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Journ WAR.Tox, D. D., born in 1722, was the eldest son of the Rev. Thomas Warton, poetry-professor at Oxford, and Vicar of Basingstoke. He received his early education under his father, and at the age of fourteen was admitted on the foundation at Winchester school. He was afterwards entered of Oriel college, Oxford, where he assiduously cultivated his literary taste, and composed some pieces of poetry, which were afterwards printed. Having taken the degree of B.D. he became curate to his father at Basingstoke; and in 1746 removed to a similar employment at Chelsea. In 1748 he was presented by the Duke of Bolton to the rectory of Winslade, soon after which he married. He accompanied his patron in 1751 on a tour to the south of France; and after his return he completed an edition of Virgil, in Latin and English; of which the Eclogues and Georgics were his own composition, the Eneid was the version of Pitt. Warton also contributed notes on the whole, and added three preliminary essays, on pastoral, didactic, and epic poetry. When the Adventurer was undertaken by Dr. Hawksworth, Warton, through the medium of Dr. Johnson, was invited to become a contributor, and his compliance with this request produced twenty-four papers, of which the greater part were essays on critical topics. In 1755 he was elected second master of Winchester school, with the accompanying advantage of a boarding-house. In the following year there appeared, but without his naine, the first volume, 8vo., of his “Essay on the Writings and Genius of
Pope.” Scarcely any work of the kind has afforded more entertainment, from the vivacity of its remarks, the taste displayed in its criticisms, and the various anecdotes of which it became the vehicle; though some of the last were of a freer cast than perfectly became his character. This reason, perhaps, caused the second volume to be kept back till twenty-six years after. In 1766 he was advanced to the post of head-master of Winchester school, on which occasion he visited Oxford, and took the degrees of bachelor and doctor of divinity. The remainder of his life was chiefly occupied by schemes of publications, and by new preferments, of the last of which he obtained a good share, though of moderate rank. In 1793 he closed his long labours at Winchester by a resignation of the mastership, upon which he retired to his rectory of Wickham. Still fond of literary employment, he accepted a proposal of the booksellers to superintend an edition of Pope's works, which was completed, in 1797, in nine vols. 8vo. Other engagements still pursued him, till his death, in his 78th year, February, 1800. The Wiccamists attested their regard to his memory, by erecting an elegant monument over his tomb in Winchester cathedral. The poems of Dr. Warton consist of miscellaneous and occasional pieces, displaying a cultivated taste, and an exercised imagination, but without any claim to originality. His “Ode to Fancy,” first published in Dodsley's collection, is perhaps that which has been the most admired.
ODE TO FANCY.
O ranent of each lovely Muse,
To charnels and the house of woe,
To Gothic churches, vaults, and tombs,
With terrour shake, and pity move,
VERSES : warrrr, N AT Montauban IN FRANCE, 1750.
TARN, how delightful wind thy willow’d waves,
Give me, beneath a colder, changesul sky,
• Alluding to the persecutions of the Protestants, and the wars of the Saracens, carried on in the southern provinces of France.
Thomas Wawron, younger brother of the preceding, a distinguished poet, and a historian of poetry, was born at Basingstoke in 1728. He was educated under his father till 1743, when he was admitted a commoner of Trinity college, Oxford. Here he exercised his poetical talent to so much advantage, that, on the appearance of Mason's Elegy of Isis, which severely reflected on the disloyalty of Oxford at that period, he was encouraged by Dr. Huddesford, president of his college, to vindicate the cause of his university. This task he performed with great applause, by writing, in his twenty-first year, “The Triumph of Isis,” a piece of much spirit and fancy, in which he retaliated upon the bard of Cam, by satirising the courtly venality then supposed to distinguish the rival university. His “Progress of Discontent,” published in 1750, exhibited to great advantage his powers in the familiar style, and his talent for humour, with a knowledge of human life, extraordinary at his early age, especially if composed, as it is said, for a college exercise in 1746. In 1750 he took the degree of M.A., and in the following year became a fellow of his college. His spirited satire, entitled “Newmarket,” and pointed against the ruinous passion for the turf; his “Ode for Music;” and his “Verses on the Death of the Prince of Wales,” were written about this time; and, in 1753, he was the editor of a small collection of poems, under the title of “The Union,” which was printed at Edinburgh, and contained several of his own performances. In 1754 he made himself known by Observations on Spenser's Faery Queen, in one volume, afterwards enlarged to two; a work well received by the public, and which made a considerable addition to his literary reputation. So high was his character in the University, that in 1757 he was elected to the office of its poetry professor, which he held for the usual period of ten years, and rendered respectable by the erudition and taste displayed in his lectures. . It does not appear necessary in this place to particularize all the prose compositions which, whether grave or humorous, fell at this time from his pen; but it may be mentioned that verse continued occasionally to occupy his thoughts, and that having
lamented the death of George II., in some lines addressed to Mr. Pitt, he continued the courtly strain in poems on the marriage of George III., and on the birth of the Prince of Wales, both printed in the university collection. In 1770 he gave an edition, in two volumes 4to., of the Greek poet Theocritus, which gave him celebrity in other countries besides his own. At what time he first employed himself with the history of English poetry, we are not informed, but in 1774 he had so far proceeded in the work as to publish the first volume in 4to. He afterwards printed a second in 1778, and a third in 1781; but his labour now became tiresome to himself, and the great compass which he had allotted to his plan was so irksome, that an unfinished fourth volume was all that he added to it.
The place of Camden professor of history, vacant by the resignation of Sir William Scott, was the close of his professional exertions; but soon after another engagement required his attention. By His Majesty's express desire, the post of poet laureat was offered to him, and accepted, and he determined to use his best endeavours for rendering it respectable. Varying the monotony of anniversary court compliment by topics better adapted to poetical description, he improved the style of the laureate odes, though his lyric strains underwent some ridicule on that account.
His concluding publication was an edition of the juvenile poems of Milton, of which the first volume made its appearance in 1785, and the second in 1790, a short time before his death. His constitution now began to give way. In his sixty-second year an attack of the gout shattered his frame, and was succeeded in May, 1790, by a paralytic seizure, which carried him off, at his lodgings in Oxford. His remains were interred, with every academical honour, in the chapel of Trinity college.
The pieces of Thomas Warton are very various in subject, and none of them long, whence he must only rank among the minor pocts; but scarcely one of that tribe has noted with finer observation the minute circumstances in rural nature that afford pleasure in description, or has derived from the regions of fiction more animated and picturesque scenery.
ODE TO THE FIRST OF APRIL.
Wrra dalliance rude young Zephyr wooes Coy May. Full oft with kind excuse The boisterous boy the fair denies, Or with a scornful smile complies. Mindful of disaster past, And shrinking at the northern blast, The sleety storm returning still, The morning hoar, and evening chill; Reluctant comes the timid Spring. Scarce a bee, with airy ring, Murmurs the blossom'd boughs around, That clothe the garden's southern bound 1 Scarce a sickly straggling flower, Decks the rough castle's rifted tower: Scarce the hardy primrose peeps From the dark dell's entangled steeps; O'er the fields of waving broom Slowly shoots the golden bloom: And, but by fits, the furze-clad dale Tinctures the transitory gale. While from the shrubbery's naked maze, Where the vegetable blaze Of Flora's brightest 'broidery shone, Every chequer'd charm is flown; Save that the lilac hangs to view Its bursting gems in clusters blue. Scant along the ridgy land The beans their new-born ranks expand: The fresh-turn'd soil with tender blades Thinly the sprouting barley shades: Fringing the forest's devious edge, Half rob'd appears the hawthorn hedge; Or to the distant eye displays Weakly green its budding sprays. The swallow, for a moment seen, Skims in haste the village green; From the gray moor, on feeble wing, The screaming plovers idly spring: The butterfly, gay-painted soon, Explores awhile the tepid noon: And fondly trusts its tender dyes To fickle suns, and flattering skies. Fraught with a transient, frozen shower, If a cloud should haply lower, Sailing o'er the landscape dark, Mute on a sudden is the lark; But when gleams the Sun again O'er the pearl-besprinkled plain, And from behind his watery vail Looks through the thin descending hail; She mounts, and, lessening to the sight, Salutes the blithe return of light, And high her tuneful track pursues Mid the dim rainbow's scatter'd hues. Where in venerable rows Widely waving oaks enclose The mote of yonder antique hall, Swarm the rooks with clamorous call; And to the toils of nature true, Wreath their capacious nests anew. Musing through the lawny park, The lonely poet loves to mark How various greens in faint degrees Tinge the tall groupes of various trees; While, careless of the changing year, The pine cerulean, never scre,
Towers distinguish'd from the rest,