« ПредишнаНапред »
Private Letters of Eminent Men Interesting, and Instructive.
Greatness not exempt from the Evils of Life.
Aug. 29, 1815. Sometimes when the evils of life press upon us almost beyond the power of endurance, we derive a consolation from learning, that many others, even those who seemed prosperous in their day, have been afflicted as well as ourselves: not an ill-natured consolation, that others have suffered; but that, if they have endured, we may be able to endure also.
On this account the private letters of eminent men, which often discover circumstances so very different from those under which their lives appeared to the public eye to have been passed, are often full both of interest and instruction. They display to us the secret movements of the human heart; and shew us that pomp and state are no protection from the common evils and afflictions of human existence.
Bishop White KENNETT was born at Dover, in 1660; was appointed Bishop of Peterborough, in $ 1718; and died Dec. 19, 1728, æt. 69. He was an excellent Antiquary, Historian, and Divine, and of almost unexampled literary industry.
His younger brother, Dr. Basil Kennett, was born in 1664, at Postling, in Kent; was Chaplain to the Factory at Leghorn, in 1707; and died President of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, in 1714, æt. 40. He was an eminent scholar; and author of “The Lives and Characters of the Greek Poets,” 1697, 8vo. &c.
I met with the following extracts in a MS. voKlume of the Bishop's original Letters, in the British
BISHOP KENNETT, TO THE REV. S. BLACKWELL.
Jan. 27, 1704-5. “ If Providence afflict us, let us rather complain to one another; for if we wisely conceal our misfortunes from a friend, they
do but make a deeper impression upon our own minds." 5 I suspect, that to receive ease from the commu
nication of our sorrows, is very generally incident to human nature. It is thus that, above all others, the
Poet often soothes his griefs, or passions, by expressking them in verse. There is a beautiful passage to this effect in one of Burns's Letters.
June 2, 1711. “As to dissatisfying managements, modestly so called, they are every where a little: happy the place, where least of all. We shall be accountable to God for no management, but that of our own time, and our own talents.
“My poor Brother, who manages away all his income, in charity and books, is detained a state captive at Leghorn, because we do not care to send another Protestant chaplain."
Here is the opinion of a man of great talent, and sound judgment, upon a very interesting subject. The
want of management, meaning pecuniary management, is a very general defect in persons addicted to the higher pursuits of the mind. Tender consciences > will always be unhappy at the results of their carelessness in these concerns; and yet, perhaps, they will find themselves daily erring, though daily afflicted for it. This trait in the character of Dr. Basil Kennett, a man of admirable acquirements and vitues, has not, I believe, been hitherto recorded.
June 26, 1713. “You make the best and wisest excuses for my Brother's long stay in France: yet I believe native air would better answer that design. Since he left Leghorn, he has drawn bills upon me for full 300 l. and I expect more daily. There is something unaccountable in it: at the least a neglect and contempt of the world, as if he was not to live in it. My other brother, Godfrey, for whom I got a tolerable good place in the Custom House, had been three times, since the enjoyment of his place, released out of prison by me: and since my coming down, the first news that followed me was, that he was again laid up upon two several actions, for about 401.; and unless I discharge him, he will be turned out of his office, and must lay and starve. I only mention these little troubles, as a remembrance that they are our portion in this life; and have the best effect, when they make us look upward with content and resignation to God.”
Such are the pressing anxieties, with which life is too generally embittered. Could the Bishop find a consolation for these gnawing cares, in the mitre and the lawn sleeves ? His books, those companions which can soothe without the irritation of superiority, or the trouble of intrusion, were a much more solid and unmingled source of comfort! From the numerous
relics of his Written Collections in the British Mu
seum, his books and his pen must have daily emXployed many of his hours to the last !
Bishop KENNETT had, however, no genius. I perceive no where in his writings traces of imagination, or sentiment. But his memory was comprehensive and tenacious; and his understanding strong and sound: yet these latter qualities are not those, which give a great insight into human nature. His literary productions, therefore, will never rank in the highest, or the second, or even the third class. Neither with those of poets, nor moralists, nor orators; nor even that class of historians, or biographers, who deserve the praise of eloquence. The mere knowledge of facts is but of little comparative value, unless it instructs us in the movements of human passions, and the conduct of human life.
I have only one more extract to introduce. It is on a subject suited to THE SYLVAN WANDERER.
“My country retirement here to lighgate," writes the Bishop, “ gives me some peace, and pleasure of air and exercise, that it was high time for me to enjoy: for my duties and interruptions in the town are really too much for me."
Thus it is, that the busiest of men sigh at times for the peace of rural seclusion; for the free air, that may brace the lanquid nerves; and the unconfined range of thought, which the cold ceremonies of society shackle, and suppress.
How far is Beclusion consistent with Duty? Opinions of
Sir Willam Temple.
“ And where we cannot conquer, learn to fly."
Sept. 2, 1815. It may be a question of morality, how far we are justified in quitting the active paths of life; and how far we may be allowed to amuse our minds in Solitude with studies rather curious and ornamental than necessary. But Providence seems, for its own wise purposes, to have endowed some human beings with hearts too sensitive for the roughness of congregated society; and with intellects too acute and apprehensive for the discharge of ordinary business. With - these the quiet of Retirement appears to be almost necessary; and to preserve the soundness of the mental faculties, it may perhaps happen, that there is an imperious call for refined and interesting occupations, which, while they soothe the fancy and the affections, withdraw the ideas from subjects of overwhelming pain.
Providence, it can scarcely be doubted, permits various modes of preserving our strength to effect the journey through this stage of trial. Milton, in one