THOMAS WARTON, B.D. the son of the Rev. Thomas Warton, vicar of Basingstoke, Hampshire, and brother of Dr. Joseph Warton, was born at Basingstoke, in the year 1728. Until his sixteenth year he was educated solely by his father, and then, on the 16th of March, 1743, sent to Oxford, where he was admitted a commoner, and soon after elected a scholar, of Trinity College.
The bias of Mr. Warton's mind towards poetry and elegant literature was early shewn; in his ninth year, in a letter addressed to his sister, he sends her a translation from Martial; and it has been affirmed, that in 1745, when only in his eighteenth year, he published "Five Pastoral Eclogues," the scenes of which are laid among the shepherds of Germany, ruined by the war of 1744. The authenticity of this production has, however, been much doubted by Mr. Mant, who says, "I do not learn that they ever had the name of Warton affixed to them, and can assert, on the authority of his sister, that he absolutely disclaimed them." Yet it cannot be denied, that a vein of description runs through these Eclogues of a kind very similar to that which Mr. Warton was afterward accustomed to indulge: the following allusion, for instance, to the chivalric combat, in Eclogue the 3d, and the subsequent picture of the convent, in Eclogue the 4th, are of this cast.
The wood, whose shades the plaintive shepherd sought,
Was dark and pathless, and by neighbouring feet
Long time untrod: for there in ancient days
Two knights of bold emprize, and high renown,
Met in fierce combat, to dispute the prize
Of beauty bright, whose valiant arm should win
A virgin fair, whose far-emblazon'd charms
With equal love had smote their rival breasts.
The knight who fell beneath the victor's sword,
Unhears'd and restless, from that fatal day
Wanders the hated shades, a spectre pale;
And each revolving night, are heard to sound,
Far from the inmost bow'r of the deep wood,
Loud shrieks, and hollow groans, and rattling chains.
Dost thou remember at the river's side
That solitary convent, all behind
Hid by the covert of a mantling wood?
One night, when all was wrapt in darkness deep,
An armed troop, on rage and rapine bent,
Pour'd o'er the fields, and ravag'd all they met;
Nor did that sacred pile escape their arms,
Whose walls the murd'rous band to ruin swept,
And fill'd its caverns deep with armed throngs
Greedy of spoil, and snatch'd their treasures old
From their dark seats: the shrieking sisters fled,
Dispers'd and naked, through the fields and woods,
While sable night conceal'd their wand'ring steps.
Part in my moss-grown cottage shelter sought,
Which haply scap'd their rage, in secret glade
Immersed deep. — I rose at early morn,
With fearful heart to view the ruin'd dome,
Where all was desolation; all appear'd
The seat of horror and devouring war.
The deep recesses and the gloomy nooks,
The vaulted aisles, and shrines of imag'd saints,
The caverns worn by holy knees appear'd,
And to the sun were op'd. — In musing thought
I said, as on the pile I bent my brow,—
This seat to future ages will appear
Like that which stands fast by the piny rock;
These silent walls with ivy shall be hung,
And distant limes shall view the sacred pile,
Unknowing how it fell, with pious awe!
The pilgrim here shall visit, and the swain
Returning from the field, at twilight grey,
Shall shun to pass this way, subdued by fear,
And slant his course across the adverse vale!
The close imitation of Milton, too, in Eclogue the 2d, the description of the Hermit's Cell in Eclogue the 5th, and various other passages, of considerable merit for the age at which they are supposed to have been written, might, not without reason, lead to the attribution of these pieces to our author.
It must, indeed, be admitted, that the first acknowledged production of Mr. Warton, "The Pleasures of Melancholy," published in 1747, but composed in 1745, is in a strain superior to the Eclogues. This beautifully romantic poem, though executed at a period so early in life, betrays almost immediately the tract of reading, and the school of poetry, to which its author had, even then, sedulously addicted himself. Every page suggests to us the disciple of Spenser and Milton, yet without servile imitation; for, though the language and style of imagery whisper whence they were drawn, many of the pictures in this poem are so bold and highly coloured, as justly to claim no small share of originality.
The year succeeding this effusion he wrote, on the recommendation of Dr. Huddesford, President of his college, "The Triumph of Isis," in reply to Mr. Mason, who had published an Elegy, under the title of "Isis," reflecting, rather harshly, on some circumstances which had lately occurred, of a political nature, in the university of Oxford. The Triumph of Isis was printed in 1749, and received with a burst of applause, as a noble and spirited vindication of the honour and reputation of his Alma Mater. It has, moreover, the merit, though written upon a temporary subject, of containing imagery and sentiment which must always please and interest. That it is superior to the poem which gave rise to it, has been, not only the opinion of the public, but of Mr. Mason himself, who, writing to Mr. Warton in 1777, for the purpose of thanking him for a present of his poems, which he had then just published, but in which, out of delicacy to his former opponent, he had omitted the Triumph of Isis, says with much candour, "I am, however, sorry to find that the 'Triumph of Isis' has not found a place near the delicate 'Complaint of Cherwell' to which it was a proper companion; and I fear that a punctilio of politeness to me was the occasion of its exclusion. Had I known of your intention of making this collection, most certainly I should have pleaded for the insertion of that poem, which I assure you I think greatly excels the Elegy which occasioned it, both in its poetical imagery, and the correct flow of its versification."
The strong attachment of the Poet to Gothic architecture, though only in his 21st year, is very apparent in the Triumph of Isis, and has given origin, in the following striking apostrophe, to perhaps the best lines which it contains.
Ye fretted pinnacles, ye fanes sublime,
Ye towers that wear the mossy vest of time;
Ye massy piles of old munificence,
At once the pride of learning and defence;
Ye cloisters pale, that length'ning to the sight,
To contemplation, step by step, invite;
Ye high-arch'd walks, where oft the whispers clear
Of harps unseen have swept the poet's ear;
Ye temples dim, where. pious duty pays
Her holy hymns of ever-echoing praise;
Lo! your lov'd Isis, from the bord'ring vale,
With all a mother's fondness bids you hail!
This ardent love of feudal architecture and manners, and which never forsook him through life, has been ascribed by Dr. Huntingford, the present Bishop of Gloucester, to a circumstance which took place in his earliest years. "Dr. Joseph Warton," he tells Mr. Mant, "was accustomed to relate a circumstance, which, though in itself apparently unimportant, yet, with respect to the writings of Mr. Thomas Warton, was perhaps in its effects of considerable consequence. When they were both boys, their father took them to see Windsor Castle. The several objects presented to their view much engaged the attention, and excited the admiration, of the father and his son Joseph. As they were returning, the father with some concern said to Joseph, 'Thomas goes on, and takes no notice of any thing he has seen.' This remark was never forgotten by his son, who however, in mature years, made this reflection: 'I believe my brother was more struck with what he saw, and took more notice of every object, than either of us.' And there is good reason to think, that the peculiar fondness for Castle Imagery which our author on many occasions strongly discovers, may be traced to this incident of his early days. That his imagination should afterwards be turned to the description of scenes, with which in his youth his fancy had been captivated, it is very natural to conceive, if we do but recollect how often the mind takes its complexion and bias through life, from a trivial circumstance happening before we arrive at manhood.
"To the same cause," adds his Lordship, "we may perhaps refer that love of Spenser which our author every where professes. Ideas of chivalry are intimately connected with Castle Imagery, and 'The Fairy Queen' is a mine inexhaustible in lore of that nature."
From this period to the year of his death Mr. Warton continued occasionally to write and publish a variety of poetical pieces. These appeared either separately, or in editions published by himself, or in collections by others; thus, to "The Student," a periodical paper printed at Oxford in 1750; to "The Union, or select Scots and English Poems," 1753; to the Oxford Collections of 1751, 1761, and 1762; to the "Oxford Sausage, or Select Poetical Pieces, written by the most celebrated Wits of the University of Oxford;" 12mo, 1764; and to Pearch's Collection; he contributed many very valuable effusions. Beside his "Pleasures of Melancholy," and his "Triumph of Isis," his "Newmarket, a Satire," and his "Verses on Sir Joshua Reynolds's Painted Window at New College," were published separately, the first of these in 1751, and the last in 1782.
It was not until 1777 that our author printed a volume of Poems; the size was a thin octavo, which consisted principally of new Pieces, most of those which he had formerly published being, for reasons not now known, omitted. A second edition was called for soon after, a third appeared in 1779, and a fourth, much more ample than the former, came from the press in 1789. The most complete edition, however, under the superintendence of the author, and which was partly printed off before his death, was given to the world in 1791. The brief observations, however, which we are about to offer on the poetry of Mr. Warton, will be founded on the edition and arrangement of his Poetical Works as published by Mr. Mant in 1802, in two vols. 8vo, necessarily more perfect than any yet brought forward, as including not only all his Carmina, but his Laureate Odes.
On the genius of Warton, as a Poet, an adequate value has not yet been placed; for in consequence of a sedulous imitation of the diction of our elder bards, especially of Spenser and Milton, originality of conception has been very unjustly denied him. To his brother Joseph, with whom he has been commonly ranked, he is greatly superior, both in vigour and fertility of imagination, though, perhaps, less sweet and polished in his versification.
In the rhymed pentameter, indeed, and in blank verse, he is inferior, in point of versification, to Dryden, Pope, and Milton; but in the eight-syllable metre, to which he was particularly partial, he has exhibited, almost uniformly, great harmony and sweetness. The mixture of trochaics of seven syllables, and iambics of eight, which has been objected to him as a fault, in this species of verse, I am so far from considering as a defect, that, as in Milton and Gray, I esteem it productive of much beauty and much interesting variety.
Against the antique cast of expression which he has so frequently adopted in his poems, the disciples of Dryden and Pope have brought many complaints. That an indiscriminate use of the phraseology of our elder bards must be admitted as a blemish will not be denied; but when, as in Warton, the theme is drawn from the bosom of legendary lore, and abounding in pictures of Anglo-Norman arts and manners, a judicious admixture of old words throws a richness and mellowness over the composition that admirably blends with the nature of the subject, and which no other expedient can supply.
The imagery, indeed, throughout the greater part of the poetry of Warton is altogether antiquated; it is founded on the costume of the chivalric ages, and is every where thickly strewn with feudal pictures and embellishments. The language is accordant, and has given to these glowing sketches a tint which, as removing all rawness and glare of colouring, appears the work of time. In fact, more than any other poet since the era of Spenser, our author may be termed The Bard of Gothic Painting. In lyric poetry he approaches nearer the genius of Collins than of Gray; for, like the former, he was strongly addicted to the wild, the wonderful, and the romantic. In these departments, after enumerating our three great poets, Spenser, Shakspeare, and Milton, may we not add, as forming the closest approximation, the names of Collins and of Warton? and, as, in these days of coarse and illiberal criticism, to honour living merit has become a virtue most rare, I am induced to finish the modern triumvirate with the latest of our poets, with the name of Walter Scott.
We shall now, according to the arrangement of the last edition, consider the classes into which the poems of Mr. Warton have been divided. Of these the first, entituled "Miscellaneous Pieces," embraces eight productions, including the "Triumph of Isis," and the "Pleasures of Melancholy." Four of the number, I regret to say, are political poems, written on the decease of Frederick Prince of Wales, and George the Second; on the marriage of George the Third; and on the birth of the Prince of Wales. On such subjects it is sufficient encomium to say, that common-place eulogy is avoided, and that much poetical imagery is introduced. Of the "Monody, written near Stratford upon Avon," the twelve concluding lines are peculiarly fine; but the poem that, under this head, now demands our first attention, is addressed to "Sir Joshua Reynolds, on his Painted Window at New College, Oxford," and is completely characteristic of the genius and mind of the Poet: it opens with a confession of his attachment to Gothic antiquity, and with an admirable description of a Gothic Cathedral, which paint the propensities of the author in vivid colours.
Long have I lov'd to catch the simple chime
Of minstrel harps, and spell the fabling rhime;
To view the festive rites, the knightly play,
That deck'd heroic Albion's elder day;
To mark the mould'ring halls of barons bold,
And the rough castle cast in giant mould,
With Gothic manners Gothic arts explore,
And muse on the magnificence of yore.
But chief, enraptur'd have I lov'd to roam,
A ling'ring votary, the vaulted dome,
Where the tall shafts, that mount in massy pride,
Their mingling branches shoot from side to side;
Where elfin sculptors, with fantastic clew,
O'er the long roof their wild embroid'ry drew;
Where SUPERSTITION with capricious hand
In many a maze the wreathed window plann'd,
With hues romantic ting'd the gorgeous pane,
To fill with holy light the wondrous fane;
To aid the builder's model, richly rude,
By no Vitruvian symmetry subdued;
To suit the genius of the mystic pile:
Whilst as around the far-retiring isle,
And fretted shrines, with hoary trophies hung,
Her dark illumination wide she flung,
With new solemnity the nooks profound,
The caves of death, and the dim arches, frown'd.
This poem, as addressed to one of the first artists of his age, may seem to court a comparison with the Epistle of Dryden to Sir Godfrey Kneller, and of Pope to Jervas; but as the Muse of Warton was principally employed in the delineation of Gothic scenery, or in contrasting it with the chaste production of Sir Joshua, there are few traces of parallelism. In point of poetical merit it is not inferior to the finished pieces of his predecessors.
Of the Inscriptions, that written " In a Hermitage at Ansley Hall, in Warwickshire," is singularly pleasing both in its sentiment and imagery; the fourth stanza, more especially, closes with a picture exquisitely glowing and beautiful.
The Four Translations call not for much attention; they are elegant, however, and correct; the versification of the passage from Job is spirited and harmonious; the paraphrase of the twentieth Idyllium of Theocritus is a perfect copy of the style and stanza of the first two months of Spenser's Calendar, and the blank odes from Horace have as much melody as can usually be exhibited in this department independent of rhyme.
It is to the Lyric Poetry of our author, however, that we are to turn for a full view of his talents and genius. FIe has left us three and twenty odes, sixteen of which are entitled to high praise. These I would separate into six classes; the Picturesque, the Historic, the Gothic, Chivalric, Pathetic, and Sublime.
Under the title of Picturesque I would arrange Ode 2, The Hamlet; Ode 7, sent to a Friend, on his leaving a favourite Village in Hampshire; Ode 10, The First of April; Ode 11, On the Approach of Summer; and Ode 23, Descriptive of the Mineral Springs of England.
I consider the descriptive poetry of Warton, as it appears in these five odes, to be of the very first order, and so far original, as it presents us with new pictures, and new combinations of ideas. The language, it is true, is modelled upon that of Milton, especially in his Ode on the Approach of Summer, but the imagery is his own, and frequently of a kind very distinct from that which characterizes the minor poetry of our great Epic Bard. The mind of Warton was, indeed, peculiarly alive to the minutiae of rural scenery, and he has sketched his objects with such fidelity to nature, that they frequently might, with all their circumstances, be transferred with full effect to the canvas. Neither Gray nor Collins can vie with him in this respect; and, as Mr. Mant has justly observed, "neither Claude nor Ruysdale ever painted a more glowing or a more distinct picture, than are many of the descriptions of Warton."
It has been mentioned, however, by this ingenious biographer, as a defect in the descriptive poetry of Warton, that it is so little mingled with manners, passions, or moral reflection. Yet, of the five odes that we have just alluded to, only two, the 2d and the 23d, are purely descriptive. The Hamlet is throughout moral, both in design and execution; it is, indeed, a most fascinating display of the pleasures to be enjoyed from innocence and industry in rural privacy, contrasted with the illusive gratifications of splendor, wealth, and revelry. The Ode sent to a Friend has a pathetic charm which will endear it to every reader, when lie shall recollect that it mourns the departure of a beloved brother, who was then leaving his favourite residence at Wynslade for the continent; and if we appeal to the Ode on the Approach of Summer, it will be found interspersed with an occasional vein of the most pleasing pathos and morality: what, for instance, can better prove this than the insertion of the following lines?
— When life's busier scene is o'er,
And age shall give the tresses hoar,
I'd fly soft luxury's marble dome,
And make an humble thatch my home,
Which sloping hills around inclose,
Where many a beech and brown oak grows;
Beneath whose dark and branching bow'rs
It's tides a farfam'd river pours:
By Nature's beauties taught to please,
Sweet Tusculane of rural ease!
Still grot of Peace! in lowly shed
Who loves to rest her gentle head.
For not the scenes of Attic art
Can comfort care, or soothe the heart:
Nor burning cheek, nor wakeful eye,
For gold and Tyrian purple fly.
Thither, kind Heav'n, in pity lent,
Send me a little, and content;
The faithful friend, and cheerful night,
The social scene of dear delight.
The conscience pure—
O ever to sweet Poesy
Let me live true votary—
She, from my tender youthful cheek,
Can wipe, with lenient finger meek,
The secret and unpitied tear,
Which still I drop in darkness drear.
The 23d Ode, composed for his Majesty's Birth-Day, June 4th, 1790, which contains an eulogy on the chief mineral springs of this country, was the last which our Laureate wrote, and is, perhaps, in point of language and description, fully equal, if not superior, to any of his former productions. The scenery of Matlock, Bristol, Bath, Malvern, and Buxton, is depicted in colours alike rich, clear, and appropriate.
In the class which I have termed Historic may be placed three Odes, the seventeenth, the nineteenth, and the twenty-first. Of these the first, written for his Majesty's Birth-Day, 1786, commemorates the Bards of Greece who paid their homage "to the throne of virtuous kings," Alcaeus, Pindar, and Theocritus; while the second, for the same occasion, 1787, chaunts the praises of the great Laureate Poets of England, Chaucer, Spenser, and Dryden. The idea is a happy one, and it is brought forward and embodied with the noblest imagery, and with the choicest lyric expression. The characters of our author's favourites, Theocritus and Spenser, are highly wrought. The third and last of these pieces is a spirited eulogium on Liberty, and an admirable poetic record of the effects of the Roman, Saxon, Danish, and Norman invasions.
Proceeding to the next department, the Gothic, we shall discover three odes, two of which possess very great merit. The first, Written at Vale Royal Abbey in Cheshire, is rendered rather heavy and monotonous by an injudicious choice of the elegiac metre; it contains, however, some striking gothic imagery, and, particularly, some very fine lines on the utility of monastic protection to literature and the arts. The second, Ode the 18th for the New Year, 1787, and the third, Ode the 20th, for the New Year, 1788, abound in the richest and most characteristic Gothic Paintings, "which give," remarks the Monthly Reviewer of the edition of 1791, "that kind of mellowness to these poems, that time confers on medals and productions of the pencil." The first and second stanza of the Ode for 1788 present us with a finished picture of the exterior of a Norman castle.
Rude was the pile, and massy proof,
That first uprear'd its haughty roof
On Windsor's brow sublime, in warlike state:
The Norman tyrant's jealous hand
The giant fabric proudly plann'd:—
Unchang'd, through many a hardy race
Stood the rough dome, in sullen grace;
Still on its angry front defiance frown'd:
Though monarchs kept their state within,
Still murmur'd with the martial din
The gloomy gateway's arch profound;
And armed forms, in airy rows,
Bent o'er the battlements their bows,
And blood-stain'd banners crown'd its hostile head;
And oft its hoary ramparts wore
The rugged scars of conflict sore.
To the kindred title of Chivalric we refer the Odes termed "The Crusade," and "The Grave of King Arthur," which, owing to their dramatic form, possess an interest and animation exclusively their own. They have also, if we advert to the invention discoverable in their structure, a claim to a higher poetical assignment than any other of our author's productions. The manners and costume of chivalry are likewise accurately preserved; and the imagery, especially in the Crusade, is of a cast unusually bold and impressive.
To the quotation which we have just given, descriptive of the exterior of a Norman castle, it will not, probably, be irrelevant to add a picture equally faithful of the interior, from the pencil of the same master, and which forms the opening of "the Grave of Arthur."
Stately the feast, and high the cheer:
Girt with many an armed peer,
And canopied with golden pall,
Amid CILGARRAN'S castle hall,
Sublime in formidable state,
And warlike splendour, Henry sate;
Prepar'd to stain the briny flood
Of Shannon's lakes with rebel blood.
Illumining the vaulted roof,
A thousand torches flam'd aloof:
From massy cups, with golden gleam
Sparkl'd the red metheglin's stream:
To grace the gorgeous festival,
Along the lofty-window'd hall,
The storied tapestry was hung:
With minstrelsy the rafters rung
Of harps, that with reflected light
From the proud gallery glitter'd bright:
While gifted bards, a rival throng,
(From distant Mona, nurse of song,
From Teivi, fring'd with umbrage brown,
From Elver's Vale, and Cader's crown,
From many a shaggy precipice
That shades Ierne's hoarse abyss,
And many a sunless solitude
Of Radnor's inmost mountains rude,)
To crown the banquet's solemn close,
Themes of British glory chose.
A single, but a most exquisitely moral and tender ode, may be deservedly characterised, among the lyrics of Warton, by the appellation of Pathetic; it is entituled "The Suicide," and is calculated, from its noble sentiments and religious tendency, to impart as much comfort to the wretched and care-worn, as its melody and imagery can afford delight to the lovers of poetic fancy. The eighth, ninth, tenth, eleventh, and twelfth stanzas, make the most touching appeal to the heart; and the close, while it suggests the most important truths, is at once awful and majestic.
The odes to which we have applied the epithet Sublime, are the 16th and 22d of Mr. Mant's edition; the first written for the New Year, 1786, and the second for the Birth-Day, 1789. The opening of the Ode for 1786 is built upon a passage in the fourth Odyssey of Homer, and on another in the second Olympic Ode of Pindar, and their appropriation to Great Britain is one of the happiest efforts in lyric poetry. The first and second stanza of this magnificent ode truly merit the appellation which designates the class; nor will the commencement of the birth-day ode for 1789, which commemorates the recovery of our beloved monarch, prefer a less powerful claim to similar eulogium. It is, indeed, a most striking proof of the genius of Warton, that, with all the formidable obstacles to excellence which must ever attend a perpetually recurring subjects he should so completely have surmounted every difficulty as to render his laureate odes, with one exception, some of the most beautiful specimens of lyric poetry which our language can exhibit.
Having occupied so much space, considering our limits, on this branch of our author's effusions, it will be necessary to notice the residue of his poems with somewhat more than common brevity.
The Sonnets, which are written on the legitimate Italian model, are rich in imagery, but the versification is rather harsh and heavy. The last, addressed to the River Lodon, is the best, and is rendered peculiarly pleasing from the pensive tone which pervades it.
To the Humourous Pieces we are inclined to attribute no small share of merit. "Newmarket, a Satire," would do honour to Pope; the "Progress of Discontent" is in the best manner of Swift, and the "Panegyric on Oxford Ale," though an imitation of Phillips's "Splendid Shilling" is more interesting than its prototype, and, being written on a favourite subject, is executed con amore. Ale and tobacco were the luxuries of Warton;
My sober evenings let the tankard bless,
With toast embrown'd, and fragrant nutmeg fraught,
While the rich draughts with oft repeated whiffs
Tobacco mild improves! Divine Repast!
and, social and goodhumoured as he generally was, to have partaken of his heart-rejoicing ale, and to have listened to his varied erudition and rich vein of hilarity, as
in capacious chair
Of monumental oak and antique mould
He plac'd his gladsome limbs — while round
Return'd replenish'd the successive cup,
And the brisk fire conspir'd to genial joy,
must have been a treat of no vulgar kind.
The classical taste and acquirements of our amiable bard are shewn to great advantage in his Poemata which have been divided into "Hexametra," "Epigrammata," and "Graeca atque Anglica quaedam Latine reddita." To these is added, Inscriptionum Romanarum Metricarum Delectus," in which are introduced five inscriptions of his own composition.
The Hexameters include three poems; "Mons Catharinae;" "On the Rebuilding of Trinity College Chapel," and "On the Death of Frederic Prince of Wales," in 1751. The first is the most generally interesting; but they all display an intimate and very correct acquaintance with the language in which they are written.
To the Epigrams too much praise cannot be given; they breathe the very spirit of simplicity and tenderness, and their style is such as would reflect honour on the pages of Catullus and his disciple Flaminius. Than the Epitaph on Mrs. Serle nothing can be more delicately and pathetically elegant.
The Translations from the Greek and English into Latin are executed, both as to diction and versification, with great classical purity; and the hendecasyllables in the Inscriptionum Delectus, beginning
O Dulcis puer, O venuste Marce,
are, as Dr. Warton has observed, worthy of the genius of Meleager.
Reverting to the chronological order of events in our biography, we have to record, that on the first of December, 1750, Mr. Warton took his degree of Master of Arts; that in 1751 he succeeded to a fellowship, and in 17.54 published his "Observations on the Faerie Queene of Spenser" in one volume octavo. This book led the way to that species of commentary which attempts the illustration of our elder bards by the perusal and quotation of their contemporary writers. To this plan of elucidation Warton was very early addicted; for there is extant a copy of Fenton's edition of Milton's smaller Poems which belonged to him in his seventeenth year, and which is filled with MS notes of this kind. The "Observations on the Faerie Queene of Spenser," a great portion of which has been since incorporated in Mr. Todd's edition, throw much light on the obscure and legendary resources of that romantic poet, and on his allegory, versification, and imagery; the incidental disquisitions, also, on Chaucer, Ariosto, &c. are rich in sound and discriminative criticism. In the second edition of these "Observations," which our author republished in 1762, corrected, enlarged, and extended to two volumes, he introduced a long and valuable note on a subject that was particularly endeared to him, the Ecclesiastical Architecture of England; a note the more remarkable as it gave birth to that spirit of enquiry into our Gothic Remains which has since been so widely diffused. In his attempt, however, to ascertain the origin of the pointed arch, he appears to have failed, from deference to the opinion of Sir Christopher Wren, who attributed it to the Saracens. It has lately been the object of some antiquaries to prove that the Pointed Order of Architecture is exclusively English, a position equally baseless; for that the Pointed Style existed upon the continent long anterior to the Norman invasion, or to any specimens of such an order now left in this country, is demonstrative from impartial research. "The earliest and most authentic model," says Dr. Sayers, "of a Gothic building, with which we are yet acquainted, is that which is represented on a coin of Theodoric, King of the Ostrogoths, who made himself master of a considerable portion of Italy in the year 490. It has been hence inferred (and by no means unreasonably,) that the palace of that prince was constructed in the pointed style." It appears also, from the enquiries of this gentleman, that the Church of St. Sophia, at Constantinople, the Church of St. Germain l'Auxerrois, the Cathedral of Monte Reale, near Palermo, and the Cathedral of Rheims, erected in the sixth, seventh, eighth, and ninth centuries, are all in the Gothic style, and possess numerous specimens of the pointed arch.
Even the "florid" Gothic, which was not visible in this kingdom before the fifteenth century, evidently existed upon the continent so early as the thirteenth, twelfth, and even the eleventh centuries. "The grand entrance," observes Dr. Sayers, "to the Cathedral of Strasburgh, founded in 1027, is formed by some magnificent pointed arches; its top and sides are also decorated by a great number of pointed niches and pinnacles most richly ornamented. Statues are placed upon it in great profusion."
Nothing would better contribute toward establishing the origin, and age, of the different styles of military, civil, and ecclesiastical architecture in England, than a comparative view of the state of Gothic architecture in Normandy and this island, before, at, and after the conquest. To form criteria, indeed, for the purpose of fixing the dates of Saxon, of Norman and Anglo-Norman buildings, had occupied much of the attention of Mason, and Gray; and they planned, but never executed, a series of drawings which should ascertain with facility and accuracy the era of the erection of the whole, or parts, of every gothic structure. It was, likewise, the full intention of Warton to publish a History of Gothic Architecture in England, for which purpose he made several summer tours through various districts of the kingdom; and in the second Dissertation prefixed to his "History of English Poetry," after remarking in the text, that the Normans had brought with them the arts, and had built castles and churches on a more extensive and stately plan, he informs us, in a note, that "this point will be further illustrated in a work now preparing for the press, entitled, Observations Critical and Historical, on Castles, Churches, Monasteries, and other Monuments of Antiquity in Various Parts of England. To which will be prefixed, the History of Architecture in England." How much is it to be regretted, that this production, which, Mr. Price of the Bodleian Library says, was written out fairly for the press, and with directions to the printer, has not yet been discovered, and that only the "prima stamina" of the work, in a crude state, were found among his papers!
Some considerable progress, however, toward establishing the criteria we have alluded to, has been lately made in a very learned and ingenious paper by Dr. Sayers, entitled Hints on English Architecture; in which the author says, "I have endeavoured to sketch out from the writings of others, and from the observations which I have been able to make myself, a general view of those classes into which the structures, or remains of structures, in this island, may be conveniently distributed; and under each of these divisions I have noticed, where necessary, the kinds of buildings, &c. which may be properly included in it, and some of the more remarkable peculiarities by which the structures of that class, or age, are commonly distinguished. This Essay, and the series of engravings by Mr. Britton, will be indispensable to the student of our architectural antiquities.
To the occupation of his time, by taking pupils in College, we are to attribute, about this period, the loss of two works by our critic, of considerable importance; namely, an additional volume of Observations on the best of Spenser's works, and a translation of Apollonius Rhodius; of which, the former was actually commenced. He was, likewise, solicited, at the beginning of 1754, by Colman and Thornton to assist them in the composition of the Connoisseur. "He declined," says Dr. Huntingford in a communication to Mr. Mant, "being a principal conductor; but he occasionally favoured their work, as he did the Adventurer and the World, with gratuitous assistance." The papers, however, which he contributed to these works, if there be no mistake in the supposition of his having afforded any assistance, are wholly unknown.
It was at this era of his life also that he printed, though anonymously and without any date, two small duodecimos which evince his taste both for antiquarian lore, and genuine humour, a combination not frequently to be detected. The first is entitled "A Description of the City, College, and Cathedral of Winchester, &c. and the second "A Companion to the Guide, and a Guide to the Companion; being a complete supplement to all the accounts of Oxford hitherto published;" a jeu d'esprit it in which the burlesque is admirably supported, and the satire of the most playful and good-humoured kind.
In the year 1757, Mr. Warton was elected Professor of Poetry, in the University of Oxford, for the customary term of ten years; an office, the duties of which he discharged with great credit to himself, and great utility to his pupils. The lectures which he delivered from the chair, if we may judge of them from the, only one that has been published, and which is prefixed to his edition of Theocritus, under the title "De Poesi Bucolica Graecorum Dissertatio," would be highly acceptable to the public. He contributed this year some notes to his friend Johnson's edition of Shakspeare; and in 1758 and 1759 three essays to the Idler. In 1758 also he printed, but without his name, his Latin "Delectus," and began his edition of Theocritus.
He appeared before the world as a biographer in the year 1760, by the contribution of the Life of Sir Thomas Pope to the Biographia Britannica, an attempt which was followed in 1761 by the life and literary remains of Dr. Bathurst. To these efforts he was induced by the love which he bore his college; the former of these personages being its founder, and the latter its principal benefactor. It was impossible, perhaps, to throw much interest round the biography of characters not much celebrated either for active or literary exertion; but what was to be effected he has obtained, by amusing anecdote and collateral disquisition.
As a kind of companion to his "Inscriptionum Romanarum Metricarum Delectus," he published in 1766 an edition of Cephalas's Anthology, with an elegant Latin Preface; towards the conclusion of which he mentions his being ardently employed on his intended edition of Theocritus; "proxime sequeter, cui nunc omnes operas et vires intendo, Theocritus."
On the seventh of December 1767 he took his degree of B.D. and in 1770 appeared in two splendid volumes, 4to, his long-promised edition of Theocritus. To this unrivalled pastoral poet Mr. Warton was peculiarly attached; and, as it was his wish, on accepting the office of Poetry-Professor, to present the University with an edition of a Greek classic, he naturally fixed upon his favourite; a choice to which he was still further stimulated, by the bequest to the Bodleian Library, at that time, of many valuable manuscripts relative to his author. This edition, in which he was assisted by several of his learned contemporaries, has been, in general, highly estimated.
In 1771 our author was elected a Fellow of the Antiquarian Society; and in the October of the same year he was presented by George Henry Earl of Lichfield to the living of Kiddington, in Oxfordshire. He had now commenced his great work upon English Poetry; and in the year 1774 appeared the first volume, in quarto, under the following title: "The History of English Poetry, from the close of the eleventh to the commencement of the eighteenth century; to which are prefixed two Dissertations: 1. On the Origin of Romantic Fiction in Europe; 2. On the Introduction of Learning into England." This laborious undertaking he continued by the publication of a second volume in 1778, and by a third in 1781; to which last he prefixed a "Disserta tion on the Gesta Romanorum."
It had been the intention of the Historian to have completed his plan in the compass of three volumes, 4to; but his materials growing upon him as he proceeded, the close of the third volume brought the reader no further than to the commencement of the Reign of Elizabeth, and is employed in sketching a general view and character of the poetry of her age. In 1785, however, the literary world was high in hope that the author would soon put a finishing hand to his interesting labours; for in the edition of Milton's Juvenilia which he that year presented to the public, he issued the welcome intelligence that "speedily will be published the fourth and last volume of the History of English Poetry." Five years, however, elapsed between this period and his death, and yet the public expectation remained unfulfilled. Perhaps no defalcation in literary promise has ever been more regretted than this failure of Warton. At least to the lovers of English poetry it was an almost irreparable loss; for where could they hope again to find such indefatigable research, accompanied with an equal share of similar fancy, taste, and elegance.
It appears, indeed, that the fourth volume had been begun, and that eleven sheets of it had been actually printed; but of the manuscript part, which report had affirmed to have been considerable, there is reason to apprehend either the nonexistence or the entire loss. The printed portion, which, most probably, will be adopted, as far as it goes, by some future continuator, is occupied by the consideration of the satirical poets of the Elizabethan era; and from the opening of the fragment, which is given by Mr. Mant in his Memoirs, we find it to have been the design of the author to have arranged the poetry of this period under five classes, "Satire, Sonnet, Pastoral, and Miscellaneous; Spenser standing alone, without a class and without a rival."
The idea of writing a History of English Poetry seems to have originated with Pope, who, attached to painting, and accustomed to the classification of its professors under their respective schools, endeavoured to introduce into Poetry a similar arrangement. The following table presents, if we may depend upon the authority of Ruffhead, the scheme which he had drawn out [diagram omitted].
With this scheme Gray was so much pleased, that, under the promise of assistance from his friend Mason, he began seriously to meditate a History of English Poetry; and so far advanced, indeed, as to have made many elaborate disquisitions for the purpose, into the origin of rhyme and metre, and to have executed also, for the same end, his admirable imitations of Norse and Welch poetry. Deterred, however, from the prosecution of the design, by the labour and research attending it, and learning, likewise, that Mr. Warton had engaged in a similar work, he kindly communicated, at the request of our author, the improvements which be had made on the plan of Pope. His letter to Warton, a literary curiosity of much value, is thus preserved in the Gentleman's Magazine for 1783.
Our friend, Dr. Hurd, having long ago desired me in your name to communicate any fragments, or sketches, of a design, I once had, to give a History of English Poetry, you may well think me rude or negligent, when you see me hesitating for so many months, before I comply with your request. And yet, believe me, few of your friends have been better pleased than I, to find this subject, surely neither unentertaining nor unuseful, had fallen into hands so likely to do it justice; few have felt a higher esteem for your talents, your taste and industry. In truth, the only cause of my delay has been a sort of diffidence, that would not let me send you any thing so short, so slight, and so imperfect, as the few materials I had begun to collect, or the observations I had made on them. A sketch of the division or arrangement of the subject, however, I venture to transcribe; and would wish to know, whether it corresponds in any thing with your own plan. For I am told your first volume is in the press.
"INTRODUCTION. On the Poetry of the Galic, or Celtic, nations as far back as it can be traced. — On that of the Goths, its introduction into these islands by the Saxons and Danes, and its duration.-On the Origin of Rhyme among the Franks, the Saxons, and Provencaux. Some account of the Latin rhyming Poetry, from its early origin down to the fifteenth century.
"PART I. On the school of Provence, which rose about the year 1100, and was soon followed by the French and Italians. Their heroic poetry, or Romances in verse, Allegories, Fabliaux, Syrvientes, Comedies, Farces, Canzoni, Sonnets, Balades, Madrigals, Sestines, &c. of their imitators the French; and of the first Italian school, commonly called the Sicilian, about the year 1200, brought to perfection by Dante, Petrarch, Boccace, and others.-State of Poetry in England from the Conquest, 1066, or rather from Henry the Second's time, 1154, to the reign of Edward the Third, 1327.
"PART II. On Chaucer, who first introduced the manner of the Provencaux, improved by the Italians, into our country; his character and merits at large: the different kinds in which he excelled. Gower, Occleve, Lydgate, Hawes, Gawen Douglas, Lyndesay, Bellenden, Dunbar, &c.
"PART III. Second Italian school, of Ariosto, Tasso, &c. an improvement on the first, occasioned by the revival of letters, the end of the fifteenth century. The Lyric Poetry of this and the former age, introduced from Italy by Lord Surrey, Sir T. Wyat, Bryan, Lord Vaulx, &c. in the beginning of the sixteenth century.
"PART IV. Spenser, his character: subject of his poem, allegoric and romantic, of Provencal invention; but his manner of tracing it borrowed from the second Italian school.-Drayton, Fairfax, Phineas Fletcher, Golding, Phaer, &c. This school ends in Milton. — A third Italian school, full of conceit, begun in Queen Elizabeth's reign, continued under James and Charles the First, by Donne, Crashaw, Cleveland, carried to its height by Cowley, and ending perhaps in Sprat.
"PART V. School of France, introduced after the Restoration — Waller, Dryden, Addison, Prior, and Pope, — which has continued to our own times.
"You will observe that my idea was in some measure taken from a scribbled paper of Pope, of which I believe you have a copy. You will also see I had excluded Dramatic Poetry entirely; which if you have taken in, it will at least double the bulk and labour of your book. I am, Sir, with great esteem,
Your most humble and obedient servant,
Pembroke Hail, Apr. 15th, 1770."
Another attempt has been very lately made to illustrate the annals of our poetry by a division into schools; it is from the pen of Dr. Sayers, who constitutes eight eras; thus, the Anglo-Saxon school, commencing with the poet Caedmon; the Pure Norman school, commencing with the reign of Henry the First; the Anglo-Norman school, commencing with the poet Lazamon; the English school, commencing with Chaucer; the Italian school, commencing with Spenser; the French school, commencing with Dryden; the Greek school, commencing with Collins and Gray; and the German school of the present period.
Warton, however, uninfluenced by the example of Pope and Gray, determined, after mature consideration, to adopt the chronological plan, and, in so doing, he has probably consulted both the entertainment and information of his readers. At least, the arguments which he has brought forward in vindication of his choice, appear to convey the strongest conviction. "To confess the real truth," says he, "upon examination and experiment, I soon discovered their mode (Pope's and Gray's) of treating my subject, plausible as it is, and brilliant in theory, to be attended with difficulties and inconveniencies, and productive of embarrassment both to the reader and the writer. Like other ingenious systems, it sacrifices much useful intelligence to the observance of arrangement; and in the place of that satisfaction, which results from a clearness and a fullness of information, seemed only to substitute the merit of disposition, and the praise of contrivance. The constraint, imposed by a mechanical attention to this distribution, appeared to me to destroy that free exertion of research, with which such a history ought to be executed, and not easily reconcileable with that complication, variety, and extent of materials, which it ought to comprehend.
"The method I have pursued, on one account at least, seems preferable to all others. My performance, in its present form, exhibits without transposition the gradual improvements of our poetry, at the same time that it uniformly represents the progression of our language."
To expect, in a work so multifarious and so full of research as is the History of English Poetry, that no errors should be discoverable, would be to require more than human ability can effect. The mistakes which were, and are still capable of being, detected in this laborious productions will, by every candid mind, be referred to its true cause, the necessary imperfection of intellect, however acute. With all its faults, indeed, I hesitate not to declare it, the most curious, valuable, and interesting Literary History which this country possesses. With the diligence, judgment, and sagacity of the antiquary, the critic, and the historian, are very frequently mingled the fire and fancy of the poet; and through the whole are every where profusely scattered the most indubitable traces of genuine taste and genius.
For the illustration of ancient manners and customs, which forms so striking a feature in the History of English Poetry, Mr. Warton was, in no trifling degree, indebted to his frequent residence at Winchester. Here, during his long vacations, he spent his time with his brother, and here it was that he composed the greater part of his History, acquiring much information, with regard to antique usages and institutions, from the records preserved in the College, Church, and City of Winchester. It was in the shades of Winton also that he completed three works for the press which still remain in manuscript. The first, a History of St. Elizabeth's College, which formerly stood in a meadow near Winchester; the second, relates Dr. Sturges, "an elaborate and very curious work on St. Mary's Chapel in the Cathedral, quite prepared for the press; which I have seen by favour of my friend Dr. Warton;" and the third is thus mentioned in two letters of our author to Mr. Price.
"Winton, Sept. 22, 1778.
I have borrowed from the muniment house of this college a most curious roll of W. Wykeham's house-keeping expences for the year 1394. It is 100 feet long and 12 broad, and really the most venerable and valuable record I have ever seen of this kind. I am making an abstract of it, which I believe I shall publish."
"Winton, Sept. 18, 1784.
I will bring with me Wykeham's Rotulus Hospicii, which you will like to see, and where some of the abbreviations are too tough for me. I am ready for publication, when they are got over. But else I shall leave them as I find them. It will be more than a merely curious work."
In the year 1782, an additional piece of preferment, the donative of Hill Farrance, in Somersetshire, was given to Mr. Warton by his College; and he was, likewise, this year elected a member of the Literary Club, with many of the individuals of which he was intimately acquainted. His pen was also at this period actively employed; in May, 1782, he published his Verses on Sir Joshua Reynolds's Painted Window; shortly afterwards, "An Enquiry into the Authenticity of the Poems attributed to Thomas Rowley;" and towards the close of the same year, a "History of Kiddington," intended as a specimen of a parochial History of Oxfordshire.
Further honours awaited him in 1785; the Camden Professorship of History in the University of Oxford, on the resignation of Dr. Scott, and the Poet Laureateship, on the death of Mr. William Whitehead, were, during this period, conferred upon him.
Never had the office of Poet-Laureate, since the death of Dryden, been filled with equal ability. With the exception of his first official ode, his annual tributes are such as will survive as long as any lyric compositions in the language; in expression, imagery, and poetic fervour, they are not inferior to any thing that he has voluntarily written; and they have the rare merit of celebrating the virtues of the sovereign without compliment or hyperbole, with the noble independent spirit, indeed, of the true patriot and poet.
He was destined, however, like his predecessors of the laurel, to endure the shafts of ridicule and satire; for, soon after the production of his first Birth-day ode, appeared a publication under the title of "Probationary Odes for the Laureateship;" in which the editor, after assigning a fictitious ode to each of the supposed candidates, has allotted to the Laureate his own composition, as, in his opinion, sufficiently ludicrous for the nature of the work. It must, in justice, be allowed, that the "Probationary Odes" possess a large fund of wit and humour, and, though abounding in personal raillery, are but little tinged with malignity. Mr. Warton himself, with the good humour incident to his character, entered heartily into the spirit of the joke. "The Laureates of our country," remarks Dr. Warton, "have ever been, as Falstaff says, 'the occasion of wit in other men;' but never of more wit than was thrown away on Mr. Thomas Warton, who, of all men, felt the least, and least deserved to feel, the force of the Probationary Odes, written on his appointment to his office, and who always heartily joined in the laugh, and applauded the exquisite wit and humour that appeared in many of those original Satires. But I beg to add, that not one of those ingenious Laughers could have produced such pieces of true poetry as the Crusade, the Grave of King Arthur, the Suicide, and Ode on the Approach of Summer, by this very Laureate."
The product of the Professorship of History was, we are sorry to say, merely an "Inaugural Lecture;" this, which has been published by Mr. Mant, exhibits so much masterly criticism, in a style of great elegance, on the genius of the Greek and Latin historians, as to excite considerable regret that he did not prosecute the course.
In the year 1785, and just previous to these promotions, he produced his edition of "Milton's Juvenile Poems," the last work of any bulk which he lived to publish.
The great excellence of this edition depends upon the new line of commentary which it displays. To consult coeval books, to refer the imagery of Milton to its frequent source, traditionary superstition and romantic fable, to explain his allusions, illustrate his beauties, point out his imitations, elucidate his obsolete diction, and ascertain his favourite words and phraseology, were the objects that he had in view. The Commentators who have preceded him, little versed in old English literature, were content to trace their poet in the fields of classic lore, or in the steps of Spenser and Shakspeare, not aware that he was equally conversant with numerous other English poets, contemporaries or predecessors, which have now become scarce, but which are copiously and appositely referred to by Warton, who observes, that, "comparatively, the classical annotator has here but little to do. Doctor Newton, an excellent scholar, was unacquainted with the treasures of the Gothic library. — Milton, at least in these poems, may be reckoned an old English poet; and therefore here requires that illustration, without which no old English poet can be well illustrated."
Another novel vein of information of the most interesting kind is to be found in the commentary of our author on the Poemata Latina of Milton. "These pieces," he remarks, "contain several curious circumstances of Milton's early life, situations, friendships, and connections; which are often so transiently or implicitly noticed, as to need examination and enlargement. It also seemed useful to shew, which of the ancient Roman poets were here Milton's models, and how far and in what instances they have been copied. Here a new source of criticism on Milton, and which displays him in a new light and character, was opened."
It was the intention of Mr. Warton, had he been blessed with longer life, to have continued his labours on our great poet, by commenting on the Paradise Regained and Samson Agonistes; and the materials for this second volume were, I understand, collected and arranged. He had prepared, however, a second edition of the Juvenilia for the press, with many alterations and large additions, and which was published, the year following his death, under the superintendence of his brother.
The health of Mr. Warton had been uncommonly good until his sixty-second year, when he was seized with the gout; from which, though he partially recovered after a journey to Bath, the shock to his constitution proved irreparable. Between ten and eleven o'clock on Thursday night, May the 20th, 1790, he was seized with a paralytic stroke, in the common-room of his college, which instantly deprived him of his speech and intellects, and he expired on the following day.
On the twenty-seventh he was interred in the ante-chapel of his college, with the highest honours which the University could confer. A plain marble slab, near the grave of the President Bathurst, thus records his professional and literary vocations.
S.T.B. and S.AS.
Hujus Collegii Socius,
Ecciesiiae de Cuddington
In Com. Oxon. Rector,
Poetices iterum Praelector,
Historices Praelector Camden,
Obiit 21. Die Maii,
Anno Domini 1790,
With the following character of Mr. Warton, written by Dr. Huntingford, and communicated to Mr. Mant, I shall close this biographical sketch of one of the most interesting of our literary ornaments.
"As in the time of his vacation and residence at Winchester he was free from all restraint of academical life, Mr. Warton's real character could no where be better known than at this place.
"Unaffected as he was in all his sentiments and manners, he was pleased with the native simplicity of the young people educated by his brother, and frequently shewed them instances of kind condescension, which endeared him to the community of Winchester scholars.
"It is said, 'Men of genius are melancholy;' omnes ingeniosus melancholicos. (Cic. Tusc. Disp. l. 33.) There certainly was its our Author a serious cast of mind, which makes him speak with particular delight of 'cloysters pale,' of 'the ruin'd abbey's moss-grown piles;' of 'the taper'd choir;' and 'sequestered isles of the deep dome;' yet in his general intercourse there was nothing gloomy, but every thing cheerful. Indeed, before the fastidious and disputatious he would sit reserved: but when in company with persons, who themselves were easy in their manners, ' Nemo unquam urbanitate, nemo lepore, nemo suavitate conditior;' as Cicero says of C. Julius (de Cl. Orator.): 'No one seasoned his discourse with more wit, humour, and pleasantry.' That he could be facetious we discern in his poems; and the versatility of his genius appears in that variety, by which they are diversified.
"A sense of conscious worth will naturally arise in a mind, which, being itself endowed with superior talents, reflects on its own powers and exertions, and compares them with inferior abilities, and less active endeavours. It is, however, the part of modesty never to let that self-consciousness so operate, as to occasion disgust by an appearance of vanity and presumption. Such modesty was predominant in Mr. Warton; for he was so far from ever making an ostentatious display of his great attainments, that, on the contrary, he would much more frequently conceal than shew them.
"He was fond of seeing and frequenting public sights. Yet those were very much mistaken in their opinion of him, who from this circumstance conceived he was therefore spending his time idly. There have been few men, whose minds were always at work so much as his. He would stand indeed among spectators, and perhaps at first view be engaged for a moment by what was exhibiting: but his thoughts were soon absorbed by some subject of consideration, which was then passing within himself; and those, who were acquainted with his looks, well knew, when his attention was turned to some literary contemplation.
"His practice was, to rise at a moderate hour, and to read and write much in the course of every day: and this practice he would continue during the greater part of his long vacation; applying himself with a degree of industry, which far exceeded what was generally imagined, and was far more intense than what was exercised by many of those, who in either their ignorance presumed, or in their envy delighted, to depreciate his excellence.
"To the Chapel of the College he punctually resorted on stated days of public service: for, in his own language, he loved
The clear slow-dittied chaunt, or varied hymn;
and was strongly attached to the Church of England in all the offices of the Liturgy.
"From the whole of what was known of hint at Winchester, through a period of nearly forty years, he is there recollected and beloved as a most amiable man, and considered as one of the chief literary characters of his age: equal to the best scholars in the elegant parts of classical learning; superior to the generality in literature of the modern kind; a Poet of fine fancy and masculine style; and a Critic of deep information, sound judgment, and correct taste."
The papers which Mr. Warton contributed to the IDLER are, Nos 33, 93, and 96. The Journal of a Senior Fellow, in the first of these essays, seems to have been intended as merely introductory to some admirable observations on the advantages to be derived, notwithstanding some occasional instances of idleness and luxury, from a college education. It must be acknowledged by every impartial reflector, that, with scarcely an exception, literature, morality, and religion still continue to be cherished and supported with greater vigour and effect in Cambridge and Oxford than elsewhere, whether the numerous other seminaries in our own island, or those of Europe at large, be drawn into comparison. The moral tendencies of the institutions, and the aids and opportunities afforded for study, in these celebrated seats of learning, are such, indeed, as, notwithstanding some partial departure from primaeval simplicity, cannot be parallelled in any other quarter of the universe.
No. 93, containing the History of Sam Softly, the Sugar-baker, is said to have been sketched from a character in real life, distantly related to Mr. Warton. It is written with humour, and exposes a somewhat novel species of affectation.
The tale of Hacho, King of Lapland, in No. 96, is a striking and interesting illustration of the debilitating mischiefs arising from a course of luxurious indulgence, especially where empire is to be maintained by personal prowess and exertion. The following passage of this little narrative, which was published in the year 1760, would seem to indicate that the author had not, at that period, embraced his system of the Arabian Origin of Romantic Fiction: the rites and religion of Hacho, we must recollect, were those of Odin. "Such was his intrepid spirit, that he ventured to pass the Lake Vether to the Isle of Wizards, where he descended alone into the dreary vault in which a Magician had been kept bound for six ages, and read the Gothic characters inscribed on his brazen mace." Such machinery as the latter part of this quotation exhibits, though common in Scandinavian superstition, has been appealed to in the History of English Poetry, as a proof of the probability of the Arabic system!