Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/West, Gilbert

WEST, GILBERT (1703–1756), author, born in 1703, was the son of Richard West by his wife Maria, daughter of Sir Richard Temple (1634–1697) [q. v.], and sister of Sir Richard Temple, viscount Cobham [q. v.] Vice-admiral Temple West [q. v.] was his younger brother. The father, Richard West (1671–1716), was prebendary of Winchester, 1706, and archdeacon of Berkshire from 1710 until his death on 2 Dec. 1716. He published an edition of Pindar in 1697, and an edition of Theocritus in 1699 (Wood, Athenæ Oxon. iv. 602; Foster, Alumni Oxon.)

Gilbert West was educated at Eton and Christ Church, Oxford. He matriculated on 11 March 1721, and graduated B.A. 1725. He served for some time in the army, and was afterwards employed under Lord Townshend, secretary of state. About 1729 he married Miss Catherine Bartlett, and retired to a pleasant house at Wickham in Kent, where (says Johnson) ‘he devoted himself to learning and to piety.’ Here he was often visited by Pitt (Earl of Chatham) and George Lyttelton [see Lyttelton, George, first Baron Lyttelton]. He is said to have influenced their religious views, and Lyttelton addressed to him (1747) his work on St. Paul. West was a correspondent of Philip Doddridge [q. v.], and was somewhat intimate with Pope, who left him in his will 5l. for a ring and a reversionary legacy of 200l. (Pope, Works, ed. Elwin, viii. 347).

In 1747 West published at Dublin his ‘Observations on the Resurrection,’ a work which became well known and procured for him the Oxford degree of D.C.L. (30 March 1748). Mr. Leslie Stephen (English Thought in the Eighteenth Century, i. 61) describes the book as ‘a naïve recapitulation of the ordinary argument’ in which the various narratives, after being harmonised, are treated as the agreeing testimony of eye-witnesses whose good faith is proved by their sufferings. The book reached a fourth edition in 1749. Later editions were dated 1767, 1785, 1807, 1841. There was a German translation in 1748 as well as a French translation.

In 1749 West published his verse translation of the ‘Odes of Pindar, with several other pieces translated,’ which was often reprinted (1751, 1753, 1810, 1824). Horace Walpole (Letters, ii. 163) justly remarks that ‘the poetry is very stiff,’ and Johnson points out that it is ‘too paraphrastical’. The introductory dissertation on the Olympic games was praised by Gibbon.

West's miscellaneous poetry is printed in the collections of Johnson, Bell, Anderson, and Chalmers. His imitations of Spenser (‘A Canto of the Faery Queen,’ 1739, fol.; ‘Education, a Poem,’ 1751, 4to) and his ‘Institution of the Order of the Garter, a Dramatick Poem,’ 1742, 4to (also London, 1771, 8vo, as altered by Garrick), deserve mention.

On 20 May 1736 an annual pension of 250l. had been granted to West, and in 1752 he was given a clerkship of the privy council. On 16 April 1754 he was made paymaster to Chelsea Hospital. He died on 26 March 1756. His widow was allowed a pension of 200l. a year from 5 July 1756. Their only son died in 1755.

[Johnson's Lives of the Poets; Foster's Alumni Oxon. 1715–1886; Gent. Mag. 1756 p. 150, 1850 ii. 18; Brit. Mus. Cat.]

W. W.