Page images
[ocr errors]

ties than as seriously in earnest : but in these letters he uni. formly appears as a true believer. In letter 24, dated Prior Park, July 11, 1750, speaking of Dr. Middleton, he says :

• Had he had, I will not say, piety, but greatness of mind enough not to suffer the pretended injuries of some Churchmen to prejudice him against Religion, I should love him living, and honour his memory when dead. But, good God! that man, for the discourtesies done him by his miserable fellow.creatures, should be content to di. vest himself of the true viaticum, the comfort, the solace, the asylum from all the evils of human life, is perfectly astonishing! I believe no one (all things considered) has suffered more from the low and vile passions of the high and low amongst our brethren than mye self. Yet God forbid it should ever suffer me to be cold in the Gos. pel interests, which are indeed so much my own, that without it I should be disposed to consider humanity as the must forlorn part of the creation.'

At another time, (Letter 47-) he can be playful, and make a ludicrous representation of Noah's Ark :

• Poor Forster (whom I have just received a letter from) is over. whelmed with desolation for the loss of his master. I quoted his case to our friend Balguy for his consolation. But you say - I will have Ho master —which, I confess, is the best consolation of all. – Reckon upon it, that Durham goes to some Noble Ecclesiastic. 'Tis a morsel only for them. Our Grandees have at last found their way back into the Church. I only wonder they have been so long about it. But be assured that noihing but a new religious revolution, to sweep away the fragments that Henry the VIIIth left, after banqueting his courtiers, will drive them out again. The Church has been of old the cradle and the throne of the younger Nobility. And this nursing mother will, I hope, once more vie with old imperious Bere. cyathia

Læta Deum pariu, centum complexa Nepotes,

Omnes Cælicolas, omnes supera alta tenentes. · You mention Noah's Ark. I have really forgot ishat I said of it. But I suppose I compared the Church to it, as many a grave Divine has done before me.--The Rabbins make the giant Gog or Magog contemporary with Noah, and convinced by his preaching. So that he was disposed to take the benefit of the Ark. But here lay the distress ; it by no means suited his dimensions. Therefore, as he could not enter in, he contented himself to ride upon it astride. And though you must suppose that, in that stormy weather, he was more than half. boots over, he kept his seat, and dismounted safely, when the Ark landed on Moant Ararat. Image now to yourself this illustrious Cavalier mounted on his hackney; and see if it does not bring before you the church, bestrid by some lumpish minister of state, who turns and winds it at his pleasure. The only difference is, that Gog believed the preacher of righteousness and religion. I am, &c.'

Again :

Grosvenor Square, November 29th, 1760. • Here I am, in a world of nonsense and hurry, and hurry and nonsense; for one can hardly tell which is the parent, which the offspring i or whether they do not beget one another.'

It would seem, from some passages in these letters, that the sworn clerical brothers were the humblest of beings : but we can always see pride lurking beneath the mask of humility ; Warburton, writing from Prior Park, September 24. 1754, says,

• Those who have the noble ambition to make their regular stages, must dash through thick and thin; must be soundly bespattered ; and, what to an ingenuous mind is as grievous, must as heartily be. spatter. But they deserve no pity. What is hard, is, that such travellers as you and I, who pick our way, and would ride at our ease ; who fear nothing but being benighied; and for the rest, can sleep as soundly at the Thatched House, as at the Mitre-Inn ; that we should be bespattered by the busy, dirty, servile rascals, that post by us, and view us with an eye of jealousy if we ride briskly, or with contempt if we saunter, this ) say is very provoking. What could make that important blockhead (you know whom) preach against me at St. James's? He never met me at Court, or at Powis or Newcastle-House. And what was it to him whether the Jews had a future life? It might be well for such as him, if the Christians had none neither. Nor, I dare say, does he much trouble himself about the matter, while he stands foremost, amongst you, in the new Lard of promise ; which, however, to the mortification of these modern Jews, is a little distant from that of performance.'

Speaking of the writers who combated the Divine Legation, he superciliously observes :

• I wanted to see if any of them had hit upon the weak parts, I had been with so much pains providing for. And I can assure you, that not one of them has been yet found out by my enemies; and do yet remain a secret between God, my conscience, and my friends.

• I can safely say, I will shew them two hundred in mine for every single fault my enemies are ever likely to find out.'

In reply to this bounce, it may be remarked that if the D.L. were so full of weak parts, it was the author's duty, as a lover of truth, to expose them himself ; and not to be so very angry with every person who presumed to draw a quill against him. Elsewhere, we find that nobody reasons, except Dr. W.

You will say, remember the sovereignty of Reason. To this Į reply, that the common definition of man is false : he is not a reason. ing animal. The best you can predicate of him is, that he is an ani. mal capable of reason, and this too we take upon old tradition. For it has not been my fortune yet to meet, I won't say with any one man, but I may safely swear with any one order of men, who ever


B 3

did reason. And this I am afraid our friend Towne will soon find to his cost.' - In the few letters of Hurd to Warburton which are inserted in this collection, we perceive the traces of those estimable qualities which so endeared him to his friend. The following account of his family* is a specimen of manly ingenuousness and true affection, which all readers must admire :

ir I believe I never told you how happy I am in an excellent father and mother, very plain people you may he sure, for they are farmers, but of a turn of mind that might have honoured any rank and any education. With very tolerable, but in no degree affluent circum. stances, their generosity was such, they never regarded any expence that was in their power, and almost out of it, in whatever concerned the welfare of their children We are three brothers of us. The eldest settled very reputably in their own way, and the youngest in the Birmingham trade. For myself, a poor scholar, as you know, I am almost ashamed to own to you how solicitous they always were to furnishi nie with all the opportunities of the best and most liberal education. My case in so many particulars resembles that which the Roman poet describes as his own, that with Pope's wit I could apply almost every circumstance of it. And if ever I were to wish in earnest to be a poet, it would be for the sake of doing justice to 80 uncommon a virtue. I should be a wretch if I did not conclude, as he does,

-si Natura juberet
A certis annis ævum remeare peractum,
Atque alios legere ad fastum quoscunque parentes,
Optaret sibi quisque : meis contentus, onustos
Fascibus et sellis nolim mihi sumere : demens.

Judicio vulgi, sanus fortasse tuo. • In a word, when they had fixed us in such a rank of life as they designed, and believed should satisfy us, they very wisely left the business of the world to such as wanted it more, or liked it better, They considered what age and declining health seemed to demand of them, reserving to theniselves only such a support as their few and little wants made them think sufficient. I should beg pardon for troubling you with this humble history : but the subjects of it are so much and so tenderly in my thoughts at present, that if I writ at all, I could hardly help writing about them.

Dr. W. also adverts to the circumstances of his family, in a subɛe quent letter, in which the goodness of his heart is manifest :

I had the pleasure of finding you well at Cambridge ; I had the pleasure of finding a Sister and a Niece well at Broughton ; with whom I spent a few days with much satisfaction : for you must know I have a numerous family, perhaps the more endeared to me by their sole dependance on me. It pleased Providence that two of my Sisters shonld marry unhappily, and that a third, on the point of venturing, should escape the hazard, and so engage my care only for herself.'


As to the connection which took place between the two divines, Mr. Hurd gives this flattering narrative ;

To say the truth, there had been so much apparent bigotry, and insolence in the invectives I had heard, though echoed, as was said, from mea of note amongst us, that I wished, perhaps out of pure spite, to find them ill-founded. And I doubt I was half determined in your favour before I knew any thing of the merits of the case

• The effect of all this was, that I took the Divine Legation down with me into the country, where I was going to spend the summer of, I think, 1741, with my friends. I there read the three volumes at my leisure, and with the impression I shall never forget. I returned to College the winter following, not so properly your convert, as all orer spleen and prejudice against your defamers. From that time, I think, I am to date my friendship with you. There was something in your mind, still more than in the matter of your book, that struck me. In a word, I grew a constant reader of you. I enquired after your other works. I got the Alliance into my hands, and met with the Essay on Portents and Prodigies, which last'I liked the better, and still like it, because I understood it was most abused by those who owed you no good-will. Things were in this train when the Comment on Pope appeared. That Comment, and the connection I chanced then to have with Sir Edward Littleton, made me a poor critic : and in that condition you found me. I became, on the sudden, your acquaintance; and am now happy in being your friend. You have here a slight sketch of my history; at least, of the only part of it which will ever deserve notice.'

Yet, though here as well as in numerous other letters, he is profuse in his adulation of his partial friend, he ventures, to add ; I am as much above the thought of flattering you, as you are above the want of it.'-This, indeed, may be true.

In a letter to the Bishop of Gloucester, dated 25 December 1761, Mr. Hurd thus incidentally states his opinion of the poems attributed to Ossian :

• I have by accident got a sight of this mighty Fingal. I believe I mentioned my suspicions of the Fragments : they are:ten-fold greater of this epic poem. To say nothing of the want of external evidences or, which looks still worse, his shuffling over in such a manner the little evidence he pretends to give us, every page appears to me to af. ford internal evidence of forgery. His very citations of parallel pase sages bear against him. In poems of such rude antiquity, there might be some fashes of genius But here they are continual, and clothed in very classical expression. Besides, no images, no sentiments, but what are matched in other writers, or may be accounted for from usages still subsisting, or well known from the story of other nations. In short, nothing but what the enlightened editor can well explain himself. Above all, what are we to think of a long epic poem, dis, posed, in form, into six books, with a beginning, middle, and end, and enlivened, in the classic taste, with episodes. Still this is nothing. What are we to think of a work of this length, preserved and handed B 4


down to us entire, by oral tradition, for 1400 years, without a chasm, or so much as a various reading, I should rather say, speaking? Put all this together, and if Fingal be not a forgery, convict; all I have to say is, that the Sophists have a fine time of it. They may write, and lie on, with perfect security. And yet has this prodigy of North Britain set the world. agape. Mr. Gray believes in it ; and without doubt this Scotsman may persuade us, by the same arts, that Fingal is an original poem, as another employed to prove that Milton was a plagiary. But let James Macpherson beware the consequence. Truth will oui, they say, and then

Qui Bavium non odit, amet tua carmina, Mævi.” From a letter of Dr. W. dated in 1775, it appears that Mr. Hurd had an intention of writing a Dialogue on the effect of transferring supremacy in religious matters. The design was not fulfilled, but it occasioned some remarkable observations from Warburton :

• A thousand curious hints will arise to you as you proceed in contemplation of the subject. One now, for instance, occurs to me. Could any thing be more absurd than that, when the yoke of Rome was thrown off, they should govern the new Church, erected in opposition to it, by the laws of the old. The pretence was, that this was only by way of interim, till a body of Ecclesiastical Laws could be formed. But whoever considers that the Canon Laws proceeded from, and had perpetual reference to, 311 absolute spiritual Monarcb, and were formed upon the genius, and did acknowlege the authority of the Civil Laws, the issue of civil despotizm-I say, whoever considers this, will be inclined to think that the Crown contrived this interim from the use the Canon Law was of to the extension of the Prerogative. However, it is certain that the succeeding Monarchs, Elizabeth, James, Charles, prevented our ever havmg a body of new Ecclesiastical Laws, from a sense of this utilicy in the old ones; and a consciousness, if ever they should submit a body of new Laws to the Legislature, the Parliament would form them altogether upon the genius of a free Church and State. This I take to be the true solution of this mysterious affair, that wears a face of so much absurdity and scandalous neglect.'

Some idea may be formed of the temper of Warburton's mind as a controversialist, from the representation which he gives of himself at the time of replying to several writers who had attacked the Divine Legation :

· The contents of the inclosed paper is for a note at p. 184 of the second volume of the Divine Legation, where I enter upon the book of Job. I occasionally take notice of some of my answerers as I go along, in the notes, chiefly Gray and Peters. As for Worthington, Lowih, Garnet, Chappelow, &c. I am entirely silent on their chapters The


I send you is the introductory note to those meniioned above. I need not explain it to you. You will understand every word. What I want to know is, whether some parts of it be

« PreviousContinue »