1807 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Joseph Warton

Lady Anne Hamilton, in Epics of the Ton (1807) 90-92 & n.



Hence little Nell o'er Charles bore sovereign sway,
While crowds of rival beauties pass's away;
Hence Polly Peachum, with her smirking face,
Shone first a Duke's sweet friend, and then her Grace....

The celebrated Polly was, first, mistress to the late Duke of Bolton, and, after the death of his wife became his duchess. Nor must we here omit an anecdote of the late famous critic and divine, Dr. Joseph Warton, as it reflects so much honour on the liberality of the Church in countenancing the poor frailties of the age. The Duke's first wife had long been sinking under a lingering illness, and every day was fondly expected by the lovers to be her last. During this sickening interval of hope deferred, his Grace and Polly resolved to travel; but as he was anxious to raise his fair companion to the honour of his legal bed-fellow, as soon as the course of nature should free him from his present incumbrance, he thought it proper to be accompanied by a chaplain, who should perform the ceremony without delay as soon as the departure of the old duchess should be announced. For this honourable purpose Dr. Joseph Warton was selected, and made no scruple to quit a small living and his pastoral duties, for an agreeable tour and the hopes of preferment. Some occurrences, however, made him sensible that there were certain little inconveniences incident to a clergyman following promotion in the trains of a "cher amie"; and therefore, after dancing attendance for some time, and despairing that the wished-for event would ever arrive, he took his leave, and returned to England. But scarcely had he set foot on his parsonage, when the unlucky Doctor learnt that the Duchess was dead! He instantly wrote to the Duke, humbly requesting that he might be permitted again to wait on him, and tie the happy knot. But the impatient lovers had already borrowed the aid of the chaplain to the English embassy at Paris, and poor Warton had nothing for his pains but the recollection of his tour and his honours.