John Pomfret

(1667 - late November 1702)

Works in ECPA

alphabetical listing / listing in source editions

Source editions

  • Pomfret, John, 1667-1702. Poems upon Several Occasions. By the Reverend Mr. John Pomfret [poems only]. The Sixth Edition, Corrected. With some Account Of his Life and Writings. To which are added, His Remains. London: printed for D. Brown without Temple Bar, J. Walthoe in the Temple Cloysters, A. Bettesworth, and E. Taylor, in Pater-Noster-Row, and J. Hooke in Fleetstreet, 1724. [12], 132, vi, 17p. (ESTC N21233)

Biographical note

John Pomfret was born at Luton, Bedfordshire, the son of Thomas Pomfret (d. 1705), vicar of Luton, and his wife, Catherine, daughter of William Dobson of Holborn. Pomfret was educated at Bedford Grammar School and Queens' College, Cambridge, graduating BA in 1685 and MA in 1688. He took holy orders upon leaving Cambridge and was curate of Maulden from 1687 to 1695, when he became its rector. Pomfret married Elizabeth Wingate, at Luton on 13 September 1692, by whom he had one surviving son, John (bap. 1702). Pomfret began writing poetry as early as 1694, when he wrote a "pastoral essay" on the death of Queen Mary (pub. 1699). In 1700 he published, anonymously, his best known piece The Choice, a poem about the joys of a retired lifestyle in the country. It was an instant success (four quarto editions appeared during 1701) and was widely anthologized throughout the 18th century. Samuel Johnson later included Pomfret in his prefaces. In the same year, Pomfret also published A Prospect of Death and Reason. Pomfret's Miscellany Poems on Several Occasions, which contained 17 poems, was published in 1702. It included Upon the Divine Attributes, On the General Conflagration, and ensuing Judgment and Cruelty and Lust. Pomfret was appointed to the rectory of Millbrook in June 1702. He came to London, apparently in search of preferment from the bishop of London, but contracted smallpox, and died shortly after. He was buried at Maulden in December 1702.


DMI 2041; ODNB 22485; NCBEL 564


  • The Works of the English Poets, from Chaucer to Cowper; including the Series Edited, with Prefaces, Biographical and Critical, by Dr Samuel Johnson: and the most approved translations. The Additional Lives by Alexander Chalmers, F.S.A. Vol. VIII. London: J. Johnson et al., 1810. 301-336. Google Books edition. Web. 17 Nov. 2016.

Reference works

  • Baines, Paul, Julian Ferraro, Pat Rogers, eds. The Wiley-Blackwell Encyclopedia of Eighteenth-Century Writers and Writing, 1660-1789. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011. 273. Print.


  • Edson, Michael. Leigh Hunt, John Pomfret, and the Politics of Retirement. European Romantic Review 25(4) (2014): 423-442. Print.
  • Goodridge, John. John Clare and eighteenth-century poetry: Pomfret, Cunningham, Bloomfield. Eighteenth Century 42(3) (2001): 264-278. Print.

Studies of individual works

  • Bernatovich, Bernard V. A Study of John Pomfret's 'The Choice': The Sources, the Appreciation, the Art, and the Influence of One of the Most Popular Poems During the Eighteenth Century. Unpub. doct. diss. Loyola Univ. of Chicago, 1971. Web. 17 Nov. 2016.
  • Kallich, Martin. 'The Choice' by John Pomfret: A Modern Criticism. Enlightenment Essays 6 (1975): 12-18. Print.