Page images
PDF
EPUB

thors, indeed, of the Probationary Odes, (a set of political satires) took some freedom with his name, but they seemed to be aware that another Cibber would have suited their purpose better; and Warton, who possessed a large share of humour, and a quick sense of ridicule, was not to be offended because he had for once been “the occasion of wit in other men."

His last publication was an edition of the Juvenile Poenis of Milton, with notes, the object of which was to explain his author's allusions, to illustrate or to vindicate his beauties, to point out his imitations, both of others and of himself, to elucidate his obsolete diction, and by the adduction and juxtaposition of parallels gleaned both from his poetry and prose, to ascertain his favourite words, and to show the peculiarities of his phraseology." The first edition of this work appeared in 1785, and the second in 1791, a short time after his death. It appears that he had prepared the alterations and additions for the press some time before. It was indeed ready for the press in 1789, and probably begun about that time, but was not completed until after his death, when the task of correcting the sheets devolved upon his brother. His intention was to extend his plan to a second volume, containing the Paradise Regained and Sampson Agonistes, and he left notes on both. He had the proof sheets of the first edition printed only on one side, which he carefully bound. They are now in my possession, and demonstrate what pains he took in avoiding errours, and altering expressions which appeared on a second review to be weak or improper. The second edition of Milton was enriched by Dr. Charles Burney's learned remarks on the Greek verses, and by some observations on the other poems by Warburton, which were comniunicated to the editor by Dr. Hurd. At the time of our author's death, a new edition of his poems was also preparing for publication.

His death was somewhat sudden. Until his sixty-second year, he enjoyed vigorous and uninterrupted health. On being seized with the gout, he went to Bath, from which he returned recovered, in his own opinion, but it was evident to his friends that his constitution had received a fatal shock. On Thursday, May 20, 1790, he passed the evening in the common room, and was for some time more clieerful than usual, tween ten and eleven o'clock he was suddenly seized with a paralytic stroke, and expired next day about two o'clock. On the 27th luis remains were interred in the antechapel of Trinity College, with the highest academical tonours; the ceremony being attended, not only by the members of bis own college, but by the vice-chancellor, heads of houses, and proclors. His grave is marked by a plain issscription which enumerates his preferments, with his age, and the date of his death.

Be

9 We have his brother's authority that “ he always heartily joined in the laugh, and applauded the exquisite wit and humour that appeared in many of those original satires." Mr. Bowles's evidence may be cited as more impartial, and as affording the testimony of an excellent judge to the character of Wartun. “ I can say, being at that time a schelar of Trinity College, that the laureat, who did the greatest honour to his station from his real poetical abilities, did most heartily join in the laugh of the Probationary Odes : for a man more devoid of envy, anger, and ill-nature, never existed. So sweet was bis temper, so remote from pedantry and all affectation was his conduct, that when even Ritson's scurrilous abuse came out, in which he asserted that his back was “ broad enough, and his heart hard enough”, to bear any thing Ritson could lay on it, he only said, with his usual smile, “a black-letter'd dog, sir!"-Bowles's Edition of Pope's Works, VI. 325. C.

[ocr errors]

To these particulars, some of which have been taken from Mr. Mant's life of Warton, prefixed to an edition of his poems, published in 1802, it may now be added on another authority, that from April 1755 to .April 1774, he served the curacy of Woodstock, except during the long vacations, and although his pulpit oratory does not appear to have ever entitled him to particular notice, many are still alive who speak of him with more regard and affection than of any person who ever officiated there 10.

Mr. Warton's personal character bas been drawn at great length by Mr. Mant, and seems to have no defects but what are incident to men who have passed their days in retirement from polished life. A few peculiarities are recorded which might perhaps have been omitted without injury to the portrait. Some of them seem to be given upou doubtful authority, and others are not strictly speaking characteristic, because not habitual, or, if habitual, are too insignificant for notice. It is of as little consequence to know that Mr. Warton smoked tobacco, as that Gibbon took snuff, and Johnson preserved the chips of oranges. It has been said, however, that Mr. Warton was a lover of low company, a more serious charge, if it could be substantiated. But what low company means is not always very obvious. It is not asserted that Warton disgraced his character by a constant association with low company, and that he should have occasionally anzused himself with the manners and conversation of humble tradesmen, mechanics, or peasants, was surely no great crime in one whose researches imposed in some degree the necessity of studying mankind in all ranks, and who, in the illustration of our ancient poets, had evidently profited by becoming acquainted with the conversation of the modern vulgar.

In literary company he is said to have been rather silent, but this, his surviving friends can recollect, was only where the company consisted of a majority of strangers; and a man who has a reputation to guard will not lightly enter into conversation before he knows something of those with whom he is to converse. In the company of luis friends, among whom he could reckon the learned, the polite, and the gay, no man was more communicative, more social in his habits and conversation, or descended more frequently from the grave interchange of sentiment, to a mere play of wit.

His temper was habitually calm. His disposition gentle, friendly, and forgiving. His resentments, where he could be supposed to have any, were expressed rather in the language of jocularity than anger. Mr. Mant has given as a report what it were to be wished he had omitted, that Dr. Johnson said of Warton, “he was the only man of genius that he knew without a heart." It is bighly improbable that Johnson, who loved and practised truth and justice, should say this of one with whom he had exchanged so many acts of personal and literary friendship. It is to be regretted, indeed, that towards the end of Johnson's life, there was a coolness between him and the Wartons, but if it be true that he wept ou the recollection of his past friendship, it is very unlikely that he would have characterised Mr. Warton in the manner reported. Whatever was the cause of the abatement of their intimacy, Mr. Warton discovered no resentment when he communicated so many pleasing anecdotes of Johnson to Mr. Boswell, nor when he came to discuss the merits of Milton in opposition to

10 Baldwin's Literary Journal, 180s, where are some other anecdotes and characteristics very hoDourable to Mr. Varron, and evidently written by one who knew him well. C.

1

« PreviousContinue »