The late Richard Cumberland, esq. was descended from ancestors illustrious for their piety, benevolence, and erudition. His great-grandfather was the learned and exemplary Dr. Richard Cumberland, Bp. of Peterborough, the well-known author of "De Legibus Naturae Disquisitio philosophica," and other valuable works. — The Bishop had an only son, Richard, rector of Peakirk, in the diocese of Peterborough, and archdeacon of Northampton. He had two sons, and one daughter (who was married to Waring Ashby, esq. of Quenby-hall, co. Leicester, and died in child-birth of her only son George Ashby, esq. late of Haselbeach in Northamptonshire). Richard, the elder son of archdeacon Cumberland, died unmarried at the age of 29.
The younger, DENISON, so named from his mother, was educated at Westminster school, and from that admitted fellow-commoner of Trinity College, Cambridge. He married, at the age of 22, Joanna, the younger daughter of Dr. Richard Bentley (the Phoebe of Byron's Pastoral); by whom he had a daughter, Joanna, and Richard, the subject of this article. Though in possession of an independent fortune, he was readily prevailed upon by his father-in-law to take the rectory of Stanwick, in Northamptonshire, given to him by Lord Chancellor King, as soon as he was of age to hold it. From this period, he fixed his constant residence in that retired spot, and sedulously devoted himself to the duties of his function. "When I contemplate the character of this amiable man (observes his Son, in the Memoirs of his own Life), I declare to truth I never yet knew one so happily endowed with those engaging qualities, which are formed to attract and fix the love and esteem of mankind. It seemed as if the whole spirit of his grandfather's benevolence had been transfused into his heart, and that he bore as perfect a resemblance of him in goodness, as he did in person: in moral purity he was truly a Christian, in generosity and honour he was perfectly a gentleman." — The spire of Stanwick Church is esteemed one of the most beautiful models of that style of architecture in the kingdom: He added a very handsome clock, and ornamented the chancel with a railing, screen, and entablature upon three-quarter columns, with a singing-gallery at the West end; and spared no expence to keep his church, not only in that neatness and decorum which befits the house of prayer, but also in a perfect state of good and permanent repair. Here, in the hearts of his parishioners and the esteem of his neighbours, he lived tranquil and unambitious, never soliciting other preferment for 30 years, holding only a small prebend in the church of Lincoln, given him by his uncle Bishop Reynolds. He was in the commission of the peace, and a very active magistrate, in the reconcilement of parties rather than in the conviction of persons. — When the Rebels were on the march, and had advanced to Derby, he raised among the neighbouring parishes two companies of 100 men each for the regiment then enrolling under the command of the Earl of Halifax, and marched them in person to Northampton. The Earl, as a mark of his consideration, insisted upon bestowing one of the companies upon his son, who being too young to take the command, an officer was named to act in his place. Some time after, on the approach of the general election for the county of Northampton, a contest took place with the rival parties of Knightly and Hanbury, or, in other words, between the Tories and the Whigs. His politics accorded with the latter, and he gave a very active and effectual support to his party. His exertions, though unsuccessful, were not overlooked by the Earl of Halifax, who was then high in office, and lord lieutenant of the county. Offers were pressed upon him; yet, though he was resolute in declining all personal favours, he was persuaded to lend an ear to flattering situations pointed out for his son, who was shortly afterwards employed by Lord Halifax as his confidential secretary. — In 1757 he exchanged the living of Stanwick for Fulham, in order to be nearer his Son, whose attendance on the Earl of Halifax required his residence in town. On the Earl's being appointed lord-lieutenant of Ireland, he was made one of his chaplains; and in 1763, at the close of his Lordship's administration, was promoted to the Bishoprick of Clonfert. — The first intimation of this promotion was communicated to him by his Son: and he received it in a modest, calm, and dignified manner; remarking, "that his talents were not turned for public life, nor did he foresee any material advantages likely to accrue to such as belonged to him from his promotion to an Irish Bishoprick; it was not consistent, he said, with his principles, to avail himself of his patronage in that country to the exclusion of the Clergy of his diocese; and of course he must deny himself the gratification of serving his friends and relations in England, if any such should solicit him. He farther mentioned the rule laid down by his grandfather, with respect to his episcopal revenue, who, at the lend of every year, whatever overplus he found upon a minute inspection of his accounts, distributed it to the poor; and, expressing his approbation of it, observed, that though he could not aspire to the most distant comparison with him in greater matters, yet he trusted he should not be found degenerate in principle." — When possessed of the See of Clonfert, he much ingratiate himself with all classes of people by his benevolence and generosity. He introduced many improvements and comforts among the Irish peasantry. He encouraged the English mode of agriculture by judicious rewards; and, as one of the members of the linen trade, introduced a number of spinning-wheels, and much good linen was made in consequence. This improving manufacture formed an interesting occupation also to his lady, and flourished under her care. — Here, as long as he lived, his Son never failed to make an annual visit to him. — The City of Dublin presented him with his freedom in a gold box, an honour never before conferred on any person below the rank of a Chief Governor; and the deed which accompanied it assigned as the motive, the great respectability of his character, and his disinterested protection of the Irish Clergy. In 1772 he was translated to the See of Kilmore. Some alarming symptoms soon after indicated the breaking up of his constitution, which were increased by the anxiety he experienced, through the debility and loss of health of his amiable lad. When his Son took leave of him at the end of his summer visit, the Bishop expressed an intention of attempting a journey to England; but died in the winter of the same year; and this sad event was speedily succeeded by the death of his lady, whose weak and exhausted frame sunk under the blow, May 27, 1775. From these mournful scenes their Son was absent; but their amiable Daughter attended them in their last moments. The Bishop was buried in a small patch of ground, inclosed with stone wails, adjoining to the church-yard of Kilmore, but not within the pale of the consecrated ground, beside the grave of the venerable and exemplary Bishop Bedel. This little spot he had fenced and guarded with particular devotion, and more than once pointed it out to his Son, saying in the words of the old prophet of Beth-el, "When I am dead, then bury me in this sepulchre, wherein the man of God is buried: lay my bones beside his bones." This injunction was exactly fulfilled; and the Protestant Bishop of Kilmore, the mild friend of mankind, the impartial benefactor and unprejudiced protector of his Catholic poor, who almost adored him whilst living, was not permitted to deposit his remains within the precincts of his own church-yard, though they howled over his grave, and rent the air with their savage lamentations. The remains of his lady were here also deposited by his side. — His patronage at Kilmore was very considerable, and he bestowed it strictly upon the clergy of his diocese, promoting the curates to the smaller livings as vacancies occurred, and exacting from every man whom he put into a living where there was no parsonage house, a solemn promise to build; but in no instance was this promise fulfilled; — a circumstance which gave him great concern, and, in the cases of some particular friends, afflicted him very sensibly. He honourably declined to avail himself of the opportunities he had of benefiting his fortune and his family by fines and the lapse of leases: for when he had tendered his renewals upon the most moderate terms, and these had been delayed or rejected in his days of health, he peremptorily withstood their offers, when he found his life hastening to its period. He left his See therefore much more valuable than he found it.
RICHARD, the only son of Denison, was born Feb. 19, 1732, under the roof of his grandfather Bentley, in the Master's Lodge in Trinity College. When turned of six years of age, he was sent to the school at Bury St. Edmund's, then under the mastership of Rev. Arthur Kinsman, who formed his scholars upon the system of Westminster, and was a Trinity College Man, much esteemed by Dr. Bentley. For some time he made but little progress in his learning; till Kinsman, having observed his low station in the school, publicly reproved him; and thus roused in him a spirit of emulation. Whilst he continued in this school, his grandfather Bentley died; and the affectionate manner in which Kinsman imparted the melancholy event to turn, with the kind regard he evinced for his improvement, wrought so much upon his mind, that his task became his delight. In his exercises, however, he describes himself, in his "Memoirs," as aiming at something like fancy and invention, by which he was too frequently betrayed into grammatical errors, whilst his rivals presented exercises with fewer faults, and, by attempting scarcely any thing, hazarded little. These premature and imperfect sallies did him no credit with his master, who commented on his blunders in one instance with great severity, which had so great an effect on his sensibility, that he never perfectly recovered it. It was about this time that be made his first attempt in English verse; the subject of which was an excursion he had made with his family in the summer holidays to visit a relation in Hampshire, which engaged him in a description of the docks at Portsmouth, and to the races at Winchester, where he had been present. This little poem he exhibited to his father, who received it with unreserved commendation, and persisted in reciting it to his intimates, when its author had gained experience enough to wish it had been consigned to oblivion. In the intervals from school his mother began to form both his taste and his ear for poetry, of which art she was a very able mistress, by employing him every, evening to read to her. Their readings were, with few exceptions, confined to Shakspeare, whom she both admired and understood in the true spirit and sense of the author. Under her instruction he became passionately fond of these evening entertainments, and the effect was several attempts on his part towards the Drama. He was then head-boy of Bury School, though only in his 12th year. He fitted and compiled a kind of cento, intituled "Shakspeare in the Shades," in one act, in which the characters of Hamlet and Ophelia, Romeo and Juliet, Lear and Cordelia, were introduced, and Ariel as an attendant spirit on Shakspeare, who is present through the piece: some extracts from this juvenile production are printed in his "Memoirs." — Mr. Kinsman intimating his purpose of retiring from Bury school, young Cumberland was transplanted to Westminster, and admitted under Dr. Nichols; who seemed surprised on being informed that he had passed through Bury school at the early age of 12. After passing examination, he was admitted into the Shell; his location in so high a class causing some surprise among the corps into which he was enrolled. The first exercise in Latin verse which he gave in gained the candid approbation of the master; and from that moment he acquired a degree of confidence in himself that gave vigour to his exertions. He remained at Westminster about a year and a half; and particularly profitted there in point of composition. During the latter part of his stay, he translated into blank verse Virgil's beautiful description of the Plague among the Cattle. (Georg. iii. 478 et seqq.); printed in his "Memoirs." — His sister Joanna died about this time, of the small pox; and the effect this melancholy event had on his health determined his father to remove him from Westminster, and, though only in his 14th year, he was admitted of Trinity College, Cambridge. He was first put under the care of Dr. Morgan, with whom he had few communications, and was almost left to choose and pursue his studies as he saw fit. On Dr. Morgan's retiring, he was placed under Dr. (afterwards Bishop) Young, who made the office an absolute sinecure, for Cumberland never received a single lecture from him. He received at this time a valuable parcel of his grandfather Bentley's books and papers, from Dr. Richard B. the nephew of Bentley (see our vol. LXXVII. p. 125.) In the last year of his being under-graduate, when he commenced soph, in the very first act that was given out to be kept in the mathematical schools, he was appointed to an opponency, when at that time he had not read a single proposition in Euclid. He had just been turned over to Mr. Backhouse, the Westminster tutor, who gave regular lectures, and fulfilled the duties of his charge ably and conscientiously. Totally unprepared to answer the call made upon him, and acquit himself in the schools, he resorted to Backhouse in his distress, through whose interference his name was withdrawn from the act; in the mean lime he was sent for by the master, the learned Dr. Smith, who strongly reprobated the neglect of his former tutors, and recommended him to lose no time in preparing himself for his degree, but to apply closely to his academical studies for the remainder of the year. During the year of trial, he determined to use every effort for redeeming lost time; he began a course of study so apportioned as to allow himself but six hours' sleep, to which he strictly adhered, living almost entirely upon milk, and using the cold bath very frequently. As he was then only 17 years old, and of a frame by no means robust, many of his friends remonstrated against the severity of this regimen, and recommended more moderation; but the encouragement he met in the rapidity of his progress through all the dry and elementary parts of his studies, determined him to persist with ardour, and made him deaf to their advice. In the several brandies of mechanics, hydrostatics, optics, and astronomy, he made himself master of the best treatises; he worked all his propositions, and formed all his minutes, even his thoughts, in Latin, and thereby acquired advantages superior to some of the best of his contemporaries in public disputations; for, so long as his knowledge of a question could supply matter for argument, he never felt any want of terms for explanation. When he found himself prepared to take his part in the public schools, he thirsted for the opportunity; and with this his ambition was soon gratified, being appointed to keep an act, and three respectable opponents singled out against him, the first of whom was looked up to as the best of the year; he had been admitted at St. John's to qualify for holy orders, and even at that time was a finished mathematician, and a private lecturer in those studies. This formidable opponent, however, Cumberland overcame; and as the disputants had exceeded the time commonly allotted, the second and third opponents were not called upon; and the schools were broken up by the Moderator, with a compliment addressed to Cumberland in terms much out of the usual form on such occasions. In the course of the year he went four times through these scholastic exercises, keeping two acts and two first opponencies. In one of his opponencies he contrived to form certain arguments, which by a scale of deductions so artfully drawn, and involving consequences which by mathematical gradations (the premises being once granted) led to such unforeseen confutation, that even his tutor, Mr. Backhouse, to whom he had previously imparted them, was effectually trapped, and could as little parry them, as the gentleman who kept the act, or the Moderator who filled the chair. The last time he was called upon to keep an act, he sent in three mathematical questions to the Moderator, who withstood them, and required him to withdraw one, and conform to the usage of proposing one metaphysical question. He appealed against the requisition; and after enquiry into the matter of right by the statutes of the university, his question stood. At the long suspended act, the Moderator had nominated the same gentleman as his first opponent. Cumberland was then in a very feeble state, in consequence of his unremitted studies, but was intellectually alive to all the purposes of the business; and when the Moderator exhibited symptoms of indisposition, cut short his thesis, to make room for his opponent, who had hardly brought his argument to bear, when the Moderator, on the plea of sudden indisposition, dismissed Cumberland with a speech, which, though tinctured with some petulance, was not without praise. On being cited to the Senate-house for examination for the Bachelor's degree, he was kept perpetually at the table under the process of question and answer. His constitution just held him up to the expiration of the scrutiny; and on hastening to his father's, he soon fell ill of a rheumatic fever, from which, after six months' care and attention, he was recovered. While in this state of extreme indisposition, a high station had been adjudged to him amongst the Wranglers of his year; for which he was much indebted to the generous support of the Moderator (Mr. Ray, Fellow of Corpus Christi, and afterwards chaplain to the Archbishop of Canterbury), whom he had thwarted in the matter of his questions; of whose kindness he afterwards personally expressed his sensibility.
Having thus, in 1750, at an age more than commonly early, obtained his bachelor's degree; with the return of his health, he resumed his studies, and, without neglecting those he had lately been engaged in, again took up those authors who had lain by untouched for a whole twelvemonth. Being in the habit of reading upon system, he began to form Collectanea of his studies. With this view he got together all the tracts relative to the controversy between Boyle and Bentley, omitting none even of the authorities and passages they referred to; and having done this, compressed the reasonings on both aides into a kind of statement and report upon the question in dispute; and, "if in the result," he remarks in his Memoirs, "my judgment went with him to whom my inclination leaned, no learned critick of the present age will condemn me for the decision." When he had accomplished this, he meditated upon a plan little short of what might be projected for an Universal History, or at least for that of the Great Empires in particular. For this purpose he began with studying the Sanchoniatho of Bishop Cumberland, contrasting the Phoenician and Egyptian Cosmogonies with that of Moses, by which he found himself at length involved in references to so many authors which he had no means of consulting, and hampered with so many Oriental languages which he did not understand, that, after filling a large folio foul-book, he reduced his task to a more contracted scale, in which however he contrived to review all the several systems of the Heathen Philosophers, and discuss at large the tenets and opinions maintained and professed by their respective schools and academies. The nature of the studies; and the habitudes of thinking in which he had so recently engaged, could only have disposed and qualified him to apply his mind to work of such labour and research. — After wandering at large for a considerable time without any one to guide him, he at taut chalked out for himself a settled plan of reading.
When he was newly come to college, he read with avidity the Greek tragedians, regarded with reverence the absurdities of the chorus, and was bigoted to their cold character and their rigid unities. When Mason published his Elfrilda, though Cumberland did not quite agree with him as to the choice of plot, or the legitimacy of the chorus, yet he was warm in his praise of that generally admired production; and, in imitation, planned and composed an entire drama, of which Caractacus was the hero, with Bards and Druids attached to it as a chorus, for whom he wrote Odes. In point of plot he strayed equally from Mason, who afterwards chose this subject, and from history; for he wove into his drama some characters and several incidents perfectly fictitious. This has never been published.
About this time his father was persuaded to listen to some flattering offers of situations for him; but, as his health was still in an unsettled state, he joined with his family in an excursion to York, where he passed half a year in the society and amusements of that city. The style of living there was a perfect contrast with what he had been accustomed to; he hunted in the mornings, danced in the evenings, and devoted but little time to study. He here got hold of Spenser's Fairy Queen, in imitation of which he began to write stanzas to the same measure; at other times he also composed short Elegies in the manner of Hammond; but for these pursuits he was seasonably reproved by his Mother, and relinquished them. A copy of elegant verses by Lady Susan, sister of the present Earl of Galloway, was communicated to him, of which the hint seemed to be taken from Hamlet's meditation on the skull of Yorick; this subject he afterwards himself attempted, and the poem is printed in his "Memoirs." The amusements at York, however, did not suit his disposition; and the termination of his visit, with the prospect of turning to his studies, were welcomed by him most cordially.
On his return to College, he was soon invited to the Master's Lodge by Dr. Smith, who honoured him with approbation of his past exertions, and imparted to him a new arrangement that had been determined upon for annulling so much of the existing statutes as restricted all Bachelors of Arts, except those of the third year's standing, from offering themselves candidates for Fellowships. Dr. Smith also kindly recommended him, as he should be in the second year of his degree at the next election, to present himself for examination.
Whilst he was preparing to resume his studies with increased attention, he received a summons from Lord Halifax to assume the situation of his private confidential secretary. He accordingly came to town; but, among the new connexions in which he was consequently thrown, he met with nothing that in any degree interested him, but now and then a quotation from Lord Halifax; and, as his employment consisted merely in copying a few private letters to governors and civil officers abroad, he applied his thoughts to other subjects, and particularly to the approaching election at his College.
At the recess he accompanied Lord Halifax to Horton, and from thence went to Cambridge. There were six vacancies, and six candidates of the year above him. They underwent a severe examination from the electing seniors; and Cumberland particularly from Dr. Smith, the master; and on the next day Cumberland and Mr. Orde (afterwards master in Chancery), who was of the same year, were announced as elected, to the exclusion of two of the year above them. After his election, he went home to Stanwick, and from thence made a short visit to Lord Halifax.
On his return to town, he was as much sequestered from the world as if he had been resident in his College. About this time he made his first small offering to the press, following the steps of Gray with another Churchyard "Elegy written on St. Mark's Eve," when, according to rural tradition, the Ghosts of those who are to die within the year ensuing are seen to walk at midnight across the church-yard. It had been written in one of his College vacations, some time before he belonged to Lord Halifax: "The publick," he observes in his Memoirs, "were very little interested, with it, and, Dodsley as little profited."
He made his stay at Horton as short as he could with propriety, being impatient to avail himself of every day that he could, pass in the society of his family. With them he was happy, and enjoyed tranquil and delicious hours, endeared to him still more by the contrast of what he suffered when in absence from them; for, however time and experience might have afterwards changed his taste and capacity for public life, he was not then fitted for it, nor had any of those worldly qualities and accommodations in his nature which push their possessor into notice.
While Mr. Charles Townshend was passing a few days at Horton, among a variety of subjects which his active imagination was for ever starting, something occurred to his recollection of an enigmatical sort, that he wished to have the solution of, and could not strike upon it: it was only to be done by a geometrical process, which Cumberland hit upon: he worked it as a problem, and gave a solution in writing, with which Mr. Townshend was much pleased. Mr. T. afterwards put into Cumberland's hands a long and elaborate report of his own drawing up (for he was then one of the Lords of Trade); and requested him to revise it, and give his remarks without reserve; and the manner in which this service was performed strengthened Mr. Townshend's good opinion of Cumberland. One morning, in conversation, Mr. Townshend, recollecting a quotation he had chanced upon in an anonymous author, who maintained opinions of a very impious sort viz. "Post mortem nihil est, ipsaque mors nihil," inquired of Cumberland if he knew where those words were to be found. He recollected that they were in the Troades of Seneca; and, on getting access to his books, transcribed the passage, and sent it to Mr. Townshend, together with a translation, though not a very close one, in twelve stanzas. These are printed in his "Memoirs."
Among his best friends at this period may be ranked Ambrose Isted, esq. of Ecton, who was invariably kind, indulgent, and affectionate to him — He was also in habits of the most intimate friendship with the two sons of the Rev. Mr. Ekins, a clergyman in his own neighbourhood; Jeffery the elder, afterwards Dean of Carlisle, and John the younger, Dean of Salisbury. With the elder his intimacy was the greatest. This young man, in early youth, had composed a drama of an allegorical cast, intituled Florio, or the Pursuit of Happiness. Upon this Cumberland wrote a comment, almost as long as the drama itself, which he sent to Jeffery, as a mark of admiration of his genius, and affection for his person. The same young gentleman wrote a poem upon Dreams; but, as Cumberland wished his friend to employ himself on subjects of a more elevated nature, he addressed some lines to him by way of remonstrance. — His relation, Richard Reynolds, son of the Rev. Dr. George R. also was among the number of his intimates.
About this time he employed himself in collecting materials from the History of India, for the plan of a Poem in heroic verse, on which he bestowed considerable labour, and in which he had made some progress. This design, however, it is to be lamented, was laid aside; but a specimen of it, respecting the discoveries of the Portuguese is preserved in his "Memoirs."
After the death of Lady Halifax on coming to town for the winter season with his patron, he read and wrote incessantly, and lived in all the temperance and nearly all the retirement of a hermit. The residence in town, however, which his attendance upon Lord Halifax entailed upon him, and the painful separation from his family, became almost insupportable to him. But, whilst he was meditating a retreat, his father exchanged his living of Stanwick for Fulham, in order to afford him an easier access to his friends. In consequence of his occasional visits there, be became a frequent guest at La Trappe, the house of the eccentric Mr. Dodington, and passed much time with him there, in London also, and occasionally in Dorsetshire. His attendance on Lord Halifax did not prevent his continuing this intimacy; indeed it was correspondent with Lord Halifax's wishes that he should cultivate Mr. Dodington's acquaintance; for his lordship not only lived with him upon intimate terms as a friend, but was now in train to form some Opposition connexions, having at this time thrown up his office of First Lord of Trade and Plantations, and detached himself from the Duke of Newcastle's administration. In the summer of this year he went to Eastbury, the seat of Mr. Dodington, where he remained some time, and had ample opportunity of observing the character of his host, of which he has given an interesting description in his "Memoirs," as well as that of many distinguished visitors there. Lord Halifax and some friends were resident there during the whole of his visit. The trivial amusement of cards was never resorted to in Mr. Dodington's house: he was accustomed in the evening to entertain his company with reading, chiefly selections from Fielding and Shakspeare. One evening he did Cumberland the honour of devoting to some lines which he had hastily written to the amount of about 400, partly complimentary to him as the host, and in part consolatory to Lord Halifax upon the event of his retiring from public office: they flattered the politicks then in favour with Mr. Dodington, and coincided with his wishes for detaching Lord Halifax from the administration of the Duke of Newcastle. The MS. of this is not in existence.
On his return from Dorsetshire, he was invited by his friends at Trinity College to offer himself as a candidate for a Lay-fellowship then vacant; and though there were several solicitors, by the kindness of the master and seniors, he was honoured with this last and most distinguished mark of their favour and protection. He did not hold it long, as it could only be held on the terms of celibacy.
About this time he wrote his first legitimate drama, in five acts, "The Banishment of Cicero;" a performance which, though occasionally inaccurate in the diction, and the plot totally unsuited to scenic exhibition, as a dramatic poem will bear examination. He was honoured with a favourable judgment upon it from Primate Stone and Bishop Warburton. This play, whilst in MS. was shewn to Lord Halifax, who carried it to Garrick, and warmly recommended it to him for representation. Garrick, however, after a day or two, returned it to Lord Halifax, with runny apologies, and some qualifying words to the author, stating his despair of accommodating a play on such a plan to the purposes of the stage; and Lord Halifax, for a time, warmly resented Garrick's non-compliance with his wishes. This tragedy was published in 1761, 4to.
Having obtained, through the patronage of Lord Halifax, a small establishment as Crown Agent for Nova Scotia, Mr. Cumberland tendered his addresses to Elizabeth, the only daughter of George Ridge, esq. of Kilmiston, Hants to whom he was married, Feb. 19 1759....
On the King's accession to the throne, Mr. Cumberland composed and published a poem in blank verse addressed to the young Sovereign; in which he attempted to delineate the character of the people, and the principles of that conduct which would insure their attachment, and establish his own happiness and glory. This poem was anonymous.
On the appointment of Lord Halifax to be Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Mr. C. accompanied that nobleman as Ulster Secretary, and his father was made one of the Chaplains. William Gerard Hamilton had negotiated himself into the office of Chief Secretary, but not by the choice of Lord H.; to whom he was little known, and in the first instance not altogether acceptable.
Cumberland in consequence became involved in business of a nature that should not in the course of office have belonged to him, and, his situation was thereby rendered very delicate, and not a little dangerous; whilst at the same time his Lordship's private finances, of which Cumberland had the superintendence, were then not in a flourishing condition. The business of the session was passed through with success; and the Lord Lieutenant obtained great popularity. Towards the close of the session his Lordship expressed his satisfaction in Cumberland's services, and offered him a baronetcy, an honour which after due consideration he declined, though he had afterwards reason to think that it contributed to weaken his interest with Lord H. Here Mr. Cumberland remained till a change in administration removed his patron to the secretaryship of state, when he applied, in vain, for the situation of under-secretary; but afterwards obtained the clerkship of reports in the office of Trade and Plantations under the Earl of Hilsborough. — Previous to this, through his own merits, and the interest of his son, his father had been appointed to the Bishoprick of Clonfert from which he was afterwards translated to Kilmore.
Mr. Cumberland contributed "Verses on the Birth of the Prince of Wales," to the Cambridge collection on that occasion. Bickerstaff having brought forward with success his Operas of Love in a Village and The Maid of the Mill, Mr. Cumberland attempted a drama of that sort, under the title of "The Summer's Tale," which was performed for nine or ten nights, but with no great applause; the musick to it was the production of Bach, Arne, Arnold, and Simpson. This drama was published in 1765. As some of the scenes were tolerably conceived, and had preserved themselves a good opinion in the audience by the simplicity of the style, and the excellent acting of Mrs. Mattocks and Mr. Dyer, he afterwards cut it down to an afterpiece of two acts, and exhibited it under the title of "Amelia" with very tolerable success; and published it in 1768. [It was altered and printed a second time in 1771.] Seeing, however, how little credit would accrue to him from persevering in this department of the drama, he turned his talents afterwards to compositions of a more independent and higher character.
His next production was the Comedy of "The Brothers," which was brought out at Covent Garden, and well received. He published it in 1769, having prefixed to it a dedication to the Duke of Grafton, the sole motive for which was his being the then Chancellor of the University of Cambridge.
During a visit at his father's at Clonfort, in a little closet at the back of the palace, with no other prospect than a single turf-stack, he began to plan and .compose "The West Indian." It was his object always in his hours of study, so to locate himself, as to have little or nothing to distract his attention. He wrote some few scenes of this Comedy also in a kind of hermitage in the pleasure-grounds of Mr. Talbot, of Mount Talbot, who affixed an inscription to that building in commemoration of this circumstance. During his stay in Ireland, he received from the University of Dublin the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws. On his return to London, he entered into an engagement with Garrick to bring out the West Indian at his theatre; and availed himself of Garrick's suggestions in adding a new scene and other improvements. This piece (which appeared in 1771) proved successful beyond the utmost expectation of its Author, who was aware that the moral was not quite unexceptionable. It produced, on the Author's night, a larger sum than the then treasurer had ever paid before.
Mr. Cumberland now for the first time entered the lists of controversy, in a pamphlet intituled "A Letter to the Right Rev, the Lord Bishop of O—d [Lowth] containing some animadversions upon a character given of the late Dr. Bentley, in a Letter from a late Professor in the University of Oxford to the Right Rev, Author of the Divine Legation," &c. It passed through two editions. Dr. Lowth did not reply to this pamphlet; nor did he accept the services of a clergyman of his diocese, who offered to undertake it; acknowledging that Cumberland had just reason for retaliation.
During his residence in Queen Anne street East, an event occurred which evinced in a striking manner his disinterested generosity and high sense of honour. He was visited by an old clergyman, the Rev. Decimus Reynolds, son of Bishop Reynolds, and first cousin to his father. This gentleman, without any previous intimacy, had bequeathed to Cumberland his estate. twenty years before: he brought the will in his hand; but required that Cumberland should accompany him to a conveyancer, and direct that a positive deed of gift should be drawn up; for which purpose he had brought the title-deeds, and should leave them with Cumberland. Cumberland conjured Mr. Reynolds to inform him if he had any cause of displeasure with his nearer relations; stating that his natural heir was a man of most unexceptionable worth and good character. Mr. R. stated that he left it to Cumberland, as being the representative of the maternal branch of his family; that Cumberland's father had ever been his valued friend; and that he had constantly watched, Cumberland's character, though he had not established any personal acquaintance with him. Upon this explanation, and the evidence of Mr. R.'s having inherited no atom of his fortune from his paternal line, Cumberland consented to the drawing up of the deed, causing, however, highly to his honour, a clause of resumption to be inserted, impowering the donor to revoke his deed at any future time. This clause Mr. R. was with great difficulty prevailed onto admit; prophetically observing, that it left him exposed to the solicitations of his relations, and in the debility of age, he might he pressed into a revocation of what he had decided upon as the most deliberate act of his life. After ten years of uninterrupted cordiality between them, this resumption actually took place; Major Reynolds, the nephew of the old gentleman bringing his order for the whole of the title-deeds; which were immediately delivered up by Cumberland exactly as he had received them.
About this time he became a member of a pleasant literary society, who used to dine together, upon stated days, at the British Coffee-house; and at one of these meetings it was suggested to him to delineate the character of a North Briton, as he had already those of an Irishman and a West Indian. He adopted the suggestion, and began to frame the character of Colin Macleod, in his Comedy of "The Fashionable Lover," upon the model of a Highland servant who with scrupulous integrity and a great deal of nationality about him, managed all the domestic affairs of Sir Thomas Mills's household, and being a great favourite of every body who resorted there, became in time, as it were, one of the company. As he had some little fame at stake, he bestowed the utmost care and attention upon the writing of this Comedy; and availed himself of his friend Garrick's judgment at all proper intervals, as he advanced towards the completion of it. In point of composition he thought this piece superior to the West Indian, though he did not form sanguine hopes of its obtaining equal success with that drama. When this play came out, he made serious appeals against cavilers and slanderers below his notice, which induced Garrick to call him the man without a skin.
At another meeting of this club of wits, the idea was suggested of extemporary epitaphs upon the parties present. Garrick, offhand, wrote an humourous epitaph upon poor Goldsmith, who was the first in jest, as he proved to be in reality, that they committed to the grave. Dr. Bernard, the Dean of Derry, also gave him an epitaph, and Sir Joshua Reynolds illuminated the Dean's Verses with a sketch of his bust in pen and ink inimitably caricatured. Goldsmith was rather sore, and seemed to expect that Cumberland would produce something in the same kind of burlesque with theirs. Cumberland, however, wrote a few serious and complimentary couplets, which had an effect upon Goldsmith the mote pleasing for being so entirely unexpected. The concluding line — "All mourn the poet, I lament the man" — Goldsmith was much gratified by. At the next meeting Goldsmith produced the epitaphs, which are printed in his posthumous poem of "Retaliation," in which he characterizes his company under the similitude of various sorts of meat: Cumberland in the mean time had written a little poem, figuring them under that of liquors. He was the last survivor of this celebrated club of wits.
In 1774 he received the afflicting intelligence of the death of his father, and at no great interval, was bereft of his mother. Previous to these unhappy events, he had written his fourth Comedy of "The Choleric Man," and left it with Garrick for representation. It was performed with approbation; but its Author was malevolently aspersed in the public prints, and charged with venting contemptuous and illiberal speeches against his contemporaries. This induced him to prefix to his Comedy, when published, a Dedication to Detraction, the chief object of which was directed to a tract intituled "An Essay on the Theatre," in which the writer professes to draw a comparison between laughing and sentimental Comedy, and under the latter description particularly points his observations to "The Fashionable Lover."
In the autumn of this year he made a tour in company with the Earl of Warwick and M. Smith (known to the publick by his elegant designs after nature in Switzerland, &c.), to the Lakes in Cumberland; and whilst at Keswick, hastily composed an irregular Ode to the Sun, which, with another to Dr. Robert James, was published in 1776. The Ode to Dr. James was suggested by the recovery of his second son by the use of Dr. James's powders, from a dangerous fever.
His next literary production was "Timon of Athens," altered from Shakspeare, in which the entire part of Evanthe, and, with very few exceptions, the whole of Alcibiades, were new. The public approbation sanctioned the attempt at the first production of the play; but it has since been neglected.
In compliance with the wishes of Moody, who had become the established performer of Irish characters, Cumberland sketched another Hibernian on a smaller scale in the entertainment of "The Note of Hand, or a Trip to Newmarket," which was the last of his pieces that Garrick produced before he disposed of his property in Drury-lane. His Tragedy of "The Battle of Hastings" was brought out there under the direction of Mr. Sheridan. In his own judgment it was better written than planned. It was published in 1778.
His prospects in life began now to brighten; for, on the accession of Lord George Germaine to office, he was promoted to be Secretary to the Board of Trade, which produced an increase of income that could not be otherwise than acceptable, to the father of six children. His Lordship took particular notice of Cumberland, and continuted his kind patron and friend till death.
Mr. Cumberland afterwards resided at Tetworth in Bedfordshire, in the vicinity of the house of his honoured friend Lady Francis Burgoyne, sister of Lord Halifax. Here he passed his summer recesses and in one of them wrote his Opera of "Calypso," for the purpose of introducing the compositions of Mr. Butler, then a young man newly returned from Italy, where he had studied under Piccini. This Opera was brought out at Covent Garden, but did not meet with very great success. The musick has never been published; though, in the estimation of Cumberland, more beautiful and original compositions were never presented to the English stage. Mr. Butler settled at Edinburgh as a teacher and writer of musick, and is well known to the professors and admirers of that art. In the following season Cumberland wrote "The Widow of Delphi, or the Descent of the Deities," the songs of which also Mr. Butler set to musick, and published a selection of them. This Opera has never been printed; but received frequent revisions and corrections in the MS.; and its Author considered it in this improved state as one of his most classical productions.
About this time appeared his Tragi-comedy of "The Bondman," and "The Duke of Milan," altered; neither of which has been printed.
At the request of Lady Francis Burgoyne, Cumberland interested himself in the fate of the unfortunate Perreau, when under trial for his life. The defence, which he read on that occasion at the bar, was every word drawn up by Cumberland, under the revision of the counsel, Mr. Dunning, who did not change a syllable.
In 1780, Cumberland was appointed on a confidential mission to the Courts of Lisbon and Madrid: a situation which, however honourable, seems to have laid the foundation of all his future distresses, and to have embittered every remaining hour of a long-protracted existence. The direct object of his embassy was to draw the Court of Spain into a separate treaty of peace with this country; and but for the disturbances which took place at that period in London, it is probable that he might have proved successful in his endeavours, since his conduct gave the most perfect satisfaction to the Spanish Court, and even procured him the particular confidence and attachment of their king. From these events and other untoward circumstances, he was, in 1781, recalled, after having contracted a debt of near £5000 in the service of his country, not one shilling of which Lord North's Ministry ever thought proper to repay him, and to discharge which he was compelled to dispose of the whole of his hereditary property. For what reason neglect and injustice so unmerited were awarded to a faithful servant, it is difficult to conjecture; if, because he had not proved successful in an affair where success was impossible from the situation of the two parties, the suspecting confidence of the ambassador must be lamented, while the cool indifference and narrow-minded policy of his employers cannot but be execrated. It is said, however, that he exceeded his commission. It is impossible hereto pass over the noble offer of the King of Spain, through the Count Florida Blanca, upon Mr. Cumberland's recall. After expressing his conviction of Cumberland's sincere endeavours to promote pacification, and intimating his apprehension that Cumberland would be disappointed by his own Court in respect to an indemnification on the score of his expences, the Count tendered full and ample compensation for all charges incurred by his coming into Spain; "being unwilling," as he stated, "that a gentleman who had resorted to his court, and put himself under his immediate protection, without a public character, honestly endeavouring to promote the mutual good and benefit of both countries, should suffer, as he certainly would do, if he withstood the offer." The generous offer could not, of course, be accepted. And upon his journey home through France, the bills of the deserted negotiator were stopped, and his credit so completely bankrupt, that he would have been put in prison at Bayonne, had not his friendly fellow-traveller, Marchetti, advanced him £500 which enabled him to pay his way through France and reach his home.
Upon Mr. Burke's bill of economy, and the consequent dismission of the Board of Trade, Mr. Cumberland retired with a compensation far from adequate to the emoluments of the place he was deprived of, and fixed his abode at Tunbridge Wells, having made considerable reductions in his establishment. His feelings and occupations on this occasion can not be better described than in his own words: "Being now dismissed from office, I was at leisure to devote myself to that passion, which from my earliest youth had never wholly left me, and I resorted to my books and my pen, as to friends, who had animated me in the morning of my day, and were now to occupy and uphold me in the evening of it, I had happily a collection of books, excellent in their kind, and perfectly adapted to my various and discursive course of reading. In almost every margin I recognized the hand-writing of my grandfather Bentley; and wherever I traced his remains, they were sure guides to direct and gratify me in my fondness for philological researches. My mind had been harassed in a variety of ways; but the spirit that from resources within itself can find a never-failing fund of occupation, will not easily be broken by events that do not touch the conscience. That portion of mental energy, which nature had endowed me with, was not impaired; on the contrary, I took a larger and more various range of study than I had ever done before, and collaterally with other compositions, began to collect materials for these essays, which I afterwards completed and made public under the title of 'The Observer.' I sought no other dissipation than the indulgence of my literary faculties could afford me, and in the mean time I kept silence from complaint, sensible how ill such topicks recommend a man to society in general, and how very nearly most men's pity is connected with contempt." Memoirs.
His first publication after his return from Spain was his "Anecdotes of Eminent Painters in Spain," 2 vols. 12mo. 1782, an interesting and curious work; rendered more complete in 1787 by the publication of "A Catalogue of the King of Spain's paintings," which had been drawn up purposely for Cumberland's use while in Spain, and transmitted to him after his return to England.
Before he settled himself at Tunbridge Wells he had written his Comedy of "The Walloons," which was brought out at Covent Garden Theatre; where Henderson exhibited a most inimitable specimen of his powers in the character of Father Sullivan. In "The Mysterious Husband," which followed in 1783, the character of Lord Davenant was conceived for Henderson, whose representation of it was not less excellent than the former. A Tragedy intituled "The Arab," in which Henderson performed also the principal character, which gives title to the piece, was acted once only for that actor's benefit, and has never since been put to any use.
In 1783 appeared his "Letter to the Bishop of Llandaff," respecting his proposal for equalizing the revenues of the hierarchy and dignitaries of the Church Established. His Lordship, however, declined the controversy.
In 1785 his Tragedy of "The Carmelite" was brought out at Drury-lane; which was ably supported by Mrs. Siddons, and Mr. Kemble, then in the commencement of his career. In 1785 also appeared his Comedy of "The Natural Son," in which Miss Farren admirably sustained the principal character. The collection of Essays, under the title of "The Observer" were first printed this year experimentally at Tunbridge Wells, 2 vols. 12mo. He afterwards engaged with Charles Dilly to publish a new edition and thereupon stopped the impression of the old. The new edition was considerably augmented, anti appeared in five volumes in 1786. When this was out of print, he made fresh arrangement of the Essays, and, incorporating his entire Translation of "The Clouds of Aristophanes," edited the work thus modelled in 6 vols. They have since been incorporated in the collection of "The British Essayists." In 1785 also appeared the "Character" of his kind patron Lord Sackville; which he has farther illustrated in his "Memoirs."
About this time he published, anonymously, a Pamphlet intituled "Curtius rescued from the Gulph," in consequence, as he says, "of Dr. Parr's having hit an unoffending gentleman too hard, by launching a huge fragment of Greek at his defenceless head. He made as good a fight as he could, and rummaged his indexes for quotations, which he crammed into his artillery as thick as grape shot, and in mere sport fired them off against a rock invulnerable as the armour of Achilles."
In 1789 appeared his comedy of "The Impostor;" and "Arundel, a novel," 2 vols. 12mo. The latter hastily put together in a few weeks at Brighthelmstone, and sent to the press in parcels as he wrote it. This novel, rapidly composed as it was, met with success; on which he resolved to bestow his utmost care and diligence on a second, which appeared in 1795, in 4 vols. 12mo. under the title of "Henry."
In 1792 he published his "Calvary, or the Death of Christ, a poem, in eight books," 4to. To this work he had applied himself with uncommon ardour; he began it in the winter, and, rising every morning some hours before day-light, soon dispatched the whole poem of eight books at the average of full 50 lines a day, of which he kept a regular account, marking each day's work upon the MS. This poem has since been republished in a more portable size in 2 vols.
Among his productions of the more serious cast may be included, his "Version of Fifty of the Psalms of David," upon which he bestowed great attention: and his religious and argumentative tract, intituled "A few plain Reasons why we should believe in Christ, and adhere to his Religion;" a copy of which he presented with due deference to the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of London, the latter of whom honoured him with a very gracious acknowledgement by letter. He wrote also as many Sermons as would make a large volume, some of which have been delivered from the pulpit; and was for some years in the habit of composing an appropriate prayer of thanksgiving for the last day in the year, and of supplication for the first day of the succeeding year. He was accustomed also to select passages from the Old Testament, and turn them into verse; of which he has given a specimen in his "Memoirs."
In 1793, he brought out a comic opera in three acts, founded on the story of Wat Tyler; which, being objected to by the Lord Chamberlain, he was obliged to new-model, and produce under the title of "The Armourer." He also brought out a comedy under the title of "The Country Attorney" at the Summer Theatre, when it was under the direction of the elder Mr. Colman. At the same theatre appeared in 1794 his "Box Lobby Challenge," a comedy, and his drama of "Don Pedro."
On the opening of the new theatre at Drury Lane, his comedy of "The Jew" was represented; which he had composed with great rapidity. This was the second instance of his coming forward to raise the character of that people from the unmerited contempt and ridicule which they had uniformly before experienced.
In the preceding season came out his comedy of "The Wheel of Fortune," a piece which affords a fine opportunity for the display of Mr. Kemble's powers. This was closely followed by "First Love, a comedy."
In 1796 appeared at Covent Garden his "Days of Yore, a drama." In 1797, at Drury Lane, "The last of the Family, a comedy." — Five other comedies were also succcssively produced by him, "False Impressions," at Covent Garden; "The Word for Nature;" "The Dependant;" "The Eccentric Lover" and "The Sailor's Daughter," at Drury Lane.
He made annual visits to Mrs. Bindworth's at Holt near Winchester; where, being absent from his books, he amused himself with poetical trifles on various subjects, some of which he has preserved in his Memoirs; as well as many other pieces written on other occasions.
In 1806, he brought out his "Hint to Husbands, a comedy," at Covent Garden, which was performed for five nights only. In the same year he published, "Memoirs of his own Life," 4to. to which he afterwards added a Supplement; a work which contains a rich treasure of various information and entertainment.
The publications he was afterwards concerned in are, "The Exodiad," an epic poem, written in conjunction with Sir James Bland Burges, "John de Lancaster," a novel in three volumes, and "Joanna of Montfaucon," a dramatic romance. He was also the Conductor of "The London Review."
From the time of his secession from public life, Mr. Cumberland resided at Tunbridge Wells, devoting his time solely to his literary occupations. Here he lost his wife, the happy partner of all his joys, his affectionate consoler in every sorrow. This stroke of affliction he bore with the resignation of a man of sense, convinced, as he says, that patience is no mark of insensibility, nor the parade of lamentation any evidence of he sincerity or permanency of grief.
During the alarm of invasion, he headed two companies of Volunteer infantry, and received the commission of Major-commandant. So beloved was he by his corps, that they honoured him with a sword as a mark of their esteem; and at the conclusion of the peace, agreed to serve under him without receiving their customary pay.
Latterly be resided chiefly in London, and, we fear, under very straightened circumstances. He died, after only a few days illness, leaving several children, all of whom are, we believe, if not in affluence, at least most respectably situated in life.
Of Mr. Cumberland's merits as an author, our limits will not permit us to say much. He was a profound scholar, and an able writer in most departments of literature, whilst, as a poet, he has considerable claims to remembrance and applause. His West Indian, Jew, and Wheel of Fortune, were undoubtedly his best productions as a dramatic writer, and will most probably continue to delight and inform long after the rage for pigmy and equestrian performers shall have evaporated, and when the yahoos of the present day have resigned the theatre once more to Shakspeare and common sense.
Of so voluminous a writer, many works probably remain among his papers well worthy of publication. He indeed alludes to several in his Memoirs, as equal, if not superior, to those which have already seen the light. A tragedy of "The Elder Brutus" (which had been put into Mr. Harris's hands before he went to Spain, but was rejected), its author thought very, highly of. He mentions also dramas on the stories of the false Demetrius, of Tiberius in Capreae, and a tragedy, on a plot purely inventive, intituled Torrendal. In his Memoirs he devotes the task of selecting and arranging his MSS. at his decease to his friends Richard Sharpe, of Marklane, Mr. Rogers, the author of "The Pleasures of Memory," and Sir James Bland Burges; from whose judicious selection and superintendence we may with confidence look forward to fresh proofs of the genius, the talents, and the industry of their departed friend.