Get Your Premium Membership

A Short Biographical Sketch of THOMAS WARTON (1728 to 1790)

by John W. Cousin

WARTON, THOMAS (1728-1790). —Literary historian and critic, younger s. of Thomas W., Prof. of Poetry at Oxf., and brother of the above, was ed. under his f. at Basingstoke and at Oxf. At the age of 19 he pub. a poem of considerable promise, The Pleasures of Melancholy, and two years later attracted attention by The Triumph of Isis (1749), in praise of Oxf., and in answer to Mason's Isis. After various other poetical excursions he pub.Observations on Spenser's Faery Queen (1754), which greatly increased his reputation, and in 1757 he was made Prof. of Poetry at Oxf., which position he held for 10 years. After bringing out one or two ed. of classics and biographies of college benefactors, he issued, from 1774-81, his great History of English Poetry, which comes down to the end of the Elizabethan age. The research and judgment, and the stores of learning often curious and recondite, which were brought to bear upon its production render this work, though now in various respects superseded, a vast magazine of information, and it did much to restore our older poetry to the place of which it had been unjustly deprived by the classical school. His ed. of Milton's minor poems has been pronounced by competent critics to be the best ever produced. W. was a clergyman, but if the tradition is to be believed that he had only two sermons, one written by his f. and the other printed, and if the love of ease and of ale which he celebrates in some of his verses was other than poetical, he was more in his place as a critic than as a cleric. As a poet he hardly came up to his own standards. He was made Poet Laureate in 1785, and in the same year Camden Prof. of History, and was one of the first to detect the Chatterton forgeries, a task in which his antiquarian lore stood him in good stead.