WHITEHEAD'S death was 'sudden and without a groan,' Mason tells us -- adding that he left a Birthday Ode unfinished. The King's Birthday was to be celebrated on June 4th, so once again a new Laureate, whoever he might be, would have to set to work at once to justify his appointment.
There was little delay in making it, and on April 26th the name of Thomas Warton was announced. This formidable man of letters had written a number of verses on royal occasions, and although we do not know much about the secret history of this appointment (we don't, for example, hear of many unsuccessful candidates)1 it is apparent that Warton was thought a safe man. Writing to Bishop Percy a few weeks later, Dr. Michael Lort said, ' T. Warton was made Poet Laureate, as some say, at the King's own motion; others say Sir Joshua Reynolds mentioned him to the Lord Chamberlain.'
It would have been reasonable, certainly, for Reynolds to have lent his aid, for he had been mightily pleased with the verses Warton had written in praise of his work at New College; so pleased, indeed, that he asked for the general term 'artist' to be removed and his own name inserted, for -- as he wrote to Warton at the time ( May, 1782 ), 'It is not much to say that your verses are by far the best that ever my name was concerned in. I am sorry therefore my name was not hitched in, in the body of the poem. If the title page should be lost, it will appear to be addressed to Mr. Jervais.' Accordingly Warton took steps____________________