1806 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

George Lyttelton

William Forbes, in Life and Writings of James Beattie (1806) 1:176-77n.



George, Lord Lyttelton, eldest son of Sir Thomas Lyttelton of Hagley, in Worcestershire, was early distinguished by his learning, his taste, and his poetical talents, of which he has left many beautiful specimens, but no poem of any extent. Among other pieces, his plaintive Monody, on the death of the first Lady Lyttelton, is familiar to, and admired by, every reader of taste. His works in prose are numerous. His Persian Letters, and his Dialogues of the Dead, are well known. But, above all, his valuable Dissertation on the Conversation and Apostleship of Paul, is entitled to the highest commendation, as a masterly and convincing argument in favour of revealed religion. It is a very important fact, which we have on his own authority, that he was originally inclined to scepticism in religious opinions; but, by the effect of study and candid reflection, he became a decided and a steady believer in revelation. Lord Lyttelton also published an elaborate historical work on The Age of Henry the Second. The style is void of ornament, but the book contains much valuable information, the result of diligent research. In his posthumous works, published by his nephew, are some very curious letters from Lord Lyttelton, while abroad, to his father, which set his filial piety in a very striking point of light.

Lord Lyttelton was distinguished as a speaker in parliament; and, as a polite scholar and a man of taste, was one of the most accomplished characters of his time. He was the friend of Pope, of Thomson, of Shenstone. And the letter to Dr. Beattie, which has given occasion to the introduction of this slight biographical sketch of Lord Lyttelton, shows how strongly that great and good man was pleased to interest himself in the fortunes of our author, even before their personal acquaintance took place, and when Dr. Beattie was merely known to his lordship by his writings, and the testimony of their common friend Dr. Gregory.