William Warburton
William Warburton was an English critic
A critic is anyone who expresses a value judgement. Informally, criticism is a common aspect of all human expression and need not necessarily imply skilled or accurate expressions of judgement. Critical judgements, good or bad, may be positive , negative , or balanced...

 and churchman, Bishop of Gloucester
Bishop of Gloucester
The Bishop of Gloucester is the Ordinary of the Church of England Diocese of Gloucester in the Province of Canterbury.The diocese covers the County of Gloucestershire and part of the County of Worcestershire and has its see in the City of Gloucester where the seat is located at the Cathedral Church...

 from 1759.


He was born at Newark, where his father, who belonged to an old Cheshire
Cheshire is a ceremonial county in North West England. Cheshire's county town is the city of Chester, although its largest town is Warrington. Other major towns include Widnes, Congleton, Crewe, Ellesmere Port, Runcorn, Macclesfield, Winsford, Northwich, and Wilmslow...

 family, was town clerk. William was educated at Oakham and Newark grammar school
Grammar school
A grammar school is one of several different types of school in the history of education in the United Kingdom and some other English-speaking countries, originally a school teaching classical languages but more recently an academically-oriented secondary school.The original purpose of mediaeval...

s, and in 1714 he was articled to Mr Kirke, an attorney, at East Markham
East Markham
East Markham, historically also known as Great Markham, is a small village near Tuxford, Nottinghamshire. It lies about 8 km south of Retford...

, in Nottinghamshire
Nottinghamshire is a county in the East Midlands of England, bordering South Yorkshire to the north-west, Lincolnshire to the east, Leicestershire to the south, and Derbyshire to the west...

. After serving his articles he returned to Newark to practise as a solicitor; but, having studied Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 and Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

, changed his mind and was ordained deacon by the Archbishop of York
Archbishop of York
The Archbishop of York is a high-ranking cleric in the Church of England, second only to the Archbishop of Canterbury. He is the diocesan bishop of the Diocese of York and metropolitan of the Province of York, which covers the northern portion of England as well as the Isle of Man...

 in 1723. In 1727 he was ordained by the Bishop of London.

Sir Robert Sutton
Robert Sutton
Robert Sutton may refer to:*Robert Sutton, 1st Baron Lexinton , Member of Parliament for Nottinghamshire in 1625 and again in 1640*Robert Sutton, 2nd Baron Lexinton , English diplomat...

 gave Warburton the small living of Greasley
Greasley is a parish north west of Nottingham in Nottinghamshire, England. Although it is thought there was once a village called Greasley, there is no settlement of that name today. The built up areas in the parish are Giltbrook, Moorgreen , Newthorpe, Watnall and parts of Eastwood, Kimberley and...

, in Nottinghamshire
Nottinghamshire is a county in the East Midlands of England, bordering South Yorkshire to the north-west, Lincolnshire to the east, Leicestershire to the south, and Derbyshire to the west...

, exchanged next year for that of Brant Broughton
Brant Broughton
Brant Broughton is a small village in the Brant Broughton and Stragglethorpe civil parish, in the North Kesteven district of Lincolnshire, England. It lies north of the A17 and west of Leadenham, where the A17 crosses the A607 road...

, Lincolnshire
Lincolnshire is a county in the east of England. It borders Norfolk to the south east, Cambridgeshire to the south, Rutland to the south west, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire to the west, South Yorkshire to the north west, and the East Riding of Yorkshire to the north. It also borders...

. He held in addition, from 1730, the living of rector at Firsby
Firsby is a small rural linear village and civil parish in Lincolnshire, England, 36 miles east from the county town of Lincoln, 4 miles south east of the nearest market town of Spilsby and 8 miles inland from the holiday resort town of Skegness.The village lies on the northern side of the...

 in Lincolnshire, a post he held until 1756 although he never resided in the village. In 1728 he was made an honorary M.A. of the University of Cambridge
University of Cambridge
The University of Cambridge is a public research university located in Cambridge, United Kingdom. It is the second-oldest university in both the United Kingdom and the English-speaking world , and the seventh-oldest globally...


At Brant Broughton for eighteen years he spent his time in study, the first result of which was his treatise on the Alliance between Church and State (1736). The book brought Warburton into favour at court, and he probably only missed immediate preferment by the death of Queen Caroline
Caroline of Ansbach
Caroline of Brandenburg-Ansbach was the queen consort of King George II of Great Britain.Her father, John Frederick, Margrave of Brandenburg-Ansbach, was the ruler of a small German state...


Alexander Pope
Alexander Pope was an 18th-century English poet, best known for his satirical verse and for his translation of Homer. He is the third-most frequently quoted writer in The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, after Shakespeare and Tennyson...

 left him the copyright and the editorship of his works, and contributed even more to his advancement by introducing him to Murray
William Murray, 1st Earl of Mansfield
William Murray, 1st Earl of Mansfield, SL, PC was a British barrister, politician and judge noted for his reform of English law. Born to Scottish nobility, he was educated in Perth, Scotland before moving to London at the age of 13 to take up a place at Westminster School...

, afterwards Lord Mansfield, who obtained for him in 1746 the preachership of Lincoln's Inn
Lincoln's Inn
The Honourable Society of Lincoln's Inn is one of four Inns of Court in London to which barristers of England and Wales belong and where they are called to the Bar. The other three are Middle Temple, Inner Temple and Gray's Inn. Although Lincoln's Inn is able to trace its official records beyond...

, and to Ralph Allen
Ralph Allen
Ralph Allen was an entrepreneur and philanthropist, and was notable for his reforms to the British postal system. He was baptised at St Columb Major, Cornwall on 24 July 1693. As a teenager he worked at the Post Office. He moved in 1710 to Bath, where he became a post office clerk, and at the age...

, who, says Johnson, "gave him his niece and his estate, and, by consequence, a bishopric." The marriage took place in 1745, and from that time Warburton lived at his father-in-law's estate at Prior Park
Prior Park
Prior Park is a Palladian house, designed by John Wood, the Elder in the 1730s and 1740s for Ralph Allen, on a hill overlooking Bath, Somerset, England. It has been designated as a Grade I listed building....

, in Gloucestershire
Gloucestershire is a county in South West England. The county comprises part of the Cotswold Hills, part of the flat fertile valley of the River Severn, and the entire Forest of Dean....

, which he inherited on Allen's death in 1764.

He became prebendary
A prebendary is a post connected to an Anglican or Catholic cathedral or collegiate church and is a type of canon. Prebendaries have a role in the administration of the cathedral...

 of Gloucester
Gloucester is a city, district and county town of Gloucestershire in the South West region of England. Gloucester lies close to the Welsh border, and on the River Severn, approximately north-east of Bristol, and south-southwest of Birmingham....

 in 1753, chaplain to the king in 1754, prebendary of Durham in 1755, dean of Bristol in 1757, and in 1759 bishop of Gloucester. He died at Gloucester.


By 1727 he had written the notes he contributed to Lewis Theobald
Lewis Theobald
Lewis Theobald , British textual editor and author, was a landmark figure both in the history of Shakespearean editing and in literary satire...

's edition of Shakespeare
William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon"...

, and had contributed anonymously to a pamphlet
A pamphlet is an unbound booklet . It may consist of a single sheet of paper that is printed on both sides and folded in half, in thirds, or in fourths , or it may consist of a few pages that are folded in half and saddle stapled at the crease to make a simple book...

 on the jurisdiction of the Court of Chancery
Court of Chancery
The Court of Chancery was a court of equity in England and Wales that followed a set of loose rules to avoid the slow pace of change and possible harshness of the common law. The Chancery had jurisdiction over all matters of equity, including trusts, land law, the administration of the estates of...

, The Legal Judicature in Chancery stated (1727).

This was an answer to another anonymous pamphlet, written by Philip Yorke
Philip Yorke, 1st Earl of Hardwicke
Philip Yorke, 1st Earl of Hardwicke PC was an English lawyer and politician who served as Lord Chancellor. He was a close confidant of the Duke of Newcastle, Prime Minister between 1754 and 1756 and 1757 until 1762....

, afterwards Lord Chancellor, Hardwicke, who replied in an enlarged edition (1728) of his original Discourse of the Judicial Authority ... of Master of the Rolls.

After Alliance between Church and State, his next and best-known work, Divine Legation of Moses
Moses was, according to the Hebrew Bible and Qur'an, a religious leader, lawgiver and prophet, to whom the authorship of the Torah is traditionally attributed...

 demonstrated on the Principles of a Religious Deist
( 2 vols., 1737-1741), preserves his name as the author of the most daring and ingenious of theological paradoxes. The deists
Deism in religious philosophy is the belief that reason and observation of the natural world, without the need for organized religion, can determine that the universe is the product of an all-powerful creator. According to deists, the creator does not intervene in human affairs or suspend the...

 had made the absence of any inculcation of the doctrine of a future life an objection to the divine authority of the Mosaic writings. Warburton boldly admitted the fact and turned it against the adversary by maintaining that no merely human legislator would have omitted such a sanction of morality. The author's extraordinary power, learning and originality were acknowledged on all hands, though he excited censure and suspicion by his tenderness to the alleged heresies of Conyers Middleton
Conyers Middleton
Conyers Middleton was an English clergyman.Middleton was born at Richmond in Yorkshire, and was educated at school in York and at Trinity College, Cambridge. He graduated from the University of Cambridge, took holy orders, and in 1706 obtained a fellowship, which he resigned upon entering into an...

. The book aroused much controversy. In a pamphlet of "Remarks" (1742), he replied to John Tillard, and Remarks on Several Occasional Reflections (1744-1745) was an answer to Akenside, Conyers Middleton (who had been his friend), Richard Pococke
Richard Pococke
Richard Pococke was an English prelate and anthropologist. He was Protestant Bishop of Ossory and Meath , both dioceses of the Church of Ireland...

, Nicholas Mann
Nicholas Mann (antiquarian)
Nicholas Mann was an English antiquary and Master of the Charterhouse.-Life:A native of Tewkesbury, he proceeded in 1699 from Eton College to King's College, Cambridge, of which he was elected fellow, and graduated B.A. in 1703, M.A. in 1707...

, Richard Grey
Richard Grey
Sir Richard Grey was an English knight and the half-brother of King Edward V of England.Grey was the younger son of Sir John Grey of Groby and Elizabeth Woodville, later Queen Consort of King Edward IV...

, Henry Stebbing
Henry Stebbing
Henry Stebbing was an English churchman and controversialist, who became archdeacon of Wiltshire.-Life:Baptised at Walton, Suffolk on 19 August 1687, he was the fourth son of John Stebbing , a grocer of Walton, by his wife Mary , daughter and coheiress of Richard Kenington...

 and other of his critics. As he characterized his opponents in general as the "pestilent herd of libertine scribblers with which the island is overrun," it is no matter of surprise that the book made him many bitter enemies.

Warburton's knowledge of ancient Egypt is held to have prepared the way for Champollion's discovery.

Either in quest of paradox
Similar to Circular reasoning, A paradox is a seemingly true statement or group of statements that lead to a contradiction or a situation which seems to defy logic or intuition...

, or unable to recognize the real tendencies of Alexander Pope
Alexander Pope
Alexander Pope was an 18th-century English poet, best known for his satirical verse and for his translation of Homer. He is the third-most frequently quoted writer in The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, after Shakespeare and Tennyson...

's Essay on Man, he defended it against the Examen of Jean Pierre de Crousaz, in a series of articles (1738-1739) contributed to The Works of the Learned. Whether Pope had really understood the tendency of his own work has always been doubtful, but there is no question that he was glad of an apologist, and that Warburton's jeu d'esprit in the long run helped more than all his erudition. It occasioned a sincere friendship between him and Pope, whom he persuaded to add a fourth book to the Dunciad, and encouraged to substitute Colley Cibber
Colley Cibber
Colley Cibber was an English actor-manager, playwright and Poet Laureate. His colourful memoir Apology for the Life of Colley Cibber describes his life in a personal, anecdotal and even rambling style...

 for Theobald as the hero of the poem in the edition of 1743 published under the editorship of Warburton.
In 1747 his edition of Shakespeare was published, incorporating material from Pope's earlier edition. He had previously entrusted notes and emendations on Shakespeare to Sir Thomas Hanmer
Thomas Hanmer (politician)
Sir Thomas Hanmer, 4th Baronet was Speaker of the House of Commons from 1714 to 1715, discharging the duties of the office with conspicuous impartiality...

, whose unauthorized use of them led to a heated controversy.

As early as 1727 Warburton had corresponded with Theobald on Shakespearean subjects. He now accused him of stealing his ideas and denied his critical ability. Theobald's superiority to Warburton as a Shakespearean critic has long since been acknowledged. Warburton was further kept busy by the attacks on his Divine Legation from all quarters, by a dispute with Bolingbroke respecting Pope's behaviour in the affair of Bolingbroke's Patriot King, by his edition of Pope's works (1751) and by a vindication in 1750 of the alleged miraculous interruption of the rebuilding of the temple of Jerusalem undertaken by Julian
Julian the Apostate
Julian "the Apostate" , commonly known as Julian, or also Julian the Philosopher, was Roman Emperor from 361 to 363 and a noted philosopher and Greek writer....

, in answer to Conyers Middleton
Conyers Middleton
Conyers Middleton was an English clergyman.Middleton was born at Richmond in Yorkshire, and was educated at school in York and at Trinity College, Cambridge. He graduated from the University of Cambridge, took holy orders, and in 1706 obtained a fellowship, which he resigned upon entering into an...

. Warburton's manner of dealing with opponents was both insolent and rancorous, but it did him no disservice.

He continued to write so long as the infirmities of age allowed, collecting and publishing his sermons, and toiling to complete the Divine Legation, further fragments of which were published with his posthumous Works. He wrote a defence of revealed religion in his View of Lord Bolingbroke's Philosophy (1754), and Hume
David Hume
David Hume was a Scottish philosopher, historian, economist, and essayist, known especially for his philosophical empiricism and skepticism. He was one of the most important figures in the history of Western philosophy and the Scottish Enlightenment...

's Natural History of Religion called forth some Remarks ... "by a gentleman of Cambridge" from Warburton, in which his friend and biographer, Richard Hurd, had a share (1757).

He made in 1762 a vigorous attack on Methodism
Methodism is a movement of Protestant Christianity represented by a number of denominations and organizations, claiming a total of approximately seventy million adherents worldwide. The movement traces its roots to John Wesley's evangelistic revival movement within Anglicanism. His younger brother...

 under the title of The Doctrine of Grace. He also engaged in a keen controversy with Robert Lowth
Robert Lowth
Robert Lowth FRS was a Bishop of the Church of England, Oxford Professor of Poetry and the author of one of the most influential textbooks of English grammar.-Life:...

, afterwards bishop of London, on the book of Job
Book of Job
The Book of Job , commonly referred to simply as Job, is one of the books of the Hebrew Bible. It relates the story of Job, his trials at the hands of Satan, his discussions with friends on the origins and nature of his suffering, his challenge to God, and finally a response from God. The book is a...

, in which Lowth brought home charges of lack of scholarship and of insolence that admitted of no denial. His last important act was to found in 1768 the Warburtonian lecture at Lincoln's Inn, "to prove the truth of revealed religion ... from the completion of the prophecies of the Old and New Testament which relate to the Christian Church, especially to the apostasy of Papal Rome."

Warburton's works were edited (7 vols., 1788) by Richard Hurd with a biographical preface, and the correspondence between the two friends—an important contribution to the literary history of the period—was edited by Dr Parr in 1808. Warburton's life was also written by John Selby Watson
John Selby Watson
The Reverend John Selby Watson was a British classical translator and murderer. He was sentenced to death in 1872 for killing his wife, but a public outcry led to his sentence being reduced to life imprisonment...

 in 1863, and Mark Pattison
Mark Pattison
Mark Pattison was an English author and a Church of England priest. He served as Rector of Lincoln College, Oxford.-Life:...

 made him the subject of an essay in 1889.

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