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VAnother Text of a Poem by Thomas Warton
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Page 298

Another Text of a Poem by Thomas Warton

The April 1815 issue of the GM contained the following letter:

ON perusing lately the XVth volume of Beauties of England and Wales, I was struck with the following passage, p. 311:

"Ansley Hall was visited 1758 by the elegant and truly-poetical Thomas Warton, at which time he wrote, and left in this cell, some beautiful verses, beginning,

'Beneath the stony roof reclin'd,

I sooth to peace my pensive mind.'

It may be observed, that the verses, as printed in Warton's Poetical Works, differ much from the simply-pleasing original copy, which is still preserved at Ansley Hall."

Now, if this should meet the eye of the present Possessor of that Mansion, or of any of his Friends, I should feel myself, as an admirer of the productions of Warton, much obliged for a transcript of the verses.

Yours, &c.
F. J. Meadors.

Mr. Meadors had not long to wait, for in the very next month (pp. 387-388), "J. N. L." wrote, with considerable authority, on the origin of the poem and quoted it in its entirety. John Newdigate Ludford of Ansley Hall, Warwickshire had matriculated at University College, Oxford on 11 November 1774, aged 18, and had proceeded to the M.A. (1778) and the D.L.C. (1793). He died on 16 May 1825 (Alumni Oxonienses, 1715-1886). The poem is preceded by the statements that "An old house and oratory, called Bret's Hall, were pulled down about the year 1750, and the stones of the oratory removed into the old gardens of Ansley Hall, where in a small dale they were formed into a cell for an hermitage, and at present remain so. Mr. T. Warton, the celebrated Poet Laureat, wrote the annexed copy of verses there in April, 1758." The poem, Warton's Inscription in a Hermitage, thirty-two lines in length, is quoted, and then Ludford writes: "These verses, as printed in the several editions of Mr. Warton's Works, are taken from an altered copy, published by himself, with other Poems, in 12mo.London,1777.—The facts are as follows: Mr Warton was tutor to the last Earl and late Marquis of Donegall, of Trinity College, and as such visited Ansley Hall in the Easter vacation 1758, when he wrote and left these verses in the cell. He never saw Ansley Hall after that time above once, if ever, and that the following year. Lord Donegall leaving Oxford in 1759, or thereabouts, came of age in 1760; and of course all connexions between Mr. Warton and Ansley Hall ceased. The two poems are now before the publick; and let them be the judges whether the natural and local simplicity of the original, written upon the spot, with all the objects around him, and on the spur of the moment, is not preferable to the stiff and affected style of the altered copy published by the finished Poet, afterwards Poet Laureat, certainly above 18, if not nearer 20 years after he had ceased visiting Ansley Hall, and of course forgot all the locality of the Poem. And as the copy he has given the publick is very different from the original, having little or no resemblance (except in the first and last words, and first verse,


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and this is even mutilated, and the word "co-genial," in the second verse, which he still retained), I verily believe he wrote this entirely from memory, without a scrap of the original Poem in his possession, though he knew I was resident at Oxford at the very time, and could have furnished him with a copy at any time, as I always carried it in my port-feuille, and he knew the original in his own hand-writing (which I still have safe at Ansley Hall) was in the hands of the late Miss Juliana Ludford carefully preserved.' J.N.L." Warton contributed a poem titled The Complaint of Cherwell to an Oxford collection of verses on the death of George II in the name of John Chichester, brother to the Earl of Donegal, Gentleman Commoner of Trinity College, Oxford.

The poem, as it appears in Warton's 1777 Poems, in Richard Mant's edition (2 vols., 1802) and in Chalmers's Works of the English Poets is made up of five eight-line stanzas; the GM text omits the entire fourth stanza, i.e.

At eve, within yon studious nook,
I ope my brass-embossed book,
Pourtray'd with many a holy deed
Of Martyrs, crown'd with heavenly meed:
Then, as my taper waxes dim,
Chant, ere I sleep, my measur'd hymn;
And, at the close, the gleams behold
Of parting wings bedropt with gold.
It should be remarked that Mant thought very highly of the poem, stating that he knew no English poem in the "eight-syllable verse" superior to it (I, cxxxiii) and being particularly taken by "the exquisite stroke at the end of the fourth stanza" (I, cxliv). The only difference, other than in accidentals, between the 1777 and 1802 texts is the former's "cogenial" in line 11 as opposed to the 1802 "congenial," something noted by Ludford. Interestingly enough, the OED quotes Warton's History of English Poetry twice for "cogenial," the only other illustration coming from Joseph Ritson's infamous Observations on Warton's History. Ritson recommended "congenial" to Warton in place of "cogenial." In the following collation the first reading is from the received text; the second, from the GM. Line 3, elms/trees; l. 10, pipes/sings; l. 12, wove/built; l. 13, busy scenes, and brighter skies/social scenes, by Nature wise; l. 16, morn I take my custom'd round/morn and eve I take my round; l. 17, buds yon shrubby/blows my flowery; l. 18, opening/budding; l. 22, That grace/Which deck; l. 23, winding wreaths/many a wreath; l. 32, my bliss create/retirement wait; l. 36, humble/thoughtful; l. 38, amice/mantle; l. 40, blameless/peaceful. Milton, whose poetry is echoed a number of times in Warton's poem, has "in amice gray" in Paradise Regained, IV. 427. If Ludford is right about the original composition of Warton's poem, the later version, with its extra stanza containing "wings bedropt with gold," an echo of Paradise Lost, VII. 406, "coats dropped with gold," seems intended to strengthen the Miltonic tone. Pope has "The yellow carp in scales, bedropt with gold" in Windsor Forest (l. 144). so that Warton could have had the


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Popean imitation of Milton in mind also. But the decision as to the comparative merits of the two versions must, to borrow an eighteenth-century locution, be left to the reader.

Another Text of a Poem by Matthew Prior?

The editors of The Literary Works of Matthew Prior print the following text of the short poem On Bishop Atterbury's Burying the Duke of Buckingham from Prior's Poems on Several Occasions (1727) and list no other appearances of it:

I HAVE no Hopes, the Duke he says, and Dies;
In sure and certain Hopes—the Prelate cries:
Of These Two learned Peers, I prithee say, Man,
Who is the lying Knave, the Priest or Layman?
The Duke he stands an Infidel Confest,
He's our dear Brother, quoth the Lordly Priest.
The Duke, tho' Knave, Still Brother dear he cries,
And, who can say, the Rev'rend Prelate lies?[11]
What has gone unremarked is a somewhat different text of the poem as printed in the GM in August 1784 (p. 596).


THE following epigram was written by Mr. Prior, on the funeral of the Duke of Buckingham, in Westminster Abbey, as performed by Bishop Atterbury, in 1721; that famous Bishop of Rochester, whose Memoirs, lately published by Mr. Nichols, contain the history of that accomplished, but turbulent, prelate from his advancement to the see of Rochester in 1713, to his banishment to France in 1722—and his own interment in 1732. See vol. I. p. 79.

"I have no hope,"
The Duke he said, and dies:
"In sure and certain hope," the Prelate cries.
Of these two learned peers,
I pr'ythee—say, man,
Who is the greatest liar, the priest or layman?
The Duke he dies
An INFIDEL confest:
"He's our dear brother," says the lordly priest.
The Duke a KNAVE!
Still "BROTHER dear," he cried,
And who dare say "the reverend Prelate lied?"
They neither lied—each spake as undeceiv'd,
What all suspected, and now all BELIEV'D.

Recourse to the first volume, published in 1783, of John Nichols's edition of Bishop Atterbury's Epistolary Correspondence . . . reveals that the poem is quoted in its seeming entirety by Nichols in a footnote to Atterbury's letter of 27 September, 1721 to Alexander Pope. The text, except for accidentals, is the same as that printed by Wright and Spears, and one is therefore faced


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with the problems that rise from the text in the GM, for the differences between it and the text in Nichols's footnote are such as to seem to preclude faulty transcriptions. And is the two-line Remark appended to the poem Prior's? If not, whose? What makes the matter especially interesting is that Nichols was one of two managers (the DNB's word) of the GM in 1784, as well, of course, as the editor of Bishop Atterbury's correspondence. What is more, immediately preceding the poem and its headnote in the GM is a communication by "Eugenio" whose running title, "Anecdotes of Dr. Gifford," shares the top of the page with "Epigram by Prior." Now "Eugenio" was one of Nichols's pseudonyms, and one would think that he would have seen the text of the poem below his own communication and the reference to his edition of Atterbury, the first volume of which, with a different text of the poem, had been published less than a year and a half earlier.[12]