1844 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Bp. Francis Atterbury

Robert Chambers, in Cyclopaedia of English Literature (1844; 1850) 1:661.



DR. FRANCIS ATTERBURY (1662-1731), an Oxford divine and zealous high churchman, was one of the combatants in the critical warfare with Bentley about the epistles of Phalaris. Originally tutor to Lord Orrery, he was, in 1713, rewarded for his Tory zeal by being named Bishop of Rochester. Under the new dynasty and Whig government, his zeal carried him into treasonable practices, and, in 1722, he was apprehended on suspicion of being concerned in a plot to restore the Pretender, and was committed to the Tower. A bill of pains and penalties was preferred against him, and he was deposed and outlawed. Atterbury now went into exile, and resided first at Brussels and afterwards at Paris, continuing to correspond with Pope, Bolingbroke, and his other Jacobite friends, till his death. The works of this accomplished, but restless and aspiring prelate, consist of four volumes of sermons, some visitation charges, and his epistolary correspondence, which was extensive. His style is easy and elegant and he was a very impressive preacher. The good taste of Atterbury is seen in his admiration of Milton, before fashion had sanctioned the applause of the great poet. His letters to Pope breathe the utmost affection and tenderness. The following farewell letter to the poet was sent from the Tower, April 10, 1723:—

"Dear Sir — I thank you for all the instances of your friendship, both before and since my misfortunes. A little time will complete them, and separate you and me for ever. But in what part of the kindness to me; and will please myself with the world soever I am, I will live mindful of your sincere kindness to me; and will please myself with the thought that I still live in your esteem and affection as much as ever I did; and that no accident of life, no distance of time or place, will alter you in that respect. It never can me, who have loved and valued you ever since I knew you, and shall not fail to do it when I am not allowed to tell you so, as the case will soon be. Give my faithful services to Dr. Arbuthnot, and thanks for what he sent me, which was much to the purpose, if anything can he said to he to the purpose in a case that is already determined. Let him know my defence will he such, that neither my friends need blush for me, nor will my enemies have great occasion to triumph, though sure of the victory. I shall want his advice before I go abroad in many things. But I question whether I shall be permitted to see him or anybody, but such as are absolutely necessary towards the despatch of my private affairs. If so, God bless you both! and may no part of the ill fortune that attends me ever pursue either of you. I know not but I may call upon you at my hearing, to say somewhat about my way of spending my time at the deanery, which did not seem calculated towards managing plots and conspiracies. But of that I shall consider. You and I have spent many hours together upon much pleasanter subjects; and, that I may preserve the old custom, I shall not part with you now till I have closed this letter with three lines of Milton, which you will, I know, readily, and not without some degree of concern, apply to your ever affectionate, &c.

Some natural tears he dropped, but wiped them soon;
The world was all before him where to choose
His place of rest, and Providence his guide."