« VorigeDoorgaan »
monly lavished on the puerile years of eminent men. On the best enquiry I have been able to make, I do not find that, during his stay at school, he distinguished himself by any extraordinary efforts of genius or application. My information authorizes me to go no further than to say, That he loved his book, and his play, just as other boys did. And, upon reflexion, I am not displeased with this modest testimony to his merit. For I remember what the best judges have thought of premature wits. And we all know that the mountain-oak, which is one day to make the strength of our fleets, is of slower growth than the saplings which adorn our gardens.
But, although no prodigy of parts or industry in those early years, with a moderate share of each, he could not fail of acquiring by the age of sixteen (the time when he left school) a competent knowledge of Greek and Latin, under such masters, as those of Okeham and Newark.
It had been his misfortune to lose his father very early. He died in 1706; and the care of his family devolved, of course, upon his widow; who, as we have seen, gave her son the best school-education; and, in all respects, approved herself so good a woman, as well as parent, that her children paid her all possible respect : her son, in particular, (all whose affections were naturally warm), gave her every proof of duty and observance, while she lived, and, after her death, retained so tender a regard to her memory, that he seldom spake of her but with tears.
The circumstances of the family could be but moderate; and when Mr. Warburton had now finished his education at school, he was destined by his friends to that profession, which is thought to qualify men
best for the management of their own affairs, and which his father had followed with so much credit in that neighbourhood.
He was accordingly put out clerk to Mr. Kirke, an eminent attorney of Great Markham in Nottinghamshire, in April 1714, and continued with that gentleman five years, i.e. till the spring of the year 1719. Tradition does not acquaint us, how he acquitted himself in his clerkship. Probably, with no signal assiduity. For now it was that the bent of his genius appeared in a passionate love of reading, which was not lessened, we may believe, but increased, by his want of time and opportunity to indulge it.
However, in spite of his situation, he found means to peruse again and digest such of the classic authors as he had read at school, with many others which he understood to be in repute with men of learning and judgement. By degrees, he also made himself acquainted with the other elementary studies; and, by the time his clerkship was out, had laid the foundation, as well as acquired a taste, of general knowledge.
Still, the opinion and expectation of his friends kept him in that profession to which he had been bred. On the expiration of his clerkship, he returned to his family at Newark; but whether he practised there or elsewhere as an attorney, I am not certainly informed. However, the love of letters growing every day stronger in bim, it was found advisable to give way to his inclination of taking Orders: the rather, as the seriousness of his temper and purity of his morals concurred, with his unappeasable thirst of knowledge, to give the surest presages of future eminence in that profession.
He did not venture, however, all at once to rush into the Church. His good understanding, and awfu) sense of religion, suggested to him the propriety of making the best preparation he could, before he offered himself a candidate for the sacred character. Fortunately for him, his relation, the master of Newark School, was at hand to give him his advice. And he could not have put himself under a better direction. For, besides his classical merit (which was great), he had that of being an excellent Divine, and was a truly learned as well as good man.
To him then, as soon as his resolution was taken of going into Orders, he applied for assistance, which was afforded him very liberally. “My father (says Mr. “ Archdeacon Warburton in a letter to me) employed " all the time he could spare from his school in in“ structing him, and used to sit up very late at night " with him to assist him in his studies." And this account I have heard confirmed by his pupil himself; who used to enlarge with pleasure on his obligations to his old tutor; and has celebrated his theological and other learning in a handsome Latin epitaph, which he wrote upon him after his death.
At length he was ordained Deacon the 22d of December 1723, in the cathedral of York, by Archbishop Dawes : and even then he was in no haste to enter into Priests Orders, which he deferred taking till he was full twenty-eight years of age, being ordained Priest by Bishop Gibson in St. Paul's, London, March the 1st, 1726-7.
Some will here lament that the precious interval of nine years, from his quitting school in 1714 to his taking Orders, was not spent in one of our universities, rather than his private study, or an attorney's office. And it is certain, the disadvantage to most men would have been great. But an industry, and genius, B 3
like his, overcame all difficulties. It may even be conceived, that he derived a benefit from them. As bis faculties were of no common size, his own proper exertion of them probably tended more to his improvement, than any assistance of tutors and colleges could have done. To which we may add, that living by himself, and not having the fashionable opinions of a great society to bias his own, he might acquire an enlarged turn of mind, and strike out for himself, as he clearly did, an original cast both of thought and composition;
Fastidire lacus et ridos ausus apertos : while his superior sense, in the mean time, did the office of that authority, which, in general, is found so necessary to quicken the diligence, and direct the judgement, of young students in our universities.
The fact is, that, without the benefit of an Academical education, he had qualified himself, in no cominon degree, for Deacon's Orders in 1723: and from that time till he took Priest's Orders in the beginning of the year 1727, he applied himself diligently to complete, his studies, and to lay in that fund of knowledge, which is requisite to form the consummate Divine. For to this character he reasonably aspired; having that ardour of inclination, which is the earnest of success, and feeling in bimself those powers which invigorate a great mind, and push it on irresistibly in the pursuit of letters.
The fruits of his industry, during this interval, appeared in some pieces, composed by him for the im. provement of his taste and style, and afterwards printed (most of them without his name) to try the judgement of the publick. As he never thought fit to 12
reprint reprint or revise them, they are omitted in this edition. But they are such as did him no discredit; on the contrary, they shewed the vigour of his parts, and the more than common hopes which might be entertained of such a writer.
Among these blossoins of his youth (to borrow an expression from Cowley) were some notes, communicated to Mr. Theobald, and inserted in his edition of Shakespear; which seems to have raised a general idca of his abilities, before any more important proof had been given of them. But of this subject more will be said in its place.
It was, also, in this season of early discipline, while his mind was opening to many literary projects, that he conceived an idea, which he was long pleased with, of giving a new edition of Velleius Paterculus. He was charmed with the elegance of this writer; and the high credit in which emendatory criticism (of which Paterculus stood much in need) was held in the beginning of this century, occasioned by the dazzling reputation of such men as Bentley and Hare, very naturally seduced a young enterprizing scholar into an attempt of this nature. How far he proceeded in this work, I cannot say: but a specimen of it afterwards appeared in one of our literary journals, and was then communicated to his friend, Dr. Middleton; who advised him very properly to drop the design, as not worthy of his talents and industry, which, as he says, instead of trifling on words, seem calculated rather to correct the opinions and manners of the world.
These juvenile essays of his pen, hasty and incorrect as they were, contributed, no doubt, very much to his own improvement. What effect they had on his reputation, and how soon they raised it to a consi