Pattison, William (DNB00)

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PATTISON, WILLIAM (1706–1727), poet, was born in 1706 at Peasemarsh, near Rye, Sussex, where his father, William Pattison, held a small farm from the Earl of Thanet. By Lord Thanet he was, in 1721, placed at the free school at Appleby, under Dr. Thomas Nevinson of Queen's College, Oxford. He showed considerable promise, and Thomas Noble, a neighbouring clergyman and schoolmaster of Kirkby Stephen, read several classical authors with him. With a view to paying off some debts which he had contracted with booksellers, he dedicated with satisfactory results an ‘Ode on Christmas Day’ to Sir Christopher Musgrave of Edenhall, Cumberland. Pattison was equally lucky in disposing of an ode to John Tufton, nephew of the Earl of Thanet. On 6 July 1724 he was admitted as a sizar at Sidney-Sussex College, Cambridge; but he did not find the life congenial, and in the summer of 1726 he cut his name out of the college books, in order, apparently, to avert its being erased, and commenced author in London. Although his prospects were not exhilarating, his first letters from London displayed a most sanguine temper (Letters prefixed to Poetical Works, 1728). He associated with Eusden, Harte, Concanen, and other wits of the town, and dated his letters from Button's. He collected his poems for publication, and Pope subscribed to the volume, though he excused himself from a personal introduction. But the appearance of the book was delayed, and Pattison, incapable of husbanding his small resources, was soon reduced to miserable poverty.

In a poem entitled ‘Effigies Authoris,’ addressed to Lord Burlington, the unfortunate poet described himself as passing the nights on a bench in St. James's Park. In his distress he put forth proposals for the immediate issue of his poems, and while he was transcribing them for the press Curll the bookseller gave him shelter in his house. According to Pope, Curll starved him to death (An Author to be Lett by Iscariot Hackney, i.e. Pope and Richard Savage, 1729, p. 3), but it is more correct to say that he saved him from starving. Pattison died of smallpox in Curll's house on 11 July 1727, and was buried in the churchyard of St. Clement Danes. He had not completed his twenty-first year.

In the year following the poet's premature death Curll issued ‘The Poetical Works of Mr. William Pattison, late of Sidney-Sussex College,’ London, 8vo; dedicated to the Earl of Peterborough, and with a distinguished list of subscribers. It contained a satirical piece called ‘College Life,’ an ambitious imitation of Pope, entitled ‘Abelard to Eloisa,’ a number of miscellaneous poems, frequently of an erotic tendency, and odes to various persons. Another volume appeared in the same year, entitled ‘Cupid's Metamorphosis, or Love in all Shapes, being the second and last volume of the Poetical Works of Mr. William Pattison,’ London, 8vo, with a portrait engraved by Foudrinière after J. Saunders. This comprises ‘Select Epistles from Ovid,’ ‘Laura, or the Mistress,’ and ‘Epigrams.’ A portrait was also engraved for Caulfield's ‘Memoirs’ (1819, ii. 142).

In his choice of subjects Pattison was influenced by Dr. Croxall, the author of the ‘Fair Circassian,’ but he also imitated Waller, Pope, and Gay, and his versification is generally good. His poems, however, are distinguished by little save precocity, the tone of which is not attractive. There is not much to sanction the comparison with Chatterton which has been made. Selections from Pattison's poems are printed in Pratt's ‘Cabinet of Poetry’ (1808, iii. 271), in Sanford's ‘British Poets’ (Philadelphia, 1819, xiii. 415), and in Park and Anderson's ‘British Poets;’ but they have not found favour with more recent anthologists.

[Life prefixed to Poetical Works, 1728; Chalmers's Biogr. Dict. xxiv. 204; Lower's Sussex Worthies; Elwin and Courthope's Pope, vi. 133 and n.; Disraeli's Miscellanies of Literature, 1840, p. 91; Noble's Continuation of Granger, iii. 303; An Author to be Lett, 1729; Admission Book, Sidney-Sussex College; Brit. Mus. Cat.]

T. S.