1848 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Dr. John Wolcot

Benjamin Disraeli, in Life of Isaac D'Israeli (1848); D'Israeli, Works (1881) 1:xxi-xxii.



The moment that the name of the youthful author of the Abuse of Satire [Isaac Disraeli] had transpired, Peter Pindar, faithful to the instinct of his nature, wrote a letter of congratulation and compliment to his assailant, and desired to make his acquaintance. The invitation was responded to, and until the death of Wolcot, they were intimate. My father always described Wolcot as a warm-hearted man; coarse in his manners, and rather rough, but eager to serve those whom he liked of which, indeed, I might appropriately mention an instance.

It so happened, that about the year 1795, when he was in his 29th year, there came over my father that mysterious illness to which the youth of men of sensibility, and especially literary men, is frequently subject — a failing of nervous energy, occasioned by study and too sedentary habits, early and habitual reverie, restless and indefinite purpose. The symptoms, physical and moral, are most distressing: lassitude and despondency. And it usually happens, as in the, present instance, that the cause of suffering is not recognised; and that medical men, misled by the superficial symptoms, and not seeking to acquaint themselves with the psychology of their patients, arrive at erroneous, often fatal, conclusions. In this case, the most eminent of the faculty gave it as their opinion, that the disease was consumption. Dr. Turton, if I recollect right, was then the most considered physician of the day. An immediate visit to a warmer climate was his specific; and as the Continent was then disturbed and foreign residence out of the question, Dr. Turton recommended that his patient should establish himself without delay in Devonshire.

When my father communicated this impending change in his life to Wolcot, the modern Skelton shook his head. He did not believe that his friend was in a consumption, but being a Devonshire man, and loving very much his native province, he highly approved of the remedy. He gave my father several letters of introduction to persons of consideration at Exeter.