Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

Mathematics and physics he had but little relish for, from whence it may be inferred, that his natural powers had received comparatively but small improvement from an academical education. An habitual disposition to thought and reflection enabled him however upon his leaving it, to attain to that degree of improvement which, in many minds, is not effected without intense application and labour ; and the sentiments of piety which he had imbibed in his youth, directed him to those studies, which, without attending to secular rewards, he thought of greatest importance to his future happiness. In conformity to this motive, he applied himself to the study of the Holy Scriptures, and the evidences of religion, to the writings of the fathers and of the Greek moralists, to ecclesiastical and civil history, and to classical literature and philology.

The result of these his mental exercises was a thorough conviction of the truth of the Christian religion, an adherence to the doctrine and discipline of our established church, and to that form of civil governinent which we number among the blessings derived to us from the wisdom and bravery of our ancestors, with this farther advantage, that they rooted in his mind those principles of religion, morality, and, I will add, loyalty, that influenced his conduct during the remainder of his life.

To speak of the first, his religion, it had a tincture of enthusiasm, arising, as is conjectured, from the fervour of his imagination, and the perusal of St. Augustine and other of the fathers, and the writings of Kempis and the ascetics, which prompted him to the employment of composing meditations and devotional exer

cises. It farther produced in him an habitual reverence for the name of God, which he was never known to utter but on proper occasions and with due respect, and operated on those that were admitted to his conversation as a powerful restraint of all profane discourse, and idle discussions of theological questions ; and, laftly, it inspired him with that charity, meaning thereby a general concern for the welfare of all mankind, without which we are told that all pretensions to religion are vain.

To enable him at times to review his progress in life, and to estimate his improvement in religion, he, in the year 1734, began to note down the transactions of each day, recollecting, as well as he was able; those of his youth, and interspersing such reflections and resolutions as, under particular circumstances, he was induced to make. This register, which he intitled

Annales,' does not form an entire volume, but is contained in a variety of little books folded and stitched together by himself, and which were found mixed with his papers. Some specimens of these notanda have been lately printed with his prayers; but to warrant what I have said, respecting his religious charaćer, I have selected from the ‘Annales,' and insert in the margin below, an earlier extract than any contained in that collection*.

His

• Friday, August 27th,' [1734) '10 at night. This day I have trified away, except that I have attended the school in the morn. ing. I read to night in Rogers's sermons. To night I began the " breakfast law anew.

· Sept. 7th, 1736. I have this day entered upon my 28th year. • Mayest thou, O God, enable me for Jesus Chrif's fake, to spend

M 2

o this

His moral character displayed itself in the sincerity of his friendships, his love of justice and of truth, and his placability; of all which qualities, the testimonies in his favour are innumerable. But as the character here proposed to be given him is not intended to palliate his errors in behaviour, truth obliges me to say, that his outward deportment was in many inftanees a just subject of censure. Before his arrival in town, he was but little accustomed to free converfation with his superiors, so that that kind of submission he had been used to pay them he seemed to exact from others, and when it was refused him he was petulant, captious, and dogged. His discourse, which through life was of the didactic kind, was replete with original sentiments expressed in the strongest and most correct terms, and in such language, that whoever could have heard and not seen him, would have thought him reading. For the pleasure he communicated to his hearers, he expected not the tribute of filence: on the contrary, he encouraged others, particularly young men, to speak, and paid a due attention to what they said ; but his prejudices were so strong and deeply rooted, more especially againft Scotchmen and whigs, that whoever thwarted him ran the risque of a severe rebuke, or at best became entangled in an unpleasant altercation.

He was scarce settled in town before this dogmatical behaviour, and his impatience of contradiction, became

• this in such a manner that I may receive comfort from it at the 6 hour of death, and in the day of judgment. Amen.

• I intend to-morrow to review the rules I have at any time laid * down, in order to practise them.'

a part

[ocr errors]

a part of his character, and deterred many persons of learning, who wished to enjoy the delight of his conversation, from seeking his acquaintance. There were not wanting those among his friends who would sometimes hint to him, that the conditions of free conversation imply an equality among those engaged in it, which are violated whenever superiority is assumed: their reproofs he took kindly, and would in excuse for what they called the pride of learning, say, that it was of the defenfive kind. The repetition of these had, however, a great effect on him; they abated his prejudices, and produced a change in his temper and manners that rendered him at length a desirable companion in the most polite circles.

In the lesser duties of morality he was remiss : he slept when he should have studied, and watched when he should have been at rest : his habits were Novenly, and the neglect of his person and garb so great as to render his appearance disgusting. He was an ill husband of his time, and so regardless of the hours of refection, that at two he might be found at breakfast, and at dinner at eight. In his studies, and I may add, in his devotional exercises, he was both intense and remiss, and in the prosecution of his literary employments

, dilatory and hasty, unwilling, as himself confessed, to work, and working with vigour and hafte *.

His indolence, or rather the delight he took in reading and reflection, rendered him averse to bodily exertions. He was ill made for riding, and took so

• See his prayers page 184.

M3

little

little pleasure in it, that, as he once told me, he has fallen asleep on his horse. Walking he feldom practised, perhaps for no better reason, than that it required the previous labour of dressing. In a word, mental occupation was his sole pleasure, and the knowledge he acquired in the pursuit of it he was ever ready to communicate: in which faculty he was not only excellent but expert; for, as it is related of lord Bacon by one who knew him*, that in all companies he appeared a good proficient, if not a master, in those arts entertained for the subject of every one's discourse, and that his 'most casual talk deserved to be written,' so it may be faid of Johnson, that his conversation was ever suited to the profession, condition, and capacity of those with whom he talked.

Of a mind thus stored it is surely not too much to say, that it qualified the poffeffor of it for many more important employınents than the instruction of non-adults in the elements of literature; yet so humbly did he seem to think of himself when he published the advertisement of his little academy at Edial, that to be able to establish it, was the utmost of his ambition; but that hope failing, his necessities drove him to London, and placed him in the station of life in which we are now to contemplate him.

It has been mentioned in a preceding page, that in the course of his studies he had formed a list of literary undertakings, on which, when time should serve or occasion invite, he meant to exercise his pen: but such was the versatility of his temper, that of forty-nine articles which he had fixed

Works of Francis Ofborn, Efq; 8vo. 1673, page 151.

ona

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »