1786 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Joseph Trapp

Oxoniensis, "Memoirs of Dr. Trapp" Gentleman's Magazine 56 (May 1786) 382-84



Dr. Trapp was in person of a middle stature, slender habit, olive complexion, and a countenance of uncommon openness and animation, arising from the concurrence of an arched high forehead, fine eyebrows, and expressive and vivid eyes, which, accompanied with an erect attitude, gave him an air of consequence and dignity, prepossessing his audience, at his first appearance in the pulpit, with a favourable expectation of what he was about to deliver. The portrait of him in the Oxford Picture Gallery is a striking resemblance of him.

It has, I know, been asserted of him, that he was a person of intemperate warmth. But, at the same time I grant he was by nature irascible, I cannot allow there was ever the least authority for such an imputation; which originated either from injudicious observers, who, not allowing for the temper of the times in which he lived, and which were strongly marked by the spirit of party, miscalled his earnestness by the name of intemperate heat; or from others, whose errors in faith and practice, it was almost the business of his whole life, with all boldness and authority, to confute and correct. So far indeed was he from allowing himself in an intemperate warmth, that it was an invariable rule with him to resist the first ebullitions of anger....

He was so much addicted to books, that it was Dr. Pearce's opinion that he studied harder than any man in England. In consequence of which a general abstraction and absence of mind was observable in him. And to such a degree was his attention engrossed thereby, that often-times ordinary matters and occurrences passed unheeded before him. During one of these moods of abstraction, it has been told me, that once, through straying from the foot-way in passing along the streets of the metropolis, he met with an hair-breadth escape from between two coaches, by which he was hemmed in so closely, that nothing but a divine Providence interposing at that instant could have extricated him therefrom. Notwithstanding this habitual abstractedness, he could at any time be called out of it easily by the sudden arrival of an old acquaintance, with whom he would immediately mingle in agreeable conversation, and enter into convivial humour; and when applied to for a song in turn, I remember his giving us the good old song of Celebrate this Festival, &c. for which, even at an advanced age, he was not ill qualified, by the possession of an agreeable tenor-base voice, in which were some mellow tones, the lower ones especially. Upon such an occasion, I must own, it was extremely pleasing to me (though but a stripling at the time) to see the Doctor, from one who, in the preceding moment, in common and in his family, was the most abstracted, in an instant, by the most extraordinary versatility, commence the communicative and agreeable companion, for which he was every way fitted by long and much conversation with some of the most eminent characters of his own times, an extensive knowledge of books, and a retentive memory, but especially by the last, by which he made very thing he read his own.