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“I am infinitely obliged to you for the favour of your letter.
“Your Plan for the History of English Poetry is admirably constructed, and much improved from an idea of Pope, which Mr. Mason obligingly sent me by application from our friend Dr. Hurd. I regret that a writer of your consummate taste should not have executed it.
“Although I have not followed this plan, yet it is of great service to me, and throws much light on many of my periods, by giving connected views and details. I begin with such an introduction, or general dissertation, as you had intended: viz. on the Northern Poetry, with its introduction into England by the Danes and Saxons, and its duration. I then begin my History at the conquest, which I write chronologically in sections ; and continue, as matter successively offers itself, in a series of regular annals, down to and beyond the Restoration. I think with you that dramatic poetry is detached from the idea of my work, that it requires a separate consideration, and will swell the size of my book beyond all bounds. One of my sections, a very large one, is entirely on Chaucer, and exactly fills your title of Part Second. In the course of my annals, I consider collaterally the poetry of different nations as influencing our OWA. What I have at present finished ends with the section on Chaucer, and will almost make my first volume: for I design two volumes in quarto. This first volume will soon be in the press. I should have said before, that although I proceed chronologically, yet I often stand still to give some general view, as perhaps of a particular species of poetry, &c. and even anticipate sometimes for this purpose. These views often form one section: yet are interwoven into the tenour of the work, without interrupting my historical series. In this respect, some of my sections have the effect of your parts or divisions—?
“ I cannot take my leave without declaring, that my strongest incitement to prosecute the History of English Poetry is the pleasing hope of being approved by you; whose true genius I so justly venerate, and whose genuine poetry has ever given me such sincere pleasure. I am, sir, &c.”
“ Winchester College, April 20, 1770."
It is almost needless to say that the progress of Warton's History afforded the highest gratification to every learned and elegant mind. Ritson, however, whose learning appears to have been dear to him only as it administered to his illiberality, attacked our author in a pamphlet, entitled Observations on the three first volumes of the History of English Poetry, in a familiar Letter to the Author, 1782.
In this, while be pointed out some real inaccuracies, for which he might have received the thanks of the historian, his chief object seems to have been to violate, by ļow scurrility and personal acrimony, every principle of liberal criticism, and of that decorous interchange of respect which men of learning, not otherwise acquainted, preserve between one another. What could have provoked all this can be known only to those who have dipped into a heart rendered callous by a contempt for every thing sacred and social.
* This blank is filled up by a notice of the young foreigner recommended by Gray. C. Vol. XVIII.
In 1777, Mr. Warton published a collection of his poems, but omitting some which had appeared before: a second edition followed in 1778, a third in 1779, and a fourth in 1789. The omissions in all these are now restored.
In 1781 he seems to have diverted his mind to a plan as arduous as his History of Poetry. He had been for some time making collections for a Parocbial History, or as it is more usually called, a County History of Oxfordshire. As a specimen, he printed a few copies of the History of the parish of Kiddington, which were given to his friends, but in 1782 an edition was offered to the public. Topography had long formed one of his favourite studies, and the acuteness with which he had investigated the progress of ancient architecture, gave bim undoubtedly high claims to the honours of an antiquary, but as he stood pledged for the completion of his poetical bistory, it is to be regretted that he should have begun at this advanced period of life to indulge the prospect of an undertaking which he never could complete.
In 1782 he took an active part in the Chattertonian controversy, by publishing an Enquiry the authenticiiy of the Poems attributed to Thomas Rowley. He had already introduced the question into his history, and now more decidedly gave his opinion that these poems were the fabrication of Chatterton. The same year, he published his verses on sir Joshua Reynolds's painted window in New College chapel
. This produced a letter to him from sir Joshua, in which, with a pardonable vanity, if it at all deserve that appellation, he expresses a wish that his name had appeared in the verses. In a second edition, Warton complied with a wish so flattering to him. self by implying the duration of his poetry, and REYNOLDS was substituted for the word ARTIST.
In this year also he was presented by his college to the donative of Hill Farrance, in Somersetshire, and about the same time became a member of the Literary Club, composed of those friends of Dr. Johnson whose conversations form so interesting a part of his life by Boswell. In 1785, he was chosen Camden professor of history on the resignation of Dr. (now sir William) Scott. By the letters added to Wooll's life of his brother, we find that our author was making interest for the professorship of modern history in 1768, when Vivian was preferred. Warburton on this occasion sent him a letter, complimenting hini on the heroic manner in which he bore his disappointment, and informing him, as a piece of consolation, that Viviau had an ulcer in his bladder, which was likely to prove fatal in a short time !-As Camden professor, he delivered an inaugural lecture, ingenious, learned, and full of promise, but, says his biographer, “ he suffered the rostrum to grow cold while it was in bis possession."
The office of poet laureate was accepted by him this year, as it was offered at the express desire of his majesty, and he filled it with credit to himself and to the place. Whitehead, bis immediate predecessor, had the misfortune to succeed Cibber, and could with difficulty make the public look seriously on the periodical labours of the laureate, yet by perseverance he contrived to restore some degree of respect to the office. Warton succeeded yet better by varying the accustomed modes of address, and by recalling the mind to gothic periods and splendid events. The facetious au
8 In his Observations on Spenser ; aud since published, with other essays on the same subject, by Mr Taylor of Holborn, 1800. C.