WILLIAM WALSH, an English critic and poet, was the son of Joseph Walsh of Abberley in Worcestershire, esq. and born about 1663, for the precise time does not appear. According to Pope, his birth happened in 1659; but Wood places it four years later. He became a gentleman-commoner of Wadham-college in Oxford in 1678, but left the university without a degree, and pursued his studies in London and at home. That he studied, in whatever place, is apparent from the effect; for he became, in Dryden's opinion, "the best critic in the nation." He was not, however, merely a critic or a scholar. He was likewise a man of fashion, and, as Dennis remarks, ostentatiously splendid in his dress. He was likewise a member of parliament and a courtier, knight of the shire for his native county in several parliaments, in another the representative of Richmond in Yorkshire, and gentleman of the horse to queen Anne under the duke of Somerset. Some of his verses shew him to have been a zealous friend to the Revolution; but his political ardour did not abate his reverence or kindness for Dryden, to whom, Dr. Johnson says, he gave a Dissertation on Virgil's Pastorals; but this was certainly written by Dr. Chetwood, as appears by one of Dryden's letters. In 1705 he began to correspond with Pope, in whom he discovered very early the power of poetry, and advised him to study correctness, which the poets of his time, he said, all neglected. Their letters are written upon the pastoral comedy of the Italians, and those pastorals which Pope was then preparing to publish. The kindnesses which are first experienced are seldom forgotten. Pope always retained a grateful memory of Walsh's notice, and mentioned him in one of his latter pieces among those that had encouraged his juvenile studies.
—Granville the polite,
And knowing Walsh, would tell me I could write.
In his "Essay on Criticism," he had given him more splendid praise, and, in the opinion of his learned commentator, sacrificed a little of his judgment to his gratitude. He died in 1708, aged forty-six years. He is known more by his familiarity with greater men than by anything done or written by himself. His works are not numerous, nor of great merit. In 1691, he published, with a preface written by his friend and advocate Dryden, "A Dialogue concerning Women, being a Defence of the Sex," in 8vo; and, the year after, "Letters and Poems, amorous and gallant," published in what is called "Dryden's Miscellany." These were republished among the "Works of the Minor Poets," printed in 1749, with other performances, consisting chiefly of elegies, epitaphs, odes, and songs, in which he discovers more elegance than vigour, and seldom rises higher than to be pretty.