Rev. Thomas Maurice

Anonymous, Obituary in Gentleman's Magazine 94 (May 1824) 467-73.

March 30. At his apartments in the British Museum, after a long and painful illness, in his 70th year, the Rev. Thomas Maurice, M.A. Assistant Keeper of the MSS. in that Institution; and Vicar of Cudham, Kent, and Wormleighton, Warwickshire.

Mr. Maurice has been his own Biographer. From his well-written and very amusing Memoirs, most of the following particulars of him will be gleaned; with such others as we have been enabled to collect.

The family of Maurice is of high Cambrian origin, and allied to the ancient princes of Powis. The pedigree of Maurice shews their descent in a regular line from the celebrated chief Einion, who ranks at the head of one of the five royal tribes of Wales. That branch from which our Author descended settled at Whittington in Shropshire. His grandfather, Thomas Maurice, esq. was the younger brother of Edward Maurice, esq. of Lloran and Pen-y-bont. This Thomas Maurice having received the fortune of a younger brother, and having increased it by a marriage with the dau. of John Trevor, esq. of Oswestry, towards the close of the 17th century, settled as a merchant in London, but was ruined in the South Sea Bubble in 1721. He had three children, Thomas (father of our Author), brought up to succeed him in his own line; Peter, and John.

Thomas, (the father of Mr. M.) was articled to a West India merchant, made several voyages to the West Indies, and settled in Jamaica. The climate not agreeing with him, after three years he returned to England; and being accomplished in mathematical sciences, he opened an academy at Clapham, and married an elderly lady with some property.

In 1737, by the interest of Sir John Bernard, then Lord Mayor, he was elected by the Governors of Christs Hospital, Headmaster of their Establishment at Hertford; (whither he carried with him his private pupils;) and held that situation 26 years. His character for humanity and integrity is recorded in the annals of that noble Institution. Late in life he married a very young woman, (who had been the companion of his first wife,) by whom he had six children; the eldest (the subject of this article), and one brother, William, alone reached maturity. The father died in 1763; leaving every thing he possessed to his young widow. She seems to have been an affectionate mother, but was subject to low spirits, and occasional fits of derangement. Unfortunately she got entangled with the Methodists, and after some little time was persuaded to marry an Irish preacher, named Joseph Wright. Her new husband used her shamefully; she was got away from him; but the law expenses in Chancery swallowed up the little fortunes of herself and her children.

On the death of his father, the subject of this Memoir was first sent to Christ's Hospital; but his health declining, he was removed in about a year and a half, to an academy at Eating, then kept by Mr. Pearse, and now flourishing under the superintendence of the Rev. Dr. Nicholas. Thence he was removed, in consequence of his mother's attachment to Methodism, to the "Athens of Wesleyan Literature, in the neighbourhood of Bristol." His next preceptor was Mr. Bradley, a learned orthodox clergyman. near London. His original destination, the Church, being now considered impracticable, he was placed in the chambers of M. Brown, of the Inner Temple, preparatory to the study of the law. But instead of writing notes on Coke and Blackstone, he was engaged in the study of Ovid and Tibullus, or Shakspeare and Milton.

"It was about this period," says Mr. Maurice, "that the Rev. Samuel Parr, a name that will ever be dear to me to the last moment of my existence — having, with glaring injustice, been refused the substantial claim which his education on the spot, his profound erudition, and the very statutes of the Founder gave him of succeeding his friend and patron Dr. Sumner, in the head-mastership of Harrow, opened a school in the neighbouring hill of Stanmore, to which he was followed by a large portion [about 40] of the scholars, whose fathers, thinking him illiberally treated by the governors, encouraged him to commence the hazardous undertaking. At my request he was written to by my guardian, and was informed of the accumulated misfortunes that had overwhelmed my youth, and had obstructed my progress in literature. This did not fail deeply to interest in my favour a heart warm and benevolent as his own, and laid the foundation of that friendship which now for above 40 years, I exult to say, has subsisted between us with unimpaired vigour. His reply was in the usual manner of that gentleman, prompt, ardent, and energetic. A meeting was instantly appointed, at which I was neither terrified by his quick penetrating glance, nor dismayed by the awful magnitude of his overshadowing wig. I felt, however, degraded in the presence of so great a scholar; I repeated the tale of my early calamities; and ingenuously acknowledged my profound ignorance. His answers were in a high degree candid and consoling; and having been shown some specimens of my poetic talent, he honoured them with a gratifying, but guarded eulogy."

Too much praise cannot be given to the liberality of Dr. Parr on this occasion, who benevolently received Mr. Maurice under his protection, directed his studies, with what success will subsequently appear, and supported him, though with slender appearances of receiving an adequate remuneration. The affection between these learned men continued till death divided them. Dr. Parr ever considered T. Maurice as his admired pupil and highly-esteemed friend; and Mr. Maurice ever entertained for the Doctor (as we have above seen) the deepest gratitude and sincerest affection.

At Dr. Parr's, young Maurice, though a junior boy, associated with companions of considerable talents and matured intellect; this was to advance in knowledge. Preeminent among these worthies of Stanmore were William Julius, the Captain, and Walter Pollard, — excellent scholars, — natives of the tropic — "souls made of fire, and children of the sun;" the latter of whom was Mr. M's confidential friend through life; Monsey Alexander, a very good scholar, and Mr. M's most intimate friend at Oxford; the incomparable scholar, Joseph Gerald; and the two ingenious sons of Dr. Graham of Netherby. These eminent young men assisted Maurice in his studies; and the Archdidaskolos himself condescended to indulge him with private instructions.

At the age of 19 Mr. Maurice was entered at St. John's college, Oxford; and in about a year afterwards removed to University College, under the tuition of the present Lord Stowell.

Whilst at the University he cultivated his poetic talents: "I began my career in life," says Mr. M. "as a Poet, and my publications in that line were honoured with no inconsiderable share of the public approbation; the literary public I mean, as of my principal work, the Translation of the noblest Tragedy of Sophocles, they alone could be competent judges — The history of their composition forms, indeed, an essential part of the history of my own life, with which, in its early periods, they are inseparably connected." — "The warm commendations of a Johnson, a Parr, and a Jones, with which my translation of the Oedipus Tyrannus was honoured, have excited in me hopes that it will not wholly be doomed to oblivion."

Among the poems published about this time, besides his translation of the Oedipus Tyrannus, were, The School Boy, a Poem, written in imitation of the Splendid Shilling, 4to. 1775; The Oxonian, a poem, which accurately described the scenes then too prevalent in that now reformed University; Netherby, a Poem, 4to. 1776; Hagley, a Poem, 4to. 1777; Monody to the Memory of the Duchess of Northumberland; Warley, a Satire, 4to. 1778.

After taking his degree of B.A. he was ordained by the great and good Bp. Lowth; and became Curate, at the recommendation of Dr. Wetherell, Master of University College, to the Rev. John Shepherd, rector of Woodford in Essex. A short time afterwards, Dr. Johnson, being then on a visit to his friend Dr. Taylor, at Bosworth, wrote, unsolicited, a warm and friendly letter to Dr. Wetherell, with the proffer of the Curacy of Bosworth, if Mr. Maurice were in orders.

In about two years after he had settled at Woodford, a Mrs. Trevor, whose maiden name was Maurice, formerly of Oswestry, left Mr. M. property which amounted to nearly 600; this proved a seasonable relief; and with it, at the advice of his friends, he purchased a chaplaincy in the 97th reg. which regiment being reduced in 1784, Mr. M. continued to receive half-pay as long as he lived.

In 1778 he preached a Fast Sermon at Woodford, which was the only sermon he ever printed; and dedicated it to Lord North.

In 1778 he also preached an Assize Sermon at Chelmsford before Lord Chief Justice Mansfield and Justice Ashhurst. This was not printed; but copious extracts from it are given in Mr. Maurice's Memoirs, Part III. pp. 75-81.

In 1779 he published by subscription a volume of his Poems and Miscellaneous Pieces; with his Translation of the Oedipus Tyrannus of Sophocles.

In 1782 his Muse seized a popular subject, and composed Ierne Rediviva, an Ode addressed to the Volunteers of Ireland; and in 1784, first appeared his Elegiac Poem, Westminster Abbey. A second edition of this Work appeared in 1813 in a more splendid form; accompanied with other occasional Poems, and his Translation of the Oedipus Tyrannus of Sophocles.

The first idea of Mr. Maurice's becoming an historian (but of what he had not a conception) was suggested by the composition of historical exercises, at the seminary of Dr. Parr, and the commendations bestowed on one of those exercises. This spark was fanned into a flame when he attended the incomparable Lectures on History by his respected tutor at University College, the present Lord Stowell.

About 1783 he first began to meditate a History of India, drawn up in a popular way, from the aera of the invasion of that country by Alexander down to the time that Mr. Orme's work commences. To detail the history of 2000 years was no trifling concern; but Mr. M. applied himself resolutely to the task, devoting at least three or four hours a day for five years to perusing, translating, revising, and arranging his materials.

In 1785, finding that the weekly duty of an extensive parish like Woodford incompatible with is studies, he relinquished that curacy for the Chapel of Epping, where only attendance on Sundays was required.

His intimacy with the Godfrey family, who resided at Woodford was attended with one circumstance peculiarly fortunate, as through it be gained access to the Inthan books and papers of that family, who had long resided in the East. Mr. Godfrey was the guardian of the lady whom Mr. Maurice married in 1786. She was the daughter of Thomas Pearce, esq. a captain in the service of the East India Company. This amiable lady lived only four years subsequent to this union. Her death was to Mr. Maurice of very serious and lasting consequence, for it deprived him of the comforts of domestic life, and compelled him to seek society abroad, to the indiscriminate enjoyment of which he was too much devoted. He bewailed his loss in an elegant poetical Epitaph, which possesses very considerable merit, and is printed in his Poems.

In 1789 our author's Muse assumed a bolder flight, in Panthea, or the Captive Bride, a tragedy founded on a story in Xenophon. To which he added, An Elegy on the Memory of the Duke of Northumberland.

To revert to his great work on Indian Antiquities.

The first public step taken by him appeared in 1790, in a Letter to the Court of Directors of the East India Company, containing Proposals for printing the History of the Revolutions of the Empire of Hindostan, from the earliest Ages to the present, with a Sketch of the Plan on which the Work will be conducted; a concise Account of the Authors who will be consulted; and a short Retrospect of the general History.

Mr. Maurice had nearly completed his arduous task, when the French Revolution broke out; and neither his conviction, the result of education and reflection, nor his profession, would permit him to publish any thing respecting India, without an effort at least to refute the argument and subvert the hypothesis of the atheists of the day, who had taken their stand to endeavour to root out Christianity and demoralize the world. His nearly-finished work was therefore laid aside, and an ample field was to be traversed. New books were to be procured, and toilsome vigils endured. Three more years were therefore consumed in this investigation; and at length, in 1791, his two first volumes appeared under the title of Indian Antiquities, or Dissertations relative to the ancient Geographical Divisions, the pure System of primaeval Theology, the grand Code of Civil Laws, the original Form, of Government, and the various and profound Literature of Hindostan, compared throughout with the Religion, Laws, Government, and Literature of Persia, Egypt, and Greece; the whole intended as introductory to the History of Hindostan, upon a comprehensive scale, 8vo, with plates — This, work was written with great labour, perspicuity, and talent, and it embraced a multitude of important objects. The various and complicated subjects in the Dissertation on the Indian Theology, may be judged of by the Summary of their Contents prefixed to these volumes. — A third volume was produced in the following year, in which not only the rites practised within the pagodas, but the singular style of architecture of Indian pagodas themselves, was extensively discussed. — A fourth appeared in 1794, in which at great length he enforced and illustrated the doctrine of the TRINITY from the universal prevalence in Asia of the doctrine of divine TRIADS — A fifth volume followed shortly after, in which that important subject was resumed; while the concluding portion of it contained strictures relative to the almost incredible excruciating penances of the Hindoos, and the Indian, Metempsychosis. — A considerable pause in the publication here ensued, occasioned by impaired health, and exhausted funds; but in 1796, chiefly thro' the princely liberality of the late Hon. and Rev. Robert, fourth Earl of Harborough, a sixth volume was published, divided into two parts, of which Part I. contained a Dissertation on the peculiar Superstitions of the Sect of BUDDHA, compared with those of the Druids of Europe, whose reverence for rocks and stones of enormous dimensions seems to have been congenial; and Part II. a Dissertation on the COMMERCE carried on by the Phoenicians and antient Greeks with the British Islands for TIN — The seventh and final volume contained discourses on the immense treasures in gems and bullion possessed by the antient Indian Monarchs; and the arts and manufactures of India, which were in a great degree the sources of those treasures. An analysis of the institutions of MENU, their celebrated law-giver; and extensive strictures on the ancient form of government established among that celebrated people, concluded the work. On bidding adieu to this subject, he expresses a fervent hope that "his humble Essays (as he is pleased to call them) on the Antiquities of India may be the forerunner of some grander effort, more fully and effectually to display them; since (adds he) my mind is eternally impressed with the conviction that every additional research into their early annals and history, will ultimately tend to strengthen and support the Mosaic and Christian codes, and consequently the highest and best interests of man."

The demise of Sir Wm. Jones, in 1794, threw a gloom over the literary and philosophical world. After obtaining an immense reputation in Europe, he repaired to Asia, and reaped new laurels by investigating the mythology and antiquities of that distant quarter of the world. Mr. Maurice was known to Sir William at Oxford, had been honoured with his friendship at an early period of life, and had received the most flattering encouragement of his work on India, by a letter from Sir William, transmitted from Calcutta. No sooner was the loss of this extraordinary man received, than Mr. Maurice's lyre was strung to his praise, in An Elegiac Poem sacred to the Memory and Virtues of the Hon. Sir Wm. Jones, one of the Judges of the Supreme Court of Judicature in Bengal; containing an historical Retrospect of the Progress of Science and Foreign Conquest in Asia, 1795. This poetical tribute met with no common share of deserved applause.

In June 1795 he engaged with his worthy friend Thos. Hammersley, esq. of Pall Mall, in carrying on a series of biographical Essays, entitled Records of Merit, which were inserted in the Morning Herald. The first number, by Mr. Maurice, was a detail of the private virtues of Sir W. Jones; the second, by Mr. Hammersley, contained anecdotes of his friend Mr. Partington the lawyer; and the third article was entitled Anna, or exalted Virtue in inferior Station. Under this veil Mr. Maurice describes the melancholy history of his own mother, to whom he was ardently attached.

In the same year (1795) appeared the first volume of his History of Hindostan; its Arts and its Sciences, as connected with the history of the other great empires of Asia, during the most antient periods of the world; with numerous illustrative Engravings, 4to. In this volume Mr. Maurice discusses the curious and important topics of Indian Cosmogony; the four Yugs, or grand astronomical periods; the longevity of the primitive race, &c. The second volume of this work followed in 1798; and the third and final Part in 1799.

About 1796 he first became acquainted with that truly benevolent character, the late Dr. John Coakley Lettsom. Under his hospitable roof at Grove Hill, a great portion of his Indian Antiquities was written, and some of his happiest hours were passed. As a return for the accumulated favours of many years, Mr. M. composed his descriptive poem of Grove Hill, which he published in 1799, accompanied with an Ode to Mithra.

In 1799 he published Sanscrit Fragments, or Extracts from the several Books of the Brahmins on subjects, important to the British Isles, 8vo.

His poem entitled The Crisis, the only political one he ever published, was composed at the period of the menaced invasion in 1798, and was inscribed to that distinguished corps the Light Horse Volunteers. In the same year Mr. Maurice was presented by that Maecenas of literature, Earl Spencer, to the vicarage of Wormleighton, in Warwickshire; and the year following received the appointment of Assistant Librarian to the British Museum.

In 1800 appeared a new edition of his Poems, Epistolary, Lyric, and Elegiacal, in three Parts.

In the same year, in consequence of a demand for particular portions of his Indian Antiquities, increased by the warm commendation of the work by Bishop Tomlyne, he published those portions in a separate form, under the title of A Dissertation on the Oriental Trinities, 8vo.

About the same time he obtained, by the persevering interest of Bp. Tomline with Mr. Pitt, the pension that had been before bestowed upon the Poet Cowper.

In 1802 he published the first volume of his Modern History of Hindostan, and in 1804 the second volume. In this work Mr. Maurice undertook to collect together, into one body, the fragments of historical information respecting India, which are to be found in the early classical, as well as Moslem writers, and to illustrate both by such additional documents as are afforded by the Ayeen Akbery, the Asiatic Researches, and other authentic publications; and his intention was to bring down the Indian history, collecting, as he descended, and incorporating together, the various accounts given by Arabian, Venetian, Portugueze, and British writers, in the successive centuries in which they flourished, to the close of the 18th century.

In 1804, on the death of the Rev. Samuel Ayscough, he was presented by the Lord Chancellor, to the vicarage of Cudham, in Kent.

In 1805 Mr. Maurice printed a Vindication of his Indian History, from the misrepresentations of the Edinburgh Reviewers.

In 1803 he published The Fall of the Mogul, a Tragedy; and in 1807, Richmond Hill, a descriptive and historical Poem; illustrative of the principal Objects viewed from that beautiful Eminence.

It was not till 1808 that Mr. Maurice took his degree of M.A.

In 1810 appeared A Supplement to the History of India, 4to.

In 1812 he published Brahminical Fraud Detected, in a series of Letters to the Episcopal Bench, &c. in which the attempts of the Sacerdotal tribe of India, to invest their fabulous deity Crishna, with the honour and attributes of the Christian Messiah, known to them through the medium of the Evangelium Infantiae, or what is vulgarly called St. Thomas's Gospel, are examined, exposed, and defeated. This investigation proved laborious, extending over a wide and little explored field. The pamphlet traces to their true source the origin of all the spurious Gospels, as well as the mode by which they reached India and Persia.

In 1816 he published Observations connected with Astronomy and Ancient History, sacred and profane, on the Ruins of Babylon, as recently visited and described by Claudius James Rich, Esq. 4to; and in 1818, Observations on the Remains of Ancient Egyptian Grandeur and Superstition, as connected with those of Assyria: forming the Appendix to Observations on the Ruins of Babylon, with illustrative Engravings, 4to.

In 1821 he reprinted his History of Antient India, after it had been marry years out of print, with all the original plates, the Avatars, Zodiacs, &c. Many corrections and improvements distinguish this new edition. This republication gave unfeigned pleasure to the worthy author, as being so appropriate, in his opinion, to that period, when Anarchy and Infidelity were again endeavouring to rear their blood-stained standards in this country.

The concluding portion of the preface shall here be given as explanatory of Mr. Maurice's praiseworthy intentions:

"For having allotted so considerable a portion of these volumes to the defence of the Mosaic history, if any apology be necessary, I have this to urge in my vindication, that, leaving out of the question the hostile attacks recently made on that history and its author by Infidelity, and urged with such increased malignity at the present momentous crisis, the writings of that sublime and venerable legislator must necessarily claim a very large share of the attention of every historian of those antient periods, the transactions of which form the principal subject discussed in them. Subordinate as is the station which, for many years, it has been my lot to fill in that profession of which I am a member, and in the support of which I have exerted my most strenuous efforts, disappointment and neglect have not yet shaken the zeal of my attachment to it: nor could I avoid feeling, equally with my brethren in the higher orders of the Establishment, sentiments of just indignation at the insults offered to that profession, and indeed to the whole Christian church, by the insinuations of M. Volney, M. Bailli, and other professed infidels of the age, that the noble system of the national Theology rests upon no more substantial a basis than an Egyptian Allegory, relative to the introduction of Evil into the world; that the fabulous Crishna of India should be represented, both in name, character, and the miracles imputed to him by a superstitious people, as the prototype of the Christian Messiah; that in a fanciful hypothesis relative to the celestial Virgo, and the Sun rising in that sign, the immaculate conception should be ridiculed, the stupendous event of the resurrection scoffed at, and the SUN of righteousness he degraded to a level with his creatures. I will not propagate the contagion, by referring, at present, either to the work, or the page, in which these dreadful blasphemies are to be found. But the fact is notorious, and the result of the continued diffusion of such pernicious doctrines must be the disruption of all the bands of human society, which awful and recent experience instructs us cannot exist without the sanctities of religion. I must again assert my perfect coincidence with the opinion of Sir William Jones, whom an intimate acquaintance with the mythology and history of Oriental nations availed not to make a sceptic, that if the Mosaic history be indeed a fable, the whole fabric of the national religion is false, since the main pillar of Christianity rests upon that important original promise, that "the Seed of the woman shall bruise the head of the Serpent."

"Let others pervert, if they please, the noble science of Astronomy to the subversion and annihilation of every thing hitherto considered sacred among men; let them, in the vain hope of proving Christianity a system equally baseless and contracted, with the slender line of human intellect gauge the vast abyss of the heavens for innumerable worlds, rolling through ages that defy human computation, and dive into the darkest recesses of the Planet we inhabit, for arguments of its immense duration, from the beds of granite entombed in its bowels; it has been my incessant endeavour, in this as well as in a former publication, to make that exalted science subservient to nobler purposes; to collect into one centre the blended rays shed by the heavenly orbs, and direct their powerful focal splendour to the illustration of those grand primeval truths which form the basis of the national Theology; a Theology so inseparably connected with the NATIONAL GOVERNMENT.

One of the last literary occupations of Mr. Maurice, was the writing of his own Memoirs; comprehending the History of the Progress of Indian Literature, and Anecdotes of Literary Characters, in Britain, during a period of 30 years. Part 1. was printed in 1819, and a second edition in 1821. The second part of the Memoirs followed in 1820; including, a Tour in 1775, to Derbyshire, Westmoreland, and Cumberland; and the third part was published in 1822. This brings down Mr. Maurice's History to about the year 1796; but the fourth, or what was to be the final part, we regret to say, was never published.

This is a most amusing piece of autobiography. The author does not conceal his own indiscretions, but the pleasant way he narrates them, and the evident goodness of his heart, induce the reader to pity and to forgive. But what renders the work truly delightful, are the numerous interesting anecdotes of the eminent contemporaries with whose acquaintance and friendship Mr. Maurice was honoured.

We have thus taken a review of Mr. Maurice's various publications, and it will appear evident to every one who considers the number, variety, and the extent of his works, that with much talent he united great industry, exhibiting, indeed, a perseverance seldom to be met with. The rewards he received were not commensurate with his deserts, when it is considered that he reinforced the doctrine of the Trinity with new auxiliaries, and strengthened the prevailing faith in Europe, by means of facts and arguments drawn from the remotest periods of the history, and the most distant regions of Hindostan.

The death of this learned and esteemed man may be considered as a most desirable release from helplessness and hopeless misery. He was a man of great genius, lively, instructive, and good-humoured. His talents, attainments, and virtues, amply expiated his singularities and his infirmities.

He was buried on the 6th of April, in the churchyard of Woodford (where the remains of his beloved wife had been many years before deposited); attended to the grave by his only nephew, Wm. Bevill Maurice, Esq., by his executors Henry Ellis, and J. B. Nichols, Esqrs.; and by Dr. Badeley, jun. Andrew Caspar Giese, Esq. his Prussian Majesty's Consul; Taylor Combe, Esq.; T. J. Pettigrew, Esq.; and W. Bulmer, Esq. — In his will he has "strongly recommended to his nephew to reprint his Indian Antiquities."