Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Thompson, William (1712?-1766?)

THOMPSON, WILLIAM (1712?–1766?), poet, born at Brough in Westmoreland in 1712 or 1713, was the second son of Francis Thompson (1665–1735), vicar of Brough, by his wife, the widow of Joseph Fisher [q. v.], archdeacon of Carlisle. William was educated at Appleby, and matriculated from Queen's College, Oxford, on 26 March 1731, graduating B.A. in 1735, and M.A. on 26 Feb. 1738–9. He was elected a fellow of his college, and succeeded to the rectory of Hampton Poyle with South Weston in Oxfordshire.

While still an undergraduate, in 1734, he wrote ‘Stella, sive Amores, tres Libri,’ and two years later, ‘Six Pastorals,’ but considered neither production worthy of publication. In 1745, while at Hampton Poyle, he published ‘Sickness, a Poem’ (London, 4to), in which he paid a tribute to the memory of Pope and Swift, both recently dead. In 1751 he was an unsuccessful candidate for the Oxford professorship of poetry against William Hawkins (1722–1801) [q. v.], and in the same year published ‘Gondibert and Bertha,’ a tragedy (London, 8vo), the subject of which was taken from D'Avenant's poem ‘Gondibert.’ In 1756, on the presentation to the university of the Pomfret statues, he wrote ‘Gratitude’ (Oxford, 8vo), a poem in honour of the donor, Henrietta Louisa Fermor, countess dowager of Pomfret [q. v.] In 1758 he published ‘Poems on several Occasions’ (London, 8vo). Thompson was a close imitator of Spenser, and marred his work by the needless use of archaic words and phrases. His ‘Hymn to May,’ his ‘Nativity,’ and his poem on ‘Sickness’ were once highly esteemed. He died about 1766, and his library was sold by Thomas Davies (1712?–1785) [q. v.] in 1768. In 1753 he superintended an edition of Joseph Hall's ‘Virgidemiarum,’ and at his death he left manuscript notes and observations on William Browne's ‘Works,’ which were revised and published by Thomas Davies in his edition of Browne's ‘Works’ (London, 1772, 8vo). Chalmers has confused William Thompson with Anthony Thompson, dean of Raphoe, who died on 9 Oct. 1756 (Cotton, Fasti Eccl. Hib. 1860, v. 265).

[Chalmers's English Poets, 1810; Foster's Alumni Oxon. 1715–1886; Notes and Queries, II. xi. 49, 183, III. i. 220, VIII. iii. 306; Nichols's Lit. Anecd. iii. 636.]

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