1783 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Gilbert West

Anonymous, "Gilbert West" Gentleman's Magazine 53 (February 1783) 101-02.



A gentleman to whose memory I owe all the returns that I can possibly make, after so much friendly correspondence, freedom in conversation, and many other instances of his favour and regard, with which he was pleased to honour me to his death, and of which I might probably have made a far more advantageous use, in regard to temporal provisions, than I did. Let his memory be ever dear to me, and ever sacred to the friends of Christianity, in all succeeding ages.

I shall touch but upon a very few articles, such as transiently occur to my memory; but my account, though short, shall be just.

Mr. West was a person of great discernment, and of a very quick apprehension, and readily saw into men and things. He was lively and agreeable in conversation, and very much of a gentleman in all his behaviour.

I have heard him say, that in his younger days he had gone over into the quarters of Infidelity. His uncle, the late Lord Cobham, did all in his power to instill such principles into his mind, and that of his cousin Lyttelton, when they paid their visits to him. But the latter, he said, happily stood his ground, and made little or no progress in those perverse principles.

When Mr. West's Treatise on the Resurrection of our Lord was first advertised in the public papers, the point in the title-page being left "in medio," and determining nothing, numbers of those who had conceived an opinion of his continuing a staunch unbeliever, sent for it to his bookseller, hoping to find their own disbelief therein confirmed. But, finding themselves disappointed, some of them were pleased afterwards to rank him in the class even of Methodists, &c. — Prejudice to the last degree! — Others ranked him amongst the Socianians: directly contrary to the former. How easy to invent names! — But his true character, to my certain knowledge, was a Christian, a Scholar, and a Gentleman. And one may justly apply to him what one of the ancients said of himself, "My name is Catholic, and my surname is Christian."

He was very regular and exemplary in family religion: offered up prayers (those of the public liturgy) every day when well, at eleven in the morning; and then, when the weather was fair, rode out for his health. On Sundays he went to church (not to that of his own parish, but to St. James's, Dr. Clarke's church); and at evening ordered his servants to come into the parlour, where he read to them the late Dr. Clarke's sermons, and then went to prayers. He read them always himself.

One thing was somewhat singular: he always said grace himself at his table, though a clergyman happened to be present. He gave me his reasons of his own accord, and I did not disapprove them.

He had an elegant little seat, in view of the great metropolis; and all about it was neat. Lyttelton's epigram to him, in 1740, contains a just character both of the master and of his habitation.

He bore his last illness in a very exemplary manner; — very patient, and entirely resigned to the divine will, &c.

He had formed an excellent design of proving the authenticity of the New Testament from many observations that had occurred to him from time to time, which he had begun to note down; and I remember he shewed me some valuable hints that had been communicated to him by Dr. Dodderidge, particularly drawn from the concessions of Celsus, and others amongst the more early opposers of Christianity. He seemed to delight in that subject, and to be fully resolved to pursue it, if God should give him opportunities. I have heard him expatiate upon it in conversation with great clearness of judgement and strength of argument. What became of his preparatory papers upon it, since his decease, I know not; but have reason to believe, from what I have heard, that they were soon after destroyed, with many others, and perhaps all that he had left remaining upon any topics of theology, &c.