ePub 版

labours and most matured judgment in bringing it to perfection. Let no one presume, with indecent speed, to judge of such a production in as many hours. We have been reluctantly compelled to form an opinion of it through the medium of a translation, and yet under this disadvantage, it displays beauties, which seem to multiply themselves in exact proportion to the intensity with which we gaze upon them.

ART. VI.-1. Memoirs of the Life, Writings and Opinions of the

Rev. Samuel Parr, L.L. D. ; with Biographical Notices of many of his friends, pupils and contemporaries. By the Rev. WILLIAM FIELD. 2 vols. 8vo. Colburn. London. 1828.

2. Parriana: or Notices of the Rev. Samuel Parr, L. L. D.

collected from various sources, printed and manuscript, and in part written by E. H. BARKER, Esq. of Thetford, Norfolk. Vol. lst. Colburn. London. 1828.

“ENGLAND has seen but three Greek scholars, I mean real scholars," was wont to say, with a full pompous voice and strong lisp, an old gentleman arrayed in black velvet, and an ample cauliflower wig, surmounted by a cocked hat. “The first of these scholars was the immortal Bentley, the second is Porson, and the third,” continued he, with a swelling satisfaction that belied his words "the third, modesty forbids me to mention." It is to this third Grecian that we now introduce our readers.

More than thirty years ago, Dr. Parr was ranked by many as “ by far the most learned man of his day;" by others proclaimed a second Dr. Johnson ;* and ever since, public opinion in the United Kingdoms has accorded him a reputation which, on this side of the Atlantic, we have for the most part taken on hearsay in absence of better proof. His various claims to immortality are at last fully before us, and if we cannot laud very highly the talents and taste of his biographers, their industry and fairness seem to merit our confidence. We could, indeed, have wished that the Memoirs of the Doctor's life by Dr. Johnstone, bad reached us, but we are inclined to think they could have added nothing of very great importance to the ample materials furnished by two persons who had every opportunity of acquiring correct and minute knowledge of the subject.

* See Seward's Letters, Pursuits of Literature, Edinburgh Review, &c.

Dr. Samuel Parr was born at Harrow-on-the-Hill, January 26th, 1747. His father was firmly attached to the divine right of kings and to the Pretender, to whom he lent the greatest part of his fortune. "The son when a child," to use his own words, “read through Rapin's History several times.” “In studying the pages of that judicious and impartial writer, he often de clared, he found all his hereditary prejudices powerfully counteracted; and it was from them that he imbibed his first notions of those great principles of civil and religious liberty, which he so ardently embraced and so strenuously maintained through his future life."'*

That he evinced talents at a very early age, we have his own testimony. “He, himself often observed that his mental faculties were unfolded very prematurely; adding too, that with him prematurity did not, as years advanced, sink into imbecility."4 Perhaps it is a proof of this, that “he has sometimes been heard to declare, that he recollected being suckled at his mother's breast. He spoke with perfect sincerity, though with an evident distrust of being believed."| At four years old, he was successfully taught the Latin Grammar by his father, and owing, probably to this cause, he insisted on the necessity of commencing very young to attain a thorough knowledge of the ancient languages, though he acknowledged that Scaliger, Gibbon, and his own friend, Richard Payne Knight, were splendid exceptions. Mr. Field relates also, as how "the child," whom he sometimes compares to an infant Hercules in the cradle, mounted upon a chair, or, perchance, more conspicuously upon a table, would spout choice passages to an admiring audience, or even extemporarily delight bearded sages with the fruits of his precocity. .

He was sent at the age of five years to Harrow school, first under the learned Dr. Thackeray, and afterwards under the more celebrated Dr. Sumner, of whom Sir William Jones has left a beautiful portrait. Before Parr had completed his fourteenth year, he arrived at the first place in the first form, although such men as Nathaniel Brassy Halked, Bishop Bennet, and Sir William Jones, were his competitors; with the two last, he formed a friendship that remained undiminished in their riper years.

* Memoirs, vol. i. p. 6. t Ibid. p. 18. $ Ibid. p. 8.

Jones, Bennet and Parr were accustomed to divide the neighbouring fields among them, and assuming ancient names, proffered to maintain their fancied domains against all invaders. “ Thus at one time it was agreed that Jones should be called Euryalus, King of Arcadia ; Bennet, Nisus, King of Argos; and Parr, Leander, Prince of Abydos and Sestos. Under these and similar names, they held councils, they wrote memorials; they uttered harangues ; they declared war; they negociated peace; whilst some of their school-fellows consented (very complaisantly) to be styled barbarians.”* Hence these lads of thirteen, before putting on long-tailed coats, “must have acquired,” as Mr. Field very seriously and sapiently observes, “just ideas of international law and civil government,” without the trouble of poring over Puffendorf or Grotius. The three also studied logic together, and practised themselves in syllogystic disputation. Metaphysics too engaged their attention; but here Episcopal Bennet and Oriental Jones toiled in vain to keep pace with the eagle flight of Parr. “In truth,” said he, and who knew better, “I was often engaged in diving into the depths or upravelling the intricacies of subjects, which they, at that time, could not comprehend.”+ The friends too, frequently imitated the style of different authors, as Phalaris, Hervey, Swift, Addison or Johnson. In after life, be attributed his facility in extempore preaching, to his contests with his two talented rivals at Harrow. I

In 1761, the father of Dr. Parr, who was an apothecary and surgeon, thinking his son's classical acquirements sufficient for the medical profession, took him from his darling studies, and set him to mixing medicines, and to witness with trembling nerves, that often met the stern animadversions of the veteran, the scientific gashes of the healing art. Whether these terrific exhibitions of chirurgical skill, or the bad Latin of the prescriptions, deterred our neophyte, we know not; but at all events, he took little liking to the calling of his progenitor. The elder Parr one day handed him a prescription, in which the son detected a grammatical arrangement, unwarranted by any good classical authority, and with suitable gravity, pointed out the unpardonable blunder. “Sam! damn the language of the prescription,” exclaimed the angry apothecary, “znake the mix. ture."'s His time, meanwbile, was not lost from his favourite pursuits. Ascertaining every day the lesson which the head class was reciting, whilst engaged in preparing the pill or pounding with the pestle, he kept his book open before bim, and afterwards would receive the remarks of Dr. Sumner, from Jones or Bennet. Moreover, hc read and studied by himself many Greek and Roman authors, with the best commentators he could procure, and continued his metaphysical studies in the pages of De Crousaz, Locke, Aristotle and Plato. He practised in Latin and Greek composition, and to perfect himself in his own language, besides other things, wrote two series of Essays, which by the bye were never published, and were probably destroyed.

* Memoirs, vol. i. p. 21. Ibid. p. 22. Ibid. p. 119.--Parriana, 20.

0 Parriana, 153Memoirs, vol. i. p. 27.

It is evident that he was formed for opposition at an early age, før his father marrying a second time, the son positively refused to lay aside his mourning weeds for garments more meet for a bridal festival.

His father finally consented, about the close of 1764, to let him devote his attention to theology, and in order to give him the requisite education, sent him to Cambridge. From motives of economy, and, perhaps, from resentment of his conduct at her marriage, bis step-mother wished him to enter the University as a sizar, but he indignantly declared he would rather forego the advantages of a regular education, than submit to such degradation. Scarcely had he been a twelvemonth at the University, when the death of his father and want of funds obliged him to renounce what he had so ardently sought. “I left the University," says he in a note to his Spital sermon, “before the usual time, and in truth had almost been compelled to leave it, not by the want of proper education, for I had arrived at the first place in the first form of Harrow school, when I was not quite fourteen—not by the want of useful tutors, for mine were eminently able, and to me had been uniformly kind—not by want of ambition, for I had begun to look up ardently and anxiously to academical distinctions-not by want of attachment to the place, for I regarded it then, as I continue to regard it now, with the fondest and most unfeigned affection--but by another want, which it were unnecessary to name, and for the supply of which, after some hesitation, I determined to provide by patient toil and resolute self-denial, when I had not completed my twentieth year. I ceased, therefore, to reside, with an aching heart. I looked back with mingled feelings of regret and humiliation to advantages of which I could no longer partake, and honours to which I could no longer aspire.” This short extract might serve as a cabinet specimen, to give an idea of the Doctor's laboured, artificial, uniformly rhetorical style.

Returning to Harrow, notwithstanding his youth, Dr. Sumber chose him as his assistant. Here he devoted his time to the

perusal of critics and commentators on the classics, and also theology and metaphysics, aided by the advice and instructions of the erudite head-master.

He was ordained in 1769, and immediately entered upon the duties of a curacy to which he was appointed.

The mastership of Harrow school becoming vacant by the death of Dr. Sumner, Dr. Parr, trusting to his reputation as a scholar, the good opinion of the deceased master, and five year's able discharge of his duties, became a candidate for the vacant place. Possibly to give himself a more respectable mien, he put on the habiliments and manners of an elderly ecclesiastic, and for the first time superinduced that

“Ample nine-fold peruke, spread immense,

Luxuriant waving down his shoulders,” whose overshadowing dimensions have so often been held up to public ridicule. In vain! It was thought that twenty-five was old enough for a prime minister, but not for a head-master of Harrow-school! Dr. Heath, a learned man, much older, was chosen. Irritated at his disappointment, he set up a school at Stanmore, whither forty of the Harrow boys followed him, and the number soon increased to sixty. It was necessary to his success to have a female helpmate, and he accordingly entered into the silken bonds of matrimony. But, as an old poet endites,

“ The sea hath many thousand sands,
The sunne hath motes as many,
The skie is full of starres—and love

As full of woes as any."'* Mrs. Parr, as she often said herself, was bred up by three maiden aunts in rigidity and frigidity ;' but if her portion of the milk of human kindness had been kept sweet by the icy caution of those antiquated spinsters, it was speedily acidified by the torch of Hymen.

“This wife had been recommended to him by Dr. Askew; for Sammy was too much immersed in Greek to look out for one for himself. Her sordid economy was displeasing to the boys, and her cockney dialect was grating to the ear of the Doctor. He lamented that he had not paid his addresses to the celebrated Miss Carter, whom he might have courted in Greek ; and she did not condescend to conceal her vexation at having chosen for a bedfellow a pedantic pedagogue, instead of an East-India captain, who might have brought her muslins and chintzes.” Parriana, 462.

* Jones' Muses' Gardin. 1609. VOL. III.-NO. 6.


« 上一頁繼續 »