1814 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Bp. Richard Hurd

George Dyer, in History of the University and Colleges of Cambridge (1814) 2:386-87.



Richard Hurd, who took his degree of S.T.B. in 1749, S.T.P. in 1768, was fellow, and would have been tutor, but for his Whig principles. For our once Puritan house was now become high-church, and those who influenced college concerns inclined to Toryism: however, better things were in store for Hurd: he became preacher of Lincoln's Inn; in 1775 was consecrated Bishop of Lichfield and Coventry; in 1776 was appointed tutor to the Prince of Wales; and in 1781 he was advanced to the see of Worcester.

Several works were published by Bishop Hurd. His Sermons on Prophecy, first published in 1772, if they take a ground not reckoned tenable by some critics, carry an air of plausibility [Dyer's note: I mean the Double Sense of Prophecy maintained by Joseph Mede in his Apocalyptic Key; ingeniously enough at least, illustrated by Hurd from the structure of the Fairy Queen, which must be explained by the doctrine of the double senses, one to be fetched from Fairy Land, the other from the reign and government of Queen Elizabeth.]; his Dialogues on Foreign Travelling, if they have an intermixture of primness and starchness, yet possess much of elegance; and if his Dialogues on the Reign and Government of Elizabeth have no great portion of originality, they are dressed in a robe of classical neatness, they savour of learning, and breathe a spirit of great liberality: the same must be said of his Letters on Chivalry and Romance.

Previously to these, Bishop Hurd had published several volumes; particularly, his Commentary on Horace's Ars Poetica (in 1749) which, with the addition of his Dissertations on the Drama and Poetical Imitation, were reprinted in 1757. Dr. Beardmore, formerly head master of the Charter House, had taken some pains to shew that Hurd was indebted to a French writer: and it may be so. Hurd was an elegant scholar; a classical improver, rather than an original discoverer. But his writings are in general both agreeable and instructive; and, without having implicit faith in them, I have found that what pleased me in youth I can read with pleasure still.

To the first of the Dialogues on the English Constitution was a postscript, which was omitted in the later editions. This suppression was observed with concern; for it pointed out, in a clear manner, an obloquy in Mr. Hume's History, in which "administration" or "government" is confounded with "constitution."