Page images
PDF
EPUB

,

vanced to the deanery of Bristol; and in 1758 republished the second part of “The Divine Legation," divided into two parts, with a dedication to the earl of Mansfield, which deserves to be read by every person who esteems the wellbeing of society as a concern of any importance. At the latter end of next year, Dr. Warburton received the honour, so justly due to his merit, of being dignified with the mitre, and promoted to the vacant see of Gloucester. He was consecrated on the 20th of Jan.. 1760; and on the 30th of the saine month preached before the House of Lords. In the next year he printed " A rational Account of the Nature and End of the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper," 12mo. In 1762, he published “The Doctrine of Grace: or, the office aird operations of the Holy Spirit vindicated from the insults of Infidelity and the abuses of Fanaticism,” 2 vols. 12mo, one of his performances which does him least credit ; and in the suc. ceeding year drew upon himself much illiberal abuse from some writers * of the popular party, on occasion of his complaint in the House of Lords, on Nov. 15, 1763, against Mr. Wilkes, for putting his name to certain notes on the infamous “Essay on Woman.” In 1765, another edition of the second part of “The Divine Legation was pub. lished, as volumes III. IV. and V.; the two parts printed in 1755 being considered as volumes I. and II. It was this edition which produced a very angry controversy between him and Dr. Lowth, whom in many respects he found more than his equal. (See Lowth, p. 438.) On this occasion was published, “The second part of an epistolary Corre. spondence between the bishop of Gloucester and the late professor of Oxford, without an Imprimatur, i.e. without a cover to the violated Laws of Honour and Society," 1766, 8vo. In 1776, he gave a new edition of “The Alliance between Church and State ;” and “A Sermon preached before the incorporated Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in foreign Parts, at the anniversary Meeting in the parish church of St. Mary-le-bow, on Friday, Feb. 21," 8vo. The next year produced a third volume of his “ Sermons," dedicated to lady Mansfield; and with this, and a single “ Sermon preached at St. Lawrence-Jewry on Thursday,

* See Churchill's Duellist, the De. dication of his Sermons, and other pieces. In making his complaint, the bishop, after solemnly disavowing both the poem and the notes, averred, the

former was worthy of the Devil; then, after a short pause, added, “No, I beg the Devil's pardon, for he is incapable of writing it.”

April 30, 1767, before his royal highness Edward duke of York, president, and the governors of the London Hospital. &c.” 4to, he closed his literary labours. His faculties continued unimpaired for some time after this period; and, in 1769, he gave the principal materials to Mr Ruffhead, for his “ Life of Mr. Pope.” He also transferred 5001. to lord Mansfield, judge Wilmot, and Mr. Charles Yorke, upon trust, to found a lecture in the form of a course of sermons; to prove the truth of revealed religion in general, and of the Christian in particular, from the completion of the prophecies in the Old and New Testament, which relate to the Christian church, especially to the apostacy of Papal Rome. To this foundation we owe the admirable introductory leiters of bishop Hurd; and the well adapted continuation of bishops Halifax and Bagot, Dr. Apthorp, the Rev. R. Nares, and others. It is a melancholy reflection, that a life spent in the constant pursuit of knowledge frequently terminates in the loss of those powers, the cultivation and improvement of which are atiended to with too strict and unabated a degree of ardour. This was in some degree the misfortune of Dr: Warburton. Like Swift and the great duke of Marlborough, he gradually sunk into a situation in which it was a fatigue to bim to,enter into general conversation. There were, however, a few old and valuable friends, in whose company, even to the last, his mental faculties were exerted in their wonted force; and at such times he would appear cheerful for several hours, and on the departure of his friends retreat as it were within himself. This melancholy habit was aggravated by the loss of his only son, a very promising young gentleman, who died, of a consumption but a short time before the bisbop himself resigned to fate June 7, 1779, in the eighty-first year of his age. A neat marble monument has been lately erected in the cathedral of Gloucester, with the inscription below *, .

and

*« To the memory of · WILLIAM WARBURTON, D. D. for more than 19 years Bishop of this

see.

A Prelate of the most sublime Genius, and

exquisite Learning.

Both which taleuts he employed through a long life,

of what he esteemed the best Estab

lishment of it,
the CHURCH of ENGLAND.
He was born at Newark upon Trent,

Dec. 24, 1698.
Was consecrated BISHOP of Glou-

in the support of what he firmly believed, the CHRISTIAN RELIGION;

cester, Jan. 20, 1760. Died at his palace, in this city,

June 7, 1779, and was buried near this place.

Dr. Johnson's character of this literary phænomenon is too remarkable to be omitted. “ About this time (1738), Warburton began to make his appearance in the first ranks of learving. He was a man of vigorous faculties, a mind fervid and vehement, supplied by incessant and unlimited inquiry, with wonderful extent and variety of knowledge, which yet had not oppressed his imagination nor clouded his perspicacity. To every work be brought a memory full fraught, together with a fancy fertile of original combinations; and at once exerted the powers of the scholar, the reasoner, and the wit. But his knowledge was too multifarious to be always exact, and his pursuits were too eager to be always cautious. His abilities gave him a haughty consequence, which he disdained to conceal or mollify; and his impatience of opposition disposed him to treat his adversaries with such contemptuous superiority as made his readers commonly his enemies, and excited against the advocate the wishes of some who favoured the cause. He seems to have adopted the Roman emperor's determination, 'oderiot dum metuant;' he used no allurements of gentle language, but wished to compel rather than persuade. His style is copious without selection, and forcible without neatness; he took the words that presented themselves : bis diction is coarse and impure, and his sentences are unmeasured.” To this character, which has been often copied, we shall subjoin some remarks from the able critic of whom we have already borrowed, and whose opinions seem entitled to great attention.

“ Warburton's whole constitution, bodily as well as mental, seemed to indicate that he was born to be an extraordinary man : with a large and athletic person he prevented the necessity of such bodily exercises as strong constitutions usually require, by rigid and undeviating abstinence. The time thus saved was uniformly devoted to study, of which no measure or continuance ever exhausted his understanding, or checked the natural and lively flow of bis spirits. A change in the object of his pursuit was bis only relaxation; and he could pass and repass from fathers and philosophers to Don Quixote, in the original, with perfect ease and pleasure. In the mind of Warburton the foundation of classical literature had been well laid, yet not so as to enable him to pursue the science of ancient criticisın with an exactness equal to the extent in which he grasped it. His inaster-faculty was reason, and his master-science was theology; the very outline of which last, as marked out by this great man, for the direction of young students, surpasses the attainments of many who have the reputation of considerable divines. One deficiency of his education he had carefully corrected by cultivating logic with great diligence. That he has sometimes mistaken the sense of his own citations in Greek, may perhaps be imputed to a purpose of bending them to his own opinions. After all, he was incomparably, the worst critic in his mother tongue. Little acquainted with old English literature, and as little with those provincial dialects which yet retain much of the phraseology of Shakespeare, he has exposed himself to the derision of far inferior judges by mistaking the sense of passages, in which he would have been corrected by shepherds and plowmen. His sense of humour, like that of most men of very vigorous faculties, was strong, but ex. tremely coarse, while the rudeness and vulgarity of his manners as a controvertist removed all restraints of decency or decorum in scattering his jests about him. His taste seems to have been neither just nor delicate. He had no. thing of that intuitive perception of beauty which feels rather than judges, and yet is sure to be followed by the common suffrage of mankind : on the contrary, his critical favours were commonly bestowed according to rules and reasons, and for the most part according to some perverse and capricious reasons of his own. . In short, it may be adduced as one of those compensations with which Providence is ever observed to balance the excesses and superfiuities of its own gifts, that there was not a faculty about this wonderful man which does not appear to have been distorted by a certain inexplicable perverseness, in which pride and love of paradox were blended with the spirit of subtle and sophistical reasoning. In the lighter exercises of his faculties it may not unfrequently be doubted whether he believed himself; in the more serious, however finespun his theories may have been, he was unquestionably honest. On the whole, we think it a fair subject of speculation, whether it were desirable that Warburton's education and early habits should have been those of other great scholars. That the ordinary forms of scholastic institution would have been for his own benefit and in some respects for that of mankind, there can be no doubt. The gradations of an University would, in part, have mortified his vanity and subdued. bis arrogance. The perpetual colli

sions of kindred and approximating minds, which constitute, perhaps, the great excellence of those illustrious seminaries, would have rounded off some portion of his native asperities; he would have been broken by the academical curb to pace in the trammels of ordinary ratiocination; he would have thought always above, yet not alto. gether unlike, the rest of mankind. In short, he would have become precisely what the discipline of a college was able to make of the man, whom Warburton most resembled, the great Bentley. Yet all these advantages would have been acquired at an expence ill to be spared and greatly to be regretted. The man might have been polished and the scholar improved, but the phenomenon would have been lost. Mankind might not have learned, for centuries to come, what an untutored mind can do for itself. A self-taught theologian, untamed by rank and unsubdued by intercourse with the great, was yet a novelty; and the manners of a gentleman, the formalities of argument, and the niceties of composition, would, at least with those who love the eccentricities of native genius, have been unwillingly accepted in exchange for that glorious extravagance which dazzles while it is unable to convince, that range of erudition which would have been cramped by exactness of research, and that haughty defiance of form and decorum, which, in its rudest transgressions against charity and manners, never failed to combine the powers of a giant with the temper of a ruffian.”

Bishop Warburton's widow was re-married, at Wyke in Dorsetshire, in August 1781, to the rev. John Stafford Smith, B. D. his lordship's chaplain, who, in her right, became owner of Prior Park. In 1788, a handsome edition of the bishop's Works was carefully printed, from his last corrections and improvements, in 7 volumes 4to, at the espence of Mrs. Smith, under the immediate superintendo ence of bishop Hurd. This edition was followed in 1794 by a “ Discourse, by way of general preface to the 4to edition of bishop Warburton's Works, containing some account of the life, writings, and character of the author.” For many reasons this “ Life" appeared to be unsatisfactory *, and two very important faults were imputed to it.

* “ With the life of this wonderful would have been difficult to find a man person, as given by bis most devoted in the whole compass of English literafriend, it is impossible for us to express ture competent to the task, excepting our entire satisfaction. In truth, it the immortal biographer of the English

« PreviousContinue »