WILLIAM WHITEHEAD, who must not be confused with his clever and disreputable namesake, Paul Whitehead, the poet of the orgies of Medmenham, succeeded Cibber in the laureateship when Gray declined that doubtful honour. He was the perpetual butt of the satire of Churchill, who, as Campbell says, completely killed his poetical character. Indeed his poetry is for the most part tame and conventional enough; yet here and there he emerges from the ruck of Georgian poetasters and becomes noticeable. Variety, a Tale for Married People, which is too long for quotation, is an excellent story in versewith a moral, of course, as a conte should havetold in a light and flowing style not unworthy of Gay. The Enthusiast, an Ode, is here given, because of the admirable way in which it epitomises the debateit is a perennial debate, but the eighteenth century took one side and we take the otherbetween Nature and Society.
O bards, that call to bank and glen,
Ye bid me go to Nature to be healed;
And lo! a purer fount is here revealed,
My lady-nature dwells in hearts of men:
when the modern poet writes in this way, we note him as breaking the poetical concert of our age. But the doctrine is one which the poets of Popes century were for ever enforcing; even Cowper, antithesis to Pope as he was, enforced it; and this little ode of Whiteheads is so happy a rendering of their argument that it is worthy of being rescued from the oblivion which has almost overwhelmed its author.