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NOTES ON THE LIFE OF ROBERT ROBINSON (1735-1790.)
There are some men, known in their day by striking personal qualities, who gradually disappear from everything but the routine of literary history. From Rees's Cyclopædia or Gorton we shall learn that Robert Robinson, the Baptist minister who preceded Robert Hall in the chapel of St. Andrew's Street, Cambridge, was an "eminent dissenting divine," an "able reasoner," an "eminent controversialist." We shall also find the titles of his works, and their general purport: and we shall see made to stand out a learned History of Baptism. But all this gives no picture: or, at most, suggests a grave man in a very modest dwelling, seated at a table covered with books. We want a work like that of Granger in title, a "help to the knowledge of portraits," not of the engraver, but of the contemporary friend or critic, or better still, of the man himself in his writings.
Cambridge has, almost within our own period, had the extremes of nonconformist notoriety settled in the town, and, for different reasons, the resort of university men. On the one hand, Robinson and Hall; Robinson, pronounced by Dr. Price, with the approbation of all who heard it, the best colloquial preacher he had ever listened to; Hall, of whom many are left to confirm the
character given in the biography. On the other hand, Johnny Stittle, as he was called, who preached fiercely against classical literature, and exclaimed with triumph, "D'ye think Paul knew Greek?"
The life of Robert Robinson was written by the simple-minded George Dyer, the G. D. of Charles Lamb, of whom an account, written by me, will be found in the Supplement to the Penny Cyclopædia. Dyer's life of Robinson was pronounced by Samuel Parr one of the best biographies in the language: and Wordsworth expressed the same opinion. Parr objected to Boswell that he gave the "drippings" of Johnson's mouth; and declared that he himself had intended to give the history of his mind. But the drippings of the mouth and of the pen give the very mind itself: and he who now writes biography without them will live on the upper shelf, for reference only. If George Dyer could have given more of them, his book would have been reprinted to this day; but there is enough to set out an image of the
I shall begin with two of Robinson's letters, which go far to make a picture: "To the Rev. Thos. Dunscombe, Bampton, Oxfordshire. "Chesterton, Nov. 14, 1785. "Dear Sir.-I own it gives me a great deal of pleasure to see any of the ministers of our churches address themselves to honest employments in life; there are many reasons to induce us to do so. Idleness is abominable, and the pretence of study is a joke, where a man hath not more books than he can read over in a month. Besides, what is there to find out? A Catholic had need be a subtle dog, and furnished with all the lore of the schools, to make the New Testament speak in favour of his church; but a Baptist, whose whole religion lies in believing a few plain facts, and in imitating that very plain example, Jesus
Christ, what hath he to do to rack his invention, and to assemble all apologies, ancient and modern, to justify him for doing so. Oh! but there are some beautiful readings, and fine criticisms, and strokes of oratory, which deserve the study of a minister of Christ! Well, God forgive me, poor sinner that I am! I feel three pounds, gained honestly by the sale of a fat bullock, produce more fire in my spirit, than all those pretty but poor tassels and spangles can give me. With three pounds I can set fire to ten cold hearts, frozen with infirmity and widowhood, poverty and fear. Half a guinea will purchase the native eloquence of a grateful old woman; and she, if I set her to read, will give me a criticism of the heart, and the finest reading in the world. Oh! bless the old soul! what honied accents she pours into my ear! If I can honestly get, and afford to give away three pounds, it will always be my own fault if I be not very happy. Now then set me to preach. How is it possible I should be dull! The luxury of living to the glory of God and and forgotten cripple from hanging herself in despair; the good of society; the joy of having saved a forlorn the felicity of setting fire to incense that burns to the glory of God; these are preparations for the pulpit, which the cold consumer of midnight oil never derives from his accents and quantities. I was the other night in our vestry with several gownsmen just before the lecture. In comes one of my sister Abigails. How do you do, Sarah? I am glad to see you returned safe from visiting your family at Soham.'Bless the Lord, Sir, I am. We heard
NOTES AND QUERIES.
Mr. Watts on the Lord's day, and were very much edified indeed. But the day after we were coming out of town, my husband saw him-and, poor creature, he was so shocked! O Sir!'-Thunderstruck at all this, I trembled, expecting to hear before the gown that my poor brother Watts was seen drunk, or some such thing. Lord, thought I, happy is that man who hath not a foolish babbling good woman in his congregation. I looked pale. Sarah went on-O Sir! there was the poor man on the top of a ladder a thatching a rick.' I laughed, but stamped, and said-Have I bestowed so much instruction upon you and your husband for nothing? Are you yet in a state of infancy? I honour the man, and must be acquainted with him.'-'Dear Sir, he works five days, and has only Saturday to study.' shall try to convince him that he ought to work six Well, Sarah, I days: for one day will never make him a scholar, and his people are only a set of turf-diggers: and fourteenpence more in his pocket every Lord's day will make him preach with more vigour, and rattle the gospel with more power into the turf men's souls. I appeal to these learned gentlemen.' After all, the prejudices of the common people are very great against the secular employments of ministers; and while we pursue them, we should take care and not give any unnecessary offence. This last seedtime I was in my field along with a young gentleman who looks after my farm, and he was digging a waterfurrow across a land. It was a strong clayey soil, and he groaned, so that in pity I took the spade and went into the ditch, which was very dauby, and presently groaned too, at which he fell a laughing. What do you laugh at?''Pardon me, Sir, I recollected that a minister lately said in his sermon that preaching was the hardest work that was done under the sun.'-'I wish the fool was in this ditch; he would soon learn that some of his authors had taught him to tell fibs.' Farewell, my most affectionate friend; industry, plenty, frugality, prosperity, generosity, and piety be with you.-Amen. Yours ever, "ROBERT ROBINSON."
Now this man, while running on against a learned clergy, was collecting the materials for his History of Baptism (1790), a work which all grades of opinion pronounce learned, and showing very varied reading. He was allowed the use of the college libraries, which must be honourably mentioned: for though in our day the colleges
would not think a loan of books to a learned nonconformist anything on which greatly to plume themselves, it might have been otherwise in 1789. The following letter could not have been a sample of every day. I give these letters entire, Dyer's book being scarce :
"To Henry Keene, Esq.
"Chesterton, May 26, 1784. "Old Friend,-You love I should write folios: that depends upon circumstances, and if the thunderstorm lasts, it shall be so: but what a sad thing it is to be forced to write when one has nothing to say. Well, you shall have an apology for not writing,-that is, a diary of one day.
"Rose at three o'clock; crawled into the library, and met one who said Yet a little while is the light with you walk while ye have the light-the night cometh when no man can work-my Father worketh hitherto, and I work.' Rang the great bell, and roused the girls to milking; went up to the farm, roused the horsekeeper; fed the horses while he was getting up; called the boy to suckle the calves and clean out the cowhouse; lighted
[3rd S. IV. Oct. 31, '68.
the pipe, walked round the gardens to see what was wanted there; went up the paddock to see if the weanling calves were well; went down to the ferry to see whether the boy had scooped and cleaned the boats; returned to the farm; examined the shoulders, heels, traces, chaff, and corn of eight horses going to plough; mended the acre-staff; cut some thongs; whipcorded the boys' ploughwhips; pumped the troughs full; saw the hogs fed; exquarter of malt, for the hogs want grains and the men amined the swill-tubs, and then the cellar; ordered a bought a lighter of turf for dairy fires, and another of sedge want beer; filled the pipe again, returned to the river, and for ovens; hunted up the wheelbarrows, and set them a trundling; returned to the farm, called the men to breakfast, and cut the boys' bread and cheese, and saw the wooden bottles filled; sent one plough to the three roods, another to the three half acres, and so on; shut the gates, and the clock struck five; breakfasted; set two spread about the land; two more to throw up muck in men to ditch the five roods; two men to chop sads, and the yard; and three men and six women to weed wheat; set on the carpenter to repair cow-cribs, and set them up till winter; the wheeler to mend up the old carts, cartladders, rakes, &c. preparatory to hay time and harvest; back, and set a man to hedge and thorn; sold the butcher walked to the six-acres, found hogs in the grass; went a fat calf, and the suckler a lean one; the clock strikes nine; walked into barley field; barleys fine, picked off a few tiles and stones, and cut a few thistles; the peas fine but foul; the charlock must be topped; the tares doubtful, the fly seems to have taken them; prayed for rain, but could not see a cloud; came round to the wheat-field; wheats rather thin, but the finest colour in the world; sent four women on to the shortest wheats; ordered one man to weed the ridge of the long wheats, and two women to keep rank and file with him in the furrows; thistles many; bluebottles no end; traversed all the wheatfield; came to the fallow-field; the ditchers have run crooked; set them straight; the flag-sads cut too much, rush-sads too little, strength wasted, show the men how to three-corner them; laid out more work for the ditchers; went to the ploughs, set the foot a little higher, cut a wedge, some wool, and tied over the traces; mended a horseset the coulter deeper, must go and get a new mould-board against to-morrow; went to the other plough; picked up which lands wanted ploughing first; sat down under a tree, tied a thong to the plough-hammer; went to see bank [time, I think]; wondered how any man could be gave out Come all harmonious tongues,' and set Mount so silly as to call me reverend; read two verses, and Ephraim tune; rose up; whistled; the dogs wagged thought of his loving kindness in the midst of his temple; their tails and on we went; got home; dinner ready; filled the pipe; drank some milk; and fell asleep; woke by the carpenter for some slats which the sawyer must cut; the Rev. Messrs. A. in a coat, B. in a gown of black, and C. in one of purple, came to drink tea, and to settle whether Gomer was the father of the Celts and Gauls and Britons, or only the uncle; proof sheet from Mr. Archdeacon; corrected it; washed; dressed; went to meeting and preached from 'The end of all things is at hand, be ye faithful and watch unto prayer'; found a dear brother reverence there, who went home with me, and edified us all out of Solomon's Song, with a dish of tripe out of Leviticus, and a golden candlestick out of Exodus. Really and truly we look for you and Mrs. Keene and Mr. Dove at harvest; and if you do not come, I know what you all Is not this a folio? And like many other
guarantee for his references is the proof that he
knew so well the worth of the eye of the master! He wrote the History and Mystery of Good Friday, a tract which, though distasteful to episcopalians of even moderate adhesion, was greedily bought and often reprinted. But his History and Mystery of May 26, 1784, would have been even more sought for, if it had been separately published. The first of the two letters was provoked by some godly boobies," as he called them colleagues in the ministry, it would seem, who objected to his farming as unclerical. He was systematically satirical upon his brethren, which he called 66 pricking the bladder." Preachers, said he, are too full of wind, and it is mercy to let it out. The following was written to Mr. Dunscombe, on the state of some of the congregations:
"It is really deplorable to see the condition of some of
these churches; some sapling of a minister collects and embodies weaklings like himself; a sort of insipid chitchat is made the test of a Christian; and as men of sense
will not disgrace their understandings by chaunting such stuff, they are left. Not one of these church-babies foresees that in human societies, human frailties must produce disagreeables; not one, therefore, is prepared to meet such things, but in the moment of a difference, void of all prudence, moderation, or decency, out they set a crying, scaring themselves, and bellowing up the multitude, as if the world were at an end: when nothing is the matter, only Billy the baby has broken Billy the baby's doll."
I will add, from Dyer, that Robinson had no hand in the article on Bunyan in Kippis's Biographia Britannica, though the contrary has been asserted. The passage signed B. was written by Broughton; that signed T. by Dr. Towers.
George Dyer himself was at one time a student under Robinson, and was, for a while, a Baptist minister. It was a joke against him- but only the readers of Elia can fully enjoy it-that he was obliged to resign his ministry from awkwardness in his office; that he attempted baptism only once, upon an old woman, and held her under water in a fit of abstraction until she was drowned. This Dyer used to deny with the same placid good faith with which he denied that he had walked into the New River, and with which he would have denied that he had been seen baptizing the moon. His remarks on the two letters which I have quoted are made with such simple gravity, and the intent of the letters is so calmly explained, that it is clear he did not feel the humour of either. Oh for the memoranda of some third person of moderate slyness who had seen Robinson and Dyer together!
One of the same name, but not a relative, Mr. Henry Crabbe Robinson, collected a few of the anecdotes which his intercourse with Robert Robinson's friends had furnished, and published them in the Christian Reformer for 1845. Some of these I abbreviate.
The undergraduates frequently interrupted the services. One of them wagered that he would stand on the pulpit stairs with an ear-trumpet through the whole sermon, as if deaf. He did so for a time, to the great amusement of his congeners. Robinson took no notice until, having to say that God's grace might reach any one, however worthless, he added, placing his hand on the young man's head, "I hope it may one day be extended to this silly boy." Down went trumpet, gown, and all, to the loss of the wager. I may add, from Dyer, that the congregation, in a public letter to Dr. Farmer, acknowledged that never, in one single instance, had they been interrupted by a graduate. But the undergraduates, at one time, made a permanent practice of it: they subjected the women to gross insult; and, aisle, dressed as an undergraduate. The heads of on one occasion, paraded a bad woman in the houses promised to put a stop to the nuisance, but did not succeed: perhaps they saw that sharper remedies would be required than their feelings would allow them to employ on behalf of Dissenters. They deserve the reflection, for when, after long suffering, Robinson tried the use of an act of parliament, a fine of 50l., good-naturedly commuted into a public apology, procured for the Dissenters of the University town the freedom from annoyance which, as was remarked at the time, was enjoyed by their brethren in the seaports. The misconduct has been repeated in our own day, and actual imprisonment of some offenders has been found necessary. But for this I should not have recalled the old story. It will strengthen the hands of that large majority of the existing race of undergraduates on whose opinion, more than on anything else, the absence of such disorders depends, to be reminded from without that the University is not merely their affair and that of their tutors, but also of all those who are scattered through the world, having once been what they are now.
An elderly officer told a friend of Mr. H. C. Robinson that he was once in a coach with R. Robinson, who, after a time, began to interlard all his stories with the exclamation "Bottles and Corks!" On being asked why he did this, with the remark that the stories were not improved by it, he said that he had observed his querist used certain exclamations which he considered irreverent at least, if not sinful; that he piqued himself on his stories, and desired to use every innocent means of improving them.
"Do you deny," said D.D., "that the Scarlet Lady is a type of Rome?"- "Not in the least, Doctor, if you will acknowledge the Church of England to be a common strumpet." A Presbyterian roared with laughter. "I did not mean, Sir," continued Robinson, in a more serious tone,
to give you a triumph. I reverence the Holy
Scriptures too much to like to hear them employed to express our bad passions; but if we are to make use of an image not suited to our manners, I would say all I think on the subject. It is my opinion that the Church of Rome is the scarlet the Church of England, a common strumpet; and the Church of Scotland, a lady of easy virtue."
Arguing with a defender of what he deemed corruptions in the Church, Robinson was met with a repetition of "I don't see that."-" No ?" said Robinson; "do you see this?" writing "God" on a card.- "Of course I do, what then?" "Do you see it now? I suspect not," said Robinson, covering the word with a half-crown. The opponent was one who had an interest in the matter. This story is also told of Robert Hall, with reference to an old colleague who had gone over to the Establishment, and got a living: in this way, no doubt, the razor is keener.
It was suspected that Robinson did not believe in the personality of the Devil, which in his day was considered something like Socinianism, if not Atheism. At a meeting of ministers, he heard a whisper to this effect. "Brother! brother!" he cried out, "don't misrepresent me. How do you think I can dare to look you in the face, and at the same time deny the existence of a devil? Is he not described in holy writ as the accuser of the brethren?" On another occasion, a good but not very wise man, asking him in a tone of simplicity and surprise, "Don't you believe in the Devil?" Robinson answered him in like tone, "Oh dear no! I believe in God; don't you?"
The late William Nash, of Royston, ten years than Robinson, was one of his most younger intimate friends. If any one could say what Robinson was personally like, he could. He and Mr. Crabbe Robinson once went to hear the wellknown Wm. Huntingdon preach, the notorious S.S. It is, by the way, a curious illustration of that planing down to which I alluded at the beginning, that Gorton's article has not a word about S.S., the distinctive mark of the man. On leaving, Mr. Nash said, in a tone of real mortification, "I am very sorry I came here. I am sadly afraid, from all I have heard of this man, that he is a ; and, of all the men I ever knew, dear Robert Robinson was the very best. Now, they are so alike, that it is quite shocking. He has Robinson's voice, and his manner, and his style. It is the very man over again. How two persons so different internally should be so alike exter. nally is quite a mystery!"
Perhaps this recapitulation may produce more authenticated anecdotes.
A. DE MORGAN.
I cut the following from the Boston (U.S.) Commonwealth of September 11, 1863. I wish you would reprint it in your pages. The list will be very useful to future historians; and if not preserved in "N. & Q." it will certainly not be ac
cessible on this side the Atlantic:
"The list of Major-Generals now stands as follows:George B. McClellan, John C. Fremont, Henry W. Halleck, Ulysses S. Grant, with one vacancy. Within the past year Major-General Wool has been retired.
"The army corps are now commanded as follows:1st. General John Newton; 2nd. General Winfield S. Hancock; 3rd. General Daniel E. Sickles; 4th. Consolidated with others; 5th. General George Sykes; 6th General John Sedgwick; 7th. Consolidated with others; Park; 10. General Quincy A. Gilmore; 11th. General Oli8th. General Robert C. Schenck; 9th. General John C. ver O. Howard; 12th. General Henry W. Slocum; 13th. General E. O. C. Ord; 14th. General George H. Thomas; 15th. General Walter T. Sherman; 16th. General Stephen A. Hurlbut; 17th. General James B. McPherson; Banks; 20th. General Alex. McDowell McCook; 21st. 18th. General John G. Forster; 19th. General N. P. General Thomas L. Crittenden; 22nd. General Samuel P. Heintzelman; 23rd General George L. Hartsuff; Cavalry corps, General Stoneman.
"The list of Brigadier-Generals in the regular army is now as follows:-Irwin McDowell, Robert Anderson, William S. Rosecrans, Philip St. George Cooke, John Pope, Joseph Hooker, George G. Meade, with two vacancies. Of these, McDowell, Rosecrans, Pope, Hooker, and Meade, are Major-Generals of volunteers. Within the past year Brigadier-General Harney has been retired, and it is reported that General Cooke has been summoned before the Retiring Board.
"The regular army, in addition to the above grades, now consists of an Adjutant-General's Department, with Brigadier-General Lorenzo Thomas at the head; a Judge Advocate-General's Department, with Col. Joseph Holt at the head; an Inspector-General's Department, a Quartermaster's Department, a Subsistence Department, a Medical Department, a Pay Department, and an Ordnance Department, a Corps of Engineers, six cavalry, five artillery, and nineteen infantry regiments.
"There are now seventy-one Major-Generals of volunteers, and 194 Brigadier-Generals.
"The following is the present list of the military geographical departments and their commanders:
"Department of the Tennessee-Major-General U. S.
"Department of the Cumberland-Major W. S. Rose
"Department of the Ohio-Major-General A. E. Burn
'Department of New England-Major-General John A. Dix.
"Department of the Gulf-Major-General Nathaniel P. Banks.
"Departments of North Carolina and Virginia-MajorGeneral John G. Foster.
"Department of the Northwest-Major-General John
Department of Washington-Major-General S. P. Heintzelman.
NOTES AND QUERIES.
3rd S. IV. OCT. 31, '63.]
"Department of Western Virginia-Brigadier-General B. F. Kelley.
"Department of NewMexico-Brigadier-General James H. Carleton.
"Department of Key West-Brigadier-General J. M. Brannan.
"Department of Kansas-Major-General James G.
"Middle Department-Major-General Robert C. Schenck. "Department of the South-Brigadier-General Q. A. Gillmore.
"Department of Missouri-Major-General John M. Schofield." EDWARD PEACOCK.
WILLIAM STEWART ROSE.
This accomplished scholar, the translator of Ariosto, the author of the Letters from the North of Italy, and the friend of Sir Walter Scott, Canning, the Freres, Lord Holland, and Hallam, is surely entitled to a place in any general biography.
In reply to an inquiry from a correspondent, you state (3rd S. iv. 280) that Mr. Rose died April 30, 1843: referring to a biographical notice of him prefixed to his translation of the Orlando Furioso, in Bohn's Illustrated Library, and which was written by his friend the Rev. Charles Townsend, Rector of Kingston-upon-the-Sea.
"And next (for he would cultivate diversity
Of genius) the Dog cast the firm foundation
Where every beast obey'd his own vocation;
Renewable at each two hundred years;
O Cambridge, nurse of Princes and of Peers!
And hence they say, that with immortal strain,
It is surprising that Mr. Rose's death is not recorded in the Gentleman's Magazine, the Annual Register, or the Necrological Table of the Companion to the Almanac.
Information respecting Mr. Rose and his works may be derived from Lockhart's Life of Scott; mion; Quarterly Review, xxi. 486, 627; xxii. 357 ; Scott's Introduction to the first canto of Marxxvi. 191; xxx. 40, 151, 590; xxxiii. 597; xxxvi. 302, 603; lvi. 400; lviii. 465; lxiii. 131; Lowndes's Bibl. Man., edit. Bohn, 386, 1334, 2129; Watt's Bibl. Brit.; Bodl. Cat., iii. 313; Biogr. Dict. of Living Authors; Chambers's Cycl. 149; Gent. Mag., lxxviii. 196; lxxxviii. (2) 446; Eng. Lit., ii. 672; Musa Etonenses, edit. Herbert, ii. Lord Byron's Works (one vol. edit.), 25, 144, 530; C. H. & THOMPSON COOPER. Moore's Life of Byron (one vol. edit.), 377; and (2nd edit.), 468. Martin's Bibl. Cat. of Privately Printed Books,
From Mr. Townsend's brief but able biographical sketch, we learn that after being educated at Eton, where he was distinguished, Mr. Rose was for a short period at Cambridge.
It appears, from Mr. Stapylton's Eton School Lists (a very useful work, which we think has not yet been noticed in your columns), that he was in the upper division of the fifth form at Eton in 1791 and 1793. Mr. Stapylton gives only the initials of his Christian name, and seems to have been unconscious of his literary eminence; but mentions his contribution to Muse Etonenses. As he was never matriculated at Cambridge, we have had some difficulty in ascertaining his College. We find, however, that William Rose of Middlesex, from Eton, was admitted a pensioner of St. John's College, March 3, 1794. His age is not given in the admission book. Notwithstanding this, and the suppression of the second Christian name, yet, having regard both to the date of the admission and his school, there can, we think, be no reasonable doubt that the William Rose so admitted is identical with the subject of this notice; who, being born in 1775, would then be about nineteen.
ORIGIN OF THE CARRIAGE CALLED "A FLY."
The following curious allusions to the University of Cambridge occur in his "Court and Parliament of Beasts:
Again, I have heard that the word originated to raise, or lift;" and hence, one who "had a lift" in the in slang, where "fly," as a verb, means vehicle, would be said to ride in the fly. A reshows that the origin and meaning of this word ference to the Indices to the volumes of "N. & Q."