1825 ca. ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Bp. Richard Hurd

Joseph Cradock, 1825 ca.; Literary and Miscellaneous Memoirs (1828) 4:193-205.



When I first waited upon Hurd at Thurcaston, I informed him that I was well acquainted with the place, having passed a day there with my father and mother, the latter being connected with Mrs. Arnald's family, the wife of his predecessor. He told me that the son had been there to treat concerning the fixtures in the house, and that being a very snowy night he had detained him; that he found he had been well educated, and the Archbishop of Canterbury was his godfather. This I conceive to be the first introduction which led to Arnald's subsequent preferment.

After Arnald had preached his sermon at the Commencement at Cambridge, he went by invitation to drink tea at Dr. Watson's house. The Bishop gave me many particulars of his behaviour. He probably had been agitated; but his unhappy malady [insanity] was soon after perceived by the Queen, whilst examining with her Majesty some American maps in the library (I think at Windsor), and he afterwards informed the Queen that one of the Maids of honour had fallen in love with him. I never named the subject to Mr. Hurd, as he affected to be totally in the dark concerning it, till it had been publicly disclosed. Professor Mainwaring openly reproved Arnald for his gross flattery of Hurd in company at Cambridge. Arnald said, "I know it was so, for my Lord has said it." To which Mainwaring replied with anger: "If you have a Lord on whose word you implicitly place your faith, so have not I."

It was not my good fortune to be ever introduced to either Warton or Mason. I once called on Mr. Hurd at Thurcaston, and he said to me: "I wish you had come sooner, for Mason has just left me; he is going to Aston: I think you must have passed him in the gateway, he got up very early this morning to plant those roses opposite, and otherwise decorate my grounds; he boasts that he knows exactly where every rose ought to be planted."

I walked over the lawn and shrubbery, and thought he had displayed much taste in the proper style of an English garden. A winding path conducted the visitor through rather an open grove, then crossed over the lawn opposite the house, passed through a much deeper grove, and came out full on the forest hills, in nearly the same point of view as they are seen from the last turnpike on the London road to Leicester. Such was "low Thurcaston's sequester'd bower;" but I do not think he considered himself as placed there, "distant from Promotion's view."

Hurd was a man of strict integrity, and very kind to those of whom he approved; but he was distant and lofty, and not at all admired by those who did not estimate him in a literary capacity. Indeed he paid no attention to them, for in one of his letters to Warburton, he made use of a common phrase of his: "I am here perfectly quiet, for I have delightfully bad roads about me."

In summer he would sometimes honour me by bringing a friend with him to pass a day at Gumley, when I merely came down to my old house to look after my workmen. Of course it was my wish to make every thing as pleasant as possible, and indeed he was inclined to be pleased with every thing, for I followed his own directions as nearly as was practicable. "My young friend, we shall not reach you till after breakfast, and then you will give us, as usual, only a nice leg of your mutton and some turnips, a roast fowl, and a plain pudding, or something only of that kind, as I do not eat any thing but what is plain. I know you will expect me to drink the University of Cambridge in a bumper of your old hock. After tea we must have another walk, and return in the cool of the evening to Thurcaston. My young friend tells me he has adopted his tea rules from me. I like none so well as Twining's hyson, at seventeen shillings a pound; by choice I never like any other, and indeed I never find it affect my nerves." Perhaps this account may appear too minute, but a man is sometimes better known in his morning gown than in his dress of ceremony. Hurd very justly remarked of Gumley, that the situation was finely romantic, but utterly unconnected with the country round it. He gave me a motto from Horace for a seat at the top of the plantation highly applicable — "Hae latebrae dulces, et, si jam credis, amoenae."

I was most connected with Hurd when he resided at chambers, in Lincoln's-inn, as preacher to that learned Society; and I had then some means of repaying various favours that I had received in early life, by devoting as much time and attention to him as possible through a long and dangerous illness. Indeed it was a service that could not be rendered by every friend, however inclined; for in summer his room was kept so very hot, from fear of an eruption being struck into the system, that his servant has retired for air whilst I remained with his master. Here he was amused with the little occurrences of the day, or I sometimes read to him specimens of new publications; but one circumstance made a lasting impression, and he spoke of it accordingly. Whilst writing his "Discourses on Prophecy," I particularly alluded to all the books he had occasion to examine: "Why, my good friend, you are better read in Daubuz on the Revelations than I am. I hope you do not think that it has passed unobserved by me, that you have made yourself well acquainted with those works that you know at this time are particularly interesting to me; I duly estimate your attention."

From the time that Hurd became Bishop his Lordship has been fully before the public. Dr. Hallifax wished to succeed him as preacher at Lincoln's Inn, and calling at Mr. Cadell's, in his way to dinner with the Bishop, took up a publication that lay upon the table, and said aloud to Mr. Cadell: "Who could venture to give an old hierarchical tract of Jeremy Taylor at this time of day; I am sure you will have no sale for it." Mr. Cadell was silent. Afterwards at dinner in Great Russell-street, he mentioned the circumstance, that some simpleton had re-published at Mr. Cadell's an old hierarchical tract of Jeremy Taylor, and he told him he would have no sale for it; but Cadell only turned away, and would not say who it was. Here likewise a silence ensued. In Bloomsbury-square (I had the account from Mr. Mainwaring), Dr. Hallifax inquired whether he had dropped out any thing wrong at dinner about a pamphlet? The answer was "I was quite alarmed about it, for I knew that Hurd had printed it at his own expence." — "Then," said Hallifax, "I will go back immediately, and apologize to his Lordship." But Mr. Mainwaring dissuaded him from it, and insisted that he would only make the matter worse.

Hurd commenced the government of his diocese with issuing his summonses in the old Latin form, and hunting out for some other antient formulae; but was informed of some ludicrous comments, which were imputed, and justly too, to a certain celebrated philosophical physician at Lichfield. This gentleman (possibly from his engagements in his profession), did not frequently attend the Cathedral, although he went to hear the Bishop preach his first sermon there, and paid great attention. When the service was over, a friend of mine determined, if possible, to gain Dr. Darwin's real opinion (for why should his name be concealed?). "Well, Doctor, how did you like the Bishop?" The Doctor was taken by surprise, and only stuttering, replied, "The Bishop's discourse, Sir? — why — it — contained some very good words indeed."

From the time I first knew Hurd at Thurcaston, until I visited him as Bishop in Great Russell-street, Bloomsbury, I do not recollect one discordant circumstance in his family. He was, of course, very careful about character, and he had very little intercourse with the world; but the same persons remained, and I do not recollect any one of them as unfaithful, nor do I ever remember the least complaint. To be sure he was himself strictly good; but he was always upon his guard, and his "Letters on Chivalry and Romance" I could have written from his conversation.

Hurd would sometimes assert that Pope had shut the door against poetry, as Addison had, by his "Drummer," against all comedy; and then would refer to the fine correct taste of the ancients. Sometimes I ventured to take up a strongly contrary opinion, and would ask: "Why always the antients?" &c.; and I read afterwards in his "Chivalry and Romance," — "But I know I shall be asked, Why always the antients?" and some other words as then made use of. I understood them. His learning and his prejudice sometimes equally prevailed. Of all the men I ever knew, Hurd, as a country divine, carried the loftiest carriage: no person, at times, in highest life, looked with more disdain on little folks below, or, to speak more correctly, on unlearned folks. When Mr. Mainwaring paid his last visit to Dr. Hurd, then Bishop of Worcester, it was his public day; his Lordship, always rather irritable, was now become considerably captious and peevish, and Mr. Mainwaring, at dinner, giving some account of the French emigrants he had seen in passing through Worcester, his Lordship suddenly exclaimed, laying down his knife and fork "Have I lived to hear the Lady Margaret's Professor of Cambridge call it em-i-grant?" The company were struck with astonishment, and the Professor only coolly replied: "My Lord, I am certainly aware that the "i" in the Latin word 'emigro,' is long, but modern usage—" "Nay, Sir, if you come to modern usage, I can certainly say no more." Mr. Mainwaring, considering his Lordship's age and increasing infirmities, said no more. After this his Lordship became quite imbecile at times, and so nearly childish, that some of his company desired him to name the trump at Whist; yet, strange to tell, he wrote a complimentary letter afterwards to Mr. Nichols on his "History of Leicestershire;" and I immediately recognised the same hand and style as when he recommended me, in early life, to the tutor of Emanuel College.

WARBURTON and HURD.

Instances from Warburton may readily be produced of every species of writing; the purest panegyric and the coarsest abuse, the height of the sublime, and the most terrible sinking. The "Portents and Prodigies" most required suppression from the strange instance of bathos that might be produced. Nothing in Martinus Scribleris can exceed it. It is true this extraordinary passage is to be found in an early juvenile performance, but in the course of which a great genius may be faithfully traced. When Warburton thought, perhaps, he should rise to be at the head of the church, his "Portents and Prodigies" were attempted to be bought up, and I had a pleasure in giving up my copy to Dr. Hurd, at his particular desire; for he was very jealous of his friend's fame and consistency; but afterwards his friends became indifferent, and indeed the great author himself almost daily gave instances of not being strictly orthodox. If "Portents and Prodigies" might bear even a distant similarity to Middleton on "Miracles," Hurd himself, about that time, gave a quotation from Ben Jonson, as more readily to be quoted, that infinitely exceeded: "Nature once known, no prodigies remain." Specimens of the sublime abound in many of our theological works, but it was reserved for Warburton to mix the serious with the ludicrous, a "Magnificent show of Viands, and all from the Hog-stye," in a "Charge;" and an account of "hocus pocus tricks," in a "Sermon on the Resurrection." As to the general matter, his partial friend would say "it was more instructive to read the Bishop when wrong, than to attend to another author, perhaps, when his argument was right." Or, in other words, that nothing could be wrong in that perfect and sacred school.

Warburton, it is well known, published a large work to prove that the immortality of the soul was never announced in the Pentateuch: and to conclude, from this very proof, that the legation of Moses was therefore of divine original. From this assertion it was feared; by many most respectable antagonists, that dangerous consequences might be drawn. It was urged, "that the belief of the immortal soul was either necessary or not. If it were not necessary, why did Jesus Christ announce it? and if it be necessary, why did not Moses make it the basis of his religion?"

Bishop Warburton declares (in shadowing out Wilkes as Aristophanes, and comparing Lord Mansfield to the wise and virtuous Socrates), that during his Lordship's administration the stream of justice ran as pure as from its own celestial source, purer than Plato dared to conceive it even in his feigned republic. This was in a violent dedication of Warburton's, in consequence of the attack made upon him by Wilkes, in a poem called the "Essay on Woman." But it was not in the poem but in the notes that he was ridiculed, which were a kind of parody of his own to his new edition of the "Essay on Man," and interpreted Pope's meaning even contrary to that of Bolingbroke. Warburton certainly diverted Pope from Bolingbroke, and Lord Mansfield espoused the Bishop; Pope at last flattered the Bishop so far as to say, in a letter to Warburton, that he could not regularly go through the "Divine Legation," as he had not sufficient learning. This afterwards excited the anger of Dr. Parr, who insisted that Warburton had not always quoted from the original authors but from translations; and declared that he had traced him, and made marks and notes through all his own extensive controversial library. Dr. Parr once told me that Warburton was almost the only famous man of his time with whom he had never been in company. I remarked that it was to be lamented, as, in many respects, there was a strong parallel between the two.

Though no person could be more obsequious to his friend and patron Warburton, than Hurd, yet they were totally dissimilar in disposition: the one cold, cautious, and refined; the other, warm, daring, and unguarded. Hurd weighed every word before he spoke, or wrote; and Johnson once said: "Sir, he's a word-picker;" and another replied: "Yes, Dr. Johnson, he always appears to me to be so very precise, that I term him an old Maid in Breeches." Indeed he was always so much upon his guard, that I do not believe that either his friend Lord Mansfield, or even Warburton, ever talked freely or intimately with him. Trifles from others gave offence; he once strongly reproved me, from seeing Tristram Shandy in my classical library, and urged its instant removal. However, this gave rise to a severe remark in another quarter. He was not always so violent against Sterne; Warburton corresponded with him, and nothing was urged against Tristram, till the Bishop and Sterne quarrelled, and then Sterne in print threatened to make the author of the "Divine Legation," the private tutor of his rising pupil, master Shandy.

I have mentioned that Hurd and Warburton were totally dissimilar. Hurd could read none but the "best things." Warburton, on the contrary, when tired with controversy, would send to the circulating libraries for baskets-full of all the trash of town, and the Bishop would laugh by the hour at all the absurdities he glanced at. The learned world could never guess from whence the Bishop obtained so many low anecdotes; for his conversation, as well as some of his letters, were at times complete comedy. Another instance of contrast between the two Bishops: — the one would have gone to Bath from Prior Park on a scrub poney; the other, when he went from Worcester to Bristol Hot Wells, was attended by twelve servants, not from ostentation, but, as he thought, necessary dignity annexed to his situation and character.

There was something strange mentioned concerning the death of Warburton, but I can give it only as report. The Bishop lost his only son about the time that he himself became an imbecile, and remaining so for several years, a sudden dawn of light appeared, and he asked his attendant in the most rational terms possible: "Is my son really dead or not?" The servant hesitated: when the Bishop more strongly repeated his question. The attendant replied: "As his Lordship so pressed it, he must own, he was." "I thought so," said the Bishop; and soon after died.

After his death, Hurd wrote his epitaph, which was placed against a pillar in Gloucester Cathedral. A brother Bishop, Dr. Thurlow, once said to me afterwards: "Could your friend find nothing better to say, in honour of his former idol, than that he died in the belief of what he conceived to be Christianity." I gave a copy of Hurd's epitaph, soon after it was put up, to some learned dignitaries: they thought it strangely ambiguous, and one could scarcely believe it was exactly copied.