1824 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Thomas Warton

Bryan Waller Procter, in Effigies Poeticae, or, the Portraits of the British Poets (1824) 100.



From a Picture by Sir Joshua Reynolds, in the possession of Mrs. Morgan.

WARTON seems, if we may judge from this portrait, which looks exceedingly like truth, to have had a heavy person, but a sensible countenance. He very much resembled the present Chancellor, Lord Eldon; and he was as deeply read in the antiquities of literature, as the law lord is said to be in jurisprudence. Warton is the author of that elaborate work entitled "The History of English Poetry," in which, though he has not come down very low amongst the moderns, he has done good service to the cause. Although a professed poet, and having much of the sensibility of the poet, he was in spirit more perhaps of an antiquarian. This overhangs almost every subject upon which he has written, and it must be confessed sometimes adds very considerably to the grace of his verses. His Odes on the "Crusade," and the "Grave of King Arthur," are by no means deficient in spirit, and are richly illuminated by the light of antiquity which he has thrown upon them. In his "Inscription on a Hermitage," there is a pleasant account of an anchoret's enjoyments (Warton, by the way, was fond of ale, and of playing with the schoolboys at Winchester) — of his visitors, the blackbird and the wren, of his opening primroses, and "brass-embossed book," which he reads at evening, and then chants, as he says

Then, as my taper waxes dim,
Chant, ere I sleep, my measured hymn,
And, at the close, the gleams behold
Of parting wings bedropt with gold.

But, of all Warton's productions, we prefer on the whole his sonnets, which are exceedingly good, although inferior, in our opinion, to some of Mr. Wordsworth, to some of Shakspeare, and to almost all of Milton.