Spence, Joseph

, an English divine, and polite scholar, was born in 1698, we know not of what parents, and educated probably at Winchester school, whence he became a fellow of New college, Oxford, where he took the degree of M. A. Nov. 2, 1727 and in that year became first known to the learned world by “An Essay on Pope’s Odyssey; in which some particular beauties and blemishes of that work are considered, in two parts,” 12mo. “On the English Odyssey, says Dr. Johnson,” a criticism was published by Spence, a man whose learning was not very great, and whose mind was not very powerful. His criticism, however, was commonly just; what he thought, he thought rightly; and his remarks were recommended by his coolness and candour. In him Pope had the first experience of a critic without malevolence, who thought it as much his duty to display beauties as expose faults; who censured with respect, and praised with alacrity. With this criticism Pope was so little offended, that he sought the acquaintance of the writer, who lived with him from that time in great familiarity, attended him in his last hours, and compiled memorials of his conversation. The regard of Pope recommended him to the great and powerful, and he obtained very valuable preferments in the church.“Dr. Warton, in his” Essay on Pope,“styles Spence’s judicious Essay on the Odyssey” a work of the truest taste;“and adds, thatPope was so far from taking it amiss, thut it was the origin of a lasting friendship betwixt them. I have seen,“says Dr. Warton,” a copy of this work, with marginal observations, written in Pope’s own hand, and generally acknowledging the justness of Spence’s observations, and in a few instances pleading, humourously enough, that some favourite lines might be spared. 1 am indebted,“he adds,” to this learned and amiable man, on whose friendship I set the greatest value, for most of the anecdotes relating to Pope, mentioned in this work, which he gave me, when I was making him a visit at Byfleet, in 1754.“He was elected, by the university, professor of | poetry, July 11, 1728, succeeding the rev. Thomas War-, ton, B. D. father to the learned brothers, Dr. Joseph, and Mr. Thomas Warton each of these professors were twice ejected to their office, and held it for ten years, a period as long as the statutes will allow. Mr. Speu-.-e wrote an account of Stephen Duck, which was first published, as a pamphlet, in 1731, and said to he written hyJoseph Spenre, esq. poetry professor.“From this circumstance it has been supposed th:it he was not then in orders, but this is a mistake, as he was ordained in 17 J4; and left this pamphlet in the hands of his friend, Mr Lowth *, to be published as soon as he left England, with a Grubstreet title, which he had drawn up merely for a disguise, not choosing to have it thought that he published it himself. It was afterwards much altered, and prefixed io Duck’s poems. He travelled with the duke of Newcastle (then. earl of Lincoln) into Italy, where his attention to his noble pupil did him the highest honour f. In 1736, at Mr. Pope’s desire, he republished J” Gorboduc,“wit ha preface containing an account of the author, the earl of Dorset. He never took a doctor’s degree, hut quitteii his fellowship on being presented by the society of New college to the rectory of Great Horwood, in Buckinghamshire, in 1742. As he never resided upon his living, but in a pleasant house and gardens lent to him by his noble pupil, at Byfleet, in Surrey (the rectory of which parish he had obtained for his friend Stephen Duck), he thought it his duty to snake an annual visit to Horwood, and gave away several sums of money to the distressed poor, and placed out many of their children as apprentices. In June 174-2, he succeeded Dr. Holmes as his majesty’s professor of modern history, at Oxford. His” Polymetis, or an inquiry concerning the agreement between the works of the Roman Poets, andthe f remains of the ancient Artists, being an attempt: to illustrate them mutually from each other," was published in folio, in


Afterwards bishop of London; who honoured Mr. Nichols with much useful information on the subject of this Memoir.

The mortification which Dr. Goddard, master of Clare-hall, his grace’s Cambridge tutor, felt by this appointment, probably occasioned the extraordinary dedication to the duke, prefixed to his “Sermons,1781, 8vo.

In a malignant epistle from Curll to Pope, 1737, Mr. Spetice is introduced as an early patron of the late ingenious R. Dodsley:

" ’Tis kind, indeed, a Livery muse

to aid,

Who scribbles farces to augment his


Where you and Spence au4 Glover

drive the nail,

The devil’s in it if the plot should fail."

| 1747. Of this work of acknowledged taste and learning“, Mr. Gray has been thought to speak too contemptuously in his Letters. His chief objection is, that the author has illustrated his subject from the Roman, and not from the Greek poets; that is, that he has not performed what he never undertook; nay, what he expressly did not undertake. A third edition appeared in folio in 1774, and the abridgment of it by N. Tindal has been frequently printed in 8vo. There is a pamphlet with Spence’s name to it in ms. as the author, calledPlain Matter of Fact, or, a short review of the reigns of our Popish Princes since the Reformation; in order to shew what we are to expect if another shouKl happen to reign over us. Part I.“1748, 12mo. He was installed prebendary of the seventh stall at Durham, May 24, 1754; and published in that year” An account of the Life, Character, and Poems of Mr. Blacklock, student of philosophy at Edinburgh,“8vo, which was afterwards prefixed to his poems. The prose pieces which he printed in” The Museum“he collected and published, with some others, in a pamphlet calledMoralities, by sir Harry Beaumont,“1753. Under that name he published,” Crito, or a Dialogue on Beauty,“andA particular account of the emperor of China’s Gardens, near Pekin, in a letter from F. Attiret, a French missionary now employed by that emperor to paint the apartments in those gardens, to his friend at Paris;“both in 1752, Hvo, and both reprinted in Dodsley’s” Fugitive Pieces.“He wrote” An Epistle from a Swiss officer to his friend at Rome,“first printed in” The Museum,“and since in the third volume of” Dodsley’s Collection.“The several copies published under his name in the Oxford Verses are preserved by iNichols, in the” Select Collection,“1781. In 175S he publishedA Parallel, in the manner of Plutarch, between a most celebrated Man of Florence (Magliabecchi), and one scarce ever heard of in England (Robert Hill, the Hebrew Taylor),“12mo, printed at Strawberry Hill. In the same year he took a tour into Scotland, which is well described in an affectionate letter to Mr. Shenstone, the collection of several letters published by Mr. Hull in 1778. In 17c3 he communicate i to Dr. Wartun several excellent remarks on Virgil, which he had made when he wasbroad, and some few of Mr. Pope’s. West Finchale Priory (the scene of the holy Godric’s miracles and austerities, who, from an itinerant merchant, turned hermit, and wore out | three suits of iron cloaths), was now become Mr. Spence’s retreat, being part of his prebendal estate. In 1764 he was well pourtrayed by Mr. James Ridley, in his admirable” Tales of the G nil,“under the name of” Pbesoi Ecnep> (his name rrad backwar l>) iervise of the groves,“and a panegyrical letter from nim to that ingenious moralist, under the same signature, is inserted i-i 4k Lexers of Emi‘-eni Persons,” vol. III. p. 139. In 1764 he paid the last kind office to the remains of his friend Mr. Dodsley, who died on a visit to him at Durham. He closed his literary labours with “Remarks and Dissertations on Virgil with some other classical observations; by the late Mr. Holdsworth. Published, with several notes and additional remarks, by Mr. Speutv,” 4to. This volume, of which the greater part was printed off in 1767, was published in February 1768; and on the iiOth of August following, Mr. Spence was unfortunately drowned in a caiidl in his garden at Byrieet in Surrey. Being, when the accident inppened, quite alone, it could only be conjectured in what manner it happened but it was generally supposed to have been occasioned by a fit while he was standing near the brink of the water. He was found flat upon his face, at the edge, where the water was too shallow to cover his head, or any part of his body. He was interred at Byfleet church, where is a marble tablet inscribed to his memory. The duke of Newcastle possesses some ms volumes of anecdotes of eminent writers, collected by Mr. Spence, who in his lifetime communicated to Dr. Warton as many of them as related to Pope; and, by permission of the noble owner, Dr. Johnson has made many extracts from them in his “Lives of the English Poets.” These have lately been announced for publication. Mr. Spence’s Explanation of an antique marble at Ciandon place, Surrey, is in “Gent. Mag.1772, p. 176 “Mr. Spence’s character,” says a gentleman who bad seen this memoir before it was transplanted into the present work, " is properly delineated and his Polymetis is justl vindicated from the petty criticisms of the; fastidious Gray *. In Dr. Johnson’s masterly preface to Dry den,

* M:Isod informs nft that Gray’s n- of true taste, thai tl>,- tuppery mod*

dieule is applied to the Plat >ni<-iy <>f of com position rl never come into

Dialogue, which he ad’ls, " LoidSliHlts- ta^hon n<;;iiii; rvpecia iy since Dr.

bury was the first who bionsjhi in o llmd II.K. point’ <l out, by example as

vognc, and Mr. ^neiu-e, (if we except well as precept, wherein the true beati­* few Scotch writers) the last who prac- ty of dialogue- writing consists.“Matjsed it. As it has now been laid aside son’s Life of Gray, vol. II. p. 5-0, oi 1 ­somc years, we may hope, for the sake tavo edition. | he observes, that ‘we do not always know our own motives.* Shall we then presume to attribute the frigid mention of the truly learned and ingenious Mr. Spenr.e, in the preface to Pope, to a prejudice conceived against him on account of his preference of blank verse to rhyme in his ’ Essay on Mr. Pope’s Odyssey’ a work, which for sound criticism, and candid disquisition, is almost without a parallel The judicious Dr. Warton’s seutiiue: > with respect to it may be seen in his admirable” Essay on the Writings and Genius of Pope:“and bishop Loath, whose learning and genius are indisputable, expresses himself in the following manner in a note on his twelfth prelection on Hebrew poetry:” Hasc autem vide accurate et scienter explicata a viro doctissimo Josepho Spence in Opere erudito juxta atque eleganti cui titulus Polymetis." 1

1 Nichol’s Poems and Bowyer. Bowles’s edition of Pope’s Works.