Imágenes de página

degraded, the new dignity of their prizes far more fatal than resentment former peers woald have kept of an indignity that is at least broken alive the memory of what they once by division, and impartially inflicted poslefled, and provoked them to enter on the greatest and moft obscure.

Memoirs of the Life of Dr Robert Henry, Author of the History of. Great Bri

tain, written on a new Plan.



R ROBERT HENRY was the in the old church, and remained in

son of James Henry farmer at that starion till his death. The de. Mairtown in the parish of St Ninian's, gree of Doctor in Divinity was conNorth Britain, and of Jean Galloway ferred on him by the university of daughter of Galloway of Burs Edinburgh in 1770 ; and in 1774 he rowmeadow in Stirlingfhire. He was was unanimously chosen moderator of born on the 18th of February 1718; the general assembly of the church of and having early resolved to devote Scotland, and is the only person on rehimself to a literary profeffion, was cord who obtained that distinction the tducated first under a Mr John Ni- first time he was a member of assembly. cholson at the parish-school of St Ni From these facts, which contain nian's, and for fume time at the gram- the outlines of Dr Henry's life, few ma sehool of Stirling. He complet- events be expected to fuit ed his cou fe of academical study at the purpose of the biographer. the university of Edinburgh, and af. Though he must have been always terwards became master of the grame distinguished among his private mar-school of Annan. He was licen- friends, till he was translated to Edin. fed to preach on the 29th of March burgh, he had few opportunities of be 1746, and was the first licentiate of ing known to the public. The comthe presbytery of Annan after its erec- polition of fermonis must have occurion into a separare prysbytery. Soon pied a chief part of his time during after, he received a call from a congie- his refidence at Carlisle, as his indul. gation of Presbyterian diflentersat Car. try in that station is known to have lilie, where he was ordained in Nov. rendered his labours in this depart1948. In this station he remained ment easy to him during the rest of 12 years, and on the 13th of Auguft his life. But even there he found 1760 became paltor of a diffenting con. leisure for other studies; and the knowgregation in Berwick upon Tweed. ledge of classical literature, in which Here he married, in 1763, Ann Bal he eminently excelled, foon enabled deriton, daughter of Thomas Balder- him to acquire an extent of informaton surgeon in Beswick ; by whom tion which qualified him for somete had no children, bur wil whom thing more important than he had he enjoyed to the end of his life a hitherto in his view. large Thare of domestic happiness. He Soon after his removal 10 Berwick, was removed from Berwick to be one he published a scheme for raising a fund of the ministers of Edinburgh in No- for the benefit of the widows and ora vember 1768; was minister of the phans of Protestant diffenting minifchurch of the New Grey Friars fers in the north of England. This from that time rill November 1776; idea was probably suggefied by the and then became colleague-minifter prosperity of the fund which had, al


most 30 years before, been established riod, it arranges, under separate heads for a provision to ministers widows, or chapters, the civil and military his&c. in Scotland. But the situations tory of Great Britain; the history of of the clergy of Scotland were very religion; the history of our constitudifferent from the circumstances of tion, government, laws, and courts dissenting ministers in England. An- of Justice; the history of learning, of nuitics and provisions were to be re- learned men, and of the chief feminacured to the families of dissenters, ries of learning; the history of arts ; without fobjecting the individuals (as the history of commerce, of shipping in Scotland) to a proportional annual of money or coin, and of the price of .contribution, and without such means commodities ; and the history of man. of creating a fund as could be the ners, virtues, vices, customs, lansubject of an act of parliament to fe- guage, dress, diet, and amusements. cure the annual payments. The a Under these seven heads, which excuteness and activity of Dr Henry tend the province of an historian furmounted these difficulties ; and greatly beyond its usual limits, every chiefly by his exertions, this useful thing curious or interesting in the bił. and benevolent institution commenced tory of any country may be compreabout the year 1762. The manage- hended. But it certainly required ment was entrusted to him for several more than a common share of literary years ; and its success has exceeded courage to attempt, on lo large a scale, the most fanguine expectations which a subject fo intricate and extenfive as were formed of it. The plan itself, the history of Britain from the invanow sufficiently known, it is unneces. fion of Julius Cæfar. That Dr Henry sary to explain minutely. But it is neither over-rated his powers nor his mentioned here, because Dr Henry industry, could only have been proved was accustomed in the lalt years of by the success and reputation of his his life to speak of this institution works. with peculiar affection, and to reflect But he soon found that his refion its progress and utility with that dence at Berwick was an insuperable kind of satisfaction which a good man

obstacle to the minute researches can only receive from “ the labour of which the execution of his plan love and of good works."

required. His situation there excludIt was probably about the year 1763 ed him from the means of consulting that he first conceived the idea of his the original authorities ; and though Hiliory of Great Britain ; a work al- he attempted to find access to them ready establ.thod in the public opie by means of his literary friends, and pion ; and which will certainly be re. with their affistance made some proGarded by posterity, not only as a grefs in his work, his information was book which has greatly enlarged the notwithstanding so inconplexe, that Sphere of history, and gratifies Our cu. he found it impoflible to prosecute his riofity on a variety of subjects which plan to his own fatisfaction, and was fall not within the limits prescribed at last compelled to relinquith it. by preceding historians, but as one of By the friendlbip of Gilbert Laurie, the most accurate and authentic repo. Esq; late Lord Provost of Edinburgh, fitories of historical information which and one of his majesty's commissioners this country has produced. The plan of excise in Scotland, who had maradopted by Dr Henry, which is in. ried the Gfter of Mrs Henry, he was disputably his own, and its peculiar removed to Edinburgh in 1768; and advantages, are sufficiently explained it is to this event that the public are in its general preface. In every pe. indebted for his prosecution of the


Hillory of Great Britain. His access claim indulgence, and is ftit less coto the public libraries, and the means titled to credit from the public for of supplying the materials which these any thing which can be alcribed 10 did not afford bim, were from that negligence in committing his manu. time used with so much diligence and scripts to the press; but considering preseverance, that the first volume of the difficulties which Dr Henry fur, his History in quarto was published mounted, and the accurate research in 1771, and the second in 1974, the and information which diftinguilla third in 1777, the fourth in 1781, his history, the circumstances which and the fifth (which brings down the have been mentioned are far from be. History to the accellion of Henrying uninteresting, and inust add conVII) in 1783. The subject of these fiderably to the opinion formed of his volumes compreheads the most intri- nerit among men who are judges of cate and obscure periods of our histo- what he has done. He did not prory; and when we consider the scanty fess to study the ornaments of lanand Scattered materials which Dr Hen- guage; but his arrangement is uniformTy bas digested, and the accurate and ly regular and natural,and his style fimminute information which he has ple and perfpicuous. More than this given us under every chapter of his he has not attempted, and this canwork, we must have a high opinion not be denied him. He believed that both of the learning and industry of the time which might be spent in pothe author, and of the vigour and lithing or rounding a sentence was aktivity of his mind: especially when more usefully employed in investigatit is added, that be employed no ing and ascertaining a fact: and as amanuensis, but completed the manu book of facts and solid information, fcript with his owo hand; and that, fupported by authentick documents, excepting the firft volume, the whole his history will stand a comparison bjok, such as it is, was printed from with any other biftory of the fame pethe original copy. Whatever correć- riod.' tions were made on it, were inserted But Dr Henry had other difficulby interlineations, or in revising the ties to furmount than those which reproof-heets. He found it necessary, lated to the compofuion of lis work. indeed, to confine himself to a first Not having been able to transact with copy, from an unfortunate tremor in the booksellers to his fatisfaction, the his hand, which made writing extreme- fve volumes were originally publishe. ly inconvenient, which obliged him at the silk of the author. When the to write with his paper on a book firft volume appeared, it was cenfured placed on his knee initead of a table, with an unexampled acrimony and per. and which unhappily increased to fuch feverence. Magazines, reviews, and a degree, that in the last years of his even newspapers, were filled with life he was often unable to take his abulive remarks and invectives, in victuals without allistance. An at- which both the author and the book tempi which he made after the public were treated with contempt and [cur. cation of the fifth volume to employ sility. When an author has once fuban amanuensis did not succeed. Ne- mitred his works to the public, he has ver having been accuftomed to dictate no right to complain of the juf seve. his compofitions, he found it impolli- rity of criticism." But Dr Henry had ble to acquire a new habit ; and though 10 contend with the invcterate scorn he persevered but a few days in the of malignity. In compliance with atrerupt, it had a feolible effect on his the usual custom, he had permitted a health, which he never afterwards re- fermon to be published which he had covered. An author has no right to preached before the Society in Scat


land for Propagating Christian know- ceeded. The book, though printed ledge in 1773 ; a composition con- for the author, had sold beyond his raining plain good fense on a common most fanguine expectations; and had subject, from which he expected no received both praise and patronage reputation. This was eagerly seized from men of the first literary characon by the adversaries of his History, ters in the kingdom: and though, and torn to pieces with a virulence from the alarm which had been raised, and asperity which no want of merit the booksellers did not venture to purin the lermon could jułtify or explain. chase the property till after the publiAn anonymous letter had appeared cation of the Gfih volume, the work in a newspaper to vindicate the Histo- was established in the opinion of the ry, from some of th: unjaft censures public, and at last rewarded the auwhich had been published, and affert. thor with a high degree of celebrity, ing from the real merit and accuracy which he happily lived to enjoy. of the book, the åuthor's title to the In an article relating to Dr Hen. approbation of the public. An an. ry's life, not to have mentioned the fwer appeared in the course of the fol- opposition which - bis History encouns · lowing week, charg'ng him, in terms tered, would have been both affectam cqually confident and indecent, with tion and injustice. The facts are fut. having written this letter in his own ficiently remembered, and are unforpraise. The efforts of malignity sel- tunately too recent to be more mi.... dom fail to defeat their purpose, and nutely explained. That they centris to recoil on those who direct them. buted at Girlt to retard the sale of the De Heory had many friends, and work is undeniable, and may be told till lately had not discovered that he without regret now that its reputation had any enemies. But the author of is established. The book has raised the anonymous vindication was un- itself to eminence as a History of known to him, till the learned and Great Britain by its own merits; and respectable Dr Macqueen, from the the means employed to obstruct its indignation excited by the confident progress have only served to embellish petulance of the answer, informed its success. him that the letter bad been written Dr Henry was no doubt encouragby him. These anecdotes are still re- ed from the first by the decided apo membered. The abufe of the Hilto probation of fonte of his literary ry, which began in Scotland, was friends, who were allowed to be the renewed in fome of the periodical pub- most competent judges of his fubject ; Hications in South Britain; though and in particular by one of the most it is justice to add (without meaning eminent historians of the present age, to refer to the candid obfervations of whose history of the same periods English critics,) that in both king justly poflefies the highest reputation. doms the asperity originated in the The following character of the first fame quarter, and that paragraphs and second volumes was drawn up by and criticisms written at Edinburgh that gentleman, and is well entitei were printed in London. The fame to be inserted in a narrative of D: fpirit appeared in Strictures published Henry's life.“ Those who profets on the second and third volumes"; a high esteem for the firft volume of but by this time it bad in a great mea-' Dr Henry's history, I may venture fure loft the attention of the public. to say, are almost as numerous as those The malevolente was fufficiently un. who have perused it, provided they derstood, and had long before become be competent judges of a work of that fatal to the circulation of the periodi- nature, and are acquainted with the cal paper from which it originally pro. difficulties which atiend fucb-an-un


dertaking. Many of those who had vered with great perspicuity, and no been so well pleased with the first less propriety, which are the true were imparient to see the second vo. ornaments of this kind of writing. lame, which advances into a field All fuperfluous embellishments are more delicate and interesting ; but avoided; and the reader will hardly the Doctor hath shown the maturity find in our language any performance of his judgment, as in all the relt, that unites together so perfectly the so particula:ly in giving no perfor. iwo great points of entertainment and mance to the public that might ap- inftruction.”—The gentleman who par crude or hasty, or composed be- ' wrote this character died before the fore he had fully collected and digeft- publication of the third volume. ed the materials. I venture with The progress of his work introduced great fincerity to recommend this Dr Henry to more extensive patronvolume to the perusal of every curious age, and in particular to the notice reader who delires to know the state and esteem of the earl of Mansfield. of Great Britain in a period which That venerable nobleman, who is so has hitherto been regarded as very well entitled to the gratitude and adobscure, ill supplied with writers, miration of his country, thought the and not possefied of a single one that merit of Dr Henry's history lo condeserves the appellation of a good liderable, tha:, without any fulicitaone. It is wonderful what an in- tion, after the publication of the fourth ftructive, and eren entertaining, book volume he applied personaliy to his he Doctor has been able to compose Majesty to beituw on the author fome from such uopromiGng materials :T an- mark of his royal favour. In confetum feries juncturaque pollet. When quence of this, Dr Henry was inform. we lee ihole barbarous ages delineated ed by a letter from Lord Stormort, by fo able a pen, we admire the odd. then secretary of ftare, of his Majesty's nefs and fingularity of the manners, intention to confer on him an annual cuftoms, and opinions, of the times, penfion for I fe of 100 1. " considerand seem to be introduced into a ing his distingu:shed talents, and great Dew world; but we are hill more lur. liierary merit, and the importance of prised, as well as interested, when we the very useful and laborious work in reflect that those strange personages which he was so successfully engaged, were the ancestors of the present in- as titles to his royal countenance and habitants of this island. The obje& fávour." The warrant was issued oa of an antiquary bath been commonly the 28th of May 1781; and his right diftinguished from that of an hitto- to the pension commenced from the rian; for though the latter fhould en- gth of April preceding. This penter into the province of the former, fion he enjoyed till his death, and alit is thought that it should only be ways considered it as inferring a new! quanto balta, that is, fo far as is necef- oblig tion to perfevere steadily in the tasy, without comprehending all the prosecution of his work. From the minute difquifitions which give such earl of Man field be receired many fupreme plafure to the mere antiqua. other testimonics of esteen boek as a ry. Our learned author hath fully man and as an author, which he was reconciled these iwo charaéters. His often heard to mention with the most bittorical narratives are as full as those affectionate gratitude. The octavo remote times seem to demand, and edition of his fiftory, published in at the same time his enquiries of the 1788, was inscribed to his Lordship. antiquarian kind omit nothing which The quarto edition had been dedicate can be an object of doubt or curiosity. ed to the king. The one as well as the other is delia The propery of the work had hi6 Vol. XIV. No. 79,


« AnteriorContinuar »