it as a literary curiosity.
"I thank you for your letter; and in return, I send you the first production of my little Muse, which I wish was now old enough to make a song for you to set to music; but at present I send you these four 'On Leander's swimming over the Hellespont to Hero.' Translated by me from the Latin of Martial.
When bold Leander sought his distant Fair,
(Nor could the sea a braver burthen bear)
Thus to the swelling waves he spoke his woe,
Drown me on my return, — but spare me, as I go.
"I agree with you in thinking that Friendship, like Truth, should be without form or ornament; and that both appear best in their dishabille. Let Friendship, therefore, and Truth, Music and Poetry go hand in hand.
"The above Verses I know are a trifle — but you will make good-natured allowances for my little young Muse; it will be my utmost ambition to make some verses, that you can set to your harpsichord; — and to shew you upon all occasions
how sincerely I am your affectionate Brother,
From the School,
Nov. 7, 1737."
It is asserted in a late life of Mr. Warton that he was educated at Winchester College and the assertion is made on the authority of a passage in his "Description &c. of Winchester," and of his poem, intitled "Mons Catharinae." But whatever interpretation may be given to the former passage, it is remarkable that, in the poem alluded to, he does not use a single expression, which might lead the reader to suppose that he was educated at the College. And the fact is, that, whatever interest Wykehamists may take in the name of Warton, Winchester College had no share in his education. He was indeed, as might be expected, at all times extremely partial to a school, over which his brother so honourably presided; though he had never been a member of it, but had continued under the care of his father, till he was removed to Oxford.
On the 16th of March, 1743, in his 16th year, he was admitted a Commoner of Trinity College, and soon after was elected a Scholar of that society, to which he continued warmly attached till his death.
It has been stated [Author's note: Anderson's Poets, and the Biographical Dictionary] that he "very early exerted his poetical talents:" and that in 1745 "he published Five Pastoral Eclogues, 4to. the scenes of which are supposed to lie among the shepherds oppressed by the war in Germany." These Eclogues afterwards appeared in Pearch's Continuation of Dodsley's Collection. But I do not learn that they ever had the name of Warton affixed to them, and can assert on the authority of his sister, that he absolutely disclaimed them.
In 1747 he published without his name "The Pleasures of Melancholy," which had been written in 1745, his seventeenth year, and shows his early attachment to Milton. This poem was reprinted with material alterations in Dodsley's Collection.
This was the voluntary effusion of his genius; but he was soon called upon to exert himself on a more public occasion, of which the following account is given in the Biographical Dictionary. "Not long after, in the year 1748, he had full scope afforded for the exertion of his genius. It is well known that Jacobite principles were suspected to prevail in the University of Oxford, about the time of the rebellion in 1745. Soon after its suppression the drunkenness and folly of some young men gave offence to the court, in consequence of which a prosecution was instituted in the court of King's Bench, and a stigma was fixed on the Vice-Chancellor, and some other heads of colleges in Oxford. Whilst this affair was the general subject of conversation, Mr. Mason published his 'Isis, an Elegy,' in which he adverts to the above-mentioned circumstances. In answer to this poem, Mr. Warton, encouraged by Dr. Huddesford, the President of his college, published, in 1749, 'The Triumph of Isis,' which excelled more in manly expostulation and dignity, than the poem that produced it did in neatness and elegance."
A poem, written under such circumstances, would naturally be received with its merited approbation and applause. That part of it, in which the character of Dr. King is given, was especially commended: and my friend, Mr. Richards, of Oriel College, has told me what he was informed of by Mr. Prince the bookseller, that Dr. King came into his shop soon after the publication, and having enquired whether five guineas would be of any service to the young man, who was the author of the poem, desired Prince to give him that sum. The two poems were afterwards published together in Pearch's Collection, and in the Union.
"It is remarkable" (says Dr. Anderson, the Editor of the British Poets at Edinburgh) that though neither Mason nor Warton ever excelled these performances, each of them, as by consent, when he first collected his poems into a volume, omitted his own party production." Whence it may appear strange, that this forbearance was not practised by Warton in the third edition of his poems, 1779; where the Triumph of Isis was introduced with no notice of the circumstance, except that there was in that edition one piece more than in the first. The occasion of the addition is connected with another anecdote, which is as follows.
On the anonymous publication of the "Heroic Epistle to Sir William Chambers" about the year 1776, it is known that various opinions were entertained, as to who was the author. Mr. Warton being present in a large company, where it was the subject of conversation, ascribed it to Mason. The declaration was at first made inadvertently. "Well," said he, "if I had been Mason, I would not have written it." When his words were taken up, he was surprised at his having so committed himself; but having once delivered, proceeded to substantiate, his opinion. It was founded on the internal evidence of the poem; versification, style, &c. But, Mr. Warton, style is so uncertain a criterion: — how can you pretend to say that the poem was written by Mason from its style?" "Just (he answered) as a hatter would tell you who made that hat."
The opinion, thus delivered and supported, by some means came to the knowledge of Mason; who, having occasion to write to Warton about the time, took notice of it in the following letter:
"YORK, April 24, 1777.
Our good friend the Bishop of Litchfield [Author's note: Dr. Hurd] had sent me your obliging letter to him the post before I received yours on the same subject. I think myself much honoured by your attention to this application in behalf of Mr. Plumer, and heartily hope he may be deserving of the favours you mean to shew him. I must own to you however, that the Gentleman is a stranger to me, and that I was induced to apply to you, by means of the Bishop, in order to oblige a third person, who gave him a high character.
I have to thank you also for the very flattering sentiments which you express of my late publication, and also for the most acceptable present of that elegant collection of poems, with which you have obliged the public. I am however sorry to find, that 'The Triumph of Isis' has not found a place near the delicate 'Complaint of Cherwell,' to which it was a proper companion; and I fear that a punctilio of politeness to me was the occasion of its exclusion. Had I known of your intention of making this collection, most certainly I should have pleaded for the insertion of that poem, which I assure you I think greatly excels the Elegy which occasioned it, both in its poetical imagery, and the correct flow of its versification. And if I put any value upon my own juvenile production, it is because it is written on those old Whig principles, which I am as proud of holding now that they are out of fashion and I am turned fifty, as I then was when they were in fashion, and I was hardly turned twenty. I trust, Sir, you are a Tory moderate enough to forgive me this wrong.
But while I have the pleasure of writing to you, I feel myself half inclined to add a short expostulation on another subject. I have been told that you have pronounced me very frequently in company to be the author of the Heroic Epistle to Sir William Chambers, and I am told too that the Premier himself suspects that I am so upon your authority. Surely, Sir, mere internal evidence (and you can possibly have no other) can never be sufficient to ground such a determination upon, when you consider how many persons in this rhyming age of ours are possessed of that knack of Pope's versification, which constitutes one part of the merit of that poem; and as to the wit, humour, or satire which it contains, no parts of my writings could ever lead you, by their analogy, to form so peremptory a judgement. I acquit you however in this procedure of every, even the slightest degree of ill nature; and believe that what you have said was only to show your critical acumen. I only mention it that you may be more cautious of speaking of other persons in like manner, who may throw such anonymous bantlings, of their brain into the wide world. To some of these it might prove an essential injury; for though they might deserve the frown of power (as the author in question certainly does) yet I am persuaded that your good nature would be hurt if that frown was either increased or fixed by your ipse dixit.
To say more on this trivial subject would betray a solicitude on my part very foreign from my present feelings or inclination. My easy and independent circumstances make such a suspicion fit mighty easy upon me; and the Minister, nay the whole Ministry, are free to think what they please of a man, who neither aims to solicit, nor wishes to accept, any favour from them.
Believe me to be with the truest esteem,
Sir, your much obliged and very faithful servant,
P.S. I should be sorry if you thought this latter part of my letter required any answer."
As to the opinion noticed in the latter part of this letter, my readers must form their own conclusion. Possibly they will consider the incident as a proof of Warton's acumen, since it may, I not unreasonably, be conjectured, that Mason's declining to deny the charge, together with his affected indifference to it, is a presumptive argument of his inability to deny it. Indeed in one part of the letter he appears to allow that he was the author.
To return, however, to the immediate cause of the introduction of the letter here, the Triumph of Isis was accordingly inserted in the next edition of Warton's poems. But in addition to this instance of candour and manly liberality on the part of Mason, it may be remarked, that his conduct throughout this business was uniform, as he had declared in an advertisement prefixed to the first edition of his poem, that it "never would have appeared in print, had not an interpolated copy of it, published in a country newspaper, scandalously misrepresented the principles of the Autlior." Nor was this liberality thrown away on Warton, who, in the 3d volume of his "History of English Poetry," has repaid it with a very handsome compliment to his rival.
But though they were never on any but good terms together, there does not appear to have subsisted any intimacy or cordiality between them. Mr. Warton indeed, whose character was singularly marked by an unaffected and natural simplicity, appears not to have thought very favourably of the social qualities of Mason. During one of his walks up Headington-hill, Mason had called on him. He was informed of it upon his return. "Yes, Sir, (said he) I know it. I was on the hill, and am glad I did not see him. The next thing would have been, I should have had a bad ode, or some such thing, addressed to me. Mason, Sir, is not in my way. He is a buck-ram man."
I will here add by the way one anecdote of Mason, which is somewhat connected with these poems, and, I believe, may be relied on as authentic. Several years after he had written his Elegy, he was coming into Oxford on horseback; and as he passed over Magdalen Bridge, (it was then evening) he turned to his friend, and expressed his satisfaction, that, as it was getting dusk, they should enter the place unnoticed. His friend did not seem aware of the advantage. "What!" rejoined the Poet, "do not you remember my Isis?"
At several times from March to July, 1750, Mr. Warton contributed to "The Student," a monthly miscellany published in Oxford, "A Panegyric on Oxford Ale," "The Progress of Discontent," "Morning, an Ode, — the Author confined to College," and a metrical version of the 39th Chapter of Job. These contributions were made under different signatures, but it does not appear for what reason. "The Progress of Discontent" had been written in 1746, his eighteenth year, and was founded on a copy of Latin verses, which he had written as a weekly exercise. The verses were seen and approved by Dr. Huddesford, President of his College, and were paraphrased in English verse at his desire.
The following anecdote will shew that his talents were known and esteemed by his associates also in College. In the Common-room belonging to the Bachelors and Gentleman-Commoners of Trinity College, it was formerly the practice to elect certain annual officers, and amongst others a Poet-laureate, whose duty it was to celebrate in a copy of English verses a lady, likewise annually elected, and distinguished by the title of Lady-Patroness. On an appointed day the members of the room assembled, and the Poet-laureate recited his verses, crowned with a wreath of laurel. Warton was elected to this office for the years 1747, and 1748: his verses, which are still in being in the Common-room, are written in an elegant and flowing style, and have that kind of merit, which doubtless ensured them applause, when they were written, but which would hardly justify their being obtruded on the public. Even the mention of such an incident might be deemed impertinent, were it not that most readers have a natural curiosity to be made acquainted with minute circumstances in the lives of eminent men.
He had of course before this time taken his degree of A.B. On the first of December 1750, he became A.M. In 1751 he succeeded to a fellowship, and "was thus placed in a situation easy and independent, and particularly congenial with his habits of retirement and study." In this year also he published "Newmarket, a Satire," afterwards printed in Pearch, and "the Oxford Sausage;" and an Ode for Music, performed at the Theatre in Oxford, July 2d, 1751; likewise reprinted in Pearch. It was in 1751 that he contributed to the Oxford collection of verses on the death of Frederic, Prince of Wales, a copy of Latin hexameters in his own name, and his Elegy in that of John Whetham, fellow-commoner of Trinity College. In 1753 appeared at Edinburgh "The Union, or select Scots and English Poems." The pieces in this little publication were selected by Mr. Warton: and he contributed to it several pieces of his own, as "The Triumph of Isis," the "Ode on the Approach of Summer," the "Pastoral in the manner of Spenser," and the Inscription on a beautiful Grotto near the Water." The Ode and the Pastoral are said to be written by a Gentleman formerly of the University of Aberdeen, for what reason it does not appear, as the poems are undoubtedly Warton's, and he was never out of England: the preface adds of the same person, "that his modesty would not permit his name to be printed;" and that, "from these ingenious essays, the public would be enabled to form some judgment beforehand of a poem, of a nobler and more important nature, which he was then preparing." A profession, of which, if it meant any thing, I cannot explain the meaning. In the third edition of "The Union" there are several other of Mr. Warton's poems, and the Summer Ode is printed with many improvements. In this publication, as well as in "The Student," his contributions appeared under several signatures. "The Triumph of Isis" was the only one with his name. An innocent species of delusion; of which it may be neither easy nor useful to discover the cause.
It was about the year 1754, as I learn from a memorandum in his own hand-writing, that Mr. Warton drew up from the Bodleian and Savilian Statutes a body of Statutes for the Radcliffe Library, by the desire of his President, Dr. Huddesford, then Vice-Chancellor; which, when finished, he deposited in Dr. Huddesford's hands. Dr. Radcliffe had a peculiar claim to the services of a Trinity man. He was the only person, not a member of that College, who contributed towards rebuilding the Chapel in 1691.
In the same year he published his "Observations on the Faerie Queene of Spenser," in one volume 8vo. which, after being corrected and enlarged, he republished in two volumes, in 1762. The first edition of the Observations was vehemently attacked, in 1756, in a scurrilous and anonymous pamphlet, intitled "The Observer Observed; or Remarks on a certain curious Tract, intitled Observations on the Faerie Queene of Spenser, by Thomas Warton, A.M. &c." The author of the pamphlet appears to have been some friend and admirer of Mr. Huggins, the not very poetical translator of Ariosto; and he bestows accusations of pedantry, ignorance, and malignity on Warton with no sparing hand. Warton treated the attack, I believe, with silence; and, I doubt not, with contempt.
Indeed whatever might be the opinion entertained of his work by a man, whom prejudice or some other cause disqualified from appreciating it justly, he had the satisfaction of receiving from Dr. (then Mr.) Johnson, to whom he had sent a copy, the following merited compliment, in a letter dated July 16, 1754, and preserved in Boswell's Life of Johnson, vol. i. p. 233.
It is but an ill return for the book with which you were pleased to favour me, to have delayed my thanks for it till now. I am too apt to be negligent: but I can never deliberately shew my disrespect to a man of your character: and I now pay you a very honest acknowledgment for the advancement of the literature of our native country. You have shewn to all, who shall hereafter attempt the study of our ancient authors, the way to success, by directing them to the perusal of the books, which these authors had read. Of this method, Hughes, and men much greater than Hughes, seem never to have thought. The reason, why the authors, which are yet read, of the 16th century are so little understood, is that they are read alone, and no help is borrowed from those who lived with them, or before them."
It is remarkable that this just commendation of Dr. Johnson's stands upon the very ground, which the anonymous censor above noticed takes for the foundation of one of his charges. And to commendation of this nature Warton has a singular claim; as Mr. Upton appears to have thought, when he followed his track, though it was rather disingenuous in him not to acknowledge the obligation, in his edition of the Faerie Queene, four years after; and as will be more fully remarked hereafter in speaking of his edition of Milton's juvenile Poems.
I shall only add in this place, that Mr. Warton at a very early period of life seems to have directed his attention to the study of such books. In a copy of Fenton's edition of Milton's smaller Poems, which was in his possession in 1745, his 17th year, and abounds in MS. notes and references, he remarks, that Milton has never yet been illustrated by comparison with his predecessors &c. and these very notes and references we find some years after transferred into his Observations on Spenser, whence again they were conveyed, much enlarged and improved, and indeed in a great measure new-modelled, into his edition of the Juvenilia of Milton.
The Bishop of Gloucester, Dr. Huntingford, whose kind communications I shall have several occasions to mention, has supplied me with an anecdote of Mr. Warton's early years, which he supposes may be connected with this peculiarity in his taste. "Dr. Joseph Warton (he observes) was accustomed to relate a circumstance, which though in itself apparently unimportant, yet, with respect to the writings of Mr. Thomas Warton, was perhaps in its effects of considerable consequence. When they were both boys, their father took them to see Windsor Castle. The several objects presented to their view much engaged the attention, and excited the admiration, of the father and his son Joseph. As they were returning, the father with some concern said to Joseph, 'Thomas goes on, and takes no notice of any thing he has seen.' This remark was never forgotten by his son, who however in mature years made this reflection: 'I believe my brother was more struck with what he saw, and took more notice of every object, than either of us.' And there is good reason to think, that the peculiar fondness for Castle Imagery, which our Author on many occasions strongly discovers, may be traced to this incident of his early days. That his imagination should afterwards be turned to the description of scenes, with which in his youth his fancy had been captivated, it is very natural to conceive, if we do but recollect how often the mind takes its complexion and bias through life, from a trivial circumstance, happening, before we arrive at manhood.
"To the same cause," adds his Lordship, we may perhaps refer that love of SPENSER, which our Author every where professes. Ideas of CHIVALRY are intimately connected with Castle Imagery; and The Fairy Queen is a mine inexhaustible in lore of that nature.
"He seems very early to have been engaged in that work: for his 'Observations' on it display an abundance of reading in Romantic History and Ancient Poetry, the collecting of which must have been the result of application for many years previous to publication, these 'Observations' first recommended him to the esteem of Bishop Warburton; and that Prelate continued ever afterwards to interest himself for Mr. Warton, expressing his indignation more than once, that nothing was done for him by those who were in power."
It was in the second edition of his "Observations on the Faerie Queene" that he introduced his celebrated note on the ecclesiastical architecture of England: thereby leading the way in a field of enquiry, till that time almost entirely neglected, and in which though a good deal has been since done, much more still remains for the investigation of the curious.
With regard to the origin of the pointed order, it seems to be pretty generally allowed, that though he adopted the notion of no less a man than Sir Christopher Wren, he is wrong in attributing it to the Saracens. With such authority however before him, and at a time when this fort of enquiry was almost new to English literature, it is hardly to be wondered at, that such a mistake, if it be a mistake, was adopted; particularly, as his remarks on the subject were professedly thrown together in haste. Subsequent enquiries in all likelihood induced him to alter his opinion, or furnished him with arguments to substantiate it.
Such enquiries, it is well known, he was constantly prosecuting. Mr. John Warton has informed me, that in their various summer excursions into different parts of the kingdom, his uncle always committed to journals, kept for the purpose, his remarks on the different Saxon and Gothic buildings which he visited; and Mr. Price, of the Bodleian Library, his intimate friend for many years, has told me, that Mr. Warton would frequently talk to him of the excellence of the two chapters on this subject in Bentham's "Ely," adding, that he had much more to say on it, and that he thought of communicating an History of Ecclesiastical Architecture in England by himself to the Antiquarian Society, of which he had long been a member, without contributing to it any papers. Mr. Price farther says, that amongst other papers, which came into his hands on Warton's death, was one written out fairly for the press, and with directions to the printer, containing a History of Saxon and Gothic Architecture; which he delivered over to Dr. Joseph Warton. Mr. John Warton however, who is in possession of his father's and uncle's papers, has never met with it.
Of this work the Author himself has more than once publicly spoken. In the second Dissertation, prefixed to his "History of English Poetry," published, as will be hereafter noticed, in 1774, he speaks of alterations introduced into the stile of military and ecclesiastical building in England by the Normans, and in a note refers for further illustration of the point to a work now preparing for the press, intitled, 'Observations Critical and Historical, on Castles, Churches, Monasteries, and other Monuments of Antiquity in various parts of England.' To which will be prefixed the History of Architecture in England." And again in the third volume, published in 1781, speaking of the art of painting on glass as practised in England, "But with the careless haste of a lover, I am anticipating what I have to say of it in my History of Gothic Architecture in England."
Mr. John Warton has indeed in his uncle's writing some copy-books, containing "Observations, critical and historical, &c." agreeably to the title above recited. These "Observations" appear to have been put together as opportunities offered in the summer-excursions: they do not seem to make a whole, but give independent accounts of the several buildings visited; and are no farther digested or arranged than according to the alphabetical order of counties and places. These then, when completed, were to have been the body of the work: but the promised preface, containing a general and digested history, it is to be feared, will not be found.
Those, who are best acquainted with the fondness, with which Mr. Warton contemplated this subject, and with that taste and discernment, which he eminently possessed, and of which he has given us so tantalising a specimen in the note on the Faerie Queene, will be most able to appreciate the loss of the literary world in the destruction of this MS. Had he not completed the work, our regret on that account might have been in some sort extenuated by considering that in all probability his mind was employed in other interesting enquiries; that new light was thereby derived on the History of our Poetry, or that new treasures were added to its store. But the loss of a finished work, by such a man, and on such a subject, can hardly be enough regretted, for it can hardly ever be repaired.
It sometimes happened to Mr. Warton, as I suppose it may happen to most other men of distinguished talents, to project works, without beginning to perform them; and to begin, without completing them. From Boswell's Life of Johnson it appears that Warton in the year 1755 intended a translation of Apollonius Rhodius; and that in the preceding year he had a design of publishing a volume of observations on the best of Spenser's works. I have also been told that he once had thoughts of publishing a translation of Homer; but my informer could not say whether it was to be an original Work, or a republication of Pope's with notes: probably a version, in Latin hexameters, of the hymns, one of which is to be found amongst his Latin poems. He had however no great time for such occupations, as he was prevented from proceeding with his observations on Spenser by taking pupils in College.
From the expressions used by Johnson, in his letters to Warton at this time, there is reason to suppose that this work was begun; and we have more cause to regret that he was hindered in this, than in the others, as the acquaintance with the poets &c. of the middle ages, which he had just then displayed in his "Observations on the Faerie Queene of Spenser," might have been well applied to the illustration of the other beautiful, but (it is much to be lamented) neglected works of that delightful poet.
A passage in a letter from Johnson to Warton, dated Dec. 21, 1754, is a striking proof of the ignorance concerning the earlier English poets, which at that time prevailed even amongst English scholars. "There is an old English and Latin book of poems by Barclay, called 'The Ship of Fools,' at the end of which are a number of EGLOGUES; so he writes it from Egloga, which are probably the first in our language. If you cannot find the book, I will get Mr. Dodsley to send it you." It is strange that Johnson could imagine Warton to be unacquainted with so common a book as this, if we consider the researches, which his late publication on the Faerie Queene might have shown, that he had been making into early English literature: or that Johnson himself, who was on the eve of sending his Dictionary into the world, should have been struck with the apparent singularity of the word "Eglogues;" which denomination is given to some complimentary poems addressed to William Browne, author of "Britannia's Pastorals," on the publication of his "Inner Temple Masque," towards the middle of the 17th century. The reference seems to have been made by way of assisting Warton in his "Spenserian design," probably of illustrating the "Shepheard's Calendar."
Had the letters of Mr. Warton, in answer to those of Dr. Johnson above alluded to, been preserved, they might have made us acquainted with some interesting particulars relating to his studies at this time. But it is most probable that they suffered considerable interruption from the employment in which he was then engaged. Still these avocations did not prevent him from exerting himself in the service of his friend, or from filling, with credit to himself and benefit to the public, an office of distinguished honour in the University. In 1757, on the resignation of Mr. Hawkins of Pembroke College, Mr. Warton was elected Professor of Poetry: and having been previously active in procuring for Dr. Johnson the degree of A.M. by diploma, (a distinction which he was desirous of placing in the title-page of his Dictionary) he now gave farther proof of his respect for Johnson, by procuring subscriptions, and contributing notes, to his edition of Shakspere. "Your notes upon my poet (says Johnson in a letter preserved by Boswell) were very acceptable. I beg that you will be so kind as to continue your searches. It will be reputable to my work, and suitable to your professorship, to have something of yours in the notes, &c." And in another letter, a few months after, in which he introduces Mr. Baretti to Mr. Warton, he observes, "In recommending another to your favour, I ought not to omit thanks for the kindness which you have shown to myself. Have you any more notes on Shakspeare? I shall be glad of them."
About the same time Mr. Warton contributed Numbers 33, 93, and 96 to the "Idler." Of the 33d Number, the subject was perhaps not well chosen, and the journal contained in it has little either to interest or amuse: but the remarks, with which it concludes, on the benefits of academical education, have been quoted with approbation by a living author of eminence, and may be considered as worthy both of the mind and pen of Johnson. It is observable that Warton chose to fetch the subject of his journal from Cambridge, instead of supplying himself from his own University with a character, such as may even now be found occasionally in both; but, it is to be presumed, is not common in either. The character in No. 93 is in all likelihood just, as it was not drawn from the Author's imagination, but from an original in real life, a distant relation of his own. The story of Hacho, King of Lapland, in No. 96, which has repeatedly amused the hours of childhood, is calculated to convey an useful lesson of temperance to more advanced age. Mr. Warton himself was an early riser, and regular in his exercise.
From the circumstances mentioned above, and from the particular account transmitted by Warton to Boswell of Johnson's visit to Oxford, it appears that at this time a considerable degree of intimacy subsisted between these two celebrated men. There is some reason to suspect that this friendship was followed by a coldness of which we may be allowed to conjecture, though it may be impossible to ascertain, the causes. We are told on the authority of a person, who could speak from actual observation [Author's note: Biographical Dictionary; Art. Warton; which I believe to have been written by a friend of Mr. Warton], that "of Johnson, considered as a lexicographer, a philosopher, and an essayist, Warton thought highly; but was far from entertaining an exalted opinion of him as a man of taste, or a classical scholar." And whatever might be Johnson's opinion of Warton's literary pursuits in general, we know that of his poetry he thought and spoke contemptuously. Such a difference of feeling on matters of taste was not adapted to conciliate, if we suppose any cause of rupture to have arisen. Their manners also, and modes of life, were extremely different. Indeed some cause of offence, whether real or imaginary, appears to have been given on both sides. I have been present when it was said on unquestionable authority, that Johnson has been heard to lament, with tears in his eyes, that the Wartons had not called upon him for the last four years: and on authority, no less to be depended on, that Mr. Warton conceived a personal slight to have been put upon him by Johnson; and farther, that Johnson has been known to declare in terms of severity, surely not a little calculated to offend and irritate, that Tom Warton was the only man of genius, whom he knew, without a heart. Whatever may have been the primary cause, I am satisfied that something unpleasant must have been experienced, or any unkindness would not have appeared in men of such amiable dispositions as the two "learned brothers."
It must have been about this time, or somewhat earlier, as the Connoisseur was published in 1754, that "Colman and Thornton invited Mr. Warton to engage in a Periodical Publication. He declined being a principal conductor: but he occasionally favoured their work, as he did the Adventurer and the World, with gratuitous assistance [Author's note: On the authority of Dr. Huntingford. I am not able to particularise the papers contributed by Mr. Warton to either of these publications]." He afterwards wrote the inscription for Bonnel Thornton's monument in Westminster Abbey [Author's note: A copy of it may be seen in the Gentleman's Magazine for December, 1771].
About this time also he published two small tracts, without name or date. The first was a "Description of the City, College, and Cathedral of Winchester, &c." compiled chiefly from authentic and original records, printed at London, 12mo. A surreptitious and imperfect edition of it was soon afterwards printed by W. Greenville, Winchester. The other was "A Companion to the Guide, and a Guide to the Companion, being a complete supplement to all the accounts of Oxford hitherto published:" a burlesque of infinite jest and humour on Oxford guides and companions, 12mo. It passed through several editions, and is now, as well as the former publication, extremely scarce.
During the time of Mr. Warton's holding the Poetry-Professorship, which he did for the usual term of ten years, he exerted himself to fulfil the duties of the office, by a constant recommendation of the elegance and simplicity of the classic poets. This was the grand object of the lectures, which he delivered in that capacity before the University; and which are said to have been "remarkable for elegance of diction, and justness of observation [Author's note: Biographical Dictionary]." The translations from the Greek Anthologies, which make a part of the last, and the present, edition of his poems, were originally introduced into these lectures: and a specimen of their merit is before the public, under the title "De Poesi Bucolica Graecorum, Dissertatio;" which was at first delivered as one of the Course, and afterwards enlarged, and prefixed to his edition of Theocritus.
But whilst he was thus endeavouring to improve the taste of the members of the University, he strove to be of more lasting and general service to her, and to literature at large, by his publications. With this view he published anonymously, in 1758, "Inscriptionum Romanarum Metricarum Delectus," 4to. Dodsley: the impression was not numerous, and copies of it have become very scarce. This publication is, as the title imports, a selection of Latin Metrical Inscriptions, principally sepulchral, from Mazochius, Smetius, Gruter, and other voluminous collectors; containing also a few modern epigrams, namely, one by Dr. Jortin, and five by himself, on the model of the antique; with various readings and notes illustrative of customs, which are alluded to in the Inscriptions, but are not generally known. The preface explains his design in the publication, and points out with great elegance and precision the proper constituents of an epigram. An octavo volume, of a nature somewhat similar to this, but more extensive, had been published at Cambridge in the year 1691, by Mr. Fleetwood, Fellow of Queen's College; but in it, as in the large collections above alluded to, the metrical and the prose Inscriptions were mixed together, and the selection was made with little taste or discretion.
This publication was in 1766 followed by one of Greek Inscriptions; being an edition of Cephalas's Anthology, from the Clarendon Press. The preface, written by our Author, contains a concise and clear account of this, and of the other Anthology; and proposes a method by which a third might be compiled. This publication, as well as that of the Latin Inscriptions, is without a name but one or two expressions in the preface and ascertain the editor. For in p. xxxiv. he mentions a work, intitled "Inscriptionum &c. Delectus," published by himself; and concludes with a promise of his Theocritus in the following elegant allusion. "Vereor, ut hactenus in plexendis florum corollis otium nimis longum pertraxerim. Proxime sequetur, cui nunc omnes operas et vires intendo, Theocritus. Interea, quasi promulsidem convivii, Lectoribus meis elegantias hasce vetustatis eruditae propino." P. xxxvi.
In 1770, the promised edition of Theocritus, which had been undertaken in 1758, made its appearance in two volumes, 4to. a publication distinguished for its correctness and splendor; and of which Mr. Toup declares in a letter to the Editor, "You have done great honour to me, to yourself, and to the University. It is the best publication that ever came from the Clarendon Press." Brunck indeed has objected to it that the Editor did not make enough use of the ample materials in his possession towards correcting and improving the text; and Harles has characterised it as splendid, but at the same time inconvenient and confused.
Mr. Warton had before this time ceased to be Poetry-Professor, having held the office from 1758 to 1768, the usual term of ten years. It was on his election to the office that he had determined on giving an edition of some Greek classic, by the advice of judge Blackstone, at that time Fellow of All Souls' College, and an ardent promoter of every undertaking likely to do credit to the Clarendon Press, of which he was one of the Delegates. His choice of the particular author was determined partly by the early and unremitted fondness, which in the preface he describes himself to have entertained for Theocritus; and more immediately by the circumstance of many valuable papers, then lately collected from the libraries of Italy, and bequeathed to the Bodleian by the learned J. St. Amand. He professes obligations in the progress of the work to Dr. Wheeler, of Magdalen College, who had been Poetry-Professor, and was then Regius Professor of Divinity; — to Dr. Morres, Vice-Principal of Hertford College, for an unedited life of Theocritus by Joshua Barnes, which, I find by a letter from Dr. Morres, was procured from a son of Mr. Blackwall, author of the "Sacred Classics," who had once a design of editing Theocritus; — to Dr. Morrell, the lexicographer, for the loan of an index to Theocritus; — to Dr. Farmer, then Fellow, and afterwards Master, of Emanuel College, Cambridge, for some unedited remarks of Barnes, which proved of no service; — to his friend Mr. Price, of the Bodleian. for his very kind attention and services; — and especially to Mr. Toup, for contributing to the work the fruits of his learning, industry, and sagacity. I find that he had likewise some trifling communications with Dr. Sumner, and Dr. Barnard, respectively Provosts of King's and Eton Colleges; and with Dr. Musgrave, the editor of Euripides. The book was printed without accents by recommendation of the Delegates of the Press, and particularly, as Dr. Huntingford informed me, of Bishop Lowth, who had a great regard for the Editor. It is dedicated to Lord North, who had himself been formerly a member of Trinity College, and whose son, Mr. North, the late Earl of Guilford, was in 1774 placed there, under the care of Mr. Warton.
By the purchase of a copy of the Theocritus from Mr. Payne, the bookseller, into whose hands the library of our Author came on the death of his brother, Dr. Joseph Warton, in 1800, I am enabled to lay before my readers the following original letter from Reiske, the editor of the Greek orators, &c. whose edition of Theocritus had appeared just before Warton's, and was noticed in his preface with commendation.
"WARTONO V. C.
"J. J. REISKE.
Misit ad me nuper Askewius V. C. Theocritum a Te, Vir Doctissime, egregie expolitum. Non potui facere, quin tibi provinciam hanc cum, laude gestam congratularer, et hisce meis ad te testatum facerem, literis, cum sensu gaudii memorisque animi me legisse laudes abs te in opusculum meum Theocriteum, per festinationem effusum magis quam, meditatione atque mora maturatum, collatas. Raro a me discedis, aut ubi tamen in alia discedis, sedulo cavisti humanitatem ne qua laederes, dissimillimus hac in re Toupio, homini truculento et maledico, cujus literas majoris sim facturus, si humanius alios tractare, et ipse sibi parcere, suaeque famae consulere melius didicisset. Injuriis tot et tam atrocibus, quibus in me grassatus est, nullis meis provocatus, aliud nihil reponam, quam ut meliorem ei mentem apprecer. Probra enim jactare, et in alios rerum suarum satagentes, furiose bacchari neque didici, neque juvat, neque vacat. Tu vero, mi Wartone, perge hac, quam inisti, via, et bene bonis de literis mereri, et famam meam ad cives tuos tueri, et commendatione tua coeptum meum Demosthenicum secundare. Bene vale.
Scripsi Lipsiae d. 22. Octobr. 1770.
Viro clarissimo Wartono
The connection between the three last-mentioned publications of Mr. Warton, and the reference which they appear to have had to his office of Poetry-Professor, have prevented me from mentioning two of his works, which in order of time should have been before noticed: I mean the lives of the Founder and the principal Benefactor of his College. In the year 1760 he contributed to the Biographia Britannica the life of Sir Thomas Pope; which in 1772 he republished, and again in 1780, with very considerable additions and improvements, in one volume, 8vo. and in 1761 he showed the same respect to Dr. Bathurst, by giving to the world his life and literary remains. These works, if they have not served much to increase or extend his reputation as an Author, are at least creditable to his feelings as a Man. Communications for the former of these lives were received by him from the Hon. Dr. Brownlow North, then Bishop of Worcester, and now of Winchester; and for the latter from Lord Bathurst, Dr. Cheney, late Dean of Winchester; and Mr. Payne, then Prebendary of Wells. And for assistance in both of them he acknowledges obligations to his learned friend Mr. Wise, Radcliffe's Librarian, and Keeper of the Archives in the University of Oxford.
In 1761 and 1762 he wrote, as Poetry-Professor, his verses, for the Oxford Collections, on the Death of George II. the Marriage of his present Majesty, and the Birth of the Prince of Wales. To the first of these collections he contributed likewise the Ode, intitled the Complaint of Cherwell, in the name of John Chichester, brother to the Earl of Donegal.
In 1764 was published the "Oxford Sausage, or select poetical pieces written by the most celebrated wits of the University of Oxford," 12mo. Several of the poems, and the humorous preface, were written by Mr. Warton, to whom likewise the conduct of the publication is attributed. The public is also partly indebted to him for an edition of the poems of William Browne (Author of Britannia's Pastorals) in 1772. "The Shepheard's Pipe," consisting of some beautiful eclogues, was become so scarce, that it could not have been reprinted, had not Mr. Warton lent the editor his copy.
On the 7th of December, 1767, he took his degree of B.D. in 1771 was elected a Fellow of the Antiquarian Society, and on the 22d of October in the same year was instituted to the small living of Kiddington in Oxfordshire, on the presentation of George Henry Earl of Litchfield, then Chancellor of the University, for whom he afterwards wrote an epitaph, which may be found in the Gentleman's Magazine for 1778, p. 645.
But the several productions of Mr. Warton, just mentioned, were trifles when compared with that, which he was now employed upon, and which is undoubtedly the greatest and most important of his works. In the year 1774 appeared the first volume of his "History of English Poetry, from the close of the eleventh to the commencement of the eighteenth century; to which are prefixed two Dissertations: 1. On the Origin of romantic Fiction in Europe; 2. On the Introduction of Learning into England." The second volume appeared in 1778, and the third in 1781, to which was prefixed an additional "Dissertation on the Gesta Romanorun." The work was originally designed to have been comprised in three volumes; but the Author did not properly estimate the quantity of the materials, which he had collected, and has accordingly ended his third volume with a "general View and Character of the Poetry of Queen Elisabeth's age." The next part of his employment was to have been a particular examination of this, our Augustan age of Poetry; and having, like Aeneas, surmounted the difficulties, and escaped from the obscurity, of Tartarus, he was now about to enter on the Elysian Fields.
Devenere locos laetos et, amoena vireta
Fortunatorum nemorum, sedesque beatas:
Largior hic campos aether, et lumine vestit
Purpureo, solemque suum, sua sidera norunt.
But notwithstanding the enjoyment of these scenes must have been so congenial to his mind; though in his first edition of Milton's juvenile poems in 1785 he announces that speedily will be published the fourth and last volume of the History of English Poetry; and though four years had then elapsed since the publication of the third volume, and five years afterwards elapsed between this notice and his death, the work (from what cause it does not appear) was never completed: whether it was that the long duration of the same employment had in the end occasioned disgust; or whether his subsequent attention was nearly engrossed by Milton, and thus diverted from the masters to their greater disciple; or whether he suffered his mind, naturally versatile, to wander at different times in pursuit of the various objects which were presented to it, to the neglect of those which he was following. Certain, however, it is, that the work was never brought to a conclusion, though the completion of it would have entitled him to the receipt of a considerable sum; and there is reason to believe, that not much was written beyond what is in the possession of the public.
It has been said, and perhaps generally believed by those, who have not had opportunities of gaining correct information on the subject, that a considerable portion of the unfinished work was left by the Author in MS. and that it was the intention of Dr. Warton to complete it. But whatever may have been the intention of Dr. Warton, there is no reason to imagine that he began to carry it into effect; and as to the MSS. of Mr. Warton, none are to be found to justify the former opinion: a circumstance less remarkable, as it is known by those, who had opportunities of observing it, that long habit had given him great facility in composing, and that he frequently wrote immediately for the press.
Only eleven sheets of the fourth volume were printed; and as they were not, I believe, ever published, and are perhaps not generally known to exist, a transcription of the first paragraph, which opens the scheme of that volume, may not be unacceptable to my readers. — "More poetry was written in the single reign of Elisabeth, than in the two preceding centuries. The same causes, among others already enumerated and explained, which called forth genius and imagination, such as the new sources of fiction opened by a study of the classics, a familiarity with the French, Italian, and Spanish writers, the growing elegancies of the English language, the diffusion of polished manners, the felicities of long peace and public prosperity, and a certain freedom and activity of mind, which immediately followed the national emancipation from superstition, contributed also to produce innumerable compositions in poetry. In prosecuting my farther examination of the poetical annals of this reign, it therefore becomes necessary to reduce such a latitude of materials to some sort of methodical arrangement. On which account I shall class and consider the poets of this reign under the general heads or divisions of Satire, Sonnet, Pastoral, and Miscellaneous Poetry. Spenser will stand alone, without a class, and without a rival."
Agreeably to the order of this division, of which the plan is judicious, and the execution would doubtless have been most interesting, the volume proceeds with an analysis of Bishop Hall's Virgidemiarium, and of Marston's Scourge of Vilanie, and other Satires, and a comparison between the two authors; and breaks off abruptly in the midst of an account of the other Satirists of the age.
I have been told that the copy-right of this work was fold to Messrs. Bowles for £350 no enormous sum, when we consider the time and labour necessary for completing it; and such was the confidence of the proprietors in the sale of it, that the impression consisted of 1250 copies.
As some notice of the origin of a work so important to English Literature may here be naturally expected, I do not think it necessary to apologize for laying before the public in one view, what has already been said upon it by different persons, and in detached places. The idea seems to have originated with Pope, who (as his biographer Ruffhead quaintly expresses it) "once had a purpose to pen a discourse on the rise and progress of English Poetry, as it came from the Provincial poets, and had classed the English poets, according to their several schools and successions, as appears from the list underneath.
Rymer, 2d part, page 65, 66, 67, 77.
Petrarch 78. Catal. of Provencals,
SCHOOL OF PROVENCE.
Chaucer's Visions, Romaunt of the Rose,
Pierce Plowman,Tales from Boccace, Gower.
SCHOOL OF CHAUCER.
Walt. de Mapes,
SCHOOL OF PETRARCH.
E. of Surry, Sir Thomas Wyat, Sir Philip Sidney,
G. Gascoyn, Translator of Ariosto's Com.
SCHOOL OF DANTE.
Mirror of Magistrates,
Lord Buckhurst's Induction, Gorboduck,
Original of good Tragedy, Seneca [his model.]
Spenser, Col. Clout, from the school of Ariosto and Petrarch, translated from Tasso.
SCHOOL OF SPENSER, AND FROM ITALIAN SONNETS.
W. Browne's Pastorals,
Phineas Fletcher's Purple Island, Alabaster, Piscatory Ec.
Sir Walter Raleigh,
Milton's Juvenilia. Heath. Habinton.
Translators from Italian.
SCHOOL OF DONNE.
Sir Thomas Overbury,
Sir John Davis,
Sir John Beaumont,
Models to Waller.
Carew, T. Carey, [in matter]
G. Sandys, in his Par. of Job, Fairfax, [in versification]
Sir John Mennis, Thomas Baynal, [Originals of Hudibras.]
It does not appear that Pope ever acted upon the plan he had thus formed; but on being shown to Gray, it seems to have suggested to him one of a similar kind, but considerably enlarged and modified, of which Mason has given the following account in the 4th volume of his Memoirs. — "The only work," he observes, "which Mr. Gray meditated upon with a direct view to the press from the beginning, was a History of English Poetry. He has mentioned this himself in an advertisement prefixed to those three fine imitations of Norse and Welch Poetry, which he gave the world in the last edition of his Poems. But the slight manner, in which he there speaks of that design, may admit here of some additional explanation. Several years ago I was indebted to the friendship of the present learned Bishop of Gloucester for a curious manuscript paper of Mr. Pope, which contains the first sketch of a plan for a work of this kind, and which I have still in my possession. Mr. Gray was greatly struck with the method, which Mr. Pope had traced out in this little sketch; and on my proposal of engaging with him in compiling such a History, he examined the plan more accurately, enlarged it considerably, and formed an idea for an introduction to it. In this was to be ascertained the origin of rhyme, and specimens not only of the Provencal poetry, (to which alone Mr. Pope seemed to have adverted) but of the Scaldic, British, and Saxon, were to have been given; as, from all these different sources united, English poetry had its original: though it could hardly be called by that name till the time of Chaucer, with whose school (i.e. the poets who wrote in his manner) the history itself was intended to commence. The materials, which I collected for this purpose, are too inconsiderable to be mentioned; but Mr. Gray, besides versifying those Odes that he published, made many elaborate disquisitions into the origin of rhyme, and that variety of metre, to be found in the writings of our ancient poets. He also transcribed many parts of the voluminous Lidgate, from manuscripts which he found in the University Library, and those of private Colleges; remarking, as he went along, the several beauties and defects of this immediate scholar of Chaucer. He however soon found that a work of this kind, pursued on so very extensive a plan, would become almost endless: and, hearing at the same time, that Mr. Thomas Warton, Fellow of Trinity College, Oxford, (of whose abilities, from his 'Observations on Spenser,' we had each of us conceived the highest opinion) was engaged in a work of the same kind, we by mutual consent relinquished our undertaking; and soon after, on that Gentleman's desiring a sight of the plan, Mr. Gray readily sent him a copy of it."