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According to Mason, Whitehead's
death was 'sudden and without a groan.' Without delay,
on 26 April 1785, Thomas Warton (1728-90) was named as poet laureate.
He was 57, an Oxford Don, fond of wine (he wrote A Panegyre on Oxford
Ale), conversation, martial music, and giving the occasional lecture.
He also had an established poetic record. When thinking about penning
the New Year Ode for 1788, George III went mad. Warton took the
sensible option: silence, and waited for the monarch to recover,
which he did. The non-appearance of the Ode, with Edward Gibbon's
comment on the laureateship's artificial approach to poetry,
was noted in the Annual Register of 1790.
Annual Register, 1790.
DeB. Eb 1758 A
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Warton's main achievements
were academic: observations on Spenser's Faerie Queene (1754),
a Greek anthology (1766), an edition of Theocritus (1770), an edition
of Milton's minor poems (1785), and biographies of Ralph Bathurst
(1761) and Sir Thomas Pope (1772). There was also his monumental
History of English Poetry, of which only three volumes appeared
(1774 and 1781). On display is Warton's first independent
work - The Pleasures of Melancholy (1747).
'Thomas Warton, The Pleasures of Melancholy. London: Printed
for R. Dodsley; and sold by M. Cooper, 1747.
DeB. Eb 1747 W
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Samuel Johnson claimed that
in speech Warton 'gobbled like a turkey', and in appearance
was 'a little, thick, squat, red-faced man…in a very
odd dress.' He was a man who obviously enjoyed himself. Ironically,
when he died of a stroke on 21 May 1790, he had just penned the
Birthday Ode which was about the blessings of good health. Not totally
studious when young, he compiled the light-hearted Oxford Sausage
(1764), his best attempt at satire. This edition contains illustrations
by Thomas Bewick.
Thomas Warton (compiler), The Oxford Sausage; or, Select Poetical
Pieces, written by the Most Celebrated Wits of the University of
Oxford. London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown, 1815.
DeB. Eb 1815 W