Imatges de pàgina

ceived the necessity of reserve; but the use which he has made of posthumous impunity is such as inust till every feeling mind with indignation at the man who, in the decline of life, and under the shade of retirement, has, by a moral chemistry of bis own, been employed for more than twenty years in collecting and concentrating intellectual poison, leaving the stopple to be drawn), and the composition to be vended, by his executors.

These are the fruits of an indolevt and unlearned retreat from the duties of two important functions, the dignities and emoluments of which this prelate continued to cujoy till his death. In contemplating the bistory and character of this extraordinary man, we can only recollect one other bishop with whom, by the remotest approximation, be can be compared. This was Burnet; but even with him Bishop Watson afforded more points of contrast than of similitude. Both were indeed men of great natural abilities, great reformists, much given to obloquy, violent whigs, busy meddlers in politics, and of arrogant over-weening tempers. Both too had been professors of divinity in their respective universities, and both were gifted with the talent of natural, copious, and overflowing eloquence. But here, unfortunately for the latter prelate, all resemblance ceases at once; for Burnet was profoundly learned in his own science of theology, while Watson was a mere smatterer. Burnet was conscientiously resident in his own diocese, and most diligent in the discharge of his episcopal functions—the late bishop of Landaff was, of all diocesans, the most remiss. Burnet was an indefatigable preacher-Watson seldom appeared in the pulpit but for the purposes of display. The former, with all his political prejudices, had a deep and awful sense of religionin the latter, all the detachment and disengagement from the world, which ought to adorn and consecrate the declining age of a bishop, were lost in secularity and self-interest. Moreover, this violent declaimer against sinecures and non-residence was the first who converted the regius professorship of divinity into a sinecure : this enemy of pluralities held in his own person at least fourteen places of preferment; this man of moderation in his wishes, and calm contentment under the shade of retirement, spent the last twenty-nine years of his life in execrating those who, for his factious obstinacy, had left him to that retirement, while he was occupied in nursing up a fortune, till, according to his own boast, with the poorest bishopric in the kingdom, he became the richest bishop upon the bench.

For these enormous inconsistencies, however, between conduct and profession, something is in justice due to his memory by way of explanation. He exercised thie functions of Regius Professor in persou for a period of sixteen years, and did not quit it till an inveterate disease, the fruit perhaps of his chemical operations,


warned his physicians to prescribe relaxation and retirement in the country. Had he been possessed of any other see in the kingdom, that retirement might have been found at his proper post, and in his episcopal house; but the see to which lie had been consecrated possessed not a house in which the bishop could shroud his head. The see of Landaff is, indeed, in this and another respect, the opprobrium of our episcopal establishment. Once an archbishopric, and one of the most wealthy sees in Christendom, like its sister St, David's, but more deeply, this decayed and dilapidated church

‘plorat Curtatos mitræ titulos et nomen inane

Semisepultæ urbis,' having long lost its metropolitan honours and been stripped of its castle

and domains by Kitchin, its first Protestant bishop, whom his successor Godwyn, with no undue asperity, has recorded as . fundi nostri calainitatem.'

Still, however, had a bishop not disdained to take up his abode, after St. Paul's example, ev twidiw mor Swati, he might have found on the salubrious coast of his own diocese,

some elegant retreat, Some hireling senator's deserted seat,' which, in the person of Dr. Watson, would have

. Given to St. David one true Briton more.' But a translation was then contemplated, and its diocesan, reckoning without his host, considered himself as a mere bird of passage, like his predecessors. But, while a shattered frame demanded reJaxation, a growing family claimed a provision: with this imperious call upon his mind, our original and independent prelate withdrew to his native country among the mountains of Westmoreland, where, bidding adieu to duty and to study, (for he brought no books, the proper companions of a scholar's retirement, along with him,) he betook himself to blasting rocks, planting trees, improving barren lands, and abusing the adıninistration of his country. The last occupation of his tongue and of his pen, requiring no aid from the stores of antiquity, was pursued at Calgarth without impediment and without intermission. But as health was in this retirement his ostensible object, he might have reflected that a mind corroded by increasing bitterness and disappointment was not the happiest restorative of a broken constitution, and that while the column of sixty inches of rain, which annually falls on Winandermere, was pouring its periodical tribute on the domains of Calgarth, and the salutary pursuits of planting and agriculture were necessarily intermitted, the activity of a mind like that of our prelate, wom down in early life by attrition, would be in danger, PS


during his later days, of frittering by rust.–Vacuity and irritation were its alternate shades.

From taste be derived neither amusement nor occupation, for of taste he never had a tincture :-placed amidst the most delicious scenes of England, he thought of nothing but turning his own portion of them to exnoluinent; and, from the society of the

mild Arcadians of his neighbourhood and their admirers, his vigorous and reasoning faculties could draw little of intelligence or entertainment. Meanwhile, as interest engaged one half of his attention, anıbition continued to absorb the other; and to the last year perhaps of his life he pursued, though by means peculiar to himself, the great object of a translation, with all the assiduity of a supple candidate for promotion, who never places himself out of the minister's sight, and never omits the duty of a bow at the levee. Couscious of great talents, which, however, were greatly over-rated by their possessor, he formed the scheme of bullying ministers into a translation, while it was his peculiar misfortune, in the prosecution of this hopeless project, to encounter a man equally haughty and impracticable with himself, and of talents far superior

But it is time to enter upon this unparalleled work, and to pursue the life of Richard Watson, bishop of Landaff, under his own direction. He was born in the month of August, in the year 1737, at Heversham, a delightful village in the Bottom of Westmoreland, the son of Watson, schoolmaster of that place, whom, in bis epitaph, the bishop has rather coldly described as ludimagister haud inutilis. He was, indeed, of no use to his son, who was born after the father was sisty, and, by his resignation of the school, fell into far inferior hands. The northern schools, which teemed with boys destined to the University of Cambridge, were then at a very low ebb, and the entire inattention to versification, together with its certain accompaniment, ignorance of classical quantity, cannot but give us a very high idea of the vigour, comprehension, and industry of those young

men who were afterwards able to surmount these disadvantages, and to meet on equal ground the highly polished sons of Eton and Westminster in their respective colleges. This was the trying situation of Watson; and the first symptom of that constitutional arrogance which impelled him to despise whatever he had not attained breaks forth very conspicuously in the account which he gives of himself on this occasion :

. It has fallen to my lot not only to be obliged to write, but to speak Latin; and, having never been taught to make Latin or Greek verses, it cost me more pains to remember whether a syllable was long or short, than it would have done to comprehend a whole section of Newton's Principia. My mind, indeed, recoiled from such inquiries. What imports it, I used to say to myself, whether Cicero would have said, fortuito or fortuito :-Areopăgus or Areopāgus ?---And yet I was forced to attend to such things ; for an Eton or a Westminster schoolmaster would properly have thought meanly of a man who did not know them. My hands have shaken with impatience and indignation, when I have been consulting Ainsworth or Labbé about a point, which I was sure of forgetting in a month's time. I found it difficult to impress upon my memory rules of prosody which I had acquired a coniempt for; nor did this contempt arise so much from ignorance of the subject (for I had, after leaving school, taken great pains not to be ignorant of it) as from the undue importance which was given to it.'

We give this as a characteristic trait of his temper as well as attainments, or rather non-attainments, at the time when he came forth an awkward, overgrown, unmannered boy, from the obscurity and rudeness of a northern school, into the elegance and splendour of that magnificent college, of which he was destined to become one of the first ornaments in his time. So suddenly and violently transplanted, many young men have been tempted to despair of any competition with rivals prepared and hardened by the discipline of great schools; but Watson was of a temper not to be dismayed: he felt his own real powers, he thought them greater than they were ; he grasped with a strong hand the abstruse and invigorating subjects of study which he found prescribed, and quickly perceived his feeble competitors, the sons of art and elegance, the balancers of points and particles, distanced in the race. By one of those instances of academical intrigue, which subsequent regulations have rendered more difficult, Watson was deprived of the first honour to which, by general acknowledgement, he was entitled at his degree. This he bore in mind, and amply revenged upon the rival college, which he knew to be the author of the wrong.

With respect to the subsequent years of his life, our limits will only permit us to add, that he was elected, in due course, fellow of his college, then assistant, and afterwards head tutor ; that in these periods he served the office of moderator for the university four times, and that in the meanwhile he had a constant supply of private pupils. All these circumstances are material to our purpose, in their direct bearing on the future character of the man, and on our estinate of the extent and depth of those acquirements, which seemed to be demanded for the difficult and exalted situation to which he subsequently rose in the university.

Mr. Watson, among other qualities, which certainly contributed to his advancement in life, possessed a happy confidence in bimself, and an opinion of his own fitness for any situation to which he should think proper to aspire, though totally ignorant at the time of every qualification requisite to the discharge of its functions. He had also the faculty of infusing the same opinion of himself into others. To this felicity of temper and constitution he was indebted P 4


for his next situation at Cambridge. On the 19th of November, 1764,' he informs us, I was unanimously elected, by the senate assembled in full congregation, professor of chemistry. At the time this honour was conferred upon me I knew nothing at all of chemistry, had never read a syllable on the subject, nor seen a single experiment in it. Whether the confidence of the electors, or the modesty of the candidate, in this appointment were most to be admired we shall for the present leave undecided; and pass on to the year 1767, during which our professor had been laboriously and ardently preparing for the discharge of his new function:

In this,' says he, . and the two following years I read chemical lectures to very crowded audiences. I now look back with a kind of terror' (indeed he has reason) at the application I used in the younger part of my life. For months and years together I frequently read public lectures in Trinity College, beginning at eight o'clock in the morning, spent fonr or five hours with private pupils, and five or six more in my laboratory every day, besides the incidental business of the Sophs' School. Had so much pains and time been dedicated to Greek and Hebrew, and to what are called learned subjects, what tiresome collation of MSS. what argute emendations of lexi, what jejune criticisms, what dull dissertations, what ponderous logomachies might have been produced, and left to sleep on the same shelves with bulky systems of German divinity in the libraries of universities !

This is both unfair and imprudent-unfair, as it describes the result of pertinacious study in criticism as fit to be exercised only by a dunce; and imprudent, as it supposes, by implication, that dunce to be himself.

Watson lived to see in his own college the rise and fall of a luminary to whose critical lucubrations he ought to have bowed with reverence. Were the pursuits of Porson or even of Porson's followers to be stigmatized as tiresome collations of MSS. argute emendations of texts, dull dissertations and ponderous logomachies? Where, when he wrote this strange paragraph, was the candour and liberality of which he was wont to make so great a parade? and how, had he lived to see the day when this attack upon verbal criticism came forth, might the late memorable Greek professor have retorted upon the squalid chemist who sallied from his furnace

ardentis massæ fuligine lippus—' to blacken all that was elegant and ornamental in ancient literature!

Besides, the professor of chemistry, according to his own acknowledgment, had by this time directed his aspiring eye to another object, which he very preinaturely and unexpectedly attained—the regius professorship of divinity. Aud with this view, a map either of modesty or prudence might have reflected that some knowledge beyond that of a school-boy in Greek, and that of a



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