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Thomas Warton

Warton, Thomas, 1728–90, English poet and literary historian, grad. Trinity College, Oxford (1747), brother of Joseph Warton. He was ordained and eventually served as professor of poetry at Oxford from 1757 to 1767. In 1785, the year he was named poet laureate, he became Camden professor of history. More important as a literary scholar than as a poet, he did much to awaken the public interest in medieval and Elizabethan literature. Although his first important scholarly work was his Observations on the Faerie Queene of Spenser (1754), his major work was the History of English Poetry (1774–81), which covered the 11th through the 16th cent. Though it was condemned for its inaccuracies, it is still regarded as an extremely valuable scholarly work. As a poet, Warton was more inclined toward light and humorous verse. He also edited The Oxford Sausage (1764), an anthology of Oxford wit.

See biographies by W. P. Ker (1911) and C. Rinaker (1916); study by E. Gosse (1915); J. Pittock, The Ascendancy of Taste: The Achievement of Joseph and Thomas Warton (1973).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: English Literature, 1500 to 1799: Biographies


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