Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Warter, John Wood
WARTER, JOHN WOOD (1806–1878), divine and antiquary, born on 21 Jan. 1806, was the eldest son of Henry de Grey Warter (1770–1853) of Cruck Meole, Shropshire, who married, on 19 March 1805, Emma Sarah Moore (d. 1863), daughter of William Wood of Marsh Hall and Hanwood, Shropshire. Upon leaving Shrewsbury school (under Samuel Butler) Warter matriculated from Christ Church, Oxford, on 14 Oct. 1824, and graduated B.A. 1827, M.A. 1834, B.D. 1841.
Warter was an intimate friend of Robert Southey, whose eldest daughter, Edith May Southey (b. 1 May 1804, d. 25 July 1871), he married at Keswick on 15 Jan. 1834. Many letters from Southey to him, beginning on 18 March 1830, are in the sixth volume of ‘Southey's Life and Correspondence.’ From 1830 to 1833 he was chaplain to the English embassy at Copenhagen, and became an honorary member of the Scandinavian and Icelandic Literary societies. During these years he travelled through Norway and Sweden, was intimate with the leading scholars of Northern Europe, including Professor Rask, and was supplied with books from the royal library of Denmark. By this means he became an expert in ‘Danish and Swedish lore, and in the exquisitely curious Icelandic sagas,’ and read ‘German literature of all sorts, especially theological.’ An interesting letter by him, written at Southey's house on 17 Sept. 1833, is printed in the life of Bishop ‘Samuel Butler’ (ii. 62–3). He was then studying the literature of Spain and Italy and the treatises of the old English divines. In 1834, just before his marriage, he had been appointed by the archbishop of Canterbury to the vicarage of West Tarring and Durrington, Sussex, a peculiar of the archbishopric, to which the chapelries of Heene and Patching were then annexed. He remained the vicar of West Tarring from 1834 until his death. For some years to 31 Dec. 1851 he was the rural dean.
From the date of his appointment to this benefice he devoted his leisure ‘to the pleasant task of rescuing from oblivion every fact that had the remotest bearing upon the history of Tarring’ (Elwes and Robinson, Western Sussex, p. 231). The result was the publication of a valuable antiquarian work, ‘Appendicia et Pertinentiæ: Parochial Fragments on the parish of West Tarring and the Chapelries of Heene and Durrington,’ 1853; and two delightful volumes on ‘The Seaboard and the Down; or my parish in the South. By an Old Vicar,’ 1860, describing the social life of its inhabitants. These books displayed his wide reading.
Warter died on 21 Feb. 1878, and was buried with his wife in West Tarring churchyard (the epitaphs are printed in ‘Notes and Queries,’ 6th ser. vii. 306, 517). A window under the tower of the church was erected by Mrs. Warter as a memorial to Southey (Murray, Sussex Handbook, p. 77). Warter was an old-fashioned churchman of the ‘high and dry’ school, and had a perpetual difference with the ecclesiastical commissioners. He published many tracts and sermons. His other more important works included:
- ‘The Acharnians, Knights, Wasps, and Birds of Aristophanes [translated], by a Graduate of Oxford,’ 1830.
- ‘Teaching of the Prayer-book,’ 1845.
- ‘The last of the Old Squires: a Sketch by Cedric Oldacre,’ 1854; 2nd ed. by Rev. J. W. Warter, 1861.
- ‘An Old Shropshire Oak,’ edited by Dr. Richard Garnett, LL.D., vols. i. ii. 1886, vols. iii. iv. 1891. Although the published work represented only selections from Warter's manuscript, it contained great stores of information on Shropshire and on the general history of England.
Warter edited volumes vi. and vii. of Southey's ‘Doctor’ and an edition in one volume of the whole work (London, 1848). There was published by him in vol. xxii. of the ‘Traveller's Library’ a fragment from it which was entitled ‘A Love Story: History of the Courtship and Marriage of Dr. Dove,’ 1853. He also edited the four series of Southey's ‘Commonplace Book,’ 1849–51, and four volumes of ‘Selections from Southey's Letters,’ 1856. A fierce review of the latter work was inserted in the ‘Quarterly Review,’ March 1856, pp. 456–501. It was probably provoked by his statement that he could draw up ‘a most remarkable history’ of that periodical. Mrs. Warter began in 1824 and continued for some time a collection of ‘Wise Saws and Modern Instances: Pithy Sentences in many Languages.’ It was taken up by her husband on 1 May 1850, and finished on 4 Nov., but not published until 1861. Warter also contributed to the ‘English Review.’
[Men of the Time, 9th ed.; Burke's Landed Gentry, 9th ed.; Foster's Alumni Oxon.; Southey's Life and Corresp. vi. 229–55; Knight's Coleorton Letters, ii. 274–9; Lang's Lockhart, ii. 2–4.]