Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Harte, Walter

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HARTE, WALTER (1709–1774), miscellaneous writer, was son of Walter Harte, who, a former fellow of Pembroke College, Oxford, was, at the time of the revolution, vicar of St. Mary's, Taunton, prebendary of Wells, and canon of Bristol, but as a nonjuror lost all preferments, and died at Kintbury in Berkshire on 10 Feb. 1736. The son was born in 1709, and was educated at Marlborough grammar school and St. Mary Hall, Oxford, where he matriculated, as 'son of Walter Harte of Chipping Norton, Oxon., clerk,' on 22 July 1724, aged 15. He proceeded B.A. in 1728, and M.A. on 21 Jan. 1731. He published by subscription 'Poems on several Occasions,' London, printed for Bernard Lintot, 8vo, 1727. The volume is dedicated to the Earl of Peterborough, and several pieces in it to different persons. Copies are occasionally found with the date of 1739, and the name of John Cecil instead of Lintot on the title; but this probably was a remainder bought at Lintot's sale (Lintot died in 1737), and reissued with a new title-page. At p. 99 are some eulogistic lines to Pope, which are found prefixed to many editions of the poet's works, and a quotation from them among the testimonies of authors before the 'Dunciad.' Whether or not Pope knew Harte before the publication of the poems (from his subscribing for four copies it is presumed he did), it is certain that they subsequently became great friends. In 1730 appeared Harte's 'Essay on Satire, particularly the Dunciad' (inverse), 8vo. Pope, writing of it to Caryll, 6 Feb. 1731, says that it is 'writ by Mr. Harte of Oxford, a very valuable young man, but it compliments me too much.' Mr. Elwin observes, 'the praise amounts to adulation.'

In 1735 Harte published, without his name, an 'Essay on Reason,' in folio. Pope writes to Caryll, 8 Feb. 1735: 'There is another piece which I may venture to send you in a post or two, an Essay on Reason, of a serious kind, and the intention of which I think you will not disapprove.' Elwin says: 'It is said Pope revised it. It is a close but tame imitation of the Essay on Man.' Harte in conversation said he had often pressed Pope to write something on the side of revelation, but he used to answer, 'No, no, you have already done it.' On 27 Feb. 1737 he preached a sermon before the university of Oxford on 'The Union and Harmony of Reason, Morality, and Revealed Religion,' which excited great attention, and rapidly ran through five editions. Objection was raised to two passages as savouring of Socinianism, and Harte withdrew them. According to Elwin, Harte was at this time vicar of Gosfield in Essex. In December 1737 Pope writes to Holdsworth (author of the Latin poem 'Muscipula') that Harte had condescended to stand for the poetry professorship in Oxford, and begs Holdsworth's interest in Harte's behalf. Whether Harte stood for the vacancy does not appear. At all events he was not elected. On 9 Jan. 1740 he again preached a sermon before the university on the general fast upon the approach of war. He was now appointed vice-principal of St. Mary Hall, and attained great reputation as a tutor. In 1745, upon the recommendation of Mr. (afterwards Lord) Lyttelton, he was appointed travelling tutor to Mr. Stanhope, the natural son of the Earl of Chesterfield, to whom that nobleman addressed his well-known letters. Lord Chesterfield constantly writes in high terms of Harte. Lord Mahon (afterwards Earl Stanhope) says 'the choice [of Harte as tutor] was not judicious, or at least not successful.' ' Mr. Harte's partiality to Greek and Latin, German law, and Gothic erudition rendered him rather remiss in other points. . . . Harte, long accustomed to college life, was too awkward both in his person and address to he able to familiarise the graces with his young pupil' (Maty, Life of Chesterfield). Chesterfield in June 1745 wrote to a lady in Paris of Harte's 'érudition consommée,' but added,'il ne sera guère propre à donner des manières, ou le ton de la bonne compagnie: chose pourtant très-nécessaire.'After four years' travel Harte returned to England, leaving his pupil in Paris. During some part of the time Lord Eliot joined him as a second pupil. After his return he was, apparently by Chesterfield's intervention, nominated canon of Windsor on 10 April 1750. Probably through the influence of the Eliot family of Port Eliot, Harte was now presented to the valuable crown living of St. Austell and St. Blazey in Cornwall. In 1759 appeared his 'History of the Life of Gustavus Adolphus, King of Sweden, sirnamed the Great,' London, two vols. 4to. It seems to have occupied him for many years. Though a work of research and information, its style (Chesterfield wrote) 'is execrable. Where the devil he picked it up I cannot conceive, for it is a bad style of a new and singular character: it is full of Latinisms, Gallicisms, Germanisms, and all isms but Anglicisms; in some places pompous, in others vulgar and low.' Carlyle called it a 'wilderness' (Life of Schiller, ed. 1857, p. 82). It was translated into German the next year, and Lord Eliot (Harte's former pupil) told Dr. Johnson that it was 'a very good book in the German translation.' According to Boswell, Johnson much commended Harte as a scholar, and 'a man of the most companionable talents he had ever known. He said the defects in his history proceeded not from imbecility, but from foppery.' In 1764 Harte published a volume of 'Essays on Husbandry,' of which a second edition, corrected and enlarged, appeared in 1770—a charming and valuable work. Johnson confessed that 'his [Harte's] Husbandry is good,' and Chesterfield praised its style (Letters, iv. 214). Arthur Young, in his 'Six Weeks' Tour through the Southern Counties,' published in 1768, describes a visit to 'my very excellent friend,' Harte, at Bath.' 'His conversation,' Young says,'on the subject of husbandry is as full of experience and as truly solid as his genuine and native humour, extensive knowledge of mankind, and admirable philanthropy are pleasing and instructive.' Harte had retired to Bath in low spirits and ill-health. During his lingering illness he prepared a volume entitled 'The Amaranth, or Religious Poems, consisting of Fables, Visions, Emblems,' &c., London, 1767, 8vo. The copy in the British Museum has Dr. Johnson's autograph. After languishing in a paralysed state Harte died at Bath in March 1774.

Joseph Warton, who knew Harte well gives examples of his conversations with Pope, (cf. Warton and Bowles's editions of the poet's works). Horace Walpole describes Harte as 'a favoured disciple of Pope, whose obscurity he imitated more than his lustre.'

[Foster's Alumni Oxonienses, vol. ii.; Gent. Mag. February 1839, p. 130; Pope's Works, ed. Warton, i. 293, 344, iv. 228, vii. 317 n.; Pope's Works, ed. Elwin and Courthope; 'Lord Chesterfield's Letters, 1863, ed. Lord Mahon, iv. 193. 207, 214, 263; Boswell's Johnson, ed. Dr. Birkbeck Hill; Rawl. MSS. J. fol. 17, 210 sqq., 4to, 3,426 sqq.; Boase and Courtney's Bibl. Cornub. i. 211; Hist. MSS. Comm. 1st Rep. 41, letters from Harte to R. Eliot.]

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