Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Warburton, William
WARBURTON, WILLIAM (1698–1779), bishop of Gloucester, born on 24 Dec. 1698, was second and only surviving son of George Warburton, town clerk of Newark, Nottinghamshire, by Elizabeth, daughter of William Holman. The Warburtons descended from the old Cheshire family, and William's paternal grandfather (also a William), before settling at Newark, had taken part in Booth's rising at Chester in 1659. Warburton's grandmother lived to a great age, and her anecdotes of the civil wars interested him so much that, as he told Hurd long afterwards, he read nearly every pamphlet published from 1640 to 1660 (Warburton, Works, i. 73). His father died in 1706. He was sent by his mother to a school at Newark kept by a Mr. Twells, and afterwards to the grammar school at Oakham, Rutland. His first master there is said to have declared, on the appearance of the ‘Divine Legation,’ that he had always considered young Warburton as ‘the dullest of all dull scholars’ (Gent. Mag. 1780, p. 474). Hurd, who made some inquiries from Warburton's relations, could only discover that as a boy he had resembled other boys. In 1714 a cousin, William Warburton, became master of Newark grammar school, and Warburton is said to have been then placed under him. If so, it was for a very short time, as on 23 April 1714 Warburton was articled for five years to John Kirke, an attorney, of East Markham, Nottinghamshire. He served his time with Kirke, and, while acquiring some knowledge of law, developed a voracious appetite for miscellaneous reading. On leaving Kirke in 1719 he returned to Newark, and, according to some accounts, began practice there as an attorney. A statement (ib. 1782, p. 288) that he was for a time a ‘wine merchant’ in the Borough is obviously a blunder. His love of reading was stimulated by his cousin, the schoolmaster, to whom he perhaps acted occasionally as assistant. Warburton often spoke gratefully to Hurd of the benefits derived from this connection, and upon his cousin's death in 1729 composed a very laudatory epitaph, placed in Newark church. Anecdotes are told of his absorption in his studies in early years, which led his companions to take him for a fool, and enabled him to ride past a house on fire without noticing it (Nichols, Anecdotes, iii. 353, v. 540; Gent. Mag. 1779, p. 519). He read much theological literature, and decided to take orders. He was ordained deacon on 22 Dec. 1723 by the archbishop of York. In the same year he published his first book, a volume of miscellaneous translations from the Latin. It contains his only attempts at English verse, which, though not so bad as might be expected, may help to explain why he afterwards desired to suppress the book. A Latin dedication to Sir Robert Sutton showed very poor scholarship, though he seems to have afterwards improved his command of the language. Sutton was a cousin of Robert Sutton, second lord Lexington [q. v.], at whose house Warburton met him. Sir Robert had been ambassador at Constantinople through his cousin's influence, and was now member for Nottinghamshire (see Warburton's letter in Pope's Works, ed. Courthope, ix. 234; Betham, Baronetage, 1803). He became a useful patron, and obtained for Warburton in 1727 the small living of Greaseley, Nottinghamshire. Warburton was then ordained priest (1 March) by the bishop of London. In June 1728 Sutton presented Warburton to the living of Brant Broughton, near Newark, then worth 560l. a year. He resigned Greaseley, but in 1730 was presented by the Duke of Newcastle to the living of Frisby in Leicestershire, worth about 250l. a year, which he held without residence till 1756 (Nichols, Illustrations, ii. 59, 845). In 1728 the university of Cambridge, through Sutton's influence, gave him the M.A. degree on occasion of the king's visit. Meanwhile Warburton had been making acquaintance (it does not appear by what means) with Matthew Concanen [q. v.], Lewis Theobald [q. v.], and other authors, whom Pope attacked collectively as Grubstreet. Theobald, who was collecting materials for his edition of Shakespeare, applied to Warburton for notes. A long correspondence took place upon this subject between Warburton and Theobald. Theobald's letters (published in Nichols's Lit. Illustr. vol. ii.) contain some sharp remarks upon Pope, with which Warburton apparently sympathised. Warburton, writing to Concanen (2 Jan. 1727) in regard to Theobald's proposal, incidentally remarked that ‘Dryden borrowed for want of leisure and Pope for want of genius.’ Pope, luckily for Warburton, never knew of this letter, which was first published by Akenside in a note to his ‘Ode to Thomas Edwards.’ In 1727 Warburton gave to Concanen the manuscript of a queer little book upon ‘Prodigies and Miracles.’ Concanen, as he told Hurd in 1757 (Letters from an Eminent Prelate, 1809, p. 218), sold it ‘for more money than you would think.’ Curll afterwards bought the copyright and proposed to reprint it, when Warburton had to buy back his own book. Though anonymous, it was dedicated to Sutton, and contained compliments to George I and the university of Cambridge, which implied willingness to be discovered. Warburton, however, had some reason for the suppression. It is now chiefly remarkable for an audacious plagiarism in which he applies the famous passage in Milton's ‘Areopagitica’ about a ‘noble and puissant nation’ to the university of Cambridge. In 1727 Warburton showed that he had not quite forgotten his law by writing ‘The Legal Judicature in Chancery Stated,’ from materials provided by a barrister, Samuel Burroughs, who was engaged in a controversy as to the respective powers of the court of chancery and the rolls court. Burroughs's antagonist was the attorney-general, Sir Philip Yorke (afterwards Lord Hardwicke), as Warburton was informed by Hardwicke's son Charles [q. v.] Warburton continued to live quietly at Brant Broughton with his mother and sisters. One of the sisters told Hurd that they were alarmed by his excessive application to study. He generally sat up for a great part of the night, and sought relief only by alternating studies of poetry and lighter literature with his more serious reading. He carried on a correspondence with William Stukeley [q. v.], the antiquary, who from 1726 lived in his part of the country; and was afterwards in communication with Peter Des Maizeaux [q. v.] and Thomas Birch [q. v.] upon literary topics. His patron, Sir Robert Sutton, was in 1732 expelled from the House of Commons on account of the corrupt practices of the ‘Charitable Corporation,’ of which he was a director (Parl. Hist. viii. 1162). Warburton is supposed to have been part author of ‘An Apology for Sir R. Sutton,’ published in that year. He afterwards persuaded Pope to remove two sarcastic allusions to Sutton (in the third ‘Moral Essay’ and the first Dialogue of 1738), and in a later note to Pope's ‘Works’ declared his full conviction of Sutton's innocence.
Warburton contemplated an edition of Velleius Paterculus, and a specimen of his work was sent to Des Maizeaux and published in the ‘Bibliothèque Britannique’ in the autumn of 1736. It was addressed to Bishop Hare, who, as well as Conyers Middleton, hinted to Warburton that he was not well qualified for the office of classical critic. Warburton had the sense to take the hint, and soon afterwards showed his powers in the ‘Alliance between Church and State,’ also published in 1736. This book has often been considered his best. He accepts in the main the principles of Locke; and from the elastic theory of a social contract deduces a justification of the existing state of things in England. The state enters into alliance with the church for political reasons, and protects it by a test law and an endowment. In return for these benefits the church abandons its rights as an independent power. The book, representing contemporary ideas and vigorously written, went through several editions. It was highly praised afterwards by Horsley (Case of Protestant Dissenters, 1787); by Whitaker in the ‘Quarterly’ for 1812; and has some affinity with the doctrine of Coleridge in his ‘Church and State’ (see preface by H. N. Coleridge). Warburton showed some of the sheets before publication to Bishops Sherlock and Hare. Hare admired the book sufficiently to recommend Warburton to Queen Caroline, who had inquired (according to Hurd) for a person ‘of learning and genius’ to be about her. Her death in 1737 was fatal to any hopes excited by this recommendation.
Warburton had meanwhile been composing his most famous book, from which he considered the Alliance to be a kind of corollary. The first part of his ‘Divine Legation of Moses demonstrated’ appeared in 1737. The second part was published in 1741. A third part was never completed, though a fragment was published by Hurd after Warburton's death. The argument, which Warburton considered to be a ‘demonstration’ of the divine authority of the Jewish revelation, is summed up at starting. The doctrine of a future state of rewards and punishments, he says, is necessary to the well-being of society; no such doctrine is to be found in the Mosaic dispensation: ‘therefore the law of Moses is of divine original.’ As the Jewish religion, that is, does not contain an essential doctrine, it must have been supported by an ‘extraordinary providence.’ The absence of any distinct reference to a future life in the Old Testament had been admitted, as Warburton afterwards said (Works, xi. 304), by various orthodox divines, such as Grotius, Episcopius, and Bishop Bull; and Warburton's ingenuity was intended to turn what to them seemed a difficulty into a demonstration. The English deists, whom he professed to be answering, had certainly not laid much stress on the point. It seems rather to have been suggested to Warburton by Bayle's argument in the ‘Pensées sur la Comète’ for the possibility of a society of atheists. Warburton warmly admired Bayle, who had ‘struck into the province of paradox as an exercise for the unwearied vigour of his mind’—a phrase equally applicable to his panegyrist (Warburton, Works, 1811, i. 230). The book, whatever its controversial value, was at least calculated to arouse attention. Warburton's dogmatic arrogance and love of paradox were sufficiently startling, while his wide reading enabled him to fill his pages with a great variety of curious disquisition; and his rough vigour made even his absurdities interesting. The ‘Divine Legation’ provoked innumerable controversies, though, for the most part, with writers of very little reputation. According to Warburton himself, the London clergy, encouraged by Archbishop Potter, ‘took fire,’ and resolved to ‘demolish the book’ (Letters of an Eminent Prelate, p. 116). Their scheme came to nothing, but Warburton found critics enough to assail. His first opponent was William Webster [q. v.], author of the ‘Weekly Miscellany,’ in which appeared ‘A Letter from a Country Clergyman.’ Hare and Sherlock advised Warburton to reply to this paper, which had been attributed to Waterland. Its real sting was the insinuation that Warburton had been complimentary to Conyers Middleton, who was generally suspected of covert infidelity. Warburton published a ‘Vindication’ (1738) in which he still spoke highly of Middleton, though guarding against the suspicion of complicity in his friend's views. Hurd says that at this time Warburton was trying earnestly to soften Middleton's prejudices against revelation. He afterwards again attacked Webster, who had written other letters, in an appendix to a sermon; and in the preface to the second volume of the ‘Divine Legation’ hung Webster and his fellows ‘as they do vermin in a warren, and left them to posterity to stink and blacken in the wind’ (Nichols, Lit. Illustr. ii. 115). To a ‘Brief Examination’ of the ‘Divine Legation’ by a ‘Society of Gentlemen,’ accusing him of virtually supporting the freethinkers whom he had abused, he made no reply. His next victim was John Tillard, who in 1742 had published a book to prove that the ancient philosophers believed in a future life. Warburton treated him with great contempt in a pamphlet of ‘Remarks.’ It was well, as he told Doddridge, that Tillard was a man of fortune, ‘for I have spoiled his trade as a writer.’ He replied to a variety of other assailants in ‘Remarks on several occasional Reflections,’ two parts of which appeared in 1744 and 1745. The preface attacked Akenside, who in the ‘Pleasures of the Imagination’ had defended Shaftesbury's doctrine that ridicule is a test of truth, and added a note which Warburton took to be directed against himself. The book then opened with an attack upon Middleton, whom he accused of inferring (in the ‘Letter from Rome’) that catholicism was derived from paganism. This attack, though civil for Warburton, and a difference of opinion as to Cicero's belief in a future life, led to the complete alienation of the friends. Warburton next attacked Richard Pococke [q. v.], the traveller, for differing from an assertion in the ‘Divine Legation’ that the Egyptian hieroglyphics stood for things and not words. He attacked Nicholas Mann [q. v.] for supporting Sir Isaac Newton's identification of Sesostris and Osiris; and Richard Grey [q. v.] for arguing that the Book of Job was written, not, as Warburton had maintained, by Ezra, but by Moses. The second part of the ‘Remarks on occasional Reflections’ is devoted to the demolition of Henry Stebbing (1687–1763) [q. v.], who, in an ‘Examination of Mr. Warburton's Second Proposition,’ had argued against Warburton's explanation of the command to Abraham to offer up his son; and of Arthur Ashley Sykes [q. v.], who, in an ‘Examination of Mr. Warburton's Account of the Conduct of the Ancient Legislators,’ &c., had, like John Spencer (1630–1693) [q. v.] in his ‘De Legibus Hebræorum,’ confounded the ‘theocracy’ with the ‘extraordinary providence’ which existed under it. Warburton becomes more arrogant in the second than in the first part of these remarks; and takes the opportunity of incidentally insulting various minor writers. He ends by declaring that he had been civil to Middleton and Mann, and had passed ‘without chastisement such’ impotent railers as ‘Dr. Richard Grey and one Bate’ (Julius Bate [q. v.]), ‘a zany to a mountebank,’ but was forced to hunt down like wolves the ‘pestilent herd of libertine scribblers with which the island is overrun.’ In executing this scheme he naturally made enemies on all sides. Gibbon's famous attack upon the interpretation of the sixth book of the ‘Æneid’ did not appear till 1770, when Warburton had ceased to write. The failure to finish the book may be ascribed to his difficulty in constructing any plausible argument for its main topic—the à priori necessity of the peculiar providential dispensation which he asserted—or to his occupation with a variety of other matters. Hurd says that he was disgusted at the violent opposition of the clergy, for whose ‘ease and profit’ he took himself to be working. This, says Hurd, was his ‘greatest weakness’ (Life, p. 81). In fact the clergy were not only offended by his personalities, but had very natural doubts as to the tendency of his argument.
Among other antagonists was William Romaine [q. v.], whom Warburton attacked for writing an apparently friendly letter and making unfair use of his answer. The correspondence was printed in the ‘Works of the Learned’ in 1739 (see Kilvert's Selections, pp. 85, 122). He also attacked Henry Coventry (d. 1752) [q. v.] for his stealing in a similar way some of his theories about hieroglyphics. He co-operated with one of his jackals, John Towne, in attacking John Jackson (1686–1763) [q. v.], who in several pamphlets disputed his theories as to the knowledge of a future life among both Jews and philosophers (1745 &c.), and afterwards, in his ‘Chronological Antiquities’ (1752), plagiarised from his account of hieroglyphics and mysteries. Jackson also helped his friend John Gilbert Cooper [q. v.] to carry on the war in his ‘Life of Socrates’ (1749), when Warburton insulted Cooper in a note to Pope's ‘Essay on Criticism.’ In a preface to the second part of the ‘Divine Legation’ (edition of 1758) Warburton savagely attacked John Taylor (1704–1766) [q. v.], editor of Demosthenes, who, in his ‘Elements of the Civil Laws,’ had disputed Warburton's views about the persecutions of Christians. Taylor was also reported to have admitted that he always thought Warburton no scholar, though he did not remember to have said so. It is, however, impossible to exhaust the list of Warburton's controversies. Warburton's whole career was changed by a new alliance. It is uncertain how far he had joined Pope's enemies on his first introduction to literary circles. He was reported to have said in a club at Newark that Pope's ‘Essay on Man’ was ‘collected from the worst passages of the worst authors’ (Warton, Life of Pope, p. xlv; Prior, Malone, p. 430). He changed his opinions, if this story be trustworthy; and in December 1738 published, in the ‘Works of the Learned,’ a letter replying to Crousaz's examination of Pope's ‘Essay on Man.’ Five letters followed during 1739, and the whole was published as a ‘Vindication’ of Pope's essay in the same year. Pope wrote to Warburton thanking him warmly, and soon afterwards said, ‘You understand my work better than I do myself’ (Pope, Works, ix. 211). The best reply to Crousaz would, in fact, have been that Pope did not understand the obvious bearing of his own doctrines; though Warburton ingeniously tried to read an orthodox meaning into the teaching which Pope had adopted from Bolingbroke. He admitted to Birch that he found the defence of Pope's last epistle to be very difficult (Nichols, Lit. Illustr. ii. 113). In 1740 Warburton visited Pope at Twickenham, and was received by him, as Warton reports, with compliments which astonished Dodsley the bookseller, who was present at the meeting. Pope soon employed Warburton in various literary matters. Warburton procured for him a translator of the ‘Essay on Man’ into Latin, and soon afterwards became the authorised commentator upon his works. He especially stimulated Pope to write the fourth book of the ‘Dunciad,’ which appeared in 1742. He wrote many of the notes and the prefatory discourse of ‘Ricardus Aristarchus,’ intended as a travesty of Bentley's ‘Milton.’ The ridicule of Bentley in the text and notes was partly due to Pope's connection with Bentley's old enemies at Christ Church. Bentley was also reported to have said that Warburton was a man of monstrous appetite and very bad digestion. Warburton may have heard of this, and, at any rate, seems to have regarded the great critic with a mixture of admiration and envy (see Warton's Warburton, p. 228, and Monk's Bentley, 1833, ii. 409–10). Warburton saw Pope constantly during the remainder of the poet's life. They were at Oxford together in 1741 (Pope, Works, ed. Courthope, ix. 216), when Pope refused to accept the degree of D.C.L. because he heard that a proposal to confer the degree of D.D. upon Warburton at the same time would be rejected.
In November 1741 Ralph Allen [q. v.], with whom Pope was staying at Prior Park, near Bath, joined Pope in an invitation to Warburton to visit them. The acquaintance which followed ultimately made Warburton's fortune. On 5 Sept. 1745 he married Allen's favourite niece, Gertrude Tucker. He ceased after this to live at Brant Broughton, though he continued to hold the living, probably till he became a bishop. Pope meanwhile had become strongly attached to his mentor, and was innocently desirous to bring him into friendly relations with his older mentor, Bolingbroke. About 1742 he showed to Warburton Bolingbroke's ‘Letters on the Study of History.’ Warburton at once wrote some remarks upon a passage in which the authority of the Old Testament is impugned. Pope sent these remarks to Bolingbroke, who was then abroad, and, according to Warburton, wrote an angry reply, which was finally suppressed (Warburton, Works, xii. 338; and Letters to Hurd, p. 95). Pope, shortly before his death (30 May 1744), got Bolingbroke and Warburton to meet at a dinner at the house of Murray (Lord Mansfield). The result was an altercation which left bitter resentment on both sides (Ruffhead, Pope, p. 220). Pope, dying in 1744, left to Warburton the properties of all the printed works upon which he had written or should write commentaries, only providing against alterations in the text.
Warburton's relations to the most famous contemporary author no doubt helped to raise his own position in the literary world. It brought further quarrels with Bolingbroke. He must have consented to the suppression of the edition of the ‘Moral Essays’ demanded by Bolingbroke directly after Pope's death [see under Pope, Alexander, (1688–1744)]. When in 1749 Bolingbroke published his ‘Letters’ on the ‘Idea of a Patriot King,’ with a preface by the editor (Mallett), attacking Pope for having printed them privately, Warburton remonstrated in an indignant ‘Letter to the Editor of the Letters.’ An angry reply was made in ‘A Familiar Epistle to the most Impudent Man living’ [see under Saint-John, Henry Viscount Bolingbroke]. Warburton brought out an edition of the ‘Dunciad’ directly after Pope's death, and a general edition of Pope's works in 1751, to a later reprint of which (in 1769) was added a ‘life’ nominally by Owen Ruffhead [q. v.], but inspired and probably written to a great degree by Warburton himself. Warburton also added many notes in his various editions of Pope's ‘Works.’ As Lowth said in their later controversy, notes to the ‘Dunciad’ or the ‘Divine Legation’ became his ‘ordinary places of literary executions.’ In 1761 he put up in Twickenham church a tablet in memory of Pope, with a verse in very bad taste, though Pope himself had directed that the only inscription to his memory should be a line added on to the tablet to his parents.
Warburton published a few sermons during the ‘unnatural rebellion’ of 1745. His next conspicuous performance was the edition of Shakespeare which appeared in 1747. In 1737 Warburton had told Birch that he intended such an edition after he had finished the ‘Divine Legation.’ He went on to say that Sir Thomas Hanmer [q. v.] had ‘done great things’ for Shakespeare, and appears to imply that he was to co-operate with Hanmer and write a critical preface. Notices of the forthcoming edition appeared in the ‘General Dictionary’ and the ‘Works of the Learned.’ A letter from Sherlock and Hare in 1739 (Kilvert, Selections, pp. 84, 121) shows that Warburton had then complained that he could not get his papers back from Hanmer. Hanmer himself, writing in 1742 to Joseph Smith (1670–1756) [q. v.], provost of Queen's College, Oxford, to offer his edition to the university of Oxford, said that Warburton had been introduced to him by Sherlock in order to suggest some observations upon Shakespeare. After some communications Hanmer discovered that Warburton wished to publish the edition himself. Hanmer would not consent, and Warburton thereupon left him in a ‘great rage.’ One Philip Nichols wished in 1761 to insert this letter in a life of Smith in the ‘Biographia Britannica.’ He submitted a proof to Warburton, who was indignant, and declared that Hanmer's letter was ‘a falsehood from beginning to end.’ He declared that Hanmer had made the first overtures to him, and had afterwards made unauthorised use of his notes. Although the sheet containing Hanmer's letter had already been printed, the proprietors of the ‘Biographia’ yielded at last to pressure from Warburton, and reprinted it so as to omit the letter. Nichols in 1763 told the story in a pamphlet called ‘the castrated letter of Sir T. Hanmer.’ Nichols was a man of bad character who had been expelled from Cambridge for stealing books. His story, however, was not contradicted, and the presumption is in favour of Hanmer's account of his intercourse with Warburton.
In his preface to the ‘Shakespeare’ Warburton spoke with contempt both of Hanmer and his old friend Theobald, and accused both of stealing some of his conjectures. He admitted that Theobald had ‘punctiliously collated old books,’ but accused him of ignorance of the language and want of critical sagacity. It is now admitted that this is a ludicrous inversion of the truth [see under Theobald, Lewis], and that Theobald was incomparably superior to Warburton as a Shakespearean critic. Though a few of Warburton's emendations have been accepted, they are generally marked by both audacious and gratuitous quibbling, and show his real incapacity for the task. Though this was less obvious at the time, a telling exposure was made by Thomas Edwards [q. v.] in ‘a supplement’ to Warburton's edition, called in later editions ‘Canons of Criticism.’ Johnson (Boswell, ed. Birkbeck Hill, i. 263 n.) compared Edwards to a fly stinging a stately horse; but the sting was sharp, and the ‘Canons of Criticism’ is perhaps the best result of Warburton's enterprise. Warburton could only retort by insulting Edwards in notes to Pope's ‘Works,’ and saying that he was not a gentleman. Another quarrel arose with Zachary Grey [q. v.], to whose ‘Hudibras’ Warburton had contributed notes. In his preface he now, for some reason, called the same book an execrable heap of nonsense, when Grey retorted by three pamphlets against Warburton's ‘Shakespeare.’ Other critics were John Upton, in ‘Critical Observations on Shakespeare’ (2nd edit. 1748), and Benjamin Heath [q. v.], in a ‘Revisal of Shakespeare's Text’ (1766). When Johnson, in his ‘Shakespeare,’ mixed some blame with some high praise, Warburton wrote to Hurd complaining of his critic's insolence, malignity, and folly. Johnson had much respect for Warburton, who sent him a word of approval upon his refusal to accept Chesterfield's patronage (Boswell, i. 263). They only met once, when Warburton began by looking surlily at Johnson, but ended by ‘patting’ him (ib. iv. 47, 48, see also v. 80).
Warburton returned to his theological inquiries in 1750. His former friend, Middleton, had attacked his evidence for the later miracles in his ‘Free Inquiry’ (1749). Warburton tried to show in his ‘Julian’ (1750) that there was at least sufficient evidence for the story of the destruction of the temple at Jerusalem when Julian attempted to rebuild it. He argues at the same time, by the help of some curious reading, that some of the concomitant circumstances, especially the appearance of crosses on the garments of the spectators, were purely natural. The book was less arrogant in tone than some others, perhaps because revised before publication by his new friend Hurd. It was well received in France, as was shown by a letter from the Duc de Noailles. Montesquieu also, in a letter to Charles Yorke, politely expressed a wish to make the author's acquaintance.
Warburton was now coming within the range of preferment. In 1738 he had been made chaplain to the Prince of Wales. His books had already excited attention, and he was known to Bishops Hare and Sherlock. It does not appear whether the distinction indicated any particular influence. The prince himself was no great judge of literature. Pope, as soon as they became known to each other, introduced Warburton to the great men of his own circle. In 1741 he got an unnamed nobleman to promise ‘a large benefice’ to his new friend (Pope, Works, ix. 217; and Ruffhead, p. 488). The promise was broken, but directly afterwards Pope told Warburton that Chesterfield ‘intended to serve him.’ Chesterfield was then in opposition, but on becoming lord lieutenant of Ireland in 1745 he offered to take Warburton as his chaplain. Warburton declined, but three years later showed his gratitude by dedicating a new edition of the ‘Alliance’ to Chesterfield. Pope also introduced Warburton to Murray (Lord Mansfield), who, when solicitor-general in 1746, induced the benchers of Lincoln's Inn to appoint him their preacher. The salary was small, and, as the office required attendance during term time, Allen made him spend the whole upon a house in Bedford Row. He kept it till at the beginning of 1757 he took a house in Grosvenor Square, which he occupied till his death. He was forced, he complains, to write sermons, and the completion of the ‘Divine Legation’ was indefinitely adjourned. The position, however, helped to make him known to powerful friends. In April 1753 Lord-chancellor Hardwicke, the father of his friend, Charles Yorke, gave him a prebend of small value in Gloucester Cathedral. In September 1754 he was appointed one of the king's chaplains in ordinary, and obtained the D.D. degree from the archbishop of Canterbury. In March 1755 he was appointed to a prebend worth 500l. a year at Durham, through the interest of Murray (now attorney-general) with Bishop Trevor. He resigned the Gloucester prebend, but held that at Durham in commendam after becoming a bishop. It was a tradition at Durham that Warburton was the first prebendary to give up wearing a cope, because the high collar ruffled his full-bottomed wig (Quarterly Review, xxxii. 273). At Durham he found a copy of Neal's ‘History of the Puritans,’ and made annotations, afterwards published by Hurd in his ‘Works.’ In 1756 he resigned Frisby, where he had left a Mr. Wright to take care of his financial matters and to provide a curate (Gent. Mag. March 1820). In September 1757 Warburton was made dean of Bristol by Pitt. Newcastle had told Allen some years before that if the deanery became vacant, he thought of recommending Warburton to the place, which had the advantage of being within reach of Prior Park. Allen was worth courting for his great influence in Bath; he was also on intimate terms with Pitt, who had just been elected for Bath (July 1757) with his support (Letters to Hurd, pp. 155, 257). The same influence no doubt helped to produce Warburton's elevation at the end of 1759 to the bishopric of Gloucester (consecrated 20 Jan. 1760). Hurd (Life of Warburton, p. 70) admits Allen's influence, but says that he had seen a letter in which Pitt declared that nothing of a private nature had given him so much pleasure as the elevation of Warburton to the bench.
During this period of steady rise in the church Warburton had written little. He had added something to new editions of the ‘Divine Legation’ and the ‘Alliance,’ but his main performances were two assaults upon sceptics. The first was a ‘View of Lord Bolingbroke's Philosophy’ (1754 and 1755), suggested by the publication in 1753 of his old enemy's posthumous ‘Works.’ Warburton's attack is as tiresome as the book assailed, and the style was so rude as to provoke a remonstrance from Murray in an anonymous letter, to which Warburton replied in an ‘Apology’ afterwards prefixed to the letters. Montesquieu, in return for a copy of the book, sent a very complimentary letter to the author. It was wrong, he said, to attack natural religion anywhere, and especially wrong to attack so moderate a form of revealed religion as that which prevailed in England. The second assault was ‘Remarks’ upon Hume's ‘Natural History of Religion,’ in which Hurd gave him some help. In order to conceal the authorship, it was called a letter to Warburton by ‘a Gentleman of Cambridge.’ Hume took it for Hurd's, and in his autobiographical sketch says ‘that the public entry’ of his book was ‘rather obscure, except only that Dr. Hurd wrote a pamphlet against it, with all the illiberal petulance, arrogance, and scurrility which distinguish the Warburtonian school. This pamphlet gave me some consolation for the otherwise indifferent reception of my performance’ (Hume, Phil. Works, 1875, iii. 5). Warburton also thought of confuting Voltaire, but was persuaded by Hurd not to condescend to ‘break a butterfly upon a wheel’ (Warburton, Works, i. 105).
Hurd's relation to Warburton had become important to both, and forms a curious passage in Warburton's history. Hurd had read Warburton's books when a B.A. at Cambridge, and admired even the essay on ‘Prodigies’ (Letters, p. 215). He inserted a compliment to Warburton in his edition of Horace's ‘Ars Poetica’ (1749), and sent a copy to Warburton. Warburton acknowledged it gratefully, at once offered his friendship, and began a warm correspondence. They exchanged extravagant compliments, and consulted each other upon their works in preparation. Warburton did his best to promote Hurd's preferment, and introduced him to the Allens at Prior Park. The intimacy became notorious by a discreditable quarrel with Warburton's old friend, John Jortin [q. v.] Jortin had been Warburton's assistant at Lincoln's Inn from 1747 to 1751, and they had exchanged compliments. In 1738 Warburton had sent a notice of Jortin's ‘Remarks upon Spenser’ to the ‘Works of the Learned,’ and had added some emendations of his own. In 1751 he wrote and induced Jortin to insert in his ‘Ecclesiastical Remarks’ an account of Rhys (or ‘Arise’) Evans [q. v.] showing an apparent belief in the prophecies of a disreputable fanatic, which was attacked in ‘Confusion worse Confounded’ (1772) by Indignatio, said to be Henry Taylor (1711–1785) [q. v.] (Nichols, Lit. Anecd. iii. 125). In 1755 Jortin published ‘Six Dissertations,’ in the last of which he modestly expressed his dissent from Warburton's view of the Sixth Æneid. Hurd hereupon wrote a ‘Seventh Dissertation, on the Delicacy of Friendship,’ which, in a laboured and tiresome strain of irony, bitterly attacked Jortin for presuming to differ from Warburton. Warburton was delighted with being ‘so finely praised’ himself, and, next to that, ‘in seeing Jortin mortified’ (Letters, &c. p. 207). Jortin made no direct reply, but in his ‘Life of Erasmus’ (1758), besides other allusions (see Watson, pp. 446–51), took occasion to expose a gross grammatical blunder of Warburton's without naming him. Warburton hereupon wrote a letter to be shown to Jortin, complaining of his unfriendly action (Kilvert, Selections, p. 220). Jortin replied with dignity, disavowing malicious intentions, and accepting an emendation suggested by Warburton; but no renewal of friendship took place.
Warburton apparently took his episcopal duties as easily as most of his brethren. There is a story (Nichols, Lit. Anecd. v. 618) of his giving offence by his neglect to take the sacrament. On the other hand, he issued a circular to his clergy directing them to take more care in the preparation of candidates for confirmation. In 1762 he showed the dislike of ‘enthusiasm’ characteristic of his contemporaries by the ‘Doctrine of Grace.’ It is mainly an assault upon Wesley, supported by extracts from his journals. Warburton had begun his book by an attack upon an old essay of Middleton upon the ‘gift of tongues.’ A reply to this was made by Thomas Leland [q. v.], upon whom Hurd was left to take vengeance. Warburton took little part in debates in the House of Lords, except on one occasion. The ‘Essay on Woman,’ for which Wilkes was attacked in 1763, contained notes ironically attributed to Warburton. At Lord Sandwich's request Warburton made a speech or two in the House of Lords at the end of 1763. He argued (hardly to Sandwich's satisfaction) that the bad character of a prosecutor need not prove the innocence of the prosecuted, and declared that the ‘hardiest inhabitant of hell would blush as well as tremble’ to hear the ‘Essay on Woman’ (see Kilvert's Selections, pp. 277–83, for Warburton's report of his two speeches). Horace Walpole makes fun of Warburton in his letters on this occasion. Churchill also, as Wilkes's friend, attacked him with singular virulence and some force in the ‘Duellist’ (bk. iii.). A final controversy took place soon afterwards. In 1756 Warburton had had a sharp correspondence with Robert Lowth [q. v.], afterwards bishop of London. Lowth had become a prebendary shortly after Warburton, and a story which connects their quarrel with Warburton's succession to Lowth's place is therefore erroneous. Warburton had complained of certain passages in Lowth's lectures which he took to be aimed at his own treatment of the Book of Job in the ‘Divine Legation.’ (These letters were republished by Lowth, and are in Warburton's Works, vol. xii.) Lowth replied with spirit, denying the special application to that treatise. Warburton then withdrew, under the pretext that as he had unknowingly attacked Lowth's father, Lowth was excusable for attacking him. Lowth afterwards had a brush with Towne on the same topic. In 1765 Warburton, publishing a fourth edition of the ‘Divine Legation,’ took occasion of this controversy to insert a fresh and insolent attack upon Lowth. Lowth replied in a ‘Letter to the Author of the “Divine Legation.”’ The merits of the controversy as to Job need not be considered; but Lowth's personal attack upon Warburton's arrogance and want of scholarship was singularly effective, and, as Gibbon said, his victory ‘was clearly established by the silent confession of Warburton and his slaves.’
Ralph Allen had died in 1764, leaving 5,000l. apiece to Warburton and his wife. Mrs. Warburton was also to have 3,000l. a year upon the death of Mrs. Allen, which took place two years later. Warburton afterwards wrote a few sermons, but his vigour was beginning to decline. He mentions various symptoms of illness in 1767. In 1768 he gave 500l. to found a lecture to be given at Lincoln's Inn upon the proof of Christianity from the prophecies. In 1769 he gave up Prior Park and settled at Gloucester. In 1770 he had a bad accident by a fall in his library. In 1771 Hurd told Mrs. Warburton that her husband, apparently as the result of his advice, would write no more (Letters, pp. 460, 462). He seems afterwards to have failed rapidly. Horace Walpole saw him in 1774, and says that his memory was failing. He was sufficiently conscious to be greatly depressed by the loss in 1775 of his only child, a young man (b. 6 April 1756), who was intended for the bar, and died of consumption on 18 July 1775. He then became almost imbecile, but shortly before his death revived enough to say ‘Is my son really dead?’ He died in his palace at Gloucester on 7 June 1779, and was buried in the cathedral. His widow erected a marble monument, with an inscription by Hurd over a medallion portrait. The phrase that he had always supported ‘what he firmly believed, the Christian religion,’ was taken to be ambiguous by those who read it without the comma (see Cradock, iv. 205). Mrs. Warburton took for a second husband the Rev. Martin Stafford Smith, who was presented by Hurd to the rectory of Fladbury, Worcestershire. Mrs. Warburton appears to have been a lively lady. Walpole speaks of Thomas Potter as her gallant (George III, i. 313), a bit of scandal supported by, or perhaps derived from, Churchill's statement in the ‘Duellist’ (see Notes and Queries, 2nd ser. iv. 41). Cradock says that Mrs. Warburton always spoke ‘with peculiar satisfaction’ of her husband's excellence. She died on 1 Sept. 1796.
Warburton seems to have been thoroughly good to his family. He was always affectionate to his mother, who survived till 1749 (see his letter to Doddridge in June 1749; Nichols, Illustrations, ii. 834). He had three sisters. The youngest, Frances, remained unmarried; the eldest, Mary, married a tradesman who became bankrupt, when Warburton gave generous support (ib. ii. 831); the third, Elizabeth, married an attorney, named Twells, son of Warburton's first schoolmaster. This marriage appears also to have been unfortunate (Letters, p. 247). He helped some of their children.
Bishop Newton says that Warburton was a ‘tall, robust, large-boned’ man. An engraving from a portrait by William Hoare [q. v.], in Gloucester Palace, is prefixed to his ‘Works.’ A painting by Charles Phillips is in the National Portrait Gallery, London; both have been frequently engraved (Bromley, p. 356). Hurd bought most of his books, and placed them in the library of his palace, Hartlebury Castle.
Warburton, said Johnson (Boswell, Johnson, ed. Hill, iv. 49), ‘is perhaps the last man who has written with a mind full of reading and reflection.’ To his admirers he represented the last worthy successor of the learned divines of the preceding century. His wide reading and rough intellectual vigour are undeniable. Unfortunately he was neither a scholar nor a philosopher. Though he wrote upon the Old Testament, his knowledge of Hebrew was, as Lowth told him, quite superficial; and his blunders in Latin proved that he was no Bentley. His philosophical weakness appears not only in his metaphysical disquisitions, but in the whole conception of his book. The theological system presupposed in the ‘Divine Legation’ is grotesque, and is the most curious example of the results of applying purely legal conceptions to such problems. Warburton, as Lowth pointed out, retained the habits of thought of a sharp attorney, and constantly mistakes wrangling for reasoning. He was ingenious enough to persuade himself that he had proved his point when he had upset an antagonist by accepting the most paradoxical conclusions. Freethinkers such as Walpole and Voltaire thought him a hypocritical ally; and no one, except such personal friends as Hurd and Towne, has ever seriously accepted his position. He flourished in a period in which divines, with the exception of Butler, were becoming indifferent to philosophical speculation. For that reason he found no competent opponent, though his pugnacity and personal force made many enemies and conquered a few humble followers. Hurd tries to prove that he had distinguished friends among men of learning. His instances are John Towne [q. v.] and Thomas Balguy [q. v.], neither of them a very shining light. Hurd was himself the chief disciple, and he also had friendly relations with John Brown (1715–1766) [q. v.] of the ‘Estimate,’ who in that book calls Warburton the Colossus who bestrides the world, and who afterwards defended him against Lowth; with Mason, the poet; with Jonathan Toup [q. v.], the editor of Longinus and a warm admirer of Warburton (for Warburton's relations to Sterne, see under Sterne, Laurence; cf. Walpole, Letters, ed. Cunningham, iii. 298). Macaulay, in his copy of the letters between Warburton and Hurd, wrote ‘bully and sneak,’ which is a slashing but not inaccurate summary of the general impression. Warburton, blustering and reckless as he was, is more attractive than his prim sycophant. He had at least some warm blood in his veins, and was capable of friendship and good fellowship. He deserves the credit of having denounced the slave trade in a sermon before the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge in 1766 (Works, x. 29, &c.). Cradock says that when Warburton visited Hurd at his country living, he insisted on being taken round to the neighbours, whom Hurd had not condescended to visit, and making Hurd give them a good dinner. In his own house he could be sociable and pleasant, though he rather boasts to Hurd of his unsuitability to a court atmosphere (see Nichols, Illustrations, vol. ii., for an account of his conversations with a Dr. Cumming). He sometimes shocked Hurd by his indifference to decorum, and neither his sermons nor his anecdotes were always of episcopal dignity. He used, says Cradock, to send for a basket of rubbish from the circulating libraries, and laugh over them heartily during intervals of study. The intervals seem to have become longer than the studies. He says that he was naturally so indolent and desultory that he could only get himself to his task by setting the press to work and being forced to supply copy. This was written to Doddridge on 2 Feb. 1740–1. He adds that the greater part of his fifth and sixth books of ‘The Divine Legation’ is still unwritten. He has promised to have the whole volume (books iv. v. vi.) ready by Lady-day, and, according to Hurd, the book was in fact ready by May 1741 (Nichols, Lit. Illustrations, p. 823).
Warburton's works are: 1. ‘Miscellaneous Translations in Prose and Verse from Roman Poets, Orators, and Historians,’ 1724, 12mo. 2. ‘A Critical and Philosophical Enquiry into the Causes of Prodigies, Miracles …’ 1727 (these two were reprinted by Parr in ‘Tracts by Warburton and a Warburtonian,’ 1789). 3. ‘The Alliance between Church and State; or the Necessity and Equity of an established Religion and a Test Law demonstrated from the Essence and End of Civil Society …’ 1736; a second edit. in 1741, a third in 1748, a fourth in 1765, and a tenth in 1846. 4. ‘The Divine Legation of Moses demonstrated on the principles of a Religious Deist, from the Omission of the Doctrine of a Future State of Rewards and Punishments in the Jewish Dispensation. In six books,’ published in January 1737–8. This volume includes books i. ii. iii. The second volume, including books iv. v. vi., appeared in 1741. A second edit. of vol. i. appeared in November 1738, a third in 1742, a fourth (in two vols.) in 1755, and a fifth in 1766. A second edition of vol. ii. appeared in 1742, a third in 1758, a fourth in 1765 (as vols. iii. iv. and v.) in continuation of the two vols. of the fourth edition of the first part. 5. ‘A Vindication of the Author … from the Aspersions of the Country Clergyman's Letter on the Weekly Miscellany of Feb. 24, 1737–8,’ 1738, 8vo. 6. ‘A … Commentary on Mr. Pope's “Essay on Man,” in which is contained a Vindication … from the Misrepresentations of … M. de Crousaz … In six letters,’ 1739, reprinted with alterations from the ‘History of the Works of the Learned’ (December 1738 to May 1739). In 1742 it was remodelled as ‘A Critical and Philosophical Commentary on Mr. Pope's “Essay on Man,” in which is contained a Vindication …’ 7. ‘Remarks on several occasional Reflections in answer to’ [Middleton, Pococke, Mann, and Richard Grey], with ‘a general Review of the Argument of the “Divine Legation,”’ and an ‘Appendix in Answer to’ [Stebbing], 1744. A second part appeared in 1745, ‘in answer to the Rev. Drs. Stebbing and Sykes,’ &c. 8. ‘The Works of Shakspear … with Comments and Notes by Mr. Pope and Mr. Warburton,’ 1747 (often reprinted). 9. ‘A Letter from an Author to a Member of Parliament concerning Literary Property,’ 1747, 8vo. 10. ‘A Letter to the Editor of the Letters on the spirit of Patriotism …’ 1749 (‘A Letter to Viscount B——, occasioned by his Treatment of a deceased Friend,’ 1749, is also doubtfully attributed to Warburton). 11. ‘Julian, or a Discourse concerning the Earthquake and Fiery Eruption which defeated that Emperor's Attempt to rebuild the Temple at Jerusalem,’ &c., 1750; 2nd edit. 1757. 12. ‘A View of Lord Bolingbroke's Philosophy in four Letters to a Friend,’ 1754 (first two letters) and 1755 (third and fourth). 13. ‘Remarks on Mr. David Hume's Essay on the Natural History of Religion, by a Gentleman of Cambridge, in a Letter to the Rev. Dr. W—— …’ 8vo, 1757. 14. ‘A rational Account of the Nature and End of the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper,’ 1761, 12mo. 15. ‘The Doctrine of Grace, or the Office and Operation of the Holy Spirit vindicated from the Insults of Infidelity and the Abuses of Fanaticism,’ 1762, 2 vols. 12mo. In 1742 Warburton published a ‘Dissertation on the Origin of Books of Chivalry,’ prefixed to Jervas's translation of ‘Don Quixote.’
Warburton published a number of separate sermons, three during the rebellion of 1745; and in 1753 and 1754 two volumes of sermons preached at Lincoln's Inn, called ‘Principles of Natural and Revealed Religion,’ &c., and a third volume in 1767. He wrote in 1747 prefaces to the ‘Remarks’ of Catharine Cockburn [q. v.] upon Dr. Rutherforth, and to Towne's ‘Critical Inquiry.’ For the ‘Legal Judicature in Chancery’ and the ‘Apology for Sir R. Sutton,’ see above. A collective edition of Warburton's ‘Works’ in 7 vols. 4to was published at the expense of his widow in 1788, under Hurd's superintendence. It included some previously unpublished fragments, parts of the ninth book of the ‘Divine Legation,’ ‘Directions for the Study of Theology,’ and notes upon Neal's ‘History of the Puritans.’ In 1794 Hurd published a ‘Discourse by way of general Preface to the Quarto Edition,’ being chiefly a life of Warburton. Only 250 copies were printed of this and the preceding. The ‘Works,’ with the ‘discourse’ prefixed, were published in 12 vols. 8vo in 1811. The ‘Letters from a late eminent Prelate [Warburton] to one of his Friends [Hurd],’ ‘first printed by Hurd for the benefit of Worcester Infirmary,’ were republished as a ‘second edition’ in 1809.[Hurd, in the discourse above mentioned, gave the first account of Warburton's life. Though it does not condescend to much detail, it gives some original information. The life by John Selby Watson (1863) is tiresome, but collects most of the ascertainable facts. There are a great many references in Nichols's Lit. Anecd. (see index). Vol. v. 529–658 gives a full list of his works, with references to answers, &c., and biographical information, with many letters from different sources. Vol. ii. of Nichols's Illustrations (pp. 1–654) gives letters to Stukeley (from the originals), to Des Maizeaux, and to Birch (some of which had been printed by Maty in the New Review), both from the manuscripts in the British Museum, to Nathaniel Forster (from the originals), correspondence with Concanen and Theobald (from the originals); and the same volume, pp. 811–36, gives letters to Doddridge (fully printed from originals first published, with some omissions, in Stedman's Collection of Doddridge's Correspondence, 1790). In 1841 Francis Kilvert published a selection from Warburton's unpublished papers, communicated by the widow of the Rev. Martin Stafford Smith. These include letters from Sherlock, Hare, Charles Yorke, and some others, besides fragmentary papers by Warburton and a few charges and sermons. Numerous references to Warburton are in Elwin and Courthope's edition of Pope's Works (see index). See also Cradock's Literary and Miscellaneous Memoirs (1828), i. 4, 179, 187, iv. 107, 188, 200–6, 335; Bishop Newton's Autobiography; Walpole's Letters (Cunningham), vol. i. p. lxii, iii. 92, 298, iv. 132, 159, 171, 183, 217, 339, vi. 105, vii. 318; Boswell's Johnson (Birkbeck Hill), see index; Johnson's Life of Pope; Prior's Malone, pp. 344, 370, 430, 445; Hutchinson's Durham (1781), ii. 274; Le Neve's Fasti, i. 224, 441, 450, iii. 300. Information has been kindly given by Rev. A. F. Sutton of Brant Broughton. For criticisms of Warburton's writings see Quarterly Review (article by Dr. Whitaker); Hunt's Religious Thought in England, iii. 146–51, &c. An excellent summary of Warburton's life is in Mark Pattison's Essays (1889), ii. 119–76, from a review of Watson's life contributed to the National Review of 1863; cf. the article from Essays and Reviews, reprinted in the same volume. See also D'Israeli's Quarrels of Authors.]