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station, convenient apartments, a luxurious and social table, even rich libraries, and quiet and beautiful walks, have not often cherished that mental abstraction, and still less that mental energy, by which sublime or even ingenious works have been produced.
Thomas Warton surmounted the torpor incident to his situation. But his compositions are certainly not characterized by passion. They are rich in the splendour of diction, and in the images of the fancy—but few, if any of them, seem to have been produced under the influence of violent agitation. I think there is little of the
Thoughts that breathe and words that burn."
Poetical composition was far from being the sole, and perhaps not the primary, literary occupation of this author. He early distinguished himself as a critic in our old English literature, particularly on the works of Spenser; and his habits of elegant composition, his command of language, his extensive erudition, his powers of reflection, and the ingenuity of his inferences, raised him at once to an eminence in this department, which no successor has since risen to dispute with him. His Observations on the Fairy Queen was first published in 1753, in his 26th year, and corrected and enlarged into 2 vols. 12mo. 1762.
But he was not so immersed in black-letter studies, is to be forgetful of his classical attainments. In 1758 be published “Inscriptionum Metricarum Delectus, cum nolulis,” 4to.
Two years afterwards he contributed the Life of Sir Thos. Pope to the Biographia Britannica, which he
augmented into an 8vo. volume, 1770. Sir Thos. Pope was the founder of his College of Trinity; and this memorial must be considered as an offering of gratitude to a benefactor. The subject afforded but little to interest general curiosity, and it required all the riches and all the art of the writer to surround it with splendour. But this Warton has effected. He has brought forward many curious circumstances hitherto buried among the lumber of voluminous and forgotten historians; and by the perspicuity of his arrangement, the vivacity of his language, and the justness of his remarks, exhibited a narrative, in which they, who are fond of inquiring into the manners and characters of past times, will find their attention deeply engaged.
-The piercing eye explores
Nor rough, nor barren are the winding ways Of hoar antiquity, but strown with flowers." In 1770, his 43d year, he published from the Clarendon press his celebrated edition of Theocritus in two volumes, 4to. of which, though it has not escaped attacks, several learned men have spoken in very high terms. His prefixed Dissertation, on the Bucolics of the Greeks, has been generally praised as an elegant and ingenious composition. I doubt whether he does not betray some awkwardness of Latin phraseology, which considering the variety of his pursuits will not appear at all wonderful. From this time he must have been deeply engaged in preparing his History of English Poetry, of which the first vol. appeared in 1774, his 47th year. The second volume was published in 1778, and the third in 1781.
In 1777, as if to procure an interval of relief from his severer labours, he amused himself by printing a selection of his poems, of which very few had hitherto been made public. Many, which had for years been scattered about in various collections, though known to be his, he for some reason refrained from introducing in this little volume.
The world, I believe, received this publication rather coldly. The Spenserian or Miltonic cast of language or rhythm, the crowded imagery, the descriptive or al. legorical turn, of most of the poems, were what Dr. Johnson (then possessed, without a rival, of the chair of criticism,) set all the energy of his invective, and the powers of his coarse ridicule, to decry. And the public, always glad to find an authority for their want of taste or of fancy, eagerly followed his example.
It is said that Dr. Johnson in the latter part of his life expressed his chagrin at some appearance of alie. nation in his friends the Wartons. But how unreasonable he must have been to expect otherwise! Who can bear ridicule on a favourite pursuit? And still less, unjust ridicule? No taste could have been more dissimilar, than that of Johnson and the Wartons ! No minds formed in more opposite moulds! The Wartons were classical scholars of the highest order, embued with all the enthusiasm, and all the prejudices if you will, of Greece and Rome, heightened by the romantic effusions of the ages of chivalry, by the sublimities of Dante and Milton, the wildness of Ariosto and Spen
ser, the beauties of Tasso and Petrareh. Johnson was a severe moralist, who, thinking merely from the sources of his own mind, endeavoured to banish all which he deemed the useless and unsubstantial eccentricities of the mind. He loved the “Truth severe," but he could not bear to see it
.“ in fairy fiction drest." How could such discordant tempers agree? Whenever they met, they must have parted with disgust. At least this must have been the case with the Wartons, whose quiet and unobtrusive manners rendered them unfit to cope with the vociferation and domineering spirit of Johnson, who often mistook the silence produced by rudeness for a proof of victory. To be overe powered by effrontery and noise, when we are confident that the force of argument is with us, is a provocation which few can bear!
Warton, who, even amid the seducing indolence of a college, constantly indulged the activity of his excursive intellect in some new subject of research, found time to relieve the toils of his history by drawing up a specimen of parochial topography, in an account of Kiddington in Oxfordshire, 1781, of which he was vicar. It is an admirable model for works of this nature, and discovers all that curious research in a new department of antiquities, for which he had already shewn such talents in a more flowery and inviting branch,
He also engaged in the Rowleian controversy, in a manner, which totally put an end to ihe question in the opinion of all rational and unprejudiced inquirers.
In 1785 he gave a new edition of the Juvenile Poems of Milton, 8vo. This was a grateful present to the public: another editor equally qualified for this task could not have been found in the literary world. The critic's favourite course of reading from his earliest years, his innate propensities, the structure of his mind, and the habitual course of his thoughts, all contributed to make him a congenial commentator on these beautiful poems. There are many who have blamed what they denonimate the excess of his illustrations. They conceive that the imitations and allusions which he has traced are sometimes fanciful, and sometimes too trivial for notice. But there is nothing, to which the ingenuity of envy and detraction cannot find plausible objections.
In this year he was, on the death of Whitehead, appointed Poet Laureat; and for the five succeeding years, (at the end of which, on May 21, 1790, he terminated his useful life, he produced his two annual Odes; compositions, which, written as a task on trite and constantly recurring subjects, must not be examined with too much severity, but which, much more often than could be expected, display the richness of his poetical vein.
In these constant and various employments passed the life of Thomas Warton. And surely as far as a life of calmness and equability, unmingled with those do"mestic endearments, which, if they involve the most bitter sufferings, add the highest zest to human pleasures, can be happy, it must have been happy! All "the luxuries of mental entertainment were at his command: libraries richly stored, and the silence of academic bowers, were ready to feed the curiosity of his