1816 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Michael Wodhull

Anonymous, Obituary in Gentleman's Magazine 86 (November, December 1816) 463-64, 564-65.



Nov.10. Died, at his seat at Thenford, Northamptonshire, aged 76, Michael Wodhull, esq. a gentleman of large fortune, great benevolence, and extensive learning. This elegant and accomplished Scholar favoured the publick, in 1782, with the earliest English translation of "The Nineteen Tragedies and Fragments of Euripides," in four volumes, 8vo; which have been recently reprinted in three volumes 8vo. He also printed in 1804, for the use of his friends, an elegant 8vo. volume of Poems, with his portrait prefixed, drawn by Gardiner, and engraved by E. Harding. This elegantly printed Work was thus introduced:

"All the following Poems were printed in 1772 and 1798; it would be tedious to enumerate the various changes, additions, and retrenchments which have since taken piece: let it suffice to mention, that, under much bodily weakness, they are not dictated by the spirit of a modish proselyte. — No Candidate for Ecclesiastical Dignities, the Author has invariably asserted the principle of occasional conformity to both the two 'sound and Apostolic Churches in this Island by law established'; pleading the cause of Toleration, he came forward a disinterested Advocate: his Politics are those of a British Whig, not run away by National Prejudices; in deprecating a War which had for its object, the Restoration of the Bourbons, and auguring success to France against swarms of Confederates, he anticipated for a moment the voice of his Country; that voice, to his great sorrow, soon took a contrary direction. If he fail in obtaining either the smiles of the powerful, or the shouts of the multitude, there yet remains a consciousness that he is burning his incense on the Altars of Truth. — Thenford, June 2, 1804."

Mr. Wodhull first imbibed the love of song at Twyford, Bucks, at the school of the Rev. Mr. Cleaver (father at the late Bp. of St. Asaph, and of the present Abp. of Dublin, and of the Rev. John Cleaver, deceased, M.A. who was his eldest son and student of Christchurch, Oxford; to whom Mr. W. addressed one of his Poetic Epistles). He was afterwards removed to Winchester school, as appears by another of his "Epistles," addressed to his schoolfellow, Wadham Wyndham, esq. From Winchester he was admitted of Brazen-nose College, under the tuition of the Rev. William Gwyn, M.A. afterwards Principal of that Society, who died in 1770. It will be seen, in almost every page of Mr. Wodhull's Poems, that he was a zealous friend of Liberty, Civil and Religious. His politics were or the school of Sydney and Hampden; and he warmly asserted the "Equality of Mankind" in a Poem, so intituled, in which, whilst tracing the Progress of Liberty in the History of the World, he pays the following well-merited compliment to the present Reigning Family:

—'Till she broke
The force of Stuart Kings, the Pontiff's yoke,
By Boyne's swift current, Freedom rear'd her head,
As from Hibernian realms the Tyrant fled:
Then every vale with Io Paeans rung,
While the glad Reaper at his harvest sung
Thee, great Nassau, benevolently brave,
'Twas thine to conquer, and 'twas thine to save.—

Crown'd with Heaven's choicest gift, a liberal mind,
Friends to the native rights of Human.
The Brunswick Line improve th' adopted plan,
And rear the fabric which Nassau began.
Thrice happy Albion! in whose favour'd land,
Impartial Justice, with a steady hand,
Poises the scale of Empire; where the names
Of servile tenure, and the feudal claims
Of Norman Peers, in musty tomes decay,
Swept by obliterating years a away.

Mr. Wodhull was not lees esteemed in the neighbourhood of Thenford for his humanity and general benevolence, than he was in the literary world as a gentleman of profound erudition, and a very skilful Collector of rare and valuable Books. For many years, under a variety of signatures, he was a frequent Correspondent in the Gentleman's Magazine.

Mr. Wodhull's mother (the relict of John Wodhull, esq.) died at the great age of 92, Dec. 12, 1794, (see vol. LXIV. p. 1137.) — Mr. Wodhull married Miss Ingram, of an antient and highly respectable family, seated a Wolford in Warwickshire. This excellent lady, universally loved and admired, Mr. W. had the misfortune to lose, May 28, 1808, (see vol. LXXVIIl. p. 563.) — A just character of Mrs. Ingram, a sister of Mrs. Wodhull, a venerable and respectable lady, who died in 1812, may be seen in vol. LXXXII. p. 49.

Mr. Wodhull left no family, and has bequeathed the bulk of his property to Mrs. Mary Ingram, another sister of Mrs. Wodhull, who is sole executrix. His Collection of Books, we understand, will not be sold....

P. 463. Mr. Wodhull's first publication was "An Ode to the Muses," in 1760, 4to; which was followed in 1761 by "An Epistle to **** ******* A.M. Student of Christ Church," 4to, a very spirited and manly composition, addressed to his tutor, Mr. Cleaver, noticed as nobly pointing

—to guide the rising Youth
The steep ascent which gains the hill of Truth,
With Learning pure Morality impart,
Strengthen the head, and humanize the heart—

and who must have been peculiarly pleased to receive so public a testimony of friendship towards him, and gratitude to his Father, as is happily displayed in the following extract:

If e'er my bosom caught the sacred flame,
Let me remember from what source it came:
Your counsel bade me tread this arduous way,
And deign'd to form thorough mishapen lay.
Here will I trace where first these strains began,
Ere fleeting childhood ripen'd into man.
Can I forget, while Memory holds her reign,
And summons forth her bright ideal train,
Beneath what auspices my earlier age
Imbibed the dictates of the good and sage?
No, gentle Ouse! for oft I lov'd to stray
Where thy smooth current winds its sedgy way:
Full to my view, beside thy conscious stream,
Coy Science thence disclos'd her kindling beam;
In wild career spontaneous numbers flow'd,
As with a heat, unfelt before, I glow'd.
If aught of glory verse like mine can give,
Thy name, recorded by the Muse, shall live:
To me far dearer than the boasted groves
Of proud Lyceum, where Ilissus roves:
Though not a wreath adorn thy modest urn,
In thy neglected weeds no Poet burn,
No Lover carve thy name on every tree,
With his Calista fondly joining thee.

In 1763 he published "Two Odes: 1. To Miss Sally Fowler. 2. To the Dryads," 4to; and in 1765, "The Equality of Mankind," 4to; on which it was well observed by the Monthly Reviewers, that "Mr. Wodhull seems strongly to have imbibed the spirit of that Platonic and Roussovian Enthusiasm, which, worshiping at the feet of Freedom, looks up to the Goddess, and sees nothing beside. Philosophy, in this, more, perhaps, than in an other instance, indulges the influences of Fancy, and is satisfied with the image of Truth. While she has the moral liberty of mankind in view, she finds nothing in real life that is adequate to her ideas of it; yet, willing to believe that men have sometime or other existed in such forms of society as in her own system she conceives to be possible, she easily gives herself up to the delusions of Poetry, and wanders with her through ages of visionary perfection."