William Gifford (1756-1826)

GIFFORD was born in Ashburton, Devon, of working-class parents, and in his teens was apprenticed to a shoemaker, but a patron enabled him to attend Exeter College, Oxford.  His poems, The Baviad (1791) and The Maeviad (1795), were satires directed against the Della Cruscan poets and contemporary playwrights.  His Epistle to Peter Pindar (1800) attacked a fellow-satirist, John Wolcot.  In 1797-98, Gifford edited the Anti-Jacobin, or Weekly Examiner, and in 1802 he published a translation of Juvenal’s satires.  His edition of the plays of Philip Massinger appeared in 1805.  Reviewing the book three years later, the Edinburgh attacked its cantankerous notes [ER, 12:99-119].  Gifford responded sarcastically to the Edinburgh in a lengthy “Advertisement” to his second edition of Massinger’s works (1813).  Despite chronic ill health, he later published editions of the plays of Ben Jonson (1816) and John Ford (1827).  Gifford is best known for his editorship of the Quarterly; his correspondence with its founders discusses how to make it an effective counterblast to the Whig principles of the Edinburgh.  Unlike Jeffrey, he wrote few reviews himself, but hostile early readers perceived the Quarterly to be driven by his acerbic spirit.  As editor of the Quarterly, Gifford was caricatured as “Mr Vamp” by Thomas Love Peacock in Melincourt (1818), labeled the “Government Critic” by William Hazlitt in A Letter to William Gifford, Esq. (1819), and impugned for his irritability by Leigh Hunt in Ultra-Crepidarius (1823).


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