1803 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Christopher Anstey

Anonymous, Obituary in Gentleman's Magazine 75 (August 1803) 780-81.



At the house of Henry Bosanquet, esq. at Harnage, Wilts, in his 81st year, Christopher Anstey, esq. the celebrated author of "The Bath Guide, or, Memoirs of the Blunderhead Family," which he published in 1766, when he was an officer in the Army, reprinted in octavo; one edition has lately appeared with very vulgar plates, an insult on the elegant mind of the author. He was born to a considerable landed estate at Trumpington, near Cambridge; educated at Eton, and elected to King's college, Cambridge; at both which places he distinguished himself a a very elegant scholar. A speech which he made in the public schools, upon some offence that had been given him, beginning "Doctores sine doctrina, magistri artium sine artibus, & baccalaurei baculo potius quam lauro digni," was the cause of his rustification from the University; a circumstance to which he alludes in the epilogue to the New Bath Guide, by the well-known lines,

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

After this he went into the Army, and married Miss Calvert, a near relation of the celebrated brewer, by whom he had several children. He was a frequent resident in the city of Bath, and was distinguished by the notice of the late celebrated Lady Miller, at the Bath-Easton villa, of whose poetical coterie he became a frequent member. Upon the first appearance of the Bath Guide it was generally read and admired, and has most signally survived the temporary reign so commonly the lot of similar productions. This may, however, be attributed to its playful and humourous satire, leveled rather at the groupe of whim and folly than against individual excentricity; and, as the aggregate character experiences little variation in the course of 30 or 40 years, so it is natural that it should be long recognized and admired when delineated by the pen of so skilful a master. "A Poem on the much-lamented Death of the Marquis of Tavistock, 1767." Some years afterwards Mr. A. published "An Election Ball, in Poetical Letters from Mr. Inkle at Bath to his Wife at Gloucester; with a poetical Address to John Miller, Esq. at Bath-Easton Villa;" which, though inferior to the former poem, abounds with a considerable degree of wit and humour. He likewise published "A poetical Paraphrase upon the Thirteenth Chapter of the first Epistle to the Corinthians, 1779," folio; which serves to evince his due estimation of his prominent talent in the first instance, and that he thus succeeds best when he takes in hand subjects of a fanciful and ludicrous cast. He was also author of "The Priest Dissected, a Poem addressed to the R— Author of Regulus, Toby, Caesar, and other Pieces in the Papers, Canto 1. 1774;" a satire, intituled, "Ad C. W. Bampfylde, Epistola poetica familiaris, in qua continentur Tabulae V. ab eo excogitata qua Personas representant Poematis cujusdent Anglicam cui Titulus, An Election Ball, 1776," 4to. This poem was written to introduce to the publick some designs by Mr. B. of Hestercombe, in Somersetshire, for several of the persons and incidents in the Election Ball. It has been very indifferently translated into English by another hand. He, with another gentleman, wrote a very beautiful translation of Gray's Elegy. "Speculation; or, A Defence of Mankind, 1780," 4to; complaining that the poet had been treated by the world in a manner which his inoffensive reprehension of its vices did not entitle him to. "Liberality; or, Memoirs of a decayed Macaroni, 1788," 4to; cautioning against the mendicants of Bath, who have lived very genteelly above their incomes, and some still more genteelly without any incomes at all. "The Farmer's Daughter, a poetical Tale, founded on Fact," published in 1795, with the laudable view "to set Innocence on its guard, and to promote the cause of Virtue." This unfortunate damsel had been seduced by a military officer, and was afterwards deserted by him. Filled with anguish, shame, and remorse, not without some remains of love for the destroyer of her innocence, she left her father's house in search of her perfidious lover, and perished through fatigue and cold in one of the inclement nights of the severe Winter of 1794. To the elegant pen of this gentleman were attributed some beautiful verses which appeared in the Bath Herald about 1796 or 1797. Memoirs of Living Authors, 1. 16; New Memoirs, 1. 79. — His latest publication was the elegant Latin Ode to Dr. Jenner, which has been noticed in our present volume, pp. 39, 325.