Born: March 21, 1785, Not­ting­ham, Eng­land.

Died: Oc­to­ber 19, 1806, Cam­bridge, Eng­land.

Buried: Cam­bridge, Eng­land. The grave­yard is op­po­site St. John’s Col­lege, in an area now oft­en used as a mar­ket. On­ly slab grave­stones sur­vive.

National Portrait Gallery

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Son of a butch­er, White was a gift­ed po­et. His Clif­ton Grove, A Sketch in Verse with Oth­er Po­ems, pub­lished when he was 17, re­veals his teen­age skep­ti­cism.

After read­ing Tho­mas Scott’s Force of Truth, he un­der­went a con­ver­sion de­scribed me­ta­phor­i­cal­ly in his po­em The Star of Beth­le­hem (now sung as When Mar­shaled on the Night­ly Plain).

White en­rolled at St. John’s Col­lege, Cam­bridge, plan­ning to be­come a min­is­ter, but he fell ill and died be­fore gra­du­a­tion. Some said he de­stroyed his health by ov­er ap­pli­ca­tion to his stu­dies.


George Gor­don, Lord By­ron, wrote a la­ment to White in Eng­lish Bards and Scotch Re­view­ers:

Unhappy White! while life was in its spring,
And thy young muse
Just waved her joyous wing,
The spoiler came; and all thy promise fair
Has sought the grave, to sleep for ever there.
Oh! what a noble heart was here undone,
When Science’ self destroy’d
Her favourite son!
Yes, she too much indulged thy fond pursuit;
She sow’d the seeds,
But Death has reap’d the fruit.
’Twas thine own genius gave the final blow,
And help’d to plant the wound
That laid thee low.
So the struck eagle, stretch’d upon the plain,
View’d his own feather on the fatal dart,
And wing’d the shaft
That quiver’d in his heart.