Page images

He died at Paris, February 15, 1731-2; and his body was privately interred with some difficulty in Westminster Abbey, on the twelfth of May following.* He left one son,t Osborne Atterbury, who

England, contain part of the correspondence between himself and his father-in-law, several miscellaneous articles in Atterbury's hand-writing, and some letters from William Shipped relative to the character of Hampden in Clarendon's History, which Oldmixon alleged the Bishop in conjunction with Smalridge and Aldrich had interpolated.' To this accusation Atterbury published a very satisfactory reply.

* On it's way, the hearse was stopped by the Custom House officers, on suspicion that some brocades and other prohibited goods were concealed in the coffin. This occasioned a great Outcry against the ministry, as if their vengeance continued to pursue him even after his death. The Rev. Dr. Henry Atterbury, his respectable elder brother, died a few months before him.

+ Of this son, who was a student of Christ Church, and after spending the interval between 1725 and 1731 in the East Indies, returned to enjoy his uncle Dr. Lewis Atterbury's fortune, the Bishop in his will (dated Dec. 31, 1725) took no notice whatever. The following letter, addressed to him while at college, is worth preserving :

• DEAR OBBY, • I thank you for your letter, because there are manifest signs in it of your endeavouring to excel yourself, and by consequence to please me. You have succeeded in both respects; and will always succeed, if you think it worth your while to consider what you write, and to whom; and let nothing, though of a trifling nature, pass through your pen negligently. Get but the way of writing correctly and justly; time and use will teach you to write readily afterward. Not but that too much care might give a stiffness to your stile, which ought, in all letters, by all means to be avoided. The turn of them should be natural and easy; for they are an image of private and familiar conversation. I mention this with respect to the four or five first lines of yours, which have an air of poetry, and do therefore naturally resolve themselves into blank verses. I send you your letter again, that was ordained in 1742 by Bishop Hoadly, and in 1746 obtained the living of Oxhill, Warwickshire.'

Dr. Atterbury was a man of considerable learning, an elegant writer, an able speaker in parliament, and

you yourself may now make the same observation. But you took the hint of that thought from a poem; and it is no wonder, therefore, that you heightened the phrase a little, when you were expressing it. The rest is as it should be ; and particularly, there is an air of duty and sincerity, that if it comes from your heart, is the most acceptable present you can make me. With these good qualities, an incorrect letter would please me ; and, without them, the finest thoughts and language would make no lasting, impression upon me. The great Being says, you know, “ My son, give me thy heart;" implying that, without it, all other gifts signify nothing. Let me conjure you, therefore, never to say any thing, either in a letter, or common conversation, that you do not think; but always to let your mind and your words go together, on the most trivial occasions. Shelter not the least degree of insincerity under the notion of a compliment; which, as far as it deserves to be practised by a man of probity, is only the most civil and obliging way of saying what you really mean: and whoever employs it otherwise, throws away truth for breeding. I need not tell you, how little his character gets by such an exchange.

• I say not this, as if I suspected that in any part of your letter you intended to write what was proper, without any regard to what was true; for I am resolved to believe that you were in earnest, from the beginning to the end of it, as much as I am when I tell you, that I am

• Your loving Father, &c.'

* His learned friend Smalridge, in presenting him as Prolocutor to the Upper House of Convocation, stiled him • Vir in nullo literarum genere hospes, in plerisque artibus et studiis diu et feliciter exercitatus, in maximè perfectis literarum disciplinis pera fectissimus.' In his controversial writings, indeed, it must be ad. mitted, he handled too freely the weapons of satire and invective; more perhaps, however, from the natural fervor of his wit, than from any rancor of disposition. He appears, also,

an excellent preacher. But, with all these accomplishments, he had other qualities of a less commend. able nature. He was of that restless and ambitious disposition, which characterised the Beckets and the Lauds of preceding times, and was ill disguised by the affected mildness and moderation of his epistolary writings. No friend to liberty, either civil or religious, * he carried ecclesiastical claims to an extreme and absurd height. From his own writings it is manifest that he would have persecuted, if he had been possessed of power, and that he was an enemy to the freedom of the press..

He was, on the whole, a man rather of talent than of genius. He writes more with elegance and

if we may trust the subjoined anecdote, not to have been wholly free from superstition: A story of a prediction by one Needs, which announced that “three persons (one of them Dr. Mews, Bishop of Winchester) should die in a certain order, within half a year,' was circulated in that city about the beginning of the eighteenth century. Of their prophecy, Atterbury, no overcredulous man, having had a full account from persons (as he conceived) of credit, and of it's having been fulfilled so parti.

cularly as to the other two individuals, including the prophet · himself, sent a detailed statement of the whole to his great

friend, Sir Jonathan Trelawny, who he knew had views toward Winchester, to incite him to strengthen his interests that way as much and as fast as he possibly could! He did so, and got the bishopric in 1707. (Censura Literaria, V. 98.)

* He carried the acrimony of party so far, as even to suspend for three years, Mr. Gibbin, Curate of Gravesend, a very worthy clergyman, for having indulged the use of his church to the Chaplain of the Dutch Troops, which were called over to suppress the rebellion! The inhabitants of Gravesend, however, subscribed for their minister a sum more than double the income of his church; and his Majesty, subsequently, bestowed upon him the rectory of Northfleet in Kent. This learned man, who had travelled with Addison, died in 1752.

correctness, than with force of thinking or reasoning. His letters to Pope, though too much crowded with trite quotations from the classics, are admirable specimens of elegant familiarity, and by many are preferred to the more elaborate compositions of his illustrious correspondent. It is said, he either translated or intended to translate the Georgics of Virgil, and to write the Life of Cardinal Wolsey, whom he much resembled. Dr. Warburton had a mean opinion of his critical abilities, and of his · Discourse on the läpis of Virgil.'* He was thought to be the author of the Life of Waller,' prefixed to the first octavo edition of that poet's works. His turbulent and imperious temper was long felt and remembered in the College, over which he presided.

His person, according to another writer, was well made: he had a gracefulness in his behaviour, and a kind of majestic gravity in his looks, that bespoke him reverence wherever he came. His voice was not strong; but there was something so sweet in his pronunciation, and so insinuating in his address, as gained him the possession of an audience whenever he began to speak. Beside this, he had a quick penetration, an exquisite understanding, an easy comprehension, a sprightly fancy and imagination, and solid judgement and good sense, all united together.

* Under this name he attempted to prove, that Virgil meant to characterise his friend Antonius Musa, the learned and accomplished physician of Augustus, to whom many also refer his Catalecton" XIII., though Heyne would ascribe the latter to a learned rhetorician of that name. The same able' critic, likewise (in his Excurs. IV. on Æn. XII. 391.) concurs in Warburton's reprobation of Atterbury's theory.' ""

... “ The Dean of Carlisle has so much regard to his congregation,” observes Steele,* “ that he commits to his memory what he has to say to them; and has so soft and graceful a behaviour, that it must attract your attention. His person, it is to be confessed, is no small recommendation : but he is to be highly commended for not losing that advantage, and adding to a propriety of speech, which might pass the criticism of Longinus, an action which would have been approved by Demosthenes. He has a peculiar force in his way, and has many of his audience,f who could not be intelligent hearers of his discourse, were there not explanation as well as grace in his action. This art of his is used with the most exact and honest skill : he never attempts your passions, until he has convinced your reason. All the objections, which he can form, are laid open and dispersed, before he uses the least vehemence in his sermon: but when he thinks he has your head, he very soon wins your heart; and never pretends to show the beauty of holiness, until he hath convinced you of the truth of it.”

It should be recorded to his honour that he remained at all times true to the Protestant Religion, and regular in the performance of it's offices. He warmly reprobated the conduct of the Duke of Wharton, Lords North and Grey, and others, who with a view of obtaining the Pretender's favour had apostatised from their faith: and he even quarrelled with the Duke of Berwick, who proposed giving to the young Duke of Buckingham a Catholic preceptor. I

* Tatler, No. 66.
+ At the chapel of Bridewell Hospital.'

From an anecdote however related, upon Pope's authority,

« PreviousContinue »