University of Otago

"£100 & a butt of sack yearly"

The Office of the Poet Laureate
Eusden & Cibber
Austin & Bridges
Lewis & Betjeman
Hughes & Motion
Refusals & Rejects

William Whitehead

 Whitehead,  Elegies, With Ode to Tiber

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After Thomas Gray refused the laureateship, it was passed to William Whitehead (1715-1785), a poet who was more acceptable at court. Whitehead was a Fellow of Clare College, Cambridge, a tutor to Lord Villiers, son of the Earl of Jersey, and travelling tutor to Viscount Nuneham, son of the Earl of Harcourt, who was Governor to the Prince of Wales (later George III). While William Mason recommended that the writing of the odes be farmed out, Whitehead was far more conscientious. For some 28 years, he contented himself in writing the obligatory verse, avoiding flattery and domestic politics, and bolstering Britain's place in world affairs. Indeed, he was the first laureate to see past court and party divisions and speak of the 'spirit of England'. When Cibber died, Whitehead's Elegies (1757) were circulating at one shilling each. On display is the first edition.

William Whitehead, Elegies. With an Ode to the Tiber. Written Abroad. London: Printed for R. and J. Dodsley, 1757.
DeB. Ec 1757 W

William Whitehead, The Goats Beard. A Fable.

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Whitehead had some status at Drury Lane and was employed by David Garrick as a reader of plays. One malcontent he faced was Oliver Goldsmith, who disagreed with his decision on the play, The Good Natur'd Man. Whitehead's major detractor was, however, the satirist Charles Churchill. Although tough enough to weather Churchill's barbs, some of Whitehead's later plays appeared anonymously. The Goat's Beard (1777) was one of them.

William Whitehead, The Goat's Beard. A Fable. 2nd ed. London: Printed for J. Dodsley, 1777.
DeB. Ec 1776 K

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