Joseph Warton offers the contents of the Winchester College Library for John Nichols's use in his Selection Collection of Poems (1780-84). This anthology of fugitive poems was printed as a supplement to Robert Dodsley's Collection of Poems, and abounds in the works of eighteenth-century imitators of Milton and Spenser, including several mentioned by Warton. The two letters are of interest as indications of the taste of one of the century's more important poets and critics, and perhaps too of the kinds of English reading undertaken by some of Warton's pupils — like Chapman's Homer? By 1780, much fugitive verse had already been collected in earlier supplements to Dodsley.
John Durant Breval's Henry and Minerva (1729) did not make it into the anthology, though James De La Cour's Prospect of Poetry (1734) was included, as were several pieces by George Sandys and Walter Harte. While George Chapman had appeared in an earlier volume, his translation of Homer, like Merrick's Triphiodorus, would have been difficult to accommodate within the format of the anthology.
John Nichols: "It was at this period [the 1770s] I had the satisfaction of becoming personally acquainted with Dr. Warton; and experienced from him abundant proofs of that inclination to forward the literary labours of others, for which he was peculiarly famed. I had, then recently, published four volumes of a small Collection of Miscellaneous Poems; in the selecting of which I had the assistance of many first-rate literary characters; and in four subsequent volumes was particularly indebted to Bishops Lowth and Percy, Dr. Warton, and Mr. Kynaston" 6:169-70.
Alexander Chalmers: "It is very difficult for the present writer to speak of this extraordinary and satisfactory work, in measured terms. Himself an ardent lover, and an humble inquirer into the biography of Great Britain, he has enjoyed in this extensive collection a fund of information which it would be in vain to seek elsewhere. It is original in its plan and in its execution, nor perhaps will there soon arise an Editor, to whom manuscripts of the most confidential kind, epistolary correspondence, and other precious records will be intrusted with equal certainty of their being given to the publick accurately and minutely, and yet free from injury to the characters of the deceased, or the feelings of the living. By the vast accumulation of literary correspondence in these volumes, Mr. Nichols has released the biographical inquirer from much of the uncertainty or, vague report, and has in a great measure brought him near to the gratification of a personal acquaintance. These records embrace the memoirs of almost all the learned men of the eighteenth century, and there are scarce any of that class with whom Mr. Nichols's volumes have not made us more intimate" Gentleman's Magazine 96 (December 1826) 499.
College, Winchester, April 25, 1780.
When I was last in town, I proposed to myself the pleasure of calling on you, to thank you for the care you had taken in printing some books for the use of this school; and likewise to have asked you if you had remaining in your hands any copies of that excellent edition of the Two Iphigenia's by Markland; for our bookseller has orders to procure some, as I shall be glad to use it at the upper end of the school. Suffer me to return you my thanks for the great pleasure you have given me in the perusal of your Four Volumes of Poems, and of the very entertaining Notes and Anecdotes that accompany them. I am glad to find that you intend giving more of that sort to the publick. We have a good many old Miscellaneous Poems in our College Library; and, if I thought your plan was not completed, might perhaps point out some to you. I believe there are some things in the Miscellanies of Husband, of Lewis, of Harte, and of Diaper, Whalley, and Cobbe (author of a very fine Ode in Dodsley's Miscellanies), that might deserve to be inserted. Why should you not take some of Sandys's Psalms, as a pattern of his excellent versification? His introductory verses to the King and Queen; and a concluding copy, intituled, "Deo opt. &c." containing an account of his Life and Travels, are really excellent. I hint these things; not as imagining you want either matter or information; but rather to express the pleasure I have received from your publication. Will you please to tell Mr. Reed I have found Fenton's letter, which I promised to shew him. I am, Sir,
Your very obedient and humble servant,
Winton, May 7, 1780.
I am heartily glad to find that any hints I could give you about your very entertaining Work have been acceptable to you; and, in that confidence, shall add one or two more. I did not know that the Dryades of Diaper was in the Poetical Calendar. There is a thin volume of Cobb's Poems, from whence I have a notion something might be selected. His Ode in Dodsley is most excellent. Sandys, besides his Psalms, translated also, and most elegantly, Solomon's Song. All which might be inserted; as well as a Copy of Verses to Sandys from the great Lord Falkland, and Sandys's Epistle before his Translation of Ovid. From Walter Harte's Poems, the Essay on Painting, and his Epistle to Pope, and his Essay on Reason, a very fine poem, which was much laboured, and went through Mr. Pope's hands; and which I wonder has not lately been reprinted. Have you Lord Paget's Essay on Human Life; and an Epistle of his to Mr. Pope? I have the very copy he gave Pope, which I will send you by the carrier, if you wish to see it. I think Mr. Merrick's Tryphiodorus, the Destruction of Troy, might be inserted. It is admirably well done, very good versification indeed, and better than the original; and would, as it has never been reprinted without his large notes, be, should think, acceptable. Do you know Jones's Translation of Oppian's Halieutics? This, perhaps, might betaken in whole or in part. I forgot to say that something might be also selected from The Amaranth of Walter Harte; the Vision of Death particularly. Why not give a specimen of Chapman's Homer, which is much talked of, and little known? As I see you have given some of Creech's Translations (who, by the way, is a most nervous and vigorous translator), why not insert some of his Theocritus, many parts of which are admirable? Look at the Hylas, the Anacreontic on the Death of Adonis, the Young Hercules, &c. &c. And, though Francis seems to have demolished Creech's Horace, yet give me leave to say that some parts of Creech's Horace are good, and I wish you would insert some of his Odes. As you have taken some Songs out of Dryden's Plays, why should you not also take those Songs that Bert Jonson has inserted in his Plays, some of which are most elegant and harmonious? "Still to be neat, &c." in the Silent Woman, &c.; and some excellent lyric pieces, from what he calls his Underwood, To Charis 10 pieces, and An Ode, and Epistle to Selden. I must now earnestly entreat you, for many strong reasons, not to select any thing out of the collection you mention of my Father's, 1748. And I am sure you will oblige me by believing that I do not ask this without reason.
I have a poem called Henry and Minerva, by J. B. esq. printed for Roberts, 1729. I know not the author; but there is much fancy and taste, on the introduction of Literature after the Dark Ages, &c. And another poem, "A Prospect of Poetry, to Lord Orrery, by J. Dalacourt. Dublin. 1734." Would you see them? I am, Sir,
Your very obedient and faithful servant,