« PreviousContinue »
Let not the debt due from the country to that unfortunate monarch, while he filled that high office, be forgotten in the censure which is sometimes indiscriminately and unsparingly heaped upon a debt of gratitude for services rendered by his bravery in fight, by his “ transcendent mastery in all maritime knowledge,” (to use Mr. Pepys's expression) and that diligent attention to the navy, by which he contributed more than almost any other individual to its greatness. Let his character be relieved likewise from some of its unpleasing features, when it is recollected that he attached to himself these amiable and excellent individuals, though widely differing from him in religious principles. The name of Mr. Secretary Pepys will always stand high for private worth, as well as for great attainments in literature and science; and Mr. Bowdler, though unknown to posterity, except among his own descendants, was loved and honoured by a circle of friends, whose expressions of kindness are a pleasing testimony to the warmth of his affection and his many excellent qualities.
But though he adhered to the deposed monarch from feelings of personal regard, there were other motives which influenced him in continuing in his retirement from public life. And when his brother-in-law wrote to him expressing a hope that all his obligations being gone with King James, who was lately dead, he would begin to reflect on the
duty he owed at home, and qualify himself for public business, that his family might reap the benefit thereof, he replied, (11th Oct. 1701,)
“ I must answer your kinde invitation with a denyall, and justify my so doing as an act of prudence, by saying, it is not my interest to doe what you seem to wish. For supposing there were neither religion or conscience in the case, (which I won't mention on this occasion, because I think they ought to be used more in practice, and less in argument) what worldly benefit can one expect from such a change? How should one be looked on by the friends he deserts, or by the side he goes over to ? How could he hope to be trusted by the one ? and by the other how ought he to be contemned? And because it may be thought I am not wholly my owne, from the duty you minde me of as due at home, I am not without consulting her who is to be the partner of my fortune, and there I am told that I am in the right; there I meet with an inclination towards a virtuous saving what cannot be honestly increased otherwise. Neither nature or art designed mee for greatness. A family I have none to raise. * And as for the girles, wealth cannot make them virtuous, and extream want will not, I hope, necessitate them to be lewd. As I am very sensible how low my deservings are in the world, soe am I as willing to pass with privacy the few
years I have to live beyond forty in it. And yet I don't finde myselfe so forgetfull of the sweet of getting, or so given over to idleness, as not to be willing and desirous to be at business again, on such terms as you and my
He had then no son living.
other friends should not be ashamed of mee, or I of myselfe; but upon the conditions the publick affords their favours, there is no likelihood I should ever obtain them. The report with you of the B. of G. * is newes to mee, who have for some time lived close in the country, but I believe you will finde hee is abused. As to the B. of B. and W. you have a friend with you, who knowes as much of his minde as another. And for the D. of W. I believe I may say of him, that hee will continue his present sentiments as long as hee can distinguish right from wrong. They are all of them great and good examples, which I shall be proud always to keep in my view. Especially since by so doing I loose nothing of your friendship, which, by the experience of severall late unhappy yeares, I finde to be better founded than to depend on the good or bad fortune of this uncertain world. I ought not to returne your well meant kindness with the burthen of so many words, but they are one of the effects of idleness, and yet with fewer I knew not how to excuse my declining any thing you could desire.”
They whose lot has fallen in happier days will readily express their thankfulness that the religious and political differences which occasioned the above letter have long since passed away; but they will not hesitate to admire that conscientious adherence to principle which is there expressed; nor to bear testimony to the solid comfort and
Frampton, Bishop of Gloucester ; Kenn, Bishop of Bath and Wells; Hickes, Dean of Worcester. All these had been ejected at the Revolution.
real happiness which will be the reward of an upright mind and a faithful discharge of duty, though in circumstances far removed from the luxuries of affluence, and a situation retired from the attractions of public life.
Mr. Bowdler was blessed in his family, and blessed yet more (if possible) in his friends ; for several of his children were taken from him in their childhood; and one of his daughters, who was married to Francis Barrell, Esq. of Rochester, died a few years before her father. His wife, who was daughter of Sir Joseph Martin, an eminent Turkey merchant, after being the mother of thirteen children, was suddenly carried off by a violent attack of sickness in 1713, which occasioned the following affecting memorandum in her husband's diary. Sunday. My deare, deare wife died at twelve at night, being taken ill in the morning. When it is mentioned that the Earl of Winchelsea, Captain Hatton, Sir Anthony Deane*, Mr. Nelson, and Mr. Spinckes were among those who either held the pall or officiated at her funeral, it will be perceived that she and her family were held in much respect by some of those who were themselves most deserving of respect in their generation.
* Sir A: Deane was the person whom King James was anxious to introduce into the Commission for the Navy, established at the suggestion of Mr. Pepys in 1686. See M . Pepys's Memoirs relating to the state of the Royal Navy.
The beginning of the last century was, like this in which we have lived, a time of considerable effort and enterprize. But it was a time also (and in this respect likewise our own age happily bears a close resemblance to it) when some laymen of distinguished excellence united with several of the clergy in endeavouring to excite in the people of this country that piety united to sound principles, both in church and state, which warmed their own bosoms. Such was Mr. Nelson, one of those lately mentioned, the near neighbour and friend of Mr. Bowdler, a gentleman of easy circumstances and elegant manners, who taught by his writings and displayed in his life the beauty and excellence of virtue. Long may the pure but sublime devotion expressed in his works continue to instruct the young, and console the aged and afflicted, and show to a thoughtless world that the politest gentleman need not be ashamed to be a pious Christian,
Vivit adhuc, et in omne ævum vivet,
There was another person, much distinguished in his day, with whom Mr. Bowdler lived in habits of great intimacy, Dr. Hickes, dean of Worcester, famous for his piety, his orthodoxy, his deep and extensive erudition, and particularly his skill in the northern languages. Bishop