White had Irish ancestry and was the son of the merchant Guillermo Blanco (alias White, an English viceconsul who had established itself in Seville during the reign of Fernando VI) and María Gertrudis Crespo y Neve.
White was educated for the Roman Catholic priesthood but, after his ordination in 1800, religious doubts led him to escape from Spain to England (1810). There he ultimately entered the Anglican Church, having studied theology at Oxford and made the friendship of Thomas Arnold, John Henry Newman and Richard Whately. He became tutor in Whately's family when Whately became the Archbishop of Dublin in 1831. While in this position White embraced Unitarian views and he found an asylum amongst the Unitarians of Liverpool, where he died on May 20, 1841.
White edited El Español, a monthly Spanish magazine in London, from 1810 to 1814. Afterwards he received a civil list pension of £250. His principal writings are Doblado's Letters from Spain (1822), Evidence against Catholicism (1825), Second Travels of an Irish Gentleman in Search of a Religion (2 vols., 1834) and Observations on Heresy and Orthodoxy (1835). They all show literary ability and were extensively read in their day. He also translated Paley's Evidences and the Book of Common Prayer into Spanish.
White is best remembered, however, for his sonnet "Night and Death" ("Mysterious Night! when our first parent knew"), which was dedicated to Samuel Taylor Coleridge on its appearance in the Bijou for 1828 and has since found its way into several anthologies. Three versions are given in the Academy of 12 September, 1891.
- Life of the Rev. Joseph Blanco White, written by himself, with portions of his Correspondence, edited by John Hamilton Thom (London, 3 vols., 1845).
- Blanco White: Self-banished Spaniard, Martin Murphy (Yale, 1989).
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