1809 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Whitehead

Nathan Drake, in Essays Illustrative of the Rambler (1809-10) 2:294-95.



WILLIAM WHITEHEAD, the son of a baker at Cambridge, was born in the year 1715, and, exhibiting a strong propensity for literature, was admitted a sizar, and subsequently a scholar, of Clare-hall. He was distinguished in due time by a fellowship, and shortly afterwards became travelling tutor to two young noblemen; one result of which was, an appointment as register and secretary of the order of the Bath. He early devoted his talents to poetry, and in 1757 was created poet laureat. He will be most advantageously known to posterity as a dramatic writer; his "Roman Father" and "Creusa," tragedies, and his "School for Lovers" a comedy, possessing considerable merit. He died in 1785; was succeeded in the Laureatship by Mr. Thomas Warton, and was honoured with a biographical sketch from the pen of his friend Mr. Mason.

Of the three essays which he sent to the World, No. 12, on the prevailing taste of Chinese Architecture, is, perhaps, the best. It is remarkable, that the rage for Gothic Architecture, which, is now so conspicuous, had been general for some time previous to the introduction of the oriental costume: "a few years ago," observes Mr. Whitehead, "every thing was Gothic; our houses, our beds, our bookcases, and our couches, were all copied from some parts or other of our old cathedrals." It may be added, however, that the architectural style of our ancestors is now copied with much more propriety and fidelity than took place in the days of Mr. Fitz-Adam, notwithstanding Horace Walpole had commenced his operations at Strawberry-hill. We have only further to relate, that No. 19, on the imbecility and obscenity of novel-writers, and No. 58, on the misfortunes attendant on male beauty, complete the compositions of this gentleman in the World.