1804 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Whitehead

William Tooke, Note to The Prophecy of Famine; Poetical Works of Charles Churchill (1804) 1:135n.



Thus spake a form, by silken smile and tone
Dull and unvaried, for the Laureat known,
Folly's chief friend, Decorum's eldest son,
In ev'ry party found, and yet of none.
This airy substance, this substantial shade,
Abash'd I heard, and with respect obey'd.

William Whitehead was the son of a tradesman in Cambridge, and a member of Clare Hall. He accompanied Lords Nuneham and Villiers, sons of the Earls of Harcourt and Jersey, in their travels on the Continent; and after their return, kept up an uninterrupted intercourse with these noble families, living constantly with one or the other of them. Through their interest he in 1757, on the death of Colley Cibber, was appointed Poet Laureat, and also obtained the badge of Secretary and Register of the order of the Bath. He wrote several poetical and dramatic works of considerable merit. Churchill's resentment was probably excited against Whitehead, by the publication by the latter, in 1762, of his "Charge to the Poets," in which, however, the satire was so general, that we have found it difficult to discover at what our authorcould take offence, but after that period all Churchill's productions abounded with severe attacks upon the laureat. Whitehead adhered to the precepts which he had laid down, and made no reply. Churchill's animadversions however had such an effect upon Mr. Garrick, who dreaded being again involved in a dispute with so powerful an enemy, that he would not venture to produce upon the stage a new tragedy offered to him by Whitehead. — The Laureat died in 1785, at the age of 70; and was succeeded in his chair by Mr. Thomas Wharton.