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Henry James Pye

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Henry James Pye (February 20, 1745August 11, 1813) was a British poet. Pye was Poet Laureate from 1790 until his death.

Pye was born in London and educated at Magdalen College, Oxford. His father, a Berkshire landowner, died in 1766, leaving him a legacy of debt amounting to 50,000, and the burning of his home at Great Faringdon further increased his difficulties. In 1784 he was elected M.P. for Berkshire. He was obliged to sell the paternal estate, and, retiring from Parliament in 1790, became a police magistrate for Westminster. Although he had no command of language and was destitute of poetic feeling, his ambition was to obtain recognition as a poet, and he published many volumes of verse. Of all he wrote his prose Summary of the Duties of a Justice of the Peace out of Sessions (1808) is most worthy of record. He was made poet laureate in 1790, perhaps as a reward for his faithful support of William Pitt the Younger in the House of Commons. The appointment was looked on as ridiculous, and his birthday odes were a continual source of contempt. His most elaborate poem was an epic Alfred (1801). He was the first poet laureate to receive a fixed salary of 27 pounds instead of the historic tierce of Canary wine. He died at Pinner, Middlesex.



Preceded by:
Thomas Warton
British Poet Laureate
1790–1813
Succeeded by:
Robert Southey

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