A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature/Gifford, William

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Gifford, William (1756-1826). -- Critic and poet, was b. of humble parentage at Ashburton, Devonshire, and after being for a short time at sea, was apprenticed to a cobbler. Having, however, shown signs of superior ability, and a desire for learning, he was befriended and ed., ultimately at Oxf., where he grad. Becoming known to Lord Grosvenor, he was patronised by him, and in course of time produced his first poem, The Baviad (1794), a satire directed against the Delia Cruscans, a clique of very small and sentimental poets, which at once quenched their little tapers. This was page 157followed by another satire, The Mæviad, against some minor dramatists. His last effort in this line was his Epistle to Peter Pindar (Dr. Walcot), inspired by personal enmity, which evoked a reply, A Cut at a Cobbler. These writings had established the reputation of G. as a keen, and even ferocious critic, and he was appointed in 1797 ed. of the Anti-Jacobin, which Canning and his friends had just started, and of the Quarterly Review (1809-24). He also brought out ed. of Massinger, Ben Jonson, and Ford. As a critic he had acuteness; but he was one-sided, prejudiced, and savagely bitter, and much more influenced in his judgments by the political opinions than by the literary merits of his victims. In his whole career, however, he displayed independence and spirit in overcoming the disadvantages of his early life, as well as gratitude to those who had served him. He held various appointments which placed him above financial anxiety.