1782 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Glocester Ridley

Isaac Reed, in Biographia Dramatica; or, A Companion to the Playhouse (1782) 1:569-70.



Dr. GLOSTER RIDLEY. This worthy divine was descended collaterally from Dr. Nicholas Ridley, Bishop of London, who was burnt in the reign of Queen Mary. He was born at sea, in the year 1702, on board the Gloucester East India-man, to which circumstance he was indebted for his Christian name. He received his education at Winchester school, and from thence was elected to a fellowship at New College, Oxford, where he proceeded B.C.L. April 29, 1729. In those two seminaries he cultivated an early acquaintance with the Muses, and laid the foundation of those elegant and solid acquirements for which he was afterwards so eminently distinguished, as a Poet, a Historian, and a Divine. Dr. Ridley in his youth was much addicted to theatrical performances. Midhurst in Sussex was the place where they were exhibited; and the company of gentlemen actors to which he belonged, consisted chiefly of his coadjutors in a tragedy hereafter mentioned. He is said to have performed the characters of Marc Antony, Jaffier, Horatio, and Moneses, with distinguished applause, a circumstance that will be readily believed by those who are no strangers to his judicious and graceful manner of speaking in the pulpit. Young Cibber, being likewise a Wykehamist, called on Dr. Ridley soon after he had been appointed chaplain to the East India Company at Poplar, and would have persuaded him to quit the church for the stage, observing that it usually paid the larger salaries of the two. For great part of his life he had no other preferment than the small college living of Westow, in Norfolk, and the donative of Poplar, in Middlesex, where he resided. To these his college added, some years after, the donative of Romford, in Essex. Between those two placed the curricle of his life had (as he expressed it) rolled for some time almost perpetually upon post-chaise wheels, and left him not time for even the proper studies of oeconomy, or the necessary ones of his profession. Yet in this obscure situation he remained in possession of, and content with, domestic happiness; and was honoured with the intimate friendship of some who were not less distinguished for learning than for worth: among these, it may be sufficient to mention Mr. Christopher Pitt, Mr. Spence, and Dr. Berriman. To the last of these he was curate and executor. In 1756 he declined an offer of going to Ireland as first chaplain to the Duke of Bedford; in return for which he was to have had the choice of promotion, either at Christ Church, Canterbury, Westminster, or Windsor. His modesty inducing him to leave the choice of these to his patron, the consequence was, that he obtained no one of them at all. In 1763 he published "The Life of Bishop Ridley," in quarto. by subscription, and cleared by it as much as bought him 800 in the public funds. In the latter part of his life he had the misfortune to lose both his sons, each of them a youth of abilities. The elder, James, was author of "The Tales of the Genii," and some other literary performances. Thomas, the younger, was sent by the East India Company as a writer to Madras, where he was no sooner settled than he died, of the small-pox. In 1765 Dr. Ridley published his "Review of Philips's Life of Cardinal Pole;" and, in 1768, in reward for his labours in this controversy, and in another, which The Confessional produced, he was presented by Archbishop Secker to a golden prebend in the cathedral church of Salisbury (an option), the only reward he received from the great, during a long, useful, and laborious life, devoted to the duties of his function. At length, worn out with infirmities, he departed this life in 1774, leaving a widow and four daughters, of whom the only married one (Mrs. Evans) has published a novel, in two volumes. He was buried at Poplar; and the following epitaph, written by Dr. Lowth, Bishop of London, is inscribed upon his monument:

H.S.E.
GLOCESTER RIDLEY,
Vir optimus, integerrimus;
Verbi Divini Minister
Peritus, fidelis, indefessus:
Ab Academia Oxoniensi
Pro meritis, et praeter ordinem,
In sacra Theologia Doctroratu insignitus.
Poeta natus,
Oratoriae facultati impensius studuit.
Quam fuerat in concionando facundus,
Plurimorum animis diu infidebit;
Quam varia eruditione instructus,
Scripta ipsius semper testabuntur.
Obiit tertio die mensis Novembris,
A.D. 1774, Aetatis 72.

Two poems by Dr. Ridley, one styled "Jovi Eleutherio, or an Offering to Liberty," the other called "Psyche," are in the third volume of Dodsley's Collection. The sequel of the latter poem, entitled "Melampus," is still unpublished, and in the hands of his family. His claim to a place in this work arises from the following dramatic performances yet remaining in MS. viz.

1. Jugurtha. T.
2. The Fruitless Redress. T.

This latter play was written during a vacation in 1728, and was the joint production of Dr. Ridley and four friends, viz. Dr. Thomas Fletcher (fellow of All-Souls, Oxford, afterwards Bishop of Kildare), Dr. Eyre, Mr. Morrison, and Mr. Jennings, each of whom wrote an act, on a plan previously concerted. When they delivered in the several proportions, at the meeting in the winter, so uniform was the style, that few readers would have known that the whole was not the production of a single hand. This tragedy was offered to Mr. Wilks, but never acted