1882 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Wilson

Epes Sargent, in Harper's Cyclopaedia of British and American Poetry (1882) 374.



Professor John Wilson (1785-1854), son of an opulent manufacturer, was a native of Paisley, Scotland. Educated at Oxford, he bought the beautiful estate of Elleray, on Lake Windermere, married, built a house, kept a yacht, wrote poetry, cultivated the society of Wordsworth, and enjoyed himself generally. Reverses came, however, and he was compelled to work in earnest. He was appointed Professor of Moral Philosophy in the University of Edinburgh, took the editorship of Blackwood's Magazine, and there made for himself quite a reputation, in his day, under the nom de plume of Christopher North. Scott speaks of him, in one of his letters, as "an eccentric genius." The poetical works of Wilson consist of The Isle of Palms (1812), The City of the Plague (1816), and several smaller pieces. In reference to his prose writings, Hallam characterized him as "a living writer of the most ardent and enthusiastic genius, whose eloquence is as the rush of mighty waters." In 1851 Wilson was granted a pension of 300 per annum. An interesting memoir of him by his daughter, Mrs. Gordon, appeared in 1862.