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A Defence of the Considerations on the Propriety of requiring a Subscription
to Articles of Faith, in Reply to a late Answer from the Clarendon Press. 918
Reasons for Contentment, addressed to the Labouring Part of the British
LIFE OF WILLIAM
AMONG the many extraordinary men, who distinguished themselves in the early years of the present century, was William Paley, the subject of the following memoir-a man, whose fame no eulogium can increase, and whose talents no laboured notes need illustrate. He could not be an ordinary man whom contending factions united in honouring, whom high Tory bishops exalted when living, and whose works, when dead, a Whig ex-chancellor has endeavoured to illustrate with equal industry and talent. Paley's is one of those many great names of England's history, whose memory will remain as long as her language endures; for we shall find in proceeding through his works, that this great man laboured through life, with an industry which never tired, and a zeal never exhausted, in the best and holiest of causes; despising, by any compromise of principle, to catch an ephemeral notoriety, in which meaner souls would have gloried. He wrote thus eloquently, not for the thoughtless and the superficial, but for the ardent, the anxious searcher after truth he was rewarded even in his lifetime by the approbation of his countrymen; and he has well secured for himself the plaudits of the great, and the good of all nations and after-ages. His life, to the talented yet obscure, is full of materials for abundant consolation and hope; for Paley owed all his fame, all his patrons, all his promotions, to his own unaided exertions. He had no powerful connections to push him forward-practised no mean arts-did not excel in public speaking-had no strictly personal attractions -did not even write political papers. Neither did the opulence of his parents compensate for the obscurity of his other relations, since he was the only son of a country schoolmaster, whose living produced him at most thirty-five pounds a year.
In spite, however, of all these difficulties which attended Paley through the early period. of his career, we shall find, that at last, by a steady and energetic use of his talents, he rose superior to the obstacles which impeded his progress; that he was courted by the high and talented of the land, and that preferments were showered upon him with a rapidity more than adequate," to employ his own words, " to every object of reasonable ambition*."
• Dedication to his Natural Philosophy.
The biographical notices of Paley already extant are to
be found in the following works :
1. Public Characters for 1802.
2. Aikin's Biographical Dictionary, 1808.
3. Life, by Meadley, 1809-1810.
4. Chalmers' Biographical Dictionary, 1814.
5. Paley's Works, edited by Chalmers.
6. In a small Edition of his Works, in 18mo.
7. In the Edition of his Works by the Rev. Robert Lynam, 1823.
8. Edition of his Works by his Son, the Rev. Edmund Paley, 1825.
William Paley, according to the register of the cathedral of Peterborough, was baptised on the 30th of August, 1743, and is stated by one of his biographers to have been born in the previous July, at that city*. He descended, according to Whitaker †, from a family long settled at Langeliffe, in the parish of Giggleswick, on a patrimonial estate, which is believed still to be in the possession of the Paleys. Whatever, however, was the ancient respectability of the family, Paley was the last to take any undue pride in his ancestry, for he was fond of retailing anecdotes of an uncle who kept a hardware-stall, on market days, at Settle‡; and of another kinsman, whom in carly life, he personally assisted to wrap up tobacco behind the counter of his own grocer's shop, in the same town. At one time, he had some idea of choosing for his crest, a malt shovel, from the belief that his ancestors were engaged in that branch of trade, as on the patrimonial estate at Giggleswick a large malt kiln still exists §.
The father and namesake of Paley, just described, was a younger son, educated at the free-school of Giggleswick, of which he subsequently became head-master. He was admitted at Christ college, Cambridge, January 31, 1729, as a sizar. Attaining the degree of Bachelor of Arts in 1734, he was almost immediately afterwards presented to the living of Helpstone, in Northamptonshire, of which he was instituted the vicar August 14, 1735, being then of the value of thirty-five pounds per annum. Not long afterwards, being elected a minor canon of Peterborough, he changed in consequence his residence to that city; and on the tenth of July, in 1742, married Miss Elizabeth Clapham, of the parish of Giggleswick, a woman both active and intelligent. She is thus described by her grandson," 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 had, it appears, a fortune of 4007.; made her servants rise at four o'clock in the morning; on her marriage, rode behind her husband from Settle in Craven to Peterborough; and on her husband being made master of Giggleswick, back again in the same manner, with her son in her lap; all their worldly goods, according to our author, being contained in a tea-chest. She was economical and generous, gave much away, and on her death left more than two thousand pounds to her family ¶.
Paley's father, it appears, was, like his wife, at once generous and economical; had for his income, at first, only eighty pounds per annum from Giggleswick school, but afterwards two hundred. Helpstone vicarage, it seems, did not pay a curate's salary. But then he had the good fortune to take private pupils, had a legacy left to him of fifteen hundred pounds, and by excellent management left behind him seven thousand pounds; so that his son did not start in life with the curse of poverty as his patrimony. "He was," says his grandson, "a cheerful jocose man, a great wit, and an enlivening companion; fond of field sports, and more fond of company than was relished at home; was twenty years curate of Giggleswick,
In this parish is a celebrated ebbing and flowing well, which Drayton has celebrated in his Polyolbion, Song 28. The vicarage, which is in the gift of the Winkip family, was never held by Paley's father, although he was many years the curate.
|| She died in March 1796, in the 83rd year of her age, having lived to see her only son at the height of his fame, and in the enjoyment of the best of his preferments.—Epitaph on her gravestone in Giggleswick church. Life of Paley, by his Son, p. 21.
and afterwards of Horton*." He was evidently a pedagogue, and taught in his school at the age of eighty-three, when nature was nearly exhausted.
A year after that of his father's marriage, the subject of this memoir was born, and his mother afterwards brought into life three daughters, whose history it is not necessary to pursue.
The first two years of Paley's life were spent at Peterborough; but in 1745, his father being made head-master of Giggleswick school, and in consequence resigning his minor canonship, he accompanied him into Craven. For the long period of fifty-four years, his father held the mastership of this school, with the rectory of Helpstone, for he lived till September, 1799; his son, who only survived him six years, being then at the height of his popularity and preferment t. No further particulars are preserved relative to this venerable old gentleman. He is described as being an excellent classical scholar, mild and benevolent in his disposition, and possessed of much good sense. He was certainly not ambitious of fame; he appears to have made no literary efforts; acquired no other preferments than those with which he commenced life; nor does it appear that any means were used by his relations to acquire for him additional emoluments. He was probably happy and contented, passed through life like most country vicars; and finally glided to his grave, regretted and beloved by his neighbours and friends.
At Giggleswick, Paley passed the first fifteen years of his life, and in its school, under the care of his father, he received his early education. His progress at school appears to have betrayed few indications of his future eminence. His talents were but slowly developed, he was studious and persevering, was considered a good classic, but was never brilliant, or regarded as an accomplished scholar. He was probably a thick-built, heavy-looking, inactive boy, who was incapable of joining in any sports which required activity or exertion ‡. There are few boys to be found to whom riding on horseback is either difficult or appalling. Paley, however, was one of these unfortunates; for when he rode with his father from Giggleswick to Cambridge, he met, in consequence of his bad horsemanship, with sundry disagreeable adventures, which in after life he would very readily detail.
"I was never," he would say, a good horseman, and when I followed my father on a pony of my own, on my first journey to Cambridge, I fell off seven times; I was lighter then than I am now, and my falls were not likely to be serious; so that I soon began to care very little about them. My father, though at first a good deal alarmed at my awkwardness, afterwards became so accustomed to it, that on hearing a thump, he would only turn his head half aside and say, 'Get up and take care of thy money, lad §.'" His bad horsemanship accompanied him through life, for when, in after years, he kept a horse at Cambridge, he never used it but in a chaise, and kept it three miles away from his own residence. This naturally amused his friends. "For what purpose, Paley," said one of these to him, "can you keep a horse, which is always two or three miles off at grass, or in a straw yard at Ditton?" " Why for the same purpose as other persons keep horses;
Life of Paley, by his Son, p. 23.
Epitaph at Giggleswick. He was cighty-eight years of age at his death.
+ "When a mere boy, probably from the same principle which tempts other boys to imitate their fathers, he was found preaching in the market-cross of his village, and bawling out to a circle of old women and boys, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no guile!
'Aye, for sure,' said an old lady who was passing, every body knows thou art a guileless lad.'"-Life by his own Son, p. 31.
From the same authority we learn that he had even as a boy a very awkward gait, p. 28. He was nicknamed "The Doctor," enjoyed cock-fighting, and associated much with old women, who thought him a very nice boy, p. 29. § Meadley's Life of Paley, p. 6.
for exercise, certainly." "But you never ride," objected his friend. "No," said Paley, "but I walk almost every day to see it, and that answers just as well*." As years crept on, when exercise became absolutely necessary, and he at last began seriously to learn the art of horsemanship, his feats in his secluded rectorial park at Bishop's Wearmouth excited the laughter of his parishioners, who had discovered his secretly-performed evolutionst. One of them wrote upon the door of his park, "Feats of horsemanship here every day, by an eminent performer."
Though inactive in body, in mind Paley was restless and energetic. His amusements were not those of boys ;-he had a taste for mechanics ;-conversed cagerly with those who had any knowledge of this subject;-loved to attend the law courts at the assizes ;- would sit for hours in the Crown court, a practice in which he indulged in after years ;—and had but one recreation, that of angling: a pursuit he followed through life with the characteristic zeal of a dexterous fly-fisherman.
He was admitted as a sizar of Christ's college, Cambridge, on the 16th of November 1758, being then not much more than fifteen years of age. His taking this means of acquiring an university education, by holding an office which in the same college his father had formerly held, betrays the humble means of his parents, since the office, which corresponds with that of a servitor at Oxford, is exempt from various expenses, and is usually held by those whose means are limited. The sizars were formerly subject to many disagreeable requisitions; had to perform various menial offices in the dining hall; but most of these duties, when Paley held the office, had long been disused: yet it was then, as now, considered a very humble way of entering the University. "
The classics were alone studied at Giggleswick school, and in consequence, as soon as he returned from entering himself at Cambridge, he proceeded to study algebra and geometry under Mr. William Howarth, an eminent teacher of mathematics at Ditchford, with whom he resided for some time, and acquired a knowledge which served him as an excellent foundation for greater attainments when he returned to Cambridge.
He became a resident at the University in October 1759, when not yet seventeen, a period much too young for such an important transition as that from a parent's roof to the life and temptations of a college. His father appears to have at this time predicted his future eminence, for he expressed to one of his pupils, on the evening after his son had left for Cambridge, this feeling with all the pardonable enthusiasm of a parent. "My son is now gone to college," were his words; "he will turn out a great man-very great indeed—I am certain of it, for he has by far the clearest head I ever met with in my life‡." In the December following his arrival at Cambridge, his pecuniary means were increased by his being elected to one of the scholarships, founded by Mr. Carr, for the use of the students from Giggleswick school; successively became a scholar on the foundation at Christ's college; and was appointed to one of the exhibitions founded by sir Walter Mildmay. Two years afterwards, May 26th, 1761, by his election to one of the Bantry scholarships, his income was still farther increased.
His first appearance at Cambridge excited among the under graduates no feelings save those of mirth, for his dress and manners were alike uncouth; his accent strongly provincial, a defect which he never entirely lost; and his habits indolent. Thus he rose late; was always among the last at prayers; and of the two days in the week, on which the Ibid. p. 9.
* Meadley's Life of Paley, p. 87.
+ Ibid. p. 202.