An anecdote of Bishop Warburton

BISHOP WILLIAM WARBURTON (1698-1779)

[James Quin, Garrick’s chief rival and a noted wit, retired from the stage at the close of the 1752 season. Warburton, whose marriage to the favourite niece of Ralph Allen (the original of Fielding’s Squire Allworthy) had accelerated his rise in the Church, and who managed to combine arrogance, self-approval, and a belief in his own omniscience with an eye to the main chance, was one of the least liked ecclesiastics of the eighteenth century.]

Mr. Warburton, about the year 1750 or 1752, being in company with Quin the player at Mr. Allen’s, near Bath, took several opportunities of being sharp upon him on the subject of his love of eating and his voluptuous life. However, in the course of the evening, he said he should be obliged to Quin for ‘a touch of his quality’, as he could never again see him on the stage. Quin said that plays were then quite out of his head; however, he believed he remembered a few lines of Pierre;1 on which he got up, and looking directly at Mr. Allen, repeated ore rotunda

                                                                Honest men
Are the soft easy cushions on which knaves
Repose and fatten.

Warburton gave him no further trouble for the rest of the evening.

1 In Otway’s Venice Preserved, Act I, lines 126-8.  Anecdote from Sir James Prior, Life of Edmond Malone . . . with Selections from his MSS. Anecdotes (1860), via J. Sutherland, The Oxford Book of Literary Anecdotes (1975), #102, p.71.  The preceding anecdote of Lord Chesterfield is from the same source, #101.

Leave a Reply