1834 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Bp. Richard Hurd

G. G. Cunningham, in Memoirs of Illustrious Englishmen (1834-37) 7:454-55.



RICHARD HURD was born at Congreve, in Staffordshire, on the 15th of January, 1720. His parents were, according to his own statement, "plain, honest, and good people, — farmers, but of a turn of mind that might have honoured any rank and any education." After passing some time at two provincial schools, he was admitted, in 1733, of Emanuel college, Cambridge, where he took the degree of B.A. in 1738, and proceeded M.A. in 1742, during which year he was elected to a fellowship, shortly after, he took deacon's orders, and became B.D. in 1774.

The society of Emanuel college presented him to the living of Thurcaston in Leicestershire. In the retirement of his country-parish he prepared his edition of the Ars Poetica, which he dedicated to Warburton. That prelate soon recognised his fine scholarship, and made him archdeacon of his diocese; he also procured his appointment to the preachership of Lincoln's inn, on the vacancy occasioned by his own resignation.

The twelve discourses which he delivered at the lecture which had been founded by his patron for the illustration of the prophecies, added to the high reputation which he already enjoyed. They attracted the attention of William, earl of Mansfield; and, at the request of that nobleman, Dr. Hurd was appointed to succeed the archbishop of York as preceptor to their royal highnesses the prince of Wales and the duke of York.

In 1774 his majesty, with circumstances of grace and regard which peculiarly marked his perfect approbation, conferred on him the bishopric of Lichfield and Coventry. In 1781 the king appointed him clerk of the closet. In the same year he was translated to the see of Worcester; and in 1783, on the death of Archbishop Cornwallis, he had the offer of the primacy, which, however, he declined, "as a charge not suited to his temper and talents, and much too heavy for him to sustain, especially in such troubled times. Several much greater men than myself," added he, "have been contented to die bishops of Worcester, and I wish for no higher preferment."

The remainder of his life was passed, with very few intervals of absence, in his diocese, where he enjoyed an almost filial affection and respect from all around him. His serious employment consisted in the strictest discharge of the spiritual and temporal duties of his station; and his amusements, in literary composition, and the revisal of his former works. He died unmarried at Hartlebury, on Saturday, the 6th of June, 1808, in the eighty-ninth year of his age.

His first publication vas Horace's epistle to the Pisos, 1749, which was reprinted, together with the epistle to Augustus, in 1753, in two octavo volumes, with an English commentary and notes. This work, various editions of which have since appeared, is esteemed one of the most acute and classical pieces of criticism in the language. His Letters on Chivalry and Romance were republished in 1765, together with his Moral and Political Dialogues, in three small volumes. About the same time, Mr. Hume put forth his essay on the Nature and History of Religion, which Dr. Hurd answered with a boldness and perspicuity which suited his calling and his talents. Hume, in his rejoinder, charges him with "all the illiberal petulance, arrogance, and scurrility of the Warburtonian school."

The twelve discourses at Bishop Warburton's lectures for the Lincoln's-inn chapel, were published in 1772. Some passages in them were attacked by Mr. Evanson. In the same year he published Select Works of Abraham Cowley, with a preface and notes, in two small octavo volumes. In 1776, he published a volume of sermons preached at Lincoln's-inn chapel, between the years 1765 and 1776; to which, in 1781, he added two more.

His largest work appeared in 1788: this was an edition of the works of Bishop Warburton, in seven volumes, quarto, with a supplemental volume in octavo. For the deficiencies of this collection, he was attacked by Dr. Parr; who, to supply the prelate's omissions, printed a volume entitled, Tracts by Warburton and a Warburtonian. The last literary labour undertaken by Hurd was the arrangement for publication of Warburton's correspondence.