« AnteriorContinuar »
turn of peace gives us a right to expect. Let them continue to make head against the pernicious and extravagant doctrines which have of late been propagated to distract the community; but let them beware of relaxing, on account of those follies, in their endeavours to promote a rational amendment in those branches of the Constitution which time has impaired. Above all, let them cordially unite with the sounder parts of the publick, forgetting the differences which, for a time, have separated them; and, by mutual forbearance and concessions, that most desirable end will be attained, of reestablishing a powerful party in the Senate, to maintain the cause of the country against corruption and oppression-a party which, through the honest and zealous support of the people, must speedily triumph. *
Anecdotes of the Life of Richard Watson, Bishop of Landaff; written by Himself at different intervals, and revised in 1814. Published by his Son, RICHARD WATSON, LL. B. Prebendary of Landaff and Wells. 4to. pp. 551. London. Cadell, 1817.
FE NEw works have, of late years, excited greater attention than the one now before us. The high academical reputation of Bishop Watson, sustained by his valuable literary performances, extended by the firm and manly independence of his character as a politician, and his liberal and tolerant principles as a churchman, naturally fixed the eyes of the publick upon any thing from his pen in the shape of Memoirs of himself, and of his own times. If the perusal of this volume should disappoint the curiosity of those who chiefly prize such books for the secret history which they develop, or the particulars which they detail of private life and conversation, the philosopher will nevertheless be deeply interested in tracing the progress to wellearned fame and eminence, of a man who won every honour by
* There were in the last Parliament about 150 members of the regular Opposition; and of this number 130 were at one time in London, and able to attend. But from accidental circumstances, and chiefly from the want of an acknowledged leader, they never attended in any thing like this force. Nearly thirty have, by the General Election, been added to this number-forming a party which, under proper management, and with the support out of doors which it may expect to receive, will assuredly render the continuance of the present system of abuse and imbecility a matter of some difficulty.
the force of his own talents and industry, and never suffered himself for a moment to be spoilt by his advancement, or to relax in his endeavours to instruct and improve mankind, long after those exertions had ceased to be subservient to his own interests. But men of enlightened minds will prize this work still more highly, because it abounds with lessons of liberality and tolerance-because it exhibits a picture, too rare we fear in these times, of a dignitary of the Church despising the road to preferment which lies through sycophancy and servility to courtsbecause it displays the progress of a powerful mind, among all the temptations fatal to so many virtues, yet unseduced, through a long life, from the steady course of constitutional principles first pointed out by reason and sober reflection. We lament to add, that these are the very reasons why, from one part of the community, this publication has called forth the most extravagant vituperation. It has been bitterly attacked, and the character of its venerable author shamelessly traduced by the venal pens of those whom the government of the day patronizes, and probably employs in other than the literary parts of the publick service. An outcry has been raised against Bishop Watson, as violent as if the most enlightened defender of the national religion had been an infidel prelate. The courteous allies of Talleyrand have shown far less regard for the brightest ornament of the English Episcopal bench, than they probably would have displayed had he abjured his faith, and joined in persecuting Catholics and Dissenters. The narrow-minded po→ liticians, who suffered Paley to descend unnoticed to the grave, and pretended to forget all his mighty services to the cause of Religion, natural and revealed, as soon as they descried a prejudice against him in a certain quarter, consistently enough allowed all favours to pass by the Champion of the Gospel, who had triumphantly defended it against Gibbon and Paine. Still hating him whom they had feared, and unable to forgive him for their own injustice, they now vent their malice against his memory; and seek, in lessening a reputation far above their spiteful attempts, to gain some pitiful extenuation of their conduct, in neglecting to strengthen, by its accession, the cause they affect to serve. We gladly turn from such ephemeral topics to the man himself, and his book.
Richard Watson was born at Heversham, a village in Westmoreland, in the year 1737, and was the son of a respectable schoolmaster, whose family had long been settled at Shap, in the same county. They were of the class usually known in those parts by the name of Statesmen, that is, small proprietors, who cultivate their own land, and lead, ut prisca gens mørtelium,
á frugal and industrious life among their children and husbandry servants, if indeed their estate should be considerable enough to require any hands in addition to their own. In the north of
England this race of honest yeomanry is exceedingly numerous; and as they are well educated, independent in their circumstances, and simple in their habits, the vices attendant upon luxury in other parts of the country, have not yet tainted their character, which is that of resolute and uncorrupted freemen. The elder Watson had the honour of educating Ephraim Chambers, the author of the Encyclopædia, but he had been compelled, by declining health, to abandon the useful and honourable profession of a schoolmaster before his son was born; and as an inferior teacher succeeded him, the latter complained that he never was thoroughly grounded in the art of prosody, by the habit of making verses an exercise which he speaks of with very great good sense, allowing its usefulness, but without the exaggerated estimate of its value, which our English neighbours are apt to form. ·
In 1754, he was sent to Cambridge, and admitted a Sizar of Trinity College. He now began that life of hard labour, which he persisted in as long as his health permitted, and long after its decline had seemed to demand relaxation. Unlike the young men of the present day, who either confine their exertions to the University term, or even to those who, though willing to work, yet disdain residing at the place best adapted to their studies, and move off in all directions, to read at the greatest distance from alma mater, as if there were something incompatible with intellectual labour in her atmosphere; he began by a residence of two years and seven months, during which period he had never been out of College for one whole day. Having thus purchased a right to some relaxation, he went down to Westmoreland, to pass his third long vacation; but he tired of this idle plan long before the summer was over, and returned to College early in September, to resume his academical habits. With hard work he mingled the pleasures of society, for which he always had a keen relish. The following interesting passage conveys some idea of the life which he led.
• When I used to be returning to my room at one or two in the morning, after spending a jolly evening, I often observed a light in the chamber of one of the same standing with myself; this never failed to excite my jealousy, and the next day was always a day of hard study. I have gone without my dinner a hundred times on such occasions. I thought I never entirely understood a proposition in any part of mathematics or natural philosophy, till I was able in a solitary walk, obstipo capite atque exporrecto labello, to draw the
scheme in my head, and go through every step of the demonstration without book or pen and paper. I found this was a very difficult task, especially in some of the perplexed schemes and long demon strations of the Twelfth Book of Euclid, and in L'Hopital's Conic Sections, and in Newton's Principia. My walks for this purpose were so frequent, that my tutor, not knowing what I was about, once reproached me for being a lounger. I never gave up a difficult point in a demonstration till I had made it out proprio Marte; I have been stopped at a single step for three days. This perseverance in accomplishing whatever I undertook, was, during the whole of my active life, a striking feature in my character, so much so that Dr Powell, the Master of St John's College, said to a young man, a pupil of mine, for whom I was prosecuting an appeal which I had lodged with the visiter against the College,-" Take my advice, sir, and go back to your curacy, for your tutor is a man of perseverance, not to say obstinacy. After a perseverance however of nearly three years, the appeal was determined against the College; the young man (Mr Russel) was put in possession of the Furness Fell Fellowship, which I had claimed for him, as a propriety-fellowship; and the College was fined 50%. for having elected another into it. It would be for the public good if all propriety-fellowships, in both Universities, were laid open; and Dr Powell (for whose memory I have great veneration) was, I doubt not, influenced by the same opinion, when he attempted to set aside this propriety; Dr Kipling, whom he had elected into it, being in ability far superior to Mr Russel: But the Legislature alone is competent to make such a change; and till it is made by proper authority, the will of every founder ought to be attended to. p. 11, 12.
It is impossible to contemplate this picture of academical habits, without observing how great and how pure are the gratifications of intellectual appetites. A life of study is, of all others, the least chequered with reverses of fortune, and least stamped with satiety, or any of the other attendants upon excess. Nor are its pleasures confined to the stage when we have gained the summit, and can freely exert ourselves in enlarging the bounds of human knowledge. The ascent is as
grateful, from the pleasurable nature of the efforts which it requires, and the new views to which it leads at each step, as the enjoyment of the level and lofty eminence itself, with all its more extensive range of prospect, and the greater ease in which it is possessed. These are truths never to be lost sight of, and which ought perpetually to be kept in the recollection of youth, who are too apt to regard all the efforts required of them as beyond the necessity of the occasion, and to ally them with feelings of pain rather than gratification. The irksomeness is but at the beginning. We will venture to affirm, that at no pe
VOL. XXX. No. 59.
riod of his life, when defending the religion he sincerely be lieved and prized above every consideration, or inculcating the pure doctrines of civil liberty, next to religion, his chief care, or extending the bounds of useful science, did Bishop Watson lead a life of more unmixed pleasure than after he had broken Irimself in at Trinity College to habits of unremitting application, and begun to climb the steep ascent with all the hard labour designated in the passage we have just quoted.
We have not read far in these Memoirs before we perceive the strong and uniform tendency of his mind to support the best principles of constitutional liberty. I every week' (he observes) imposed upon myself a task of composing a theme or a declamation in Latin or English. I had great pleasure in lately finding among my papers, two of these declamations, one in English, the other Latin; there is nothing excellent • in either of them, yet I cannot help valuing them, as they are not only the first of my compositions of which I have any memorial remaining, but as they show that a long commerce in the public world has only tended to confirm that political bent of my mind in favour of civil liberty, which was formed in it before I knew of what selfish and low-minded materials the public world was made. The subject of the English decla*mation is, "Let tribunes be granted to the Roman people; that of the Latin, "Sociis Italicis detur civitas:" Both of them were suggested to my mind from the perusal of Vertot's Ro• man Revolutions, a book which accidentally fell into my hands. • Were such kind of books put into the hands of kings during their boyhood, and Tory trash at no age recommended to them, kings in their manhood would scorn to aim at arbitrary power through corrupted Parliaments.' Lord Bolingbroke has somewhere remarked, that in his times, the prevalence of what were ormerly termed Tory principles, such as divine and indefeasable right, was impossible among any people above the rank of the Samoyedes or Hottentots. A century has elapsed since he said so; and during that period, the family has been extinguished which signalized and sacrificed itself by being foremost among the patrons of those doctrines.-And yet, strange to tell, in our own times, if not the divine right, certainly the indefeasable hereditary title to govern by mere course of descent, independent of all other pretensions, and liable to no forfeiture for any misdemeanour, has found a cloud of supporters among the freest and most enlightened nations in Europe. Nay, the foundations of our own excellent Constitution being laid in the very opposite principles, we seem, or rather some of our rulers seem anxious to extinguish everywhere