1798 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Bp. Richard Hurd

David Rivers, in Literary Memoirs of Living Authors (1798) 1:294-98.



Lord Bishop of Worcester, and Clerk of the Closet to his Majesty. This learned, ingenious, and venerable Prelate, was originally settled in his profession, in a very retired situation at Thurcaston in the County of Leicester; and in a Dedication of his Ars Poetica, &c. of Horace, to Bishop Warburton, he expresses, in the warmest terms, his attachment to an obscure station. He was long the intimate friend of that celebrated prelate, who, having perceived his rising talents, became his kind and generous patron. In this character Dr. Warburton was performing not his least service to the learned and religious world. And the elegant compliments paid by Dr. Hurd to the Bishop of Gloucester, in the above Dedication, appear from the circumstance of his then obscure situation to have been an unbought acknowledgement of the high estimation in which he held his talents. Who then shall be surprised (notwithstanding Dr. Parr's Attack upon the Bishop of Worcester) that after the generous patronage of that distinguished Prelate, Dr. Hurd should become his avowed Champion, and should have taken every opportunity of paying a tribute of gratitude to his memory? As a writer his Lordship is certainly one of the most classical and elegant of the age. His edition of Horace's Epistolae ad Pisones et Augustum, with an English Commentary and Notes, was first published in two octavo volumes, in 1753; four years previous to which the Epistle to the Pisos had appeared by itself. This work has since been frequently reprinted in three small octavo volumes, and is one of the most masterly pieces of Criticism in our language. The fine taste, philosophic spirit, and solid judgement, which it every where displays, render it singularly delightful to the classical reader. Dr. Hurd's Moral and Political Dialogues; with Letters on Chivalry and Romance, were first published together, in three small octavo volumes, in the year 1765, after having each appeared separately and anonymously. These volumes are too highly esteemed and too well known, to require a panegyrick from us. A pamphlet published about this time by Dr. Hurd in reply to Mr. Hume's Essay on the Natural History of Religion, has been branded by that author, (in this case too much a party concerned, to be free from party zeal,) as "written with all the illiberal petulance, and scurrility, which distinguish the Warburtonian School." Upon being chosen Preacher at Lincoln's Inn Chapel, his Lordship delivered, in that capacity, the first series of Sermons that were preached at the Lecture, instituted by his friend Bishop Warburton, for the illustration of the Prophecies, and exhibited a model truly worthy of the imitation of his successors. His twelve Discourses on this occasion were published in an octavo volume, in 1772, as was also his edition of Select Works of Mr. Abraham Cowley, with a Preface and Notes, in two small octavo volumes. The Discourses have been attacked, with no small degree of virulence, by Mr. Evanson, formerly vicar of Tewkesbury and author of the Dissonance of the Gospels. About this time his Lordship enjoyed the particular patronage of Earl Mansfield, and successively became Praeceptor to the Prince of Wales, Bishop of Litchfield and Coventry, and Bishop of Worcester. In 1776, Dr. Hurd published a volume of Sermons, preached at Lincoln's Inn between the years 1765 and 1776, to which he added two more volumes, in the year 1781. These Discourses were prepared for the use of the Society, of Lincoln's Inn, and delivered in their Chapel, while Dr. Hurd was their preacher. Upon his resignation of that office, in 1776, the Masters of the Bench requested him to publish them; by complying with which, he has put the World at large under obligation to him. These and some occasional single Sermons, constitute the list, (except one Essay to be noticed hereafter) of his Lordship's earlier publications. In 1783, he had the honour of declining the dignity of the Archbishoprick of Canterbury, vacated by the Death of Dr. Cornwallis. In 1788, his Lordship published an edition of The Works of the Right. Rev. William Warburton, Lord Bishop of Gloucester, in seven quarto volumes, as well as an octavo supplemental volume of Bishop Warburton's Works, or, a Collection of all the New Pieces contained in the quarto Edition. In an Advertisement prefixed to the former of these Works, the reader was informed that a Discourse, containing some Account of the Life, Writings, and Character of that celebrated Prelate, had been prepared, but would not appear till hereafter, for reasons then to be explained; but on its appearance the purchaser would be entitled to a copy. This conduct and the circumstance of printing only two hundred and fifty copies of so sumptuous an edition of the Works of his learned friend, appeared mysterious to most people, and caused his Lordship to be arraigned on the score of intellectual cowardice; having suppressed a Life of his original Patron, on account of its containing some free things of living characters. In 1794, he published A Discourse, by way of General Preface to the quarto Edition of Bishop Warburton's Works; containing some Account of the Life, Writings, and Character of the Author, in a quarto pamphlet, which was never sold. It is well and interestingly written, but on account of his not giving (according to promise) any reason for its singular procrastination, as well as on other accounts, the imputation, before mentioned, has not been entirely done away. His Lordship early in life exhibited a blamable degree of conformity to this intellectual despot, in an Essay on the conduct of the late Dr. Jortin, who had been guilty of some degree of Rebellion against his literary Chief. This pamphlet, he afterward took much pains to buy up and suppress. His Lordship's Strictures on Archbishop Secker and Bishop Lowth, gave occasion to a very well-written Letter from a Member of the University of Oxford.