JOSEPH WARTON, D.D., the son of Thomas Warton, B.D., Fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford, and Poetry-Professor in that University, wait born at Dunsfold, in the county of Surry, and baptized there on the 22d of April, 1722.
Until his fourteenth year he was, with the exception of a short period spent at New College School, educated under the care of his father, a man of elegant classical learning, and the author of a volume of poems published in the year 1745.
On the 2d of August, 1736, young Warton was admitted on the foundation of Winchester College, and during a residence of near four years in this school gave evident indications of his future eminence in literature. It was here that he formed an intimacy, of the most durable and congenial kind, with that great, but unfortunate, poet, Collins; and they, together with another boy of the name of Tomkins, sent, during this period, three poems to the Gentleman's Magazine, of such value as to draw forth an encomium from Johnson. Mr. Wooll has published these small pieces in his Memoirs of our author; they certainly, as juvenile effusions, deserve much praise; but the Sonnet by Collins, under the signature of Delicatulus, is in a strain greatly superior to its companions. As it is very short, a literary curiosity, and worthy of the matured age of the poet, its transcription in this place will not, I trust, prove unacceptable to my readers.
When Phoebe form'd a wanton smile,
My soul! it reach'd not here!
Strange, that thy peace, thou trembler, flies
Before a rising tear!
From 'midst the drops, my Love is born,
That o'er those eyelids rove:
Thus issu'd from a teeming wave
The fabled queen of Love.
In September, 1740, Mr. Warton, who had been admitted the preceding January a member of Oriel College, Oxford, left Winchester to reside in the University, where he soon distinguished himself as a genuine disciple of the Muses. During his first vacation, indeed, and at the age of only eighteen, he composed a sketch for some intended verses on the Passions, which displays uncommon power of imagination, and which, it is probable, might give rise to Collins's exquisite Ode on the same subject. In the same year also, 1740, he composed his "Enthusiast, or the Lover of Nature," a poem in blank verse, and which, preceded by an "Ode on reading West's Pindar," and followed by some shorter pieces, was published in 1744.
The Enthusiast, though written at such an early period of life, is the longest original poem that our author has produced. It evinces a lively imagination, and an ardent admiration of the charms of Nature; but is inferior in richness and boldness of conception to the "Pleasures of Melancholy," composed in the same species of verse, by his brother Thomas in 1745. The picture of Shakspeare nursed by Fancy, and the following description, of which the last three lines convey a most striking and poetic idea, are however highly conceived, and as correctly finished.
Ev'n when wild tempests swallow up the plains,
And Boreas' blasts, big hail, and rains combine
To shake the groves and mountains, would I sit
Pensively musing on the outrageous crimes
That wake heaven's vengeance; at such solemn hours,
Daemons and goblins through the dark air shriek,
While Hecate, with her black-brow'd sisters nine,
Rides o'er the earth, and scatters woes and death.
Then too, they say, in drear Aegyptian wilds
The lion and the tiger prowl for prey
With roarings loud! the list'ning traveller
Starts fear-struck, while the hollow-echoing vaults
Of pyramids increase the deathful sound.
About this time also, whilst a student at Oxford, he produced his "Dying Indian" and "Ranelagh House," a satire in prose in imitation of Le Sage. Of these, the first is a spirited little poem, but the costume is not correctly observed; and the second is a successful copy of the manner of the celebrated author of the Diable Boiteux.
Mr. Warton, after taking his Batchelor's degree in 1744, was immediately ordained, and officiated as his father's curate, in the church of Basingstoke, in Hampshire, until February, 1746, when he left it to perform the duty of Chelsea; but catching the small-pox soon after his arrival in this place, he visited Chobham for change of air, and, on his recovery, returned to Basingstoke.
Towards the close of the year 1746, our author published a small volume of "Odes on several Subjects," which, it is probable, were once intended to have been brought before the public, united with some of the productions of his friend Collins, and of his brother Thomas; at least, the following letter, which unfortunately has no date, furnishes every reason for such an inference.
You will wonder to see my name in an advertisement next week, so I thought I would apprize you of it. The case was this. Collins met me in Surrey, at Guildford Races, when I wrote out for him my Odes, and he likewise communicated some of his to me: and being both in very high spirits we took courage, re solved to join our forces, and to publish them immediately. I flatter myself that I shall lose no honour by this publication, because I believe these Odes, as they now stand, are infinitely the best things I ever wrote. You will see a very pretty one of Collins's, on the death of Colonel Ross before Tournay. It is addressed to a lady who was Ross's intimate acquaintance, and who by the way is Miss Bett Goddard. Collins is not to publish the Odes unless he gets ten guineas for them.
I returned from Milford last night, where I left Collins with my mother and sister, and he sets out to day for London. I must now tell you, that I have sent him your imitation of Horace's Blandusian Fountain, to be printed amongst ours, and which you shall own or not as you think proper. I would not have done this without your consent, but because I think it very poetically and correctly done, and will get you honour.—
You will let me know what the Oxford critics say.
Adieu, dear Tom,
I am your most affectionate brother,
On this small collection of Lyric verse the fame of Dr. Warton, as a poet, principally rests. Of the seventeen Odes, however, of which it is composed, there are but two entitled to an elevated rank for their lofty tone and high finish; the Odes "To Fancy" and "On reading Mr. West's Pindar," and of these the first is much the superior. It abounds, indeed, in a succession of strongly contrasted and high-wrought imagery, clothed in a versification of the sweetest cadence and most brilliant polish. The following passages, one distinguished for picturesque and romantic delineation, the other for a striking contrast of pathetic terror, and martial enthusiasm, are among the most exquisite productions of the English Lyre.
O lover of the desert, hail
Say, in what deep and pathless vale,
Or on what hoary mountain's side,
'Mid fall of waters you reside,
'Mid broken rocks, a rugged scene,
With green and grassy dales between,
'Mid forests dark of aged oak,
Ne'er echoing with the woodman's stroke,
Where never human art appear'd,
Nor ev'n one straw-roof'd cot was rear'd,
Where nature seems to sit alone,
Majestic on a craggy throne;
Tell me the path, sweet wand'rer, tell,
To thy unknown sequester'd cell,
Where woodbines cluster round the door
Where shells and moss o'erlay the floor,
And on whose top an hawthorn blows,
Amid whose thickly-woven boughs
Some nightingale still builds her nest,
Each evening warbling thee to rest:
Then lay me by the haunted stream,
Rapt in some wild poetic dream,
In converse while methinks I rove
With Spenser through a fairy grove;
Till, suddenly awak'd, I hear
Strange whisper'd music in my ear.
Haste, Fancy, from the scenes of folly.
To meet the matron Melancholy,
Goddess of the tearful eye,
That loves to fold her arms, and sigh;
Let us with silent footsteps go
To charnels and the house of woe,
To Gothic churches, vaults, and tombs,
Where each sad night some virgin comes,
With throbbing breast, and faded cheek,
Her promis'd bridegroom's urn to seek:
Or to some abbey's mould'ring tow'rs,
Where, to avoid cold wintry show'rs,
The naked beggar shivering lies,
While whistling tempests round her rise,
And trembles lest the tottering wall
Should on her sleeping infants fall.
Now let us louder strike the lyre,
For my heart glows with martial fire,
I feel, I feel, with sudden heat,
My big tumultuous bosom beat;
The trumpet's clangors pierce my ear,
A thousand widows' shrieks I hear.
Give me another horse, I cry,
Lo! the base Gallic squadrons fly.
Whence is this rage? what spirit, say,
To battle hurries me away?
'Tis Fancy, in her fiery car,
Transports me to the thickest war,
There whirls me o'er the hills of slain,
Where Tumult and Destruction reign;
Where, mad with pain, the wounded steed
Tramples the dying and the dead;
Where giant Terror stalks around,
With sullen joy surveys the ground,
And, pointing to th' ensanguin'd field,
Shakes his dreadful gorgon-shield!
The year following the publication of these odes, our author was presented, by the Duke of Bolton, to the rectory of Wynslade; a piece of preferment which enabled him to gratify a long-formed and tender attachment for a Miss Daman, to whom, on his induction to the living, he was immediately married.
With this lady, who appears to have been very amiable, and altogether worthy of his choice, he enjoyed the most perfect domestic happiness, until, in 1751, it was for a short period broken in upon by a request from his grace of Bolton, which could not be refused, that he would accompany him to the south of France. The object which the Duke had in view, in pressing this invitation, was of a kind by no means pleasant to a clergyman, and which, indeed, offered peculiar violence to the feelings of Mr. Warton. The Duke, in fact, wished for a protestant clergyman as his companion, in order that on the death of the Duchess, an event which was daily expected, he might immediately he married to a lady whom he had for some time kept as his mistress, and who was well known to the world under the title of Polly Peachum.
Mr. Warton left England on the 26th of April, and accompanied the Duke, who travelled with every accommodation, and by easy stages, through the French provinces to Montauban, where his Grace proposed residing some months. The separation, however, from his domestic comforts, and the disappointment of not visiting Italy, which had been part of the original plan, induced our author, notwithstanding the patronage to be derived from waiting the expected event, to leave his party and return home. He landed at Southampton in September, 1751; and during the subsequent month, her Grace of Bolton having expired, the Duke was married at Aix, in Provence, by Mr. Devisme, chaplain to the embassy at Turin.
Another circumstance that had material weight in expediting the return of Mr. Warton, arose from the wish of prosecuting a literary engagement of much importance to him. This was an edition of Virgil in Latin and English, of which the Aeneid was to appear in the version of Pitt, and the Eclogues and Georgics were to be translated by himself.
This elegant and valuable accession to classical literature was completed and published in 1753, in 4 volumes, 8vo. accompanied by Warburton's Dissertation on the sixth Aeneid; Observations on the Shield of Aeneas, by Whitehead; on the Character of Iapis, by Atterbury; and three Essays on pastoral, didactic, and epic poetry, together with a Life of Virgil, and notes on the whole, from the pen of the Editor.
In this undertaking our author appeared before the world in the double capacity of poet and critic, and had taken much time, and made great exertions, to render the work satisfactory to himself, and acceptable to the public.
That a new version of the Eclogues and Georgics of Virgil was wanted, in which the admirable simplicity and pathos of the original should be sedulously preserved, cannot, by the most ardent admirer of Dryden, be denied. Poverty, and consequent rapidity of composition, had led that great poet into numerous mistakes with regard both to the meaning and mythology of the Roman bard; and the same causes had not only prevented his giving the last polish to his version, but had disabled him from studying with sufficient attention the style and genius of his author.
It may be remarked also, that no two poets were ever more dissimilar in style, talents, and cast of character, than Virgil and Dryden. Correct judgment, pure taste, and the most exquisite tenderness, are the leading features of the former; while vigour, spirit, and variety, with defective taste, and no pathos, are to be ascribed to the latter.
The studies and propensities of Warton peculiarly fitted him for a translator of this portion of Virgil. His knowledge of the language of his original was intimate and critical; he was well versed in the manners, customs, and mythology of the ancients; he had a strong relish of the tender and pathetic; his taste was delicately pure and chastised, and his versification correctly harmonious. With these qualifications, he has produced a translation of the Georgics which, in taste, costume, and fidelity, in sweetness, tenderness, and simplicity, has far exceeded any previous attempt, and has only been rivalled by the version of Mr. Sotheby.
It would be an entertaining, and, to young minds, a very instructive employment, to compare the translations of the Georgics, by Dryden, Warton, Sotheby, and De Lisle, with their original, and with each other. Nothing could be more conducive toward promoting a love for the best and purest models of composition. The elegant simplicity of Virgil; the vigorous but too often slovenly and coarse diction of Dryden; the chaste and faithful, yet, sometimes, too humble copy of Warton, and the rich, polished, and beautiful language and versification of Sotheby, would assuredly prove, by their parallellism and analysis, a fertile source of correct taste and discriminative judgment. The following description, for instance, of the Corycian Peasant, as given by the three translators, will place the character of Warton's version, I should imagine, in its true light; as avoiding the imperfections of Dryden, yet not attaining the full melody and high finish of Sotheby.
Atque equidem, extremo ni jam sub fine laborum, &c.
Georg. Lib. 4. l.116 ad l.149.
Now, did I not so near my labours end,
Strike sail, and hast'ning to the harbour tend,
My song to flow'ry gardens might extend.
To teach the vegetable arts, to sing
The Paestan roses, and their double spring
How succ'ry drinks the running stream, and how
Green beds of parsley near the river grow;
How cucumbers along the surface creep,
With crooked bodies, and with bellies deep.
The late narcissus, and the winding trail
Of bears-foot, myrtles green, and ivy pale.
For where with stately towers Tarentum stands,
And deep Galesus soaks the yellow sands,
I chanc'd an old Corycian swain to know,
Lord of few acres, and those barren too;
Unfit for sheep or vines, and more unfit to sow:
Yet, lab'ring well his little spot of ground,
Some scatt'ring pot-herbs here and there he found:
Which, cultivated with his daily care,
And bruis'd with vervain, were his frugal fare.
Sometimes white lilies did their leaves afford,
With wholesome poppy-flow'rs to mend his homely board:
For late returning home he supp'd at ease,
And wisely deem'd the wealth of monarchs less:
The little of his own, because his own, did please.
To quit his care, he gather'd first of all
In spring the roses, apples in the fall:
And when cold winter split the rocks in twain,
And ice the running rivers did restrain,
He stripp'd the bears-foot of its leafy growth;
And, calling western winds, accus'd the spring of sloth.
He therefore first among the swains was found,
To reap the product of his labour'd ground,
And squeez'd the combs with golden liquor crown'd.
His limes were first in flow'rs; his lofty piece,
With friendly shade, secur'd his tender vines.
For ev'ry bloom his trees in spring afford,
An autumn apple was by tale restor'd.
He knew to rank his elms in even rows;
For fruit the grafted pear-tree to dispose:
And tame to plumbs the sourness of the sloes.
With spreading planes he made a cool retreat,
To shade good fellows from the summer's heat.
But straiten'd in my space, I must forsake
This task; for others afterwards to take.
It is scarcely necessary to point out the baldness and poverty of some parts of this translation, especially of the first and third triplets, and of the four concluding lines. A few couplets are worthy of Dryden; the vast superiority of Warton, however, will be evident.
And here, but that I hasten to the shore,
Prepar'd to strike my sails, and launch no more;
Perhaps the garden's culture I might sing;
Teach Paestum's doubly-blooming rose to spring;
How celery and endive love to grow
On verdant banks where gurgling rivulets flow;
How best the creeping cucumber may swell;
Nor daffodil's late bloom would fail to tell;
Acanthus' bending stalks, nor ivy hoar,
Nor myrtles green, that love the breezy shore.
For once beneath Oebalia's lofty towers,
Where black Galesus thro' rich pastures pours,
An old Corycian yeoman I beheld,
Lord of a little and forsaken field,
Too poor to nourish sheep, or fat'ning kine,
The golden corn, or Bacchus' joyous vine;
Yet he thin sallads 'mid the bushy ground,
And vervain planted, and white lillies round;
And late at eve returning home to rest,
His frugal board with unbought dainties blest,
Nor wish'd to be the richest monarch's guest.
When spring with flowers, with fruits when autumn glows,
He first could pull the apple, crop the rose;
When winter drear had clove the rocks with cold,
And chain'd in ice the rivers as they roll'd,
Ev'n then acanthus' tender leaves he shear'd,
Slow zephyr blam'd, and a late summer fear'd.
He the first swarms could boast and pregnant bees,
From the full combs could richest honey squeeze:
Tall were his pines and limes, and fruitful all his trees.
Whatever buds the bending branches wore,
So many fruits in autumn swell'd his store.
He too could high-grown elms transplant in rows,
Or harden'd pear-trees from their place transpose,
Or plumbs with all their fruits, or lofty planes
That shelter'd with broad shades the quaffing swains.
But since too narrow bounds my song confine,
To future bards these subjects I resign.
The sweetness, simplicity, and fidelity of this specimen will not he disputed; and, with few exceptions, such is the character of the entire version. Whether the more ornamented and higher polished translation, however, of Mr. Sotheby forms a nearer approach to the Latin model, is a question which, I think, will, after the perusal of the subsequent lines, be answered in the affirmative.
Ah fav'rite scenes! but now with gather'd sail
I seek the shore, nor trust th' inviting gale;
Else had my song your charms at leisure trac'd,
And all the garden's varied arts embrac'd;
Sung, twice each year, how Paestan roses blow,
How endive drinks the rill that purls below,
How trailing gourds pursue their mazy way,
Swell as they creep, and widen into day;
How verdant celery decks its humid bed,
How late-blown flow'rets round narcissus spread;
The lithe acanthus and the ivy boar,
And myrtle blooming on the sea-beat shore.
Yes, I remember, where Galesus leads
His flood dark-winding through the golden meads,
Where proud Oebalia's tow'rs o'erlook the plain,
Once I beheld an old Corycian swain;
Lord of a little spot, by all disdain'd,
Where never lab'ring yoke subsistence gain'd,
Where never shepherd gave his flock to feed,
Nor Bacchus dar'd to trust th' ungrateful mead.
He there with scanty herbs the bushes crown'd,
And planted lilies, vervain, poppies round;
Nor envied kings, when late, at twilight close,
Beneath his peaceful shed he sought repose,
And cull'd from earth, with changeful plenty stor'd.
Th' unpurchas'd feasts that pil'd his varied board.
At spring-tide first he pluck'd the full-blown rose,
From autumn first the ripen'd apple chose;
And e'en when winter split the rocks with cold,
And chain'd th' o'erhanging torrent as it roll'd,
His blooming hyacinths, ne'er known to fail,
Shed sweets unborrow'd of the vernal gale,
As 'mid their rifled beds he wound his way,
Chid the slow sun and zephyr's long delay.
Hence first his bees new swarms unnumber'd gave,
And press'd from richest combs the golden wave:
Limes round his haunts diffus'd a grateful shade,
And verdant pines with many a cone array'd;
And every bud that gem'd the vernal spray,
Swell'd into fruit beneath th' autumnal ray.
He lofty elms transpos'd in order plac'd,
Luxuriant pears at will his alleys grac'd,
And grafted thorns that blushing plums disp!ay'd,
And planes that stretch'd o'er summer feasts their shade.
Ah! fav'rite scenes! to other bards resign'd,
I leave your charms, and trace my task assigned.
The critical part of our author's Virgil deserves as much commendation as the poetical; the notes and essays, and especially the essay on Epic Poetry, are judicious, comprehensive, and clear, and the whole work may be considered as a high treat to the scholar as well as the poet. "To every classical reader, indeed," remarks Mr. Wooll, "Warton's Virgil will afford the richest fund of instruction and amusement; and as a professional man, I hesitate not to declare, that I scarcely know a work, to the upper classes of schools, so pregnant with the most valuable advantages: as it imparts information, without the encouragement of idleness; and crowns the exertions of necessary and laudable industry with the acquisition of a pure and unadulterated taste."
It was during the time that Mr. Warton was correcting the impression of his Virgil, that he was applied to by Dr. Johnson to undertake the province of criticism and literature in the composition of the Adventurer, a request with which, as so immediately coinciding with his favourite studies, arid coming through a medium of the highest respectability, he was happy to comply.
He had also, in the course of this year, projected a work, which, had it been carried into execution, could not have failed to interest the lovers of literature. It was to have been entitled "Select Epistles of Angelus Politianus, Desiderius Erasmus, Hugo Grotius, and others, with notes," which were to have been rendered sufficiently copious to include a history of the revival of learning. Why a plan that promised so much, should have been finally neglected, no information has been given.
In the year 1754, our author, through the interest of the Jervoise family, was presented to the living of Tunworth, and in 1755 he was chosen second master of Winchester-school. In this very useful but laborious situation his efforts were peculiarly successful; in short, he possessed the rare art of exciting an enthusiasm for literature, and a love and respect for himself, which has seldom, in an office where strict discipline is so essential, been surpassed or even equalled.
During the year following this election, he was honoured with a scarf from the celebrated Lord Lyttleton, and published the first volume of his "Essay on the Genius and Writings of Pope;" a production which has conferred upon him a very high rank in the annals of criticism.
The object of this work, the second volume of which, however, was not given to the world until 1782, is, to ascertain the rank which Pope should hold among our poets. "Our English poets," says the author in his Dedication to Dr. Young, "may, I think, be disposed in four different classes and degrees. In the first class, I would place our only three sublime and pathetic poets; Spenser, Shakspeare, Milton. In the second class should be ranked, such as possessed the true poetical genius, in a more moderate degree, but who had noble talents for moral, ethical, and panegyrical poesy. At the head of these are Dryden, Prior, Addison, Cowley, Waller Garth, Fenton, Gay, Denham, Parnell. In the third class may be placed, men of wit, of elegant taste, and lively fancy in describing familiar life, though not the higher scenes of poetry. Here may be numbered, Butler, Swift, Rochester, Donne, Dorset, Oldham. In the fourth class, the mere versifiers, however smooth and mellifluous some of them may be thought, should be disposed: such as Pitt, Sandys, Fairfax, Broome, Buckingham, Lansdown. This enumeration is not intended as a complete catalogue of writers, and in their proper order, but only to mark out briefly the different species of our celebrated authors. In which of these classes Pope deserves to be placed, the following work is in tended to determine."
Now it happens, that the tendency of the work, especially of the first volume, and the result inferred from the whole, are greatly at variance. It would appear, that when Mr. Warton commenced his Essay he entertained a much lower estimate of Pope's poetical talents than when, after a lapse of twenty-eight years, he began his second volume. Such indeed was the strain of depreciation which distinguished the early part of his critical labours, that the admirers of Pope were hurt and indignant at the probability of their favourite being reduced greatly below the station to which, in their opinion, he had a just claim. How were they surprized, therefore, when, at the conclusion of the Essay, they found its author answering his own question in the following manner. "Where then, according to the question proposed at the beginning of this Essay, shall we with justice be authorized to place our admired Pope? Not, assuredly, in the same rank with Spencer, Shakspeare, and Milton; however justly we may applaud the Eloisa and Rape of the Lock; but, considering the correctness, elegance, and utility of his works, the weight of sentiment, and the knowledge of man they contain, we may venture to assign him a place, next to Milton, and just above Dryden. Yet, to bring our minds steadily to make this decision, we must forget, for a moment, the divine Music Ode of Dryden; and may perhaps then be compelled to confess, that though Dryden be the greater genius, yet Pope is the better artist."
No rational admirer of Pope, we may venture to affirm, (and no other was worth refuting,) could expect a more favourable verdict than was established by this decision. Who, indeed, before the commencement of Mr. Warton's criticism, thought of estimating the poetical genius of Pope higher than that of Shakspeare and Milton? many, it is true, preferred him to Dryden, and has not our author pursued the same path? Hence the discrepancy so visible between the purport of the criticism in the first part, which attempts to prove that Pope was rather a man of wit, and a moralist, than a great poet; and the final inference, which allows him poetic genius but just inferior to what Milton possessed. Consistency would have led our critic to have sunk Pope some steps, though we shall not contend for the propriety of such an allotment, below his master Dryden.
Whatever may be thought as to the resolution of the question, the Essay itself must be pronounced one of the most elegant and interesting productions in the department of criticism. It abounds with literary anecdote and collateral disquisition, is written in a style of great ease and purity, and exhibits a taste refined, yet chaste, and classical; it is, in short, a work which, however often perused, affords fresh delight, and may be considered as one of the books best adapted to excite a love of literature.
On the 23d of June, 1759, the University of Oxford conferred upon Mr. Warton, by diploma, the degree of Master of Arts, and, in the spring of 1766, he was further honoured, on the resignation of Dr. Burton, by an appointment to the Headmastership of Winchester school; a promotion which, on January the 15th, 1768, was succeeded by his taking at Oxford the degrees of Batchelor and Doctor in Divinity.
Dr. Warton now enjoyed the comforts of an elegant competency, the blessings of domestic affection, and the gratification of seeing a family rising around him; a measure of happiness, however, which was not continued to him for any length of time; for on October the 5th, 1772, he was deprived of his wife by a disease which had made a very rapid and unexpected progress, and which left him a widower with six children.
With such a family, however, and in & house filled with pupils, and which, therefore, more particularly required female superintendence Dr. Warton found it essential for his own com fort, and for the welfare of those entrusted to his care, to form a second matrimonial connection. He accordingly married, in December, 1772, Miss Nicholas, daughter of Robert Nicholas, Esq. a lady endowed with an excellent heart and amiable manners. A short time before his second marriage our author had become a member of the Literary Club; he had been long intimate, indeed, with several of the most celebrated of its individuals, particularly with Dr. Johnson, Sir Joshua Reynolds, Mr. Burke, &c. and his introduction was, therefore, rendered an object to him of peculiar gratification.
The College of Winchester had the high honour, in the year 1778, of receiving a visit from their Majesties, who had been reviewing a neighbouring encampment. They were addressed in an appropriate Latin oration, composed by Dr. Warton, and spoken by Mr. Chamberlayne, who, with two other scholars, had, as the seniors of the school, the compliment paid them by the King of a purse of one hundred guineas. "Dr. Warton's house at this period," relates Mr. Wooll, "was filled with men of high and acknowledged talents: amongst whom was Lord Palmerston, Sir Joshua Reynolds, Messrs. Stanley, Warton, and Garrick. To the latter a very whimsical accident occurred. The horse which carried him to the review, on his casually alighting, by some means got loose and ran away. In this dilemma, assuming the attitude of Richard, he exclaimed, amidst the astonished soldiers,
A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse!
which having reached the King's ears, he immediately asserted, "Those must be the tones of Garrick; see if he is on the ground." Mr. G. was consequently found, and presented to his Majesty, who, in addition to many other compliments, assured him that his delivery of Shakspeare could never pass undiscovered."
Preferment in the Church, which had hitherto been almost entirely withheld from the Doctor, at length rewarded the labours and the talents of the preceptor, the poet, and the critic. In 1782 a prebendal stall in St. Paul's was given him by the truly learned Dr. Lowth, Bishop of London, who, the year ensuing, greatly enhanced the obligation by a presentation to the living of Chorley, in Hertfordshire, which was shortly afterwards exchanged by our author for Wickham, in Hampshire.
The domestic happiness of Dr. Warton continued uninterrupted until the year 1786, when he suffered an irreparable loss by the death of his second son, the Rev. Thomas Warton, a man of uncommon talents and genius, and who, after suffering the pressure of a lingering disease, died suddenly while sitting in his chair after dinner. Scarcely had he recovered from this afflicting stroke when the hand of death deprived him of his brother, the late poet laureate; a brother "to whom from his childhood he had been invariably attached, and for whose genius and fame he had ever felt the most pure and liberal admiration. It is indeed but justice to the memory of both to declare, that they never for a moment knew the narrow passions of jealousy and envy; on the contrary, their most anxious efforts were used to distinguish each other, and it was their truest happiness to find those efforts successful. To their several publications the most active and ready assistance had been mutually afforded. Mr. Warton was sedulously employed in the edition of Virgil, and his brother in return furnished many valuable materials for the History of English Poetry: no means were at any time left untried by either party to bring forward and place in a prominent view the merit of the other. Severe, therefore, to the survivor must have been the separation. It was indeed the loss of a second self."
Towards the close of Dr. Warton's life, when he was approaching to seventy, his emoluments and dignities in the Church rapidly increased; in 1788 the prebend of Winchester Cathedral was, through the interest of Lord Shannon, given him by the Premier; and in 1790. the Bishop of Winchester, influenced by the recommendation of the Earl of Malmesbury, presented him with the Rectory of Easton, and, a few months afterwards, allowed him to commute it for the living of Upham, in Hampshire.
Thus rendered completely independent, and feeling the pressure of age, which rendered the superintendence of a public school productive of great fatigue, our author determined, in the year 1793, to resign the mastership at the ensuing election; and accordingly, after giving due notice of his intention, he left the College on July the 23d, for the retirement of his rectory at Wickham.
That he carried with him the esteem, the gratitude, and admiration, both of the electors and the scholars of Winchester, will be fully evident from the following testimonials; the first of which was sent on his resignation; and the second presented to him by his scholars, engraven on an elegant piece of plate.
"Winton College Election Chamber,
July 19th, 1793.
We, the undersigned Electors, do in the name of the two Saint Mary Winton Colleges, return thanks to the Rev. Joseph Warton, for the encouragement he has given to Genius and Industry; for the attention he has paid to the intro duction of correct taste in composition and classical learning; and for the many and various services which he has conferred on the Wiccami cal Societies, through the long course of years in which he has filled the places of Second and Head Master in Winchester school.
John Oglander, D.D. Warden of New College.
George Isaac Huntingford, D.D. Warden of Winchester College.
James Yalden, A.M. Senior Poser.
Charles Reynell, LL.B. Junior Poser.
Charles Blackstone, A.M. Sub Warden.
Opt. ac desiderat.
Hoc munus utcunque
Leve ac parvum,
Non levi tamen amore,
Ac ejus Mansuetudinis
Though Dr. Warton was now much advanced in life, he yet possessed good health, and all the mental activity and lively feelings which distinguished his youthful years: he was passionately fond of the country, devoted to each rural sight, each rural sound; and the cultivation, therefore, of his farm and garden, and the beauties of the scenery round Wickham, furnished him with inexhaustible sources of gratification.
His enthusiastic attachment, indeed, to the charms of nature, has been the subject of his brother's poetry, in one of the most exquisite odes of which our language can boast. It was addressed to him in the year 1750, on his quitting Wynslade, near Basingstoke, to accompany the Duke of Bolton to France, and commences with the following admirable delineation of his vivid and circumstantial taste for rural objects.
Ah mourn, thou lov'd retreat! No more
Shall classic steps thy scenes explore!
When morn's pale rays but faintly peep
O'er yonder oak-crown'd airy steep,
Who now shall climb its brows to view
The length of landscape, ever new,
Where summer flings, in careless pride,
Her varied vesture far and wide!
Who mark, beneath, each village charm,
Or grange, or elm-encircled farm:
The flinty dove-cote's crowded roof,
Watch'd by the kite that sails aloof:
The tufted pines, whose umbrage tall
Darkens the long-deserted hail:
The veteran beech, that on the plain
Collects at eve the playful train:
The cot that smokes with early fire,
The low-roof'd fane's embosom'd spire!
Who now shall indolently stray
Through the deep forest's tangled way;
Pleas'd at his custom'd task to find
The well-known hoary-tressed hind,
That toils with feeble hands to glean
Of wither'd boughs his pittance mean?
Who 'mid thy nooks of hazel sit,
Lost in some melancholy fit;
And list'ning to the raven's croak,
The distant flail, the falling oak?
Who thro' the sunshine and the show'r
Descry the rainbow-painted tow'r?
Who, wand'ring at return of May,
Catch the first cuckoo's vernal lay
Who, musing, waste the summer hour
Where high o'er-arching trees embow'r
The grassy lane, so rarely pac'd,
With azure flowrets idly grac'd?
Unnotic'd now, at twilight's dawn
Returning reapers cross the lawn;
Nor fond attention loves to note
The wether's bell from folds remote:
While, own'd by no poetic eye,
Thy pensive ev'nings shade the sky!
For lo! the Bard who rapture found
In ev'ry rural sight or sound;
Whose genius warm, and judgment chaste,
No charm of genuine nature pass'd;
Who felt the Muse's purest fires,
Far from thy favour'd haunt retires;
Who peopled all thy vocal bow'rs
With shadowy shapes, and airy pow'rs.
To the pleasures derivable from a taste for picturesque beauty, Dr. Warton continued to add, with all his wonted ardour, those arising from the cultivation of critical disquisition. In the year 1797 he published, in nine volumes octavo, an edition of Pope's Works, in which was necessarily incorporated a great portion of his former Essay on this poet; a proceeding which appears to have dissatisfied the public, which expected, perhaps rather unreasonably, that the notes should have consisted almost entirely of fresh matter. To repeat himself was, considering the bulk and minute investigation of the prior work, inevitable; and we must likewise recollect, that, though much of the essay may be found in the annotations, there are also several notes equally new and interesting.
The great fault of this edition, and for which little in excuse can be said, a fault which has indeed received a most severe castigation from the author of the "Pursuits of Literature," is the re-introduction of two pieces which, though genuine, have for a long time been omitted, as too indecent for the public eye. What could induce Dr. Warton to revive this disgusting obscenity I know not: the fourteenth chapter of Scriblerus, it is true, possesses humour, but the Second Satire from Horace has nothing to palliate its grossness. It were much to be wished also that every future editor would expel not only these offensive pages, but the Imitations likewise of Chaucer and Spenser, neither of which have a particle of merit, and the last impresses an idea of the genius of the poet totally void of all verisimilitude.
The charge of pedantry and imbecility, however, which the anonymous satirist has thought proper to bring against Dr. Warton, was most assuredly unfounded. No man was less a pedant than the Master of Winchester School; and sufficient evidence is given in every volume of his edition of Pope, that his intellectual faculties had not failed him.
Conscious of no diminution of mental energy, and undaunted by the critical severity of his nameless antagonist, Dr. Warton employed himself, during the three remaining years of his life, in executing an edition of Dryden's Works, two volumes of which, with notes, were ready for the press at the period of his death. He had also, just previous to his retirement, entered into engagements for the completion of two productions which would have been highly acceptable to the public: these he thus mentions in a letter addressed to his friend Mr. Hayley, and dated March the 12th, 1792. "At any leisure I get busied in finishing the last volume of Mr. Warton's History of Poetry, which I have engaged to do-for the booksellers are clamorous to have the book finished, (though the ground I am to go over is so beaten,) that it may be a complete work. — Mr. Warton left notes on Samson Agonistes and Paradise Regained — but these we are under some engagement one day or other to publish in a second volume." How greatly is it to be regretted, that the hiatus subsisting between the close of the third volume of the History of English Poetry and his own Essay on Pope, was not filled up by a hand so competent to the task! We could most willingly have relinquished the edition of Pope for such an undertaking.
The health of Dr. Warton had been declining gradually during the greater part of 1799, occasioned by a disease in the kidneys and which in the October of the same year became so much aggravated, as to threaten a speedy and fatal result; a general paralysis, indeed, the consequence of extreme debility, took place a few months afterwards; and on February the 23d 1 800, he sunk, completely exhausted, into the arms of death.
To his memory in Winchester Cathedral the Wykehamists have erected an elegant monument, which does honour to the classical taste of Mr. Flaxman: on its plinth is the following inscrip tion:—
H. S. E.
JOSEPHUS WARTON, S.T.P.
Hujus Ecclesiae Prebendarius:
Per annos fere triginta
Poeta fervidus, facilis, expolitus:
Criticus eruditus, perspicax, elegaus:
Obiit xxiii Feb. MDCCC,
To this record of his literary powers, however highly we may estimate them, let us briefly add, that they were exceeded, greatly exceeded, by the virtues of his mind, and the goodness of his heart.
To the Adventurer Dr. Warton contributed twenty-four papers. Of these, three are of the humorous kind; namely, No. 71, containing Letters from six characters; No. 109, A Visit to Bedlam with Dean Swift, a Vision; and No. 129, descriptive of Characters at Bath. A rapid sketch is given in these Essays of several individuals, founded, it is said, on actual observation; and the mode in which they are drawn is such as to indicate that the author, notwithstanding his sedentary employments, had found leisure for a pretty accurate discrimination of the varying features which distinguish the different classes and varieties of mankind. Two papers may be ranged under the department of Ethics; No. 59, proving that Poets are not universally or necessarily poor; and No. 87, on the Necessity of Politeness, as an Auxiliary to Knowledge and Virtue. The first of these possesses so much genuine humour, that it might with propriety have been ranked under that head. The five numbers are, indeed, with respect to their classes mutually convertible; for they have all a moral and preceptive tendency, and, in a greater or less degree, exhibit traits of good-humoured satire.
The Doctor has given us but one paper that can lay claim to the attributes of imagination, the oriental tale of Bozaldab, Caliph of Egypt, in No. 76; the object of which is, to shew the mercy of occasional affliction, and that perfect happiness cannot be conferred on a creature; for that perfect happiness is an attribute as incommunicable as perfect power and eternity. The imagery of this eastern narrative is well conceived, the sentiment is pure and correct, and the style adequately glowing and rich.
The remaining eighteen numbers are devoted to the province of criticism, that for which his assistance was peculiarly requested. No. 49 gives a just view of the moralists and critics of France, and deprecates an exclusive reliance on their authority. Nos. 51 and 57 display, under the fiction of a lately discovered manuscript of Longi nus, the great superiority of the Christian Scriptures over the writings of Greece and Rome in point of pathos, sublitnity, and grandeur. These two papers are admirably conducted, and the specimens which are selected are of unparalleled excellence, and carry with them the most perfect conviction. No. 63 is employed in enumerating some of the most marked imitations of Pope, and discussing the difference between plagiarism and unavoidable analogy. The passages drawn from Pope exhibit, both in their expression and ideas, the most decided proofs of studied resemblance. Nos. 75, 80, and 83, place the superior merits of the Odyssey in a very striking point of view. It has been customary to prefer, in almost every respect, the Iliad; but, whatever may be allowed to its fire and sublimity, in variety, in beauty, and in the conduct of the fable, it is, without doubt, greatly inferior to the Odyssey. The story of Ulysses, as constructed by Homer, is indeed the most artful, the most interesting, and pleasing, upon record; and the attempt of Dr. Warton to analyse its fabric, and exhibit its component parts, is conducted with uncommon skill and judgment. May I be permitted to say, that, though inferior with respect to fable, in point of pathos, interest, and descriptive beauty, I esteem the Madoc of Mr. Southey as making the nearest approximation to the excellence of the Odyssey?
Some most valuable fragments of Simonides and Menander are introduced by our critic in Nos. 89 and 105, accompanied by many just observations on their pathetic, moral, and ethic tendency. No. 101 contains some shrewd strictures on the blemishes in Paradise Lost, a poem which, were it stripped of some pedantry and some exuberances, for instance, of all its metaphysical theology, would be the most perfect and splendid in the world.
Five Essays; Nos. 93, 97, 113, 116, and 122, have been appropriated by Dr. Warton to the consideration of two of the noblest plays of Shakspeare, The Tempest and King Lear. The vein of criticism which these papers display has been much and deservedly admired, and is indeed worthy of the translator of the Georgics. How much is it to be wished, that the taste and spirit which animate these elegant productions had been bestowed, in a measure more liberal, on the vast body of our Shakspearean Commentators, who, with very few exceptions, have been more attached to virulent controversial annotation, than to the simple and legitimate purpose of elucidating the meaning and genius of their author.
I am not willing, however, to coincide with Dr. Warton in the opinion which he has given, in Nos. 127 and 133, on the respective excellencies of the ancients and moderns in literature and arts. To the former he has ascribed a decided superiority in every department, except that of humour and ridicule; a position originally suggested by Addison, but which no impartial critic will, I think, sanction. If in sculpture, oratory, and, perhaps, in history, the claim be admitted, we may venture to assert, that in poetry, painting, and music, the contest is nobly maintained. Tasso, Shakspeare, and Milton, Dryden, Collins, and Gray, need not shrink from a comparison with the proudest of their predecessors of Greece and Rome, either in Epic, Dramatic, or Lyric poetry. The position, that Tragedy had attained a state of absolute perfection in Greece, is, though a common opinion, one of the most absurd which has disgraced the annals of learning. The use of the chorus is, of itself, a decided proof of the infancy and crudeness of the art; it is an introduction destructive of all interest and effect, and, indeed, totally incompatible with the genius of dramatic poetry. The attempt to revive it in this country has been attended with the consequences which might have been expected, a complete torpor and want of interest on the part of the audience. A magnificent spectacle may, indeed, be produced, and much genuine poetry may be recited; but the legitimate purposes of the drama are, in the mean time, so greatly neglected, that nothing but languor and indifference can be expected as the result.
As to the art of painting, the mere mention of the great artists of the Italian school would, I should imagine, be sufficient to decide the question. And from what quarter of the ancient world shall we drag forward a performer who can be placed, either by fancy or report, in competition with the genius of Handel?
The last paper with which Dr. Warton has favoured us in the Adventurer, is No. 139, explanatory of his motives and plan in the composition of his critical essays.