Warton, Thomas,the elder, c.1688–1745, English poet, father of Joseph and Thomas Warton. He was professor of poetry at Oxford from 1718 to 1728. His collected poems, edited by Joseph Warton, and published posthumously in 1748, are primitive and biblical in tone; some are runic odes and may have influenced Thomas GrayGray, Thomas,
1716–71, English poet. He was educated at Eton and Peterhouse, Cambridge. In 1739 he began a grand tour of the Continent with Horace Walpole. They quarreled in Italy, and Gray returned to England in 1741.
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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).