Spence, Joseph (1699 - 1768)

Clergyman, anecdotist, scholar, succeeded T. Warton as professor of poetry at Oxford in 1728. A man of much generosity, he befriended Dodsley in his early days, and also S. Duck, whose life he wrote (1731, reprinted with Duck's poems, 1736). He also wrote a life of the blind poet Blacklock (1754). He was a close friend of Pope, whose version of the Odyssey he defended, and from 1726 collected anecdotes and recorded conversations with Pope and other literary figures. These, although not published until 1820, were well known and widely quoted during the 18th cent., and were made available to and used by Warburton and Dr Johnson. They are usually referred to under the title Spence's Anecdotes: an edition by J. M. Osborn appeared in 1966 under the title Observations, Anecdotes and Characters of Books and Men, Collected from Conversation.

The Oxford Companion to English Literature, © Margaret Drabble and Oxford University Press 1995