« VorigeDoorgaan »
greatness, are ever bemoaning themselves what a life they lead, chanting a quanta patimur,' not that they feel it so, but only to
It has often occurred to us to consider what we should have gained, and what we should have lost, if the reversion of the registrarship of the Star Chamber had fallen to him in his youth, and he had retired on it into contemplative life.
He would have left us a much purer example, but a less useful warning. It is exquisitely mournful, but perhaps equally instructive, to see a man of gigantic intellect, of kindly affections, who had long and deeply meditated on virtue and on vice, who was carried away by no violent passions, who was borne down by no overwhelming temptations, seduced into crimes the most hateful and the most despicable—into cruelty, oppression, falsehood, ingratitude, and corruption, by mere weakness; by the want of firmness, to resist the solicitations of the sovereign, or of the favourite of the sovereign ; and by the want of self-denial, to abstain from gratifying his vanity or his taste, by an expense to which even his enormous income was unequal.
He would probably have completed the Instauratio Magna. Much of it no doubt would have been very valuable; much would have consisted of speculations in physical science, depending on premises deduced from insufficient evidence, or assumed without any evidence whatever. But we should not have had the Essays, such as we have them now. Only long experience of active life; only constant collision with every class of mind, and every diversity of character; only passing through every variety of fortune, from poverty to wealth, and from wealth to poverty - from obscurity to fame, and from fame to infamy-from mediocrity to power, and from power to humiliation-could have given to him the deep and practical insight into human nature which produced the Essays in their last form. And we are not sure that we should gain, even if it were possible to exchange them for the Desiderata.
The few portions of Archbishop Whately's Annotations which we have extracted, give, of course, a most inadequate specimen of his part of the volume. It is, as we have already remarked, a work of which it is impossible to give an outline, or a comprehensive view. We must refer the reader to the original : it cannot be read by deputy. It is of " the few books that are to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention.” It is not often that such a man as Whately comments on such a man as Bacon.
ART. II.—1. Horæ Lyricæ. Poems chiefly of the Lyric kind.
By Isaac Watts, D.D. With a Memoir of the Author by
ROBERT SOUTHEY, Esq., LL.D. London, 1834. 2. The Poet of the Sanctuary. A Centenary Commemoration of
the Labours and Services, Literary and Devotional, of the Rev. Isaac Watts, D.D. By JOSIAH CONDER. London, 1851.
In the gloomy reign of James II., the most diligent boy in the Grammar School of Southampton was a little Puritan. So tiny, that he would hardly have passed for eleven years of age, he was so grave and good, as to be at once a model and a reproof to his sturdier class-mates; and, although in repose there was nothing peculiarly prepossessing in his pale face, with its prominent cheek-bones, and a forehead far from lofty, the moment that some hard question posed the form, the sparkling eye and the slight nervous figure quivering with the pent-up answer, betrayed the genius and the scholar. Already he had made good proficiency in French, Latin, and Greek, and had delighted his mother, whilst he astonished his companions, by ingenious acrostics and clever impromptu stanzas; and altogether, with his quiet, docile disposition, and his precocious attainments, lie made glad the heart of the Rev. Mr Pinhorn, who, like many a disconsolate preceptor before and since, at last foresaw a dim and distant Ararat, and hailed the youth who should
“ comfort him concerning his work and the toil of his hands.”
The little Nonconformist, so dear to the good rector of All Saints, probably owed something of his early sedateness to his family circumstances. His father, a man of gentle and noble nature, and an excellent scholar, had kept a boarding-school ; but, whilst his first-born was a babe, he lay in prison to expiate his crime as a frequenter of conventicles.
On the sunny days his wife used to come and sit on a stone near the cell of her husband, nursing her child; and now that he was grown to be dux of the grammar school, whatever might be a father's pride and pleasure, he was obliged to forego all
personal share in superintending the education and forming the mind of his boy. For the last two years, Isaac Watts the elder had been a fugitive, hiding somewhere in London; and the best holiday known in the household, was when a letter arrived to assure them that he still had escaped from the hands of his persecutors.
The “grandmother Lois” is often as influential on the opening mind as the “mother Eunice.” Our young friend's mother carefully taught him the Shorter Catechism, encouraged him to write verses, and helped him with his tasks; but the venerable lady of threescore and ten, in addition to the hold which maternal tenderness takes upon the heart, had for her grandson the fascination which saintly worth and a beautiful old age exert on a susceptible and imaginative childhood. The husband of her youth had been a gallant sailor. In “the piping times of peace," he wielded the pencil and played on the violin, and, with his wit and his traveller's tales, he was the life of the friendly circle; but his favourite tune was the breeze whistling through the shrouds, and the roar of the cannon was the music which he could not resist. With Blake for his admiral, and with the Dutch for his foe, the young captain hasted out to sea; but in the battle a shot penetrated the powder magazine, the ship blew up, and Mrs Watts was a widow. And now, in her old age, her grandson loved to hear the story of those terrible sea-fights, and how his bold ancestor had fought with beasts as well as men ;-how, for instance, in the East Indies, he had once run into a river to escape from a tiger, but the enraged creature followed him, and it was only by putting forth a wild
paroxysm of strength, and holding under water, till it was drowned, the head of the struggling monster, that he saved his life. But deeply as such recitals stirred the listener's spirit, they enkindled no emulous aspirations. To the cutlass and truncheon he preferred the captain's flute and fiddle, and showed more disposition to copy his drawings, than to rival his deeds of naval daring. Had he been a strong and active boy, the nautical succession would have developed in boating, “ pluck," and pugilism. As it was, with the tarry-at-home necessities imposed by a feeble frame, it only imparted to the thoughtful lad a tinge of romance, and a certain tone of unselfish and chivalrous feeling.
At last King James's indulgence allowed the persecuted Nonconformist to return to his family. There he was cheered by the gentle virtues and studious dispositions of the “ Isaac whom he loved," and soon had the unspeakable satisfaction of finding that the lessons and musings of these carefully instructed and well guarded years had ripened into earnest piety. All along an affectionate onlooker might have hoped the best for a child so duteous and so blameless; but it was not till his fifteenth year that his apprehension of the Gospel became so distinct, and his love to the Saviour so influential, as to mark to his own mind the commencement of personal Christianity.
Impressed with his piety and his promise of rare ability, a kind friend offered to send him to the University, if he would consent to study for the Church. But no one will wonder that Isaac Watts had “determined to take his lot among the Dissenters.” He was no bigot. Many have felt more strongly on
The Dissenting Academy.
questions of religious worship and ecclesiastical government. But he had his preference; and, after all that his parents had done and suffered in the cause of Protestant Nonconformity, he would have felt it a filial treason, as well as an apostasy, to go over to the other side. Accordingly, as soon as he had learned all that his father and Mr Pinhorn could teach him, he went, in his seventeenth year, to study at the Dissenting Academy then kept at Newington, a pleasant village now nearly absorbed in London.
At the time we speak of, and for nearly a hundred years thereafter, a Dissenting academy was a very simple and unostentatious institution. Its local habitation was usually a plain but commodious building in a country town, or in some peaceful and sequestered hamlet near the capital. The principal was a divine, judicious, experienced, and learned, whom the esteem of his brethren had invited to the office, and who not only combined in his single personality the entire faculties of arts and theology, but who was almost always a pluralist, discharging, alongside of his multifarious professorship, a diligent and effective pastorate. But it was really wonderful how much a conscientious student contrived to learn during a three-years' sojourn in one of these unpretending colleges. His tutor was himself an adept. Perhaps he had studied under Perizonius and Witsius at Leyden, or had brought over from their learned contemporaries at Utrecht and Franeker vast collectanea on all the mental and material sciences; and it was only a revival of his own earlier enthusiasm to traverse those fields afresh in the society of his ingenuous and youthful companions. The inexorable bell rang at five in the morning, and the hours of prime were devoted to Hebrew and Jewish Antiquities, Euclid and Astronomy, Locke on the Understanding and Heereboord's Logic. Divinity lectures were interspersed with theses and discussions on controvertible points; and, as a preparation for the direct work of the ministry, the composition of sermons and the arts of communication were largely cultivated. During “school hours,” the language was Latin; and a respectable scholarship must have been required in order to read the Hebrew Bible into Greek, as was the custom under some tutors. The system may not be adapted to modern times ; but, last century, most of the men who entered on their ministry fully furnished, came from these quiet but industrious seminaries. As one example, may be mentioned the Academy at Gloucester, where, out of sixteen contemporary pupils, we recognise at least four distinguished names : Jeremiah Jones
, the author of the still unsuperseded work on “the Canon;" and Bishop Butler, author of a no less enduring work on “the Analogy of Religion to the Constitution and Course of
Nature;" Dr Daniel Scott, the learned continuator of Stephens' “ Thesaurus ;" and a youth who shared the same apartment with Scott, Thomas Secker, afterwards Archbishop of Canterbury.
During the three years which Isaac Watts spent under Mr Rowe at Newington, there is abundant evidence still extant of his intense application and his progress in knowledge. But, what was still better, his piety kept pace with his intellectual attainments. Amidst devout and warm-hearted fellow-students, and in daily contact with a holy and high-minded teacher, there was much to maintain that fervour which sometimes subsides in academic halls, and which needs to be revived by the solemn urgencies of the actual pastorate. At the end of his curriculum the student returned to his father's house, rich in acquirement, but wịth that reluctance to enter on the actual ministry, which sometimes occasions a long pause to conscientious minds confronting near-hand the responsibilities of the sacred office; and before he would take any further step, he lingered two years and a half at Southampton, giving himself to reading, meditation,
However, it was during this interval that he entered on that special ministry by which he, “ being dead, yet speaketh” in the churches of Christendom.
Isaac Watts was born a poet, and there were many things in his early life which fostered and developed the faculty divine. His ancestors had been musical : his father was not only a man of taste and intelligence, but was given to “versing;” and his mother used to beguile the rainy afternoons, by offering to the boarding-school pupils a prize for the best poetical effusion. On one occasion Mrs Watts's copper medal was gained by the following rather saucy couplet of her eldest son, then seven or eight years old :
“ I write not for a farthing, but to try
How I your farthing writers can outvie.” Afterwards, under his excellent instructors at Southampton and Newington, he was introduced to the best models, English and classical. Of these, none laid such a hold on his imagination and affections as the Latin Psalms of Buchanan, and the soaring, high-sounding lyrics of Casimir Sarbiewski :
See, from the Caledonian shore,
Buchanan march along!
And hail thy matchless song!