Pindar, Peter (1738-1819)
The pseudonym used by the English satirist and poet John Wolcot. He was born at Dodbrooke, in Devonshire, and was later apprenticed to his uncle, John Wolcot, a Surgeon. Pindar took his M.D. at Aberdeen in 1767. In 1769, he was ordained, and went to Jamaica with Governor Sir William Trelawny, as incumbent of Vere. On the Governor's death, he returned to England and settled in Cornwall.
He became well known with his series of satires on 'Farmer George' (i.e. George III), one of which may be found in The Oxford Book of Light Verse, and was noted for his broad sense of humour and keen eye for the ridiculous. Boswell called him 'a contemptible scribbler [who], having disgraced and deserted the clerical character... picks up in London a scanty livelihood by scurilous lampoons under a feigned name'.
Pindar entered the Burns story when George Thomson asked him to provide the English words for the songs in his collection. Burns was very largely responsible for the Scots ones.
In a letter to George Thomson, dated 26th January 1793, Burns made the comment: 'The very name of Peter Pindar is an acquisition to your work. His 'Gregory' is beautiful.' And again in August 1793: 'You may readily trust, my dear Sir, that any exertion in my power, is heartily at your service. But one thing I must hint to you, the very name of Peter Pindar is of great service to your Publication; so, get a verse from him now and then, though I have no objection, as well as I can, to bear the burden of the business.'
Burns evidently received a copy of Pindar's works from Thomson, and his letter of thanks to the editor, dated January 1795, illustrates the extraordinarily high opinion he had of Pindar: 'The Supervisor of Excise here being ill, I have been acting for him, and I assure you I have hardly five minutes to myself to thank you for your elegant present of Pindar. The typography is admirable, and worthy of the truly original Bard.'