Seatonian Prize

Last updated
Musae Seatonianae, published 1772 Musae Seatonianae cover.jpg
Musae Seatonianae, published 1772

The Seatonian Prize is awarded by the University of Cambridge for the best English poem on a sacred subject. This prize has been awarded annually since 1750 and is open to any Master of Arts of the university. Lord Byron referred to this prize in his 1809 poem entitled 'English Bards and Scots Reviewers.' The prize is still awarded annually, with a deadline of 30 September each year. [1] It is open to all members of the Senate of the University of Cambridge, and all persons who are possessors of the status of Masters of Arts.



This prize was founded by the Rev. Thomas Seaton, educated at Stamford School and a Fellow of Clare College, who died in 1741. The prize was financed by the revenue from his Kislingbury estate bequeathed to the University. [2] His bequest was not formally accepted by the University until 1898, at which time regulations were drawn up for the administration of the Seatonian Prize by the Faculty of Divinity.


The winner in the first three years was Christopher Smart. "On the Omniscience of the Supreme Being" (Cambridge, 1752) was his prize-winning "poetical essay" of that year. Smart won much credit by his success. In 1754 his fellowship was extended on condition that he continued to write for the prize. In 1759 the prize was won by Beilby Porteus for his poem on "Death", for which he is still remembered. In 1797, 1798, and 1799 the prize was won by William Bolland. [3]

Byron's poem records the name of some of the winners:

Shall hoary Granta call her sable sons,

Expert in science, more expert at puns?

Shall these approach the Muse? ah, no! she flies,

Even from the tempting ore of Seaton's prize;

Though Printers condescend the press to soil

With rhyme by Hoare, and epic blank by Hoyle:

Not him whose page, if still upheld by whist,

Requires no sacred theme to bid us list.

Ye! who in Granta's honours would surpass,

Must mount her Pegasus, a full-grown ass;⁠

A foal well worthy of her ancient Dam,

Whose Helicon is duller than her Cam.

In 2018, the Seatonian Prize was awarded to Colin Wilcockson of Pembroke College. [4]

List of winners

Further reading

Related Research Articles

Grantchester Village and civil parish in Cambridgeshire, England

Grantchester is a village and civil parish on the River Cam or Granta in South Cambridgeshire, England. It lies about two miles (3 km) south of Cambridge.

Arthur Johnston (c.1579–1641) was a Scottish poet and physician. He was born in Caskieben near Inverurie in Aberdeenshire. His father, Sir George Johnston, was an Aberdeenshire laird, and his mother Christian Forbes was the daughter of Lord Forbes.

Christopher Smart English poet

Christopher Smart was an English poet. He was a major contributor to two popular magazines, The Midwife and The Student, and a friend to influential cultural icons like Samuel Johnson and Henry Fielding. Smart, a high church Anglican, was widely known throughout London.

John Howard Marsden was an English cleric and academic. He was an antiquarian and became in 1851 the first Disney Professor of Archaeology at the University of Cambridge.

Ciaran Gerard Carson was a Northern Ireland-born poet and novelist.

The Hon. William Herbert was a British botanist, botanical illustrator, poet, and clergyman. He served as a member of parliament for Hampshire from 1806 to 1807, and for Cricklade from 1811 to 1812. His botanical writings are noted for his treatment of Amaryllidaceae.

The Reverend Thomas Seaton, was a Church of England clergyman and religious writer.

Handley Moule

Handley Carr Glyn Moule was an evangelical Anglican theologian, writer, poet, and Bishop of Durham from 1901 to 1920.

Nationality words link to articles with information on the nation's poetry or literature.

Nationality words link to articles with information on the nation's poetry or literature.

Nationality words link to articles with information on the nation's poetry or literature.

— Thomas Gray, Elegy Written in a Country Church-Yard, published this year

Nationality words link to articles with information on the nation's poetry or literature.

William Saumarez Smith was an Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, Australia.

Charles James Hoare was an evangelical Church of England clergyman, archdeacon of Surrey.

Thomas Rawson Birks

Thomas Rawson Birks was an English theologian and controversialist, who figured in the debate to try to resolve theology and science. He rose to be Knightbridge Professor of Moral Philosophy at the University of Cambridge. His discussions led to much controversy: in one book he proposed that stars cannot have planets as this would reduce the importance of Christ's appearance on this planet.

Edward Smedley

Edward Smedley (1788–1836) was an English clergyman known as a miscellaneous writer.

Thomas Zouch, was an English clergyman and antiquary, best known as a student of the works and life of Izaak Walton.

Robert Glynn British physician (1719–1800)

Robert Glynn, afterwards Clobery was an English physician, known as a generous eccentric.

William Bolland

Sir William Bolland (1772–1840), lawyer and bibliophile, the eldest son of James Bolland, of Southwark, was educated at Reading School under Dr. Valpy, and admitted a pensioner at Trinity College, Cambridge on 26 September 1789, at the age of seventeen. During his school days he wrote several prologues and epilogues for the annual dramatic performances in which the scholars took part, and for which Dr. Valpy's pupils were famous. At Cambridge he took his degree of BA in 1794, and MA in 1797. For three successive years he won the Seatonian Prize by his poems on the respective subjects of miracles, the Epiphany, and St. Paul at Athens, which were printed separately, and also included in the "Seatonian Prize Poems" (1808), ii. 2133-97. On leaving Cambridge he determined upon adopting law as his profession, and was called to the bar at the Middle Temple on 24 April 1801. Bolland practised at the Old Bailey with great success; he was thoroughly conversant with commercial law, and soon became one of the four city pleaders. From April 1817 until he was raised to the bench he was recorder of Reading. He was a candidate for the common serjeantcy of the city of London in 1822, but in those days of heated political excitement was defeated by the Lord Denman. In November 1829 he was created a Baron of the Exchequer, and held that appointment until January 1839, when he resigned on account of failing health. On 14 May 1840 he died at Hyde Park Terrace, London. Lady Bolland, whom he married on 1 August 1810, was his cousin Elizabeth, the third daughter of John Bolland, of Clapham. An anonymous satire, "The Campaign, to his Royal Highness the Duke of York, Britannia in the year 1800 to C. J. Fox." was written by Bolland in 1800, but not issued for sale, the author confining its publicity to his friends. Although he published but little, he was known for many years as an enthusiastic student of early English literature. Dibdin dwells with unction on the pleasures of the dinner-parties of Hortensius—the fancy name by which he designated Sir William Bolland—and extols the merits of his library. It was at a dinner-party in Bolland’s house on the Adelphi Terrace that the Roxburghe Club was originated, and its first publication was his gift. This was "Certain Bokes of Virgiles Aenæis turned into English meter. By the right honorable lorde, Henry, earle of Surrey." The books were the second and fourth, and the reprint, bearing the date of 1814, though the dedication was signed 17 June 1815, was taken from a copy of the original edition of 1557, which is preserved at Dulwich College. His collections were sold in the autumn after his death, his library of about three thousand articles producing about £3,000. The bust of Sir William Bolland has been a familiar object to all who have studied in the library of Trinity College, Cambridge. A portrait by James Lonsdale is in the National Portrait Gallery.


  1. "Awards, grants, and prizes". 26 July 2016.
  2. See Musae Seatonianae.
  3. Courtney, William Prideaux (1886). "Bolland, William"  . In Stephen, Leslie (ed.). Dictionary of National Biography . 5. London: Smith, Elder & Co. p. 323.
  4. "Seatonian Prize". Retrieved on April 23, 2019.