1831 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Dr. John Wolcot

Richard Polwhele, in Biographical Sketches in Cornwall (1831) 2:61.



Of Wolcot's subsequent life I was no witness; except indeed at Exeter and its neighbourhood; when I made an effort to shew him to my acquaintance. It was then, he met at my house at Kenton, the Alps-Club — Mr. Prebendary Swete and his lady, Mr. Archdeacon Andrew and his lady, Mr. and Mrs. Lee, and Dr. and Mrs. Downman. Before their arrival, he had observed from the windows of the drawing-room, "a ragged boy upon a donkey;" and in less than ten minutes produced an admirable sketch of the ass and its rider. The boy, pale and emaciated, was rotten (W. said) from the bad air we were all breathing — poisoned as it was with marsh miasma. We were much amused with the drawing. Wolcot slept at my house. I had invited a party of Starcross friends, to join W. and our family, the next day on the water: And we were willing to anticipate a pleasant morning on the Exe; enlived by the wit of P. Pindar. As soon, however, as I got up, I found a note on the breakfast table to this effect: "Your pestilential air has almost been death to me! Adieu!" The servant said, he had been gone for some hours. We put off the sailing expedition; and I followed W. to Exeter, where I dined and supped with him at Downman's. And, at supper, in the midst of an animated conversation, Wolcot started up with great perturbation — "Zounds! I've dropped a letter in the post without directing it!" — and hurried off, to the music of the glasses that danced at his exit most merrily. By good luck he recovered the letter. It was addressed to a young woman in London a poor orphan, whose charms, he said, (but we did not believe him,) he had had the fortitude to resist from a regard for her welfare, and to whom he had given much good advice (religious I suppose!) — accompanied with a considerable sum of money to set her up as a milliner.