1819 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. George Gregory

Richard Ryan, in Biographica Hibernica. A Biographical Dictionary of the Worthies of Ireland (1819) 2:282-85.



GEORGE GREGORY, D.D., a divine, and man of science, was the son of a clergyman who had been educated at Trinity College, Dublin, and held the rectory of Edermine, and a prebend in the cathedral church of Ferns, in the county of Wexford. His father's family was originally from Scotland, and his mother was a native of Lancashire. Dr. Gregory was born April 14th, 1754, and his father dying in 1766, when he was only twelve years of age, his mother returned to her native country, and settled in Liverpool. Anxious to confer on her son the benefits of the best education, she put him under the care of an eminent schoolmaster, of the name of Holden, from whose tuition he acquired a knowledge of the classics, and made considerable proficiency in the mathematics. His mother had intended him for trade; but his own ardent love of literature and science, leading him to prefer entering into the church, he removed to Edinburgh, and for two years attended the lectures of the celebrated professors of that university. The mathematical and physical sciences were his favourite pursuits. After leaving Edinburgh, he entered, in 1776, into holy orders, and discharged the duties of curate in Liverpool with fidelity and reputation. His humanity prompted him to oppose the slave trade, in which too many in that city were engaged; and, in a periodical work published there, he exposed in several essays the impolicy and inhumanity of this traffic in human blood.

In 1782, he came to London, and obtained the curacy of St. Giles, Cripplegate, where his attention to his duty, and his eminent talents, rendered him extremely popular: in consequence of which, in 1785, after he had resigned his curacy, he was unanimously elected by the parishioners their morning lecturer. He at the same time officiated at St. Botolph's, delivered lectures at the Asylum, and weekly lectures at St. Antholin's. In 1789, he was candidate for the office of chaplain to the Asylum, which from the too great confidence of his friends, he lost by one vote. By the Bishop of London he was presented to a small prebend in St. Paul's, which he resigned on obtaining from his lordship, the rectory of Stapleford, in Hertfordshire. In 1804, by the interest of Mr. Addington, now Lord Sidmouth, he was presented with the valuable living of West Ham, in Essex.

Dr. Gregory's education had been conducted without any fixed plan; but his capacious mind and thirst of knowledge enabled him to acquire vast stores of information on all subjects to which he directed his attention: and his works display a minute and profound acquaintance with the arts and sciences, commerce, manufactures, and political institutions. His first publication was a volume of Essays, Historical and Moral, in 1785, but which he did not acknowledge until the second edition in 1788. He had before that time, in 1782, suggested to Mr. Kearsley of Fleet-street, a series of extracts from eminent authors, which were published under the name of "Beauties," and had an extensive sale. In 1787, he favoured the public with a translation of Lowth's Lectures on the Sacred Poetry of the Hebrews, 2 vols. 8vo. In the following year, he published a volume of Church History, of which a second appeared in 1795. He was a contributor to the Biographia Britannia, in which is his Life of Thomas Chatterton, with Criticisms on his Genius and Writings, and a concise View of the Controversy concerning Rowley's Poems. — This work was first published separately in one volume 8vo. in 1789. In 1795, he revised an edition of Hawkesworth's Telemachus, with a new Life of Fenelon, in two vols. 4to. and also published in the same year a continuation of Hume's History of England, 8vo. In 1796, appeared in 3 vols. 8vo. his Economy of Nature, illustrated and explained on the Principles of Modern Philosophy; a scientific work, rich in information conveyed in a most pleasing manner. Such was its success with the public, that it had reached the third edition in 1804. Dr. Gregory contributed also to the useful interests of education by his Lessons, Astronomical and Philosophical, for the Instruction of British Youth, in 1797, 12mo. and by his Elements of Polite Education, carefully selected from the Letters of Lord Chesterfield to his Son, 1801, 12mo. During his retreat from the metropolis, he found leisure to superintend the progress of a Dictionary of Arts and Sciences, which was published in 1806, in two vols, 4to. It is a work in which much information is conveyed in a narrow compass, and is well suited to those who cannot conveniently obtain any of our large Encyclopaedias of science. After his death, were published Lectures on Natural and Experimental Philosophy, and a Series of Letters to his Son. In addition to these extensive and valuable literary labours, Dr. Gregory contributed to various other works, and was for several years conductor of the New Annual Register.

In his youth he wrote some verses; and a tragedy, entitled, the Siege of Jerusalem, has been attributed to him.

Dr. Gregory was no less amiable in private life, than eminent as a literary character. He was for many years an active and zealous friend of the Royal Humane Society, and at their anniversary in 1797, he preached a sermon on the prevention of suicide. He was eminently useful as a member of the committees, as his knowledge of mechanics fully qualified him to decide on the merits of the different inventions presented to the society, for preserving the lives of shipwrecked seamen. He was elected F.S.A. in 1785. In 1789, he formed a matrimonial union with Miss Nunnes. He died, after a short illness, on the evening of March 12th, 1808, and was buried in the parochial church of West Ham.