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And hark! what strange, what solemn breaking
strain Swells wildly murm’ring o'er the far, far main; Down Time's long less'ning vale the notes decay, And, lost in distant ages, roll away.
FROM A COLLECTION OF POEMS, PRINTED AT DUBLIN, 1789.
EDITED BY MR. GRADBERRY,
You say, sir, once a wit allow'd
Grant me to mimic human life
From him her beauties close confining,
Say, are not these a modish pair,
BORN 1728.-DIED 1790.
THOMAS WARTON was descended from an ancient family, whose residence was at Beverley, in Yorkshire. One of his ancestors was knighted in the civil wars, for his adherence to Charles I. ; but by the failure of the same cause, the estate of the family was confiscated, and they were unable to maintain the rank of gentry. The toryism of the historian. of English poetry was, therefore, hereditary. His father was fellow of Magdalen college, Oxford; professor of poetry in that university; and vicar of Basingstoke, in Hants, and of Cobham, in Surrey. At the age of sixteen, our author was admitted a commoner of Trinity college, Oxford, of which he continued a member, and an ornament, for fortyseven years. His first poetical appearance in print has been traced to five eclogues in blank verse; the scenes of which are laid among the shepherds, oppressed by the wars in Germany. They appeared in Pearche's “ Supplement to Dodsley's Collection of Fugitive Pieces." Warton disavowed those eclogues in his riper years. They are not discreditable to him
the verses of a boy; but it was a superfluous offering to the public, to subjoin them to his other works, in the last edition of the British Poets. His poem, “The
Pleasures of Melancholy," was written not long after, As the composition of a youth, it is entitled to a very indulgent consideration ; and perhaps it gives promise of a sensibility, which his subsequent poetry did not fulfil. It was professedly written in his seventeenth, but published in his nineteenth year, so that it must be considered as testifying the state of his genius at the latter period; for until his work had passed through the press, he would continue to improve it. In the year 1749, he published his
Triumph of Isis,” in answer to Mason's poetical attack on the loyalty of Oxford. The best passage in this piece, beginning with the lines,
“ Ye fretted pinnacles, ye fanes sublime,
“ Ye towers, that wear the mossy vest of time," discovers that fondness for the beauties of architecture, which was an absolute passion in the breast of Warton. Joseph Warton relates, that, at an early period of their youth, his brother and he were taken by their father to see Windsor Castle. Old Dr. War. ton complained, that whilst the rest of the party expressed delight at the magnificent spectacle, Thomas made no remarks; but Joseph Warton justly observes, that the silence of his brother was only a proof of the depth of his pleasure; that he was really absorbed in the enjoyment of the sight: and that his subsequent fondness for “ castle ima. gery,'
;" he believed, might be traced to the impression which he then received from Windsor Castle.
In 1750 he took the degree of a master of arts ; and in the following year succeeded to a fellowship. In 1754 he published his “Observations on Spenser's Faëry Queen," in a single volume, which he afterwards expanded into two volumes, in the edition of 1762. In this work he minutely analyses the Classic and Romantic sources of Spenser's fiction; and so far enables us to estimate the power of the poet's genius, that we can compare the scattered ore of his fanciful materials, with their transmuted appearance in the Fairy Queen. This work, probably, contributed to his appointment to the professorship of poetry, in the university, in 1757, which he held, according to custom, for ten years. While possessed of that chair, he delivered a course of lectures on poetry, in which he introduced his translations from the Greek An. thology, as well as the substance of his remarks on the Bucolic poetry of the Greeks, which were afterwards published in his edition of Theocritus. In 1758 he assisted Dr. Johnson in the Idler, with Nos. 33, 93, and 96. About the same time, he published, without name or date, “A Description of the City, College, and Cathedral of Winchester;" and a humorous account of Oxford, intended to burlesque the popular description of that place, entitled, * A Companion to the Guide, or a Guide to the Companion.” He also published, anonymously, in 1758, “A Selection of Latin Metrical Inscriptions."
Warton's clerical profession forms no very prominent part of his history. He had an indistinct