1781 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Bp. John Hinchliffe

Anonymous, "Account of Dr. Hinchliffe" Westminster Magazine 9 (June 1781) 283-84.



The prejudices of mankind have been generally unfavourable to the interference of the Clergy in political matters, and experience tells us, that the more their attention is bent to the duties of their function, the greater is the respect they are likely to obtain from the world. Whether the partial and contracted modes of education which prevail in colleges; the studies which are attended to there; or a seclusion from the world at a period of life when habits are to be formed, unfit them for the intercourse of indiscriminate society; or that the practices of Churchmen have inclined too much to the support of Power, and thereby raised suspicions that their influence would operate contrary to the interests of the community; it is certain, that no set of men who profess so much weight have been viewed with more jealous eyes than the Clergy are when they wander in the fields of Politics. But general reflections are always illiberal, and frequently unjust. However censurable the conduct of some Divines may be, the behaviour of others hath been such as to command the love, esteem and veneration on of the world at large. Among those who have stood foremost In opposition to despotic power and arbitrary designs, the names of many of the clerical profession are to be numbered; men who are intitled to every praise which a uniform, manly and consistent conduct can demand.

Of these Dr. HINCHLIFFE, the present Bishop of Peterborough, may claim a place in the first rank. It is a circumstance which will reflect honour on him in the eyes of all but of ignorance, pride, and folly, that he owes his advancement to nether birth nor family connections. His origin was what the world would call low, his father being not far removed from the rank of an Ostler. He contrived, however, to give his son an education at Westminster School, from whence he was sent to Cambridge, where he distinguished himself by a superiority over his competitors in every academical exercise. The height of his ambition at that time seemed not to soar above the hopes of such preferment as the seminary where he was educated could bestow; and there, from every appearance, his abilities were destined to be buried. After the lapse of a few years, the education of the present Duke of Devonshire requiring the superintendence of a person of learning and liberal manners, Dr. HINCHLIFFE was recommended to that trust, which, according to the sentiments of some very competent judges, he executed with great reputation to himself, and advantage to his pupil; who, if he ever frees himself from the fetters of indolence, may become (what from his fortune and family he ought to be) one of the first Characters of the Age.

With the Duke of Devonshire Dr. HINCHLIFFE made the Tour of Europe, and in the course of their travels met with the Duke of Grafton; a Nobleman of distinguished taste, and possessed of a share of learning equal to most scholars, and an uncommon one for a person of his rank. To this Nobleman Dr. HINCHLIFFE was introduced, and, from a similarity of pursuits, they soon became attached to each other. In May 1766, the vicarage of Greenwich, was given to Dr. HINCHLIFFE; and in 1768 he was raised to the Bench of Bishops, being appointed to the See of Peterborough in the room of Dr. Lamb. The same year he was Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge, and at present with his Bishoprick holds the Mastership of Trinity-College, in that University.

Though possessed of great learning, Dr. HINCHLIFFE hath not obliged the world with any productions, except occasional Sermons and Academical Exercises. Nor hath he received any addition to the Preferments which he possessed thirteen years ago. When the part, however, which he hath uniformly taken respecting America is considered, that circumstance will create no surprize. To be proscribed at Court must naturally follow such a line of conduct, though directed by policy, justice, and humanity.

Dr. HINCHLIFFE, in his person, has been by no means obliged to Nature. His features are harsh, but not forbidding; and the spectator will hardly receive impressions of dignity from his external appearance. His private deportment conciliates the affections of his friends, and renders him very amiable in private life. In his political conduct he has steadily opposed the unnatural war in America, and his speeches in the House of Lords have on that subject been marked in a peculiar manner with elegance, simplicity, and pathos. Could reason be supposed to act in such an Assembly as that in which these harangues were delivered, the cruelty and impolicy of the present system of power would be apparent; but, circumstanced as the times are, their effect has been totally lost where only it could operate beneficially to the Public. Every endeavour to stop the effusion of blood, and to extinguish the horrors of war, the world will acknowledge to be the proper province of those who ought to be distinguished as the messengers of peace. To the Public in general the arguments of Dr. HINCHLIFFE have carried conviction; and it is to be hoped they will have a like effect elsewhere, before ruin and destruction reach this once flourishing kingdom.