1809 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Bp. Francis Atterbury

Nathan Drake, in "Literary Life of Dr. Johnson" Essays Illustrative of the Rambler (1809-10) 1:216-17.



ATTERBURY, the friend of Pope, and a preacher of great eloquence and popularity, is the next author who, on account of his style, has a claim upon our attention. His sermons are written, for the period in which they were composed, with uncommon purity and correctness of diction. Their style is frequently elegant and beautiful, but it seldom rises to much energy or warmth, and is sometimes rendered insipid and tedious, by slovenly construction and protracted sentences. It possesses, however, both more animation and more sweetness than the style of Tillotson, but not more variety; a passage therefore from the first, and perhaps the best, sermon in his works, the subject of which is the duty of praise and thanksgiving, will afford a sufficiently clear idea of the style and manner of Atterbury.

"'Tis one of the earliest instructions given us by philosophy, and which has ever since been approved and inculcated by the wisest men of all ages, that the original design of making man was, that he might praise and honour him who made him. When God had finished this goodly frame of things we call the world, and put together the several parts of it, according to his infinite wisdom,in exact number, weight, and measure, there was still wanting a creature, in these lower regions, that could apprehend the beauty, order, and exquisite contrivance of it; that from contemplating the gift, might be able to raise himself to the great Giver, and do honour to all his attributes. Every thing indeed that God made, did, in some sense, glorify its author, inasmuch as it carried upon it the plain mark and impress of the Deity, and was an effect worthy of that first cause from whence it flowed; and thus might the heavens be said, at the first moment in which they stood forth, to declare his glory, and the firmament to shew his handy work."