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Christopher Anstey with his daughter by William Hoare

Christopher Anstey (1724-1805) with his daughter. Portrait by William Hoare (?1707-1792?). Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Christopher Anstey (21 October 1724 - 3 August 1805) was an English poet.

Life Edit

OverviewEdit

The son of a wealthy clergyman, rector of Brinkley, Cambridgeshire, Anstey was educated at Eton and Cambridge. He published in 1766 a satirical poem of considerable sparkle, The New Bath Guide, from which Tobias Smollett is said to have drawn largely in his Humphrey Clinker. He made many other excursions into literature which are hardly remembered, and ended his days as a country squire at the age of 80.[1]

Youth and educationEdit

Anstey was the only son of Rev. Christopher Anstey, D.D., of Brinkley in Cambridgeshire, sometime fellow of St John's College, Cambridge. He went to school at Bury St. Edmunds, and afterwards to Eton as an oppidan.[2]

In 1742 he succeeded to a scholarship at King's College, Cambridge, and distinguished himself by the Tripos verses he wrote for the Cambridge commencement in 1745. In the same year he was admitted as a fellow of King's, and in 1746 took his B.A..[2]

The leading part which he played in opposing certain alterations of the college regulations had the effect of preventing him from obtaining his master of arts degree.[2] To this he refers in the Epilogue to the New Bath Guide:[2]

Granta, sweet Grauta, where studious of ease,
Seven years did I sleep, and then lost my degrees.[3]

Besides the Tripos verses above referred to, he had distinguished himself at Cambridge by a Latin poem on the peace of 1748. He continued to be a fellow of King's, and occasionally resided there until 1754, when his mother died, and having succeeded to the family estates, he resigned his fellowship.[3]

MarriageEdit

In 1756 Anstey married Ann, 3rd daughter of Felix Calvert of Albury Hall in Hertfordshire, and for many years seems to have combined the cultivation of letters with the pursuits of a country gentleman. A bilious fever, partly brought on by the death of his only sister — the Miss Anstey of Mrs. Montagu's letters — led to his visiting Bath, where later he fixed his home.[3]

In 1751 Gray had published his famous 'Elegy,' and, in 1762, in conjunction with Dr. Roberts of King's, Anstey made the first translation of it into Latin — a translation which had the advantage of Gray's criticisms and the good fortune to elicit an interesting letter from the poet, part of which is given in Anstey's Works (Introduction, pp. xv-xvi, ed. 1808). From 1762 to 1766 Anstey published nothing.[3]

New Bath GuideEdit

In 1766 appeared the famous series of letters in rhyme entitled the New Bath Guide; or, Memoirs of the B—r—d [Blunderhead] Family, in a series of Poetical Epistles. It was composed at the author's country seat of Trumpington, and printed in quarto at Cambridge. Its success was instantaneous.[3]

Horace Walpole enthusiastically describes it thus: "It is a set of letters in verse, in all kind of verses, describing the life at Bath, and incidentally everything else; but so much wit, so much humour, fun, and poetry, so much originality, never met together before. Then the man has a better ear than Dryden or Handel. Apropos to Dryden, he has burlesqued his St. Cecilia, that you will never read it again without laughing. There is a description of a milliner's box in all the terms of landscape, painted lawns and chequered shades, a Moravian ode, and a Methodist ditty, that are incomparable, and the best names that ever were composed" {Letter to Montagu, 20 June 1766).[3]

Gray, too, writes to Wharton (26 Aug. 1766): "Have you read the New Bath Guide? It is the only thing in fashion, and is a new and original kind of humour." The 'new and original kind of humour' has by this time grown somewhat ancient ... but there can be no doubt of the contemporary popularity of the book, or its clever ridicule of fashion and her freaks.[3]

Dodsley, who, after the appearance of the 2nd edition, paid the author 200l. for the copyright, had made so much money by it 10 years later that he gave it back to him. Smollett was at Bath in 1766-7, and it is admitted, even by his biographers, that he was indebted to the New Bath Guide for something of the scheme of Humphry Clinker.[3]

Later lifeEdit

Anstey never repeated the success of the New Bath Guide. His reputation as a rhymester and humorist attracted attention to his subsequent performances, but they have neither the freshness nor the vivacity of his initial effort.[3]

In 1767 he published an elegy upon the Marquis of Tavistock, who died by a fall from his horse, and in the same year appeared "The Patriot," a "Pindaric epistle" on prize-fighting, addressed to the notorious bruiser Buckhorse.[3]

In 1770, in order to educate his children, he moved to Bath permanently, and was one of the 1st residents in the Crescent. He continued to write verse at intervals, producing, among other pieces, An Election Ball, 1776 (in the Bath Guide vein); Envy, 1778; Liberality, or the Decayed Macaroni; and various occasional verses. The Election Ball was a contribution to that egregious classic vase set up by Mrs. (afterwards Lady) Miller at Batheaston, of which, with its attendant ceremonial, so piquant an account is given by Walpole {Letter to Conway and Lady Aylesbury, 15 Jan. 1775). It was illustrated with 6 copper-plates by Coplestone Warre Bampfylde.[3]

Anstey died aged 80, and was buried in Walcot Church, Bath.[3]

RecognitionEdit

Anstey is commemorated by a marble tablet on a pillar in Poets' Corner, Westminster Abbey created by Charles Horwell.[4]

His Poetical Works (2 volumes) were collected in 1808 by the author's son John (died 1819), himself author of The Pleader's Guide (1796), in the same vein as the New Bath Guide.

PublicationsEdit

  • The New Bath Guide; or, Memoirs of the B—r&mdashd family. London: J. Dodsley, 1766; London: Vernor & Hood, 1804; Kensington, UK: Cayme Press, 1927
    • also published as The Comforts of Bath. Bath, UK: R. Walker, 1858.
  • On the Much Lamented Death of the Marquis of Tavistock. London: J. Dodsley, 1767.
  • The Patriot: A Pindaric address to Lord Buckhorse. Cambridge, UK: Fletcher & Hodson for J. Dodsley et al, 1767.
  • Ode on an Evening View of the Cresent at Bath. London: J. Dodsley, et al, 1773.
  • The Priest Dissected: A poem. Bath, UK: S. Hazard for J. Dodsley, et al, 1774.
  • The Election ball: In poetical letters from Mr. Inkle at Bath. Bath, UK: S. Hazard for J. Dodsley, et al, 1776.
  • Ad C. W. Bampfylde, Arm: Epistola poetica familiaris. Bath, UK: S. Hazard for J. Dodsley, et al, 1776
    • translated as A Familiar Epistle: To C.W. Bampfylde, Esq. London: H. Reynell, for J. Almon, 1777.
  • Envy: A poem. London: J. Dodsley, 1778.
  • Winter Amusements: an ode. Bath, UK: 1778.
  • A Paraphrase or Poetical Exposition of the Thirteenth Chapter of First Corinthians. London: J. Dodsley, 1779.
  • Speculation; or, A defence of mankind. London: J. Dodsley, 1780.
  • Liberality; or, The decayed macaroni: A sentimental piece. London: J. Dodsley, et al, 1788.
  • The Farmer's Daughter: A poetical tale. London: S. Hazzard for T. Cadell junr. & William Davies, 1795.
  • The Monopolist: A poetical tale. 1795. London: S. Hazzard for T. Cadell junr. & William Davies, 1795.
  • Britain's genius: A song occasioned by the mutiny at the Nore. Bath, UK: S. Hazard for T. Cadell & W. Davies, 1797.
  • Contentment; or, Hints to servants on the present scarcity: A poetical epistle. London: Cadell & Davies, 1800.
  • Ad Edvardum Jenner: Carmen alcaicum. Bath, UK: S. Hazard for T. Cadell & W. Davies, 1803.
  • Poetical Works (edited by John Anstey). (2 volumes), London: T. Cadell & W. Davies, 1808.


Except where noted, bibliographical information courtesy WorldCat.[5]

See also Edit

ReferencesEdit

  • PD-icon.svg Dobson, Henry Austin (1885) "Anstey, Christopher" in Stephen, Leslie Dictionary of National Biography 2 London: Smith, Elder, pp. 38-39 

NotesEdit

  1. John William Cousin, "Anstey, Christopher," A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature, 1910, 11.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Dobson, 38.
  3. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 3.11 Dobson, 39.
  4. Christopher Anstey, People, History, Westminster Abbey. Web, July 11, 2016.
  5. Search results = au:Chritopher Anstey, WorldCat, OCLC Online Computer Library Center Inc. Web, Nov. 15, 2017.

External linksEdit

Poems
Books
About

PD-icon.svg This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain, the Dictionary of National Biography (edited by Leslie Stephen). London: Smith, Elder, 1885-1900. Original article is at: Anstey, Christopher

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