1882 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Thomas Warton

Epes Sargent, in Harper's Cyclopaedia of British and American Poetry (1882) 204.



Thomas Warton, the historian of English poetry (1728-1790), was the second son of Dr. Warton, of Magdalen College, Oxford, who was twice chosen Professor of Poetry by his university, and who himself wrote verses now happily consigned to oblivion. Joseph (1722-1800), the elder brother of Thomas, was also a poet in a small way, and wrote an Ode to Fancy, hardly up to the standard of a modern school-boy. Thomas began early to write verses. His Progress of Discontent, written before he was twenty, and in the style of Swift, is a remarkably clever production. It gave promise of achievements which he never fulfilled. He was made poetry-professor at Oxford in 1757, and, on the death of Whitehead in 1785, was appointed poet-laureate. His History of English Poetry (1774-1778) forms the basis of his reputation, and is a valuable storehouse of facts and criticisms. Hazlitt considered some of Warton's sonnets "the finest in the language;" but this is wholly unmerited praise. Coleridge and Bowles also commended them. We select out of his nine sonnets the two best [To Mr. Gray, and To the River Lodon].