Графични страници
PDF файл

any meddling with what may be called the individuality of a family must be rather fearful. On the death of his mother he says, among other things, “ she was the most careful and affectionate of parents," and he who never said a word too much in his letters, though it cannot be expected that he should give this as the whole of her character, marked her leading traits as decidedly as it is held out by her acquaintance. She was a little shrewd-looking, keen-eyed woman, of remarkable strength of mind and spirits; one of those positive characters that decide promptly, and execute at once: of a sanguine and irritable temper, which led her to be constantly on the alert in thinking and acting. She excelled in the conduct of her family concerns. It was very much the fashion of her day and of her neighbourhood to have, or aim at having, the reputation of good management. She was so thrifty in her housewifery, that it not only formed the chief object of her attention, but gave rise to the only characteristic trait recorded of her in her family, viz. her turn for practical drollery. If she could surprise her servants in bed at four o'clock in the morning, she seized the opportunity of sparing herself the trouble of a scold, and yet gaining the advantages of it, by carrying up their breakfast, and with a curtsy, presenting it to the ladies. She was certainly a clever managing woman. She had for her fortune £400, which, in those days, and in that neighbourhood, was almost sufficient to confer the title of an heiress ; at least, it was a fair sum for one of good family. At the time of her marriage, which was much disapproved of as beneath what she ought to have expected, she rode on horseback behind her husband from Stackhouse, near Settle, in Craven, to Peterborough: she undertook the charge of the limited income which a vicarage of £35 a year, a minor canonry of Peterborough cathedral, and a few pupils afforded. She afterwards, on her husband's being elected master of the grammar school at Giggleswick, travelled back to her native country in the same plight, with her son on her lap, and all their worldly goods in a tea-chest. She kept her family which increased to four children, reputably and respectably, on a very limited income: she gave £100 to her husband towards building a house, and another hundred towards an outfit for her son at college, and upon her death left £2,200 to her family, the accumulation of her small portion in the hands of a brother as managing as herself.

Her husband was of a different cast of character ; liberal to pro

fusion for his income, yet not only economical on a plan, but even scanty in his allowances to his family. It is not very important to know that shillings will become pounds, and hundreds, thousands ; but it may be worth notice, as showing what a short distance there is between a low estate and comparative opulence, and how soon a different rank and estimation in society may be gained, that this plan of economy and almost hereditary carefulness raised this younger son of a yeoman of no very opulent family to comparative wealth and consideration. He was educated at the school of bis native place, and after receiving the portion of a younger son-a good education--was entered at Christ's College, Cambridge, as a sizar-was presented to the small vicarage of Helpstone by his college, (as a compensation for some disappointment in a fellowship,) from which he seldom got more than £30 a year, and when he left that neighbourhood was obliged to be satisfied with a few flower seeds for his daughters, transmitted annually by his curate as a balance to the produce of his living. It would not at last maintain a curate. He removed to Peterborough, where he obtained a minor canonry; was afterwards gratified by being elected schoolmaster of his native place on £80 a year, which afterwards became £200, and by the assistance as well as example of his managing wife, added to a legacy of £1,500, which laid the foundation perhaps of his family and fortune, contrived to scrape together £7,000. This same plan of putting forward both exertion and carefulness procured to his son William, the subject of these memoirs, as far as was independent of the changes and chances of every man's lot, threefold both of fame and fortune from a very small beginning. And now we have done with worldly matters.

The father of Dr. Paley was a cheerful, jocose man, a great wit, and an enlivening companion ; in his days of activity, fond of field sports, and more fond of company than was relished at home. In his neighbourhood he was esteemed a good and even a popular preacher. His sermons, though not perhaps his own composition, were all short, substantial, and rather inclined to reason than feeling. They are the writings of a rational Christian divine, fond of the almost exclusive consideration of subjects connected with the peculiar doctrines of Christianity. Sherlock and Clarke seem to have been his favourite models, and were largely drawn upon for furnishing the weekly supply. What is much more to his credit, he was a conscientious clergyman. He was twenty years curate of Giggleswick, and afterwards

curate of Horton. He used to think himself one of the oldest incumbents on one and the same vicarage in his diocese, and perhaps in England, being fifty-six years vicar of Helpstone. But his fame, in the estimation of both himself and others, was built upon his school. He was altogether a schoolmaster, both by long habit and inclination, and when at the age of eighty-three, or eighty-four, he was obliged to have assistance, (which was long before he wanted it in his own opinion,) he used to be wheeled in his chair to his school, and even in the delirium of his last sickness, insisted upon giving his daughters a Greek author, over which they would mutter and mumble, to persuade him that he was still hearing his boys' Greek. He was rather coarse, but strong and significant in his language. He fancied himself a poet, and was fond of mouthing out shreds and patches of Greek and Latin, and English verse. He corrected his boys chiefly by similes taken from the most ordinary subjects of his observation. “To gabble like a mill-hopper;" "to mutter like a wheel-barrow on a causeway;" "to mumble like a bee in a foxglove," are expressions which his scholars recollect to this day. He was from natural temperament, as well as from the habits of his profession, irritable and a disciplinarian, and carried his authority to his home, perhaps more from not being able to leave it at his school, than from any view of its necessity or use. The natural bent of his mind during his leisure was towards contemplation and country employments. He was found in the hay-field among his work-people, or sitting in his elbow chair in the fields nibbling his stick, or with the tail of his damask gown rolled into his pocket, busying himself in his garden even at the age of eighty; and if he could not improve it, was not seldom detected in making a common destruction of walk, border, and grass-plat.

From these parents, all their children inherited an eminently substantial character; a ready application of their reasoning powers to the practice of life; a natural brilliancy of common sense, rather than of wit; a strong bias towards worldly considerations, regulated by a much stronger inclination to, and feeling of, superior duties, and a most liberal disregard of their own, in comparison with their neighbours' convenience. Their son William, though he sometimes used to suppose himself destined for an humble situation, was always designed for a learned profession for many reasons. His mother desired that the only son of a man who stood so deservedly high in her estimation, as well as in that of her neighbours, should be

distinguished; and his own inclination, joined to the praise of the neighbourhood, as is generally the case, led him to think his father an eminent man, and made him so proud of the profession of a teacher and a clergyman, that he adopted it almost insensibly. The first effort of that quickness and shrewdness of reply, which distinguished him so much afterwards, seems to have shown itself on this subject; for at a very early age, on being scolded by his mother, who finished with “God give thee grace;" “ Ay, mother," he replied, “Grace o' God and Grace o' Canterbury will do for me." Besides, there had been in the family one eminent man, who had been vicar of Hunslet, in Leeds; a literary character, remarkably studious, and an author of some repute. His interference, and his fondness for his own calling, along with a library well stocked with old divinity, had given Dr. Paley's father a taste and a bias to the clerical profession ; and these inducements might have their influence in determining the destination of the son.

It were to be wished that in the following part of these memoirs Dr. Paley might be found drawing in his own way as much of his own life and character as of his parents. But of his younger days he seldom spoke, except when he was disposed to amuse a leisure hour with his sisters in more advanced life. There seems to be not only a gap in this part of his life found by most of his biographers, but a want of incident throughout. Few, perhaps, have written of a life so devoid of incident, and yet so eminently distinguished for talent and integrity; and fewer still have, perhaps, read what has been written without being forcibly struck with a paucity of fact and incident a to relieve the dry detail of intellectual advancement. It is pretty obvious, as is well observed b, “ that the lives of men of letters do not usually abound with incident,” because the life of a student, and one devoted to literature, is necessarily so distinct from the ordinary business of the world, that but little can occur to vary the outward circumstances

* Meadley, who seems to have rummaged every corner with indefatigable industry, and I believe (for I have had opportunities of knowing it through the kindness of his family) a scrupulous regard to accuracy as far as depended upon himself, is decidedly deficient in incident; and in his second edition, where every exertion is used to supply this defect, much is yet necessarily taken up with commenting on the writing and public sentiments of Dr. Paley. Of the Life, by Chalmers, little is to be said, except that the main facts are taken or corrected from Meadley, or from less authentic materials.

Mason's Gray

of his time. Yet this observation does not quite satisfy those who were acquainted with Dr. Paley, because though wholly bent upon making the most of the powers and faculties of his mind, he was not a man to be turned from the most trifling outward circumstances. With a decided preference for mind, he was active and eager at all times to engage in the common bustle of life. Perhaps a part of his character, the most striking even to a cursory observer, was that union of religious sentiment, of moral principle, of strong literary taste and ability, with a more than ordinary attention to commonplace subjects. Such was the elasticity of his mind, that he could go, or rather be led away, not as a mere matter of relaxation, or a temporary suspension of mind, but with all the vigour and application that he had been giving to his former subject, from writing a page of his Natural Theology, or expressing a deep sentiment in a visitation sermon, to arranging some flower-pots in his garden, or gathering vegetables or fruit for dinner. In one and the same letter he writes upon the principle and expediency of keeping the poor off the parish, and in the next paragraph gives an excellent receipt for cheap broth of Scotch cabbage and grits, and coarse beef. But not to trench farther upon what may be opened out in the following pages, it may be sufficient, in order to account for this want of incident in a character so distinguished for useful talents, to notice his abhorrence of all the arts by which public fame might have been obtained ; his discreet vigilance in not obtruding himself into notice without a fit occasion, rather than any coy wish to be drawn out; his prevailing taste for private and domestic enjoyment; and the even tenor of his life which both natural inclination and the profession of a consistent clergyman led him to preserve.

He was born at Peterborough, 1743, but in little more than a year removed to Giggleswick, the birth-place of his family, and almost of himself. There is authority enough, however, for representing him in his younger days as a tall, awkward boy, remarkable amongst boys for nothing but animation and liveliness of spirits, great talkativeness, clumsiness in his attempts at dexterity and boyish sports, the perfect good nature and complacency with which he bore all the taunts and jeers of his companions, and the great inclination which showed itself even at that age, for acute, but good-humoured retorts. From the awkwardness of his gait, his unwillingness to join in active sports, his fondness for tricks and mimicking, that bad something beyond the

« ПредишнаНапред »