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He continued to the end of his life the teacher of a congrega- 17 tion', and no reader of his works can doubt his fidelity or diligence. In the pulpit, though his low stature, which very little exceeded five feet', graced him with no advantages of appearance, yet the gravity and propriety of his utterance made his discourses very efficacious. I once mentioned the reputation which Mr. Foster 3 had gained by his proper delivery to my friend Dr. Hawkesworth, who told me that in the art of pronunciation he was far inferior to Dr. Watts.
Such was his flow of thoughts, and such his promptitude of 18 language, that in the latter part of his life he did not precompose his cursory sermons; but having adjusted the heads, and sketched out some particulars, trusted for success to his extemporary powers 5.
He did not endeavour to assist his eloquence by any gesticula- 19 tions; for, as no corporeal actions have any correspondence with theological truth, he did not see how they could enforce it.
At the conclusion of weighty sentences he gave time, by 20 a short pause, for the proper impression.
To stated and publick instruction he added familiar visits 21 and personal application, and was careful to improve the opportunities which conversation offered of diffusing and increasing the influence of religion.
By his natural temper he was quick of resentment, but 22 by his established and habitual practice he was gentle, modest, and inoffensive. His tenderness appeared in his attention to children and to the poor. To the poor, while he lived in the family of his friend, he allowed the third part of his annual revenue', though the whole was not a hundred a year; and for children he condescended to lay aside the scholar, the philosopher, and the wit, to write little poems of devotion and systems
of instruction, adapted to their wants and capacities, from the dawn of reason through its gradations of advance in the morning of life. Every man acquainted with the common principles of human action will look with veneration on the writer who is at one time combating Locke', and at another making a catechism for children in their fourth year. A voluntary descent from the dignity of science is perhaps the hardest lesson that humility can teach 2.
23 As his mind was capacious, his curiosity excursive, and his industry continual, his writings are very numerous and his subjects various. With his theological works I am only enough acquainted to admire his meekness of opposition and his mildness of censure. It was not only in his book but in his mind that orthodoxy was united with charity 3.
Of his philosophical pieces his Logick has been received into the universities, and therefore wants no private recommendation *: if he owes part of it to Le Clerc 5 it must be considered that no man who undertakes merely to methodise or illustrate a system pretends to be its author.
In his metaphysical disquisitions it was observed by the late learned Mr. Dyer that he confounded the idea of space with that of empty space, and did not consider that though space might be
for Children he says: 'I have endeavoured to sink the language to the level of a child's understanding, and yet to keep it, if possible, above contempt.' Eng. Poets, lvi. 199.
Watts's Philosophical Essays contain 'some remarks on Mr. Locke's Essay on the Human Understand
Ante, MILTON, 106, 147.
3One would think that the princes, the priests, and the people, the learned and the unlearned, the great and the mean, should have all by this time seen the folly and madness of seeking to propagate the truth by the acts of cruelty.... Men cannot believe what they will, nor change their religion and their sentiments as they please.' WATTS, The Improvement of the Mind, Part ii. ch. 3, sec. 5.
'Queen's College, Oxford, had at this time [1760-4] considerable repu
tation for its logic, and Bentham owned that his tutor gave him out of Sanderson's Logic some materials for correct reasoning. The English logic taught was Watts's, which Bentham always called "Old Women's logic." Bentham's Works, x. 37.
John James wrote from Queen's College in 1778:-'From a careful perusal of Watts and Duncan I hope e'er long to acquire a competent knowledge [of logic], and to be able at least not to be silent in the Hall [at the disputations].' Letters of Radcliffe and James, p. 50.
5 Gibbon, in 1762, described Le Clerc's Bibliothèque Universelle as 'an inexhaustible source of amusement and instruction.' Misc. Works, v. 224.
Samuel Dyer, a member of the Literary Club. Boswell's Johnson, i. 479, iv. 11.
without matter, yet matter, being extended, could not be without space.
Few books have been perused by me with greater pleasure 26 than his Improvement of the Mind, of which the radical principles may indeed be found in Locke's Conduct of the Understanding, but they are so expanded and ramified by Watts as to confer upon him the merit of a work in the highest degree useful and pleasing. Whoever has the care of instructing others may be charged with deficience in his duty if this book is not recommended 1.
I have mentioned his treatises of Theology as distinct from his 27 other productions, but the truth is that whatever he took in hand was, by his incessant solicitude for souls, converted to Theology. As piety predominated in his mind, it is diffused over his works; under his direction it may be truly said, 'Theologiæ Philosophia ancillatur,' philosophy is subservient to evangelical instruction: it is difficult to read a page without learning, or at least wishing, to be better. The attention is caught by indirect instruction, and he that sat down only to reason is on a sudden compelled to pray.
It was therefore with great propriety that, in 1728, he received 28 from Edinburgh and Aberdeen an unsolicited diploma, by which he became a Doctor of Divinity. Academical honours would have more value if they were always bestowed with equal judgement.
He continued many years to study and to preach, and to do 29 good by his instruction and example, till at last the infirmities of age disabled him from the more laborious part of his ministerial functions, and, being no longer capable of publick duty, he offered to remit the salary appendant to it; but his congregation would not accept the resignation 2.
By degrees his weakness increased, and at last confined him to 30 his chamber and his bed, where he was worn gradually away without pain, till he expired Nov. 25, 1748, in the seventy-fifth year of his age 3.
'Not long after the publication of the Lives Johnson wrote of his stepdaughter :-'Poor Lucy's health is very much broken. She takes very little of either food or exercise, and her hearing is very dull, and her utterance confused; but she will have
Watts's Improvement of the Mind'
2 Gibbons, p. 146.
3 lb. p. 318; Gent. Mag. 1748, p. 525.
31 Few men have left behind such purity of character or such
monuments of laborious piety. He has provided instruction for all ages, from those who are lisping their first lessons, to the enlightened readers of Malbranche and Locke; he has left neither corporeal nor spiritual nature unexamined; he has taught the art of reasoning, and the science of the stars.
His character, therefore, must be formed from the multiplicity and diversity of his attainments, rather than from any single performance; for it would not be safe to claim for him the highest rank in any single denomination of literary dignity: yet perhaps there was nothing in which he would not have excelled, if he had not divided his powers to different pursuits.
As a poet, had he been only a poet, he would probably have stood high among the authors with whom he is now associated. For his judgement was exact, and he noted beauties and faults with very nice discernment; his imagination, as the Dacian Battle' proves, was vigorous and active, and the stores of knowledge were large by which his fancy was to be supplied. His ear was well-tuned, and his diction was elegant and copious. But his devotional poetry is, like that of others, unsatisfactory 2. The paucity of its topicks enforces perpetual repetition, and the sanctity of the matter rejects the ornaments of figurative diction. It is sufficient for Watts to have done better than others what no man has done well 3.
His poems on other subjects seldom rise higher than might be expected from the amusements of a Man of Letters, and have different degrees of value as they are more or less laboured, or as the occasion was more or less favourable to invention *.
madversions upon Dr. Watts, who was nevertheless, if I am in any degree a judge of verse, a man of true poetical ability; ... frequently sublime in his conceptions, and masterly in his execution.' Ib. xv.
92. A fortnight later, after reading the Life, he wrote:- Nothing can be more judicious, or more characteristic of a distinguishing taste, than Johnson's observations upon Watts ; though I think him a little mistaken in his notion that divine subjects have never been poetically treated with success.' Ib. iv. 129.
'JOHNSON. Dr. Watts's poems are by no means his best works; I
He writes too often without regular measures, and too often in 35 blank verse; the rhymes are not always sufficiently correspondent. He is particularly unhappy in coining names expressive of characters'. His lines are commonly smooth and easy, and his thoughts always religiously pure; but who is there that, to so much piety and innocence, does not wish for a greater measure of spriteliness and vigour2? He is at least one of the few poets with whom youth and ignorance may be safely pleased; and happy will be that reader whose mind is disposed by his verses or his prose to imitate him in all but his non-conformity, to copy his benevolence to man, and his reverence to God 3.
cannot praise his poetry itself highly, but I can praise its design.' Boswell's Johnson, iii. 358.
'Boswell says of The Rambler:'Johnson's ladies seem strangely formal, even to ridicule; and are well denominated by the names which he has given them, as Misella, Zozima, Properantia, Rhodoclia.' Boswell's Johnson, i. 223.
Warburton, in a note on The Dunciad, i. 145-6 :
'A Gothic Library! of Greece and Rome
Well purg'd, and worthy Settle, Banks and Broome' writes:-'It was printed in the surreptitious editions, W-ly [Wesley], W-s [Watts], who were persons eminent for good life; the one writ the Life of Christ in verse, the other some valuable pieces in the lyric kind on pious subjects. The line is
here restored according to its original.' Warburton, v. 34. (The surreptitious editions' were published by Pope. Ante, POPE, 148.) According to Nichols, it was on Dr. Watts's 'very serious though gentle remonstrance' that other names were substituted. Lit. Anec. v. 218.
3 How much in Watts piety predominated over poetry is shown by his saying:-'I had rather be the author of Mr. Baxter's Call to the Unconverted than of Milton's Paradise Lost Gibbons, p. 157.
[The verdict of after generations has gone against Johnson's criticism of Watts's devotional poetry in at least one instance. Perhaps there is no hymn more familiar to Englishmen in all time of our tribulation' than 'Our God, our help in ages past,' sung to its fine old tune of St. Anne.]