1891 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Joseph Warton

George Birkbeck Hill, Note in Boswell, Life of Johnson (1791); ed. G. B. Hill (1891) 2:47n.



"Dr. Warton made me a most obsequious bow.... He is what Dr. Johnson calls a rapturist, and I saw plainly he meant to pour forth much civility into my ears. He is a very communicative, gay, and pleasant converser, and enlivened the whole day by his readiness upon all subjects." Mme. D'Arblay's Diary, ii. 236. It is very likely that he is "the ingenious writer" mentioned post, 1780, in Mr. Langton's "Collection," of whom Johnson said, "Sir, he is an enthusiast by rule." Mr. Windham records that Johnson, speaking of Warton's admiration of fine passages, said: — "His taste is amazement (misprinted "amusement"). Windham's Diary, p. 20. In her Memoirs of Dr. Burney (ii. 82), Mme. D'Arblay says that Johnson "at times, when in gay spirits, would take off Dr. Warton with the strongest humour; describing, almost convulsively, the ecstasy with which he would seize upon the person nearest to him, to hug in his arms, lest his grasp should be eluded, while he displayed some picture or some prospect." In that humourous piece, Probationary Odes for the Laureateship (p. xliii.), Dr. Joseph is made to hug his brother in his arms, when he sees him descend safely from the balloon in which he had composed his Ode. Thomas Warton is described in the same piece (p. 116) as "a little, thick, squat, red-faced man." There was for some time a coolness between Johnson and Dr. Warton. Warton, writing on Jan. 22, 1766, says: — "I only dined with Johnson, who seemed cold and indifferent, and scarce said anything to me; perhaps he has heard what I said of his Shakespeare or rather was offended at what I wrote to him — as he pleases." Wooll's Warton, p. 312. Wooll says that a dispute took place between the two men at Reynolds's house. "One of the company overheard the following conclusion of the dispute. JOHNSON. 'Sir, I am not used to be contradicted.' WARTON. 'Better for yourself and friends, Sir, if you were; our admiration could not be increased, but our love might.'" Ib. p. 98.