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WILLIAM STEVENS, ESQ.
MY DEAR FRIEND,
The works of the late Bishop Horne are in many hands, and will be in many more. No reader of any judgment can proceed far into them, without discovering that the author was a person of eminence for his learning, eloquence, and piety; with as much wit, and force of expression, as were consistent with a temper so much corrected and sweetened by devotion.
To all those who are pleased and edified by his writings, some account of his life and conversation will be interesting. They will naturally wish to hear what passed between such a man and the world in which he lived. You and I, who knew him so well and loved him so much, may be suspected of partiality to his memory; but we have unexceptionable testimony to the greatness and importance of his character. While we were under the first impressions of our grief for the loss of him, a person of high distinction, who was intimate with bim for many years, declared to you and to me, that he verily believed him to have been the best man he ever knew. Soon after the late Earl of Guildford was made Chancellor of the University of Oxford, another great man, who was allowed to be an excellent judge of the weight and wit of conversation, recommended Dr. Horne, who was then vice-chancellor, to him in the following terms; " My Lord, I question whether you know your vice-chancellor so well as you ought; When you are next at Oxford, go and dine with him; and, when you have done this once, I need not ask you to do it again ; you will find him the pleasantest man you ever met with.” And so his lordship seemed to think (who was himself as pleasant a man VOL. VI.
as most in the kingdom) from the attention he paid to him ever after. I have heard it observed of him by another gentleman, who never was suspected of a want of judgment, that, if some friend had followed him about with a pen and ink, to note down his sayings and observations, they might have furnished out a collection like that which Mr. Boswell has given to the public; but frequently of a superior quality; because the subjects which fell in his way were occasionally of an higher nature, out of which more improvement would arise to those that heard him: and it is now much to be lamented, that so many
of them have run to waste *. An allusion to the life of Dr. Johnson, reminds me how much it was wished, and by Dr. Horne in particular, who well knew and highly valued him, that Johnson would have directed the force of his understanding against that modern paper-building of philosophical infidelity, which is founded in pride and ignorance, and supported by sensuality and ridicule. A great personage was of opinion, that Johnson, só employed, would have borne them down with the weight of his language; and he is reported to have expressed his sentiment with singular felicity to a certain person, when the mischievous writings of Voltaire were brought into question: “I wish Johnson would mount his dray-horse, and ride over some of those fellows." Against those fellows Dr. Horne employed much of his time, and some of the most useful of his talents : not mounted upon a dray-horse to overbear them; but upon a light courser to hunt them fairly down; with such easy arguments, and pleasant reflections, as render them completely absurd and ridiculous: an account of which will come before us in the
proper place. His Considerations on the Life and Death of St. John
the Baptist, and his Sermon preached in St. Sepulchre's church at London, for the benefit of a Charity-school for girls, on the Female Character, seem to me, above all the rest of his compositions, to mark the peculiar temper of his mind, and the direction of his thoughts. When I read his book on John the Baptist, I am persuaded, there was no other man of his time, whose fancy, as a writer, was bright enough, whose
• A collection of his thoughts on various subjects is preserved in a manuscript, written with his own hand.
skill, as an interpreter, was deep enough, and whose heart, as a moralist, was pure enough to have made him the author of that little work. His Female Character, as it stands in the sermon above-mentioned, now printed in his fourth volume, displays so much judgment in discriminating, such gentle benevolence of heart, and so much of the elegance of a polished understanding, in describing and doing justice to the sex; that every sensible and virtuous woman, who shall read and consider that singular discourse, will bless his memory to the end of the world.
While we speak of those writings which are known to the public, you and I cannot forget his readiness and excellence in writing letters; in which employment he always took delight from his earliest youth; and never failed to entertain or instruct his correspondents. His mind had so much to communicate, and his words were so natural and lively, that I rank some of his letters among the most valuable productions of the kind. I have therefore reason to rejoice, that, amidst all my interruptions and removals, I have preserved more than a hundred of them; in reviewing of which I find many observations on the subjects of Religion, Learning, Politics, Manners, &c. which are equally instructive and entertaining; and would certainly be so esteemed, if they were communicated to the world; at least, to the better part of it: for there were very few occurrences or transactions of any importance, either in the church, or the state, or the literary world, that escaped his observation; and in several of them he took an active part. But in familiar letters, not intended for the public eye (as none of his ever were) and suggested by the incidents of the time, some of them trivial and domestic, there will be of course many passages of less dignity than will entitle them to publi
n: yet, upon the whole, I am satisfied that a very useful selection might be made out of them; and I will not despair of making it myself at some future opportunity *.
From an early acquaintance with Greek and Latin authors, and the gift of a lively imagination, he addicted himself to poe
* In the Gentleman's Magazine for August, 1793, p. 688, I threw out a letter of Bishop Horne, as a specimen both of the style and of the usual subjects of his epistolary writings. It was the first that came to hand on opening a rge them : and I may leave every reader to judge whether that letter be not curious and important. Compared with the present times, it seems prophetical.
try; and some of his productions have been deservedly admired. But his studies were so soon turned from the treasures of classical wit to the sources of Christian wisdom, that all his poetry is either upon sacred subjects, or upon a common subject applied to some sacred use; so that a pious reader will be sure to gain something by every poetical effort of his mind.
And let me not omit another remarkable trait of his character. You can be a witness with me, and so could many others who were used to his company, that few souls were ever more susceptible than his of the charms of music, especially the sacred music of the church: at the hearing of which, his countenance was illuminated; as if he had been favoured with impressions beyond those of other men; as if heavenly vision had been superadded to earthly devotion. He therefore accounted it a peculiar happiness of his life, that, from the age of twenty years, he was constantly gratified with the service of a choir ; at Magdalen College, at Canterbury, and at Norwich. His lot was cast by Providence amidst the sweets of cloystered retirement, and the daily use of divine harmony; for the enjoyment of both which he was framed by nature, and formed by a religious education. Upon the whole I-never knew a person, in whom those beautiful lines of Milton *, of which he was a great admirer, were more exactly verified :
due feet never fail
may, with sweetness through mine ear,
And bring all heaven before my eyes. You, who are so perfectly acquainted with the discourse delivered at Canterbury, 1784, when the new organ was opened in the great church, may guess how refined his raptures were: by what he has there said, it may be known what he felt.
* In the N Penseroso.
And I can assure you farther, he was so earnest in this subject, that he took the pains to extract, in his own hand-writing, all the matter that is most observable and useful in the five quarto volumes of Sir John Hawkins upon music. I find among his papers this curious abridgment, which is made with critical taste and discernment.
But his greatest affection being to the science of divinity, he would there of consequence make the greatest improvements; and there the world will find themselves most obliged to him. No considerable progress, no improvement in any science, can be expected, unless it be beloved for its own sake. How this can happen in divinity, all men may not be able to see: but it is possible for the eye of the understanding to be as truly delighted with a sight of the divine wisdom in the great æconomy of redemption and revelation, as for the eye of the astronomer to take pleasure in observing the lights of heaven, or the naturalistin exploring and collecting, perhaps at the hazard of his life, the treasures of the natural creation. What I here say will be best understood by those, who know what affection, what animation, is found in the first writers of the Christian church; with what delight they dwell upon the wonders of the Christian plan, and comment upon the peculiar wisdom of the word of God. To the best writers of the best ages he put himself to school very early, and profited by them so much, that I hope no injustice will be done to their memory, if I think he has in some respects improved upon his teachers.
A man with such talents, and such a temper, must have been generally beloved and admired; which he was almost universally; the exceptions being so few, as would barely suffice to exempt him from that woe of the Gospel, which is pronounced against the favourites of the world. But his undisguised attachment to the doctrines of the Church of England, which are still, and, we hope, ever will be, of the old fashion, would necessarily expose him to the unmannerly censures of some, and the frigid commendations of others, which are sometimes of worse effect than open scandal. But he never appeared to be hurt by any thing of this sort that happened to him. An anonymous pamphlet, which the public gave to the late Dr. Kennicott, attacked him very severely; and soon received an answer from him ; which, though very close and