Изображения страниц

undergraduates are allowed to absent themselves from the college lectures, he invariably availed himself, lying in bed on those privileged days nearly till noon. Added to these, his amusements at this period were not very refined. He had a love for country fairs,—strolling players,—and puppet shows. His soubriquet places him before the imagination; for amongst his associates he was known by the cant title of "Tommy Potts," and under this signature some of his earliest poetical productions were printed in the periodicals of that day.

In spite of these unpolished attributes, Paley soon became popular among his fellow collegians, for if he was lethargic, he was not idle. His reading, however desultory, was incessant; he was the first to laugh at his own blunders and deficiencies ;-practised the strictest morality;—and was acknowledged to possess, on his arrival at Cambridge, as much mathematical knowledge as many can claim on their departure. Let not, therefore, the indolent or the negligent student plead in excuse for his lethargy the example of Paley: but, let it be remembered that it is yet a warning observation among the Cantabs, "Though you are a sloven, do not fancy you are a Paley."

Among his associates at this period, was the Rev. W. C. Unwin, afterwards vicar of Stock, in Essex; Stoddard, afterwards master of Ashford school, in Kent; Hall, since master of Grantham school, and who was a brother scholar at Giggleswick.

Thus passed the two first years of Paley's life at college; yet he was not altogether ill-employed, for he could read even amid the revelry of his jovial companions-could study even in a coffee house. He used to describe the incident to his friends, which first roused him to exert more decidedly his mental powers, and his own account is too interesting to be omitted *.

"I spent the first two years of my undergraduateship happily but unprofitably. I was constantly in society, where we were not immoral, but idle and rather expensive.-At the commencement of my third year, however, after having left the usual party at rather a late hour in the evening, I was awakened at five o'clock in the morning by one of my companions, who stood at my bed side, and said, 'Paley, I have been thinking what a damned fool you are. I could do nothing, probably, were I to try, and can afford the life I lead; you could do every thing and cannot afford it. I have had no sleep all night on account of these reflections, and am now come solemnly to inform you that if you persist in your indolence, I must renounce your society.' I was so struck with the visit and the visiter, that I lay in bed the greater part of the day, and formed my plan. I ordered my bed maker to prepare my fire every evening, in order that it might be lighted by myself. I arose at five, read during the whole of the day, except such hours as Chapel and Hall required, allotting to each time its peculiar branch of study; and just before the closing of the gates (nine o'clock), I went to a neighbouring coffee-house, where I constantly regaled upon a mutton chop, and a dose of milk punch. And thus on taking my bachelor's degree, I became senior wrangler."

From this period Paley never relaxed in his exertions; he burst away from all the doubts and horrors of idleness, and resolved in the very year of his mental emancipation, to strive for the highest honour in the University. Having this purpose, he endeavoured to place himself under Dr. Sharp, the senior wrangler of 1758; then fellow of Peterhouse, and afterwards archdeacon of Northumberland. Sharp, however, had other business to attend to he therefore declined the task, but recommended Paley to Mr. Wilson, senior

Meadley's Palcy, p. 23.

wrangler in 1761; a man of first-rate abilities, afterwards very successful as a barrister, and who died one of the judges of the Court of Common Pleas.

In 1762, Mr. Jebb and Mr. Watson were chosen the University moderators for the first time, and soon afterwards Watson sent Paley an act *. It being in consequence necessary for him to choose some questions for public disputation in the schools-he, referring to "Johnson's Quæstiones Philosophiæ," a work which contained a list of the questions usually disputed of in the schools, made choice of two. The first, upon the "Unlawfulness of Capital Punishment," the second "the Eternity of Hell Torments, as contradictory to the Divine Attributes." The nature of the questions chosen by Paley, was speedily rumoured in the University, and many of its members were alarmed at the last question. The master of Christ's college was appealed to; who almost immediately insisted upon his relinquishing the objectionable theme. Paley, anxious to comply, waited upon the moderator to obtain the requisite permission to withdraw his question. The intrepid Watson, who was naturally indignant at the heads of colleges interfering with questions of the propriety of which he was the sole judge, refused to allow of the proposed withdrawal. "The best way for you to satisfy the scruples of these gentlemen," said Watson, "will be for you to defend the eternity of hell torments. Hutton, of St. John's, your first opponent, will certainly stiffen you; but I must help you out, and we will support the question as well as we can't."

The question as thus amended stood thus, Æternitas pœnarum non contradicit Divinis attributis-and in its defence Paley displayed great ability.

In the month of January 1763, Paley had to contend in the Senate House, as a questionist, against Mr. Frere, his talented opponent for the senior wranglership. Here Paley's mathematical knowledge, his celerity of apprehension, his promptitude at a reply, admirably served him in the struggle; he outstripped all his competitors, and was announced as the victor in this honourable contest for pre-eminence.

It hardly accords with our ideas of the honours of a senior wranglership, to find that almost the next step in life which Paley's biographer has to record, after he had taken his bachelor's degree, was his engagement as the second usher in an academy at Greenwich, kept by a Mr. Bracken; who, before he would admit Paley into the school, insisted upon the observance of several very unpleasant stipulations, among which sitting behind the door in the school-room, and above all, the wearing of a full sized wig, in which he made a very ridiculous appearance, particularly annoyed him, for he was not a little proud of his own handsome hair‡.

The student should not omit to mark the noble sacrifice Paley made of his feelings to his sense of duty, and should remember too that he was not yet twenty-one years of age, when he became senior wrangler, and accepted the humble office of a tutor in

Both these gentlemen were extraordinary characters. Dr. John Jebb was the son of the dean of Cashel. Talented and learned, he was wavering and unsettled, might have obtained the highest honours in the Church, but he vacated his fellowship by marrying, and became an Unitarian; was a warm political partisan, and acquiring a doctor's degree from St. Andrew's, practised not altogether unsuccessfully as a physician. His works, edited by his friend Disney, in three volumes, have been published since his decease, which took place in 1786.-Life by Disney.

Richard Watson, the other moderator, was in after-life still more distinguished than Jebb; he became bishop of

Llandaff, and is well and honourably known as the victorious opponent of Thomas Paine. He was the author of "Chemical Essays;" the first work which made chemistry a popular study in England; and several other productions. He died in 1816. His rapidity in the acquisition of knowledge may be estimated from the fact, as he often acknowledged, that when he first became professor of chemistry at Cambridge, he did not know a retort from a crucible.-Life by himself, Annual Biography for 1816. Meadley, p. 32.

This wig so entirely metamorphosed Paley's appearance, that when he went into Yorkshire, some of his neighbours mistook him for his old aunt's husband.

a private academy. The task must have been additionally irksome, from the circumstance that Paley is supposed by Meadley, though his son denies the truth of the assertion, to have had little relish for classical lore; and in after life would often acknowledge that Virgil was the only Latin author whose works he could read with pleasure. In addition to his duties at the academy, he had private pupils. His amusements were confined either to the theatres, upon which he was through life an occasional attendant, or to the court at the Old Bailey, criminal trials being to him always an object of interest.

In 1765, while yet at Greenwich, he gained one of the prizes annually bestowed by the parliamentary representatives of the University, for senior bachelors. The subject being for that year, a comparison between the Stoical and Epicurean philosophies, with respect to the influence of each on the morals of a people. Paley, in his prize essay, took the side of Epicurus, in a manner which commanded the suffrages of his judges: an accidental ignorance of the customary usages had nearly, however, proved fatal to his success. Το the essay, written in Latin, he had appended elaborate English notes, at once exhibiting his powers of reasoning and his profound erudition. To these, one of the judges strongly objected; "he imagined the author had been assisted by his father, some country clergyman, who, having forgotten his Latin, had written the notes in English*.”

Paley announced his success to his friend Stoddart, in the following laconic unsigned letter, "Io, triumphe; Chamberlayne is second+."

Paley had to read his essay in the Senate House, before the University, and for that purpose proceeded from Greenwich to Cambridge, with a full sense of the honours he had acquired, and entering that town alone in a post chaise, he drew down the windows, and desired the driver to proceed very slowly along the streets; a piece of vanity which was long remembered among his friends as too good to be forgottent. His delivery of his essay was not remarkable either for its manner or its correctness-he was affected and confused. In the early part of 1766, he quitted the Greenwich academy; took deacon's orders; and became assistant curate to Dr. Hinchcliffe, afterwards bishop of Peterborough, then vicar of Greenwich.

As a preacher, Paley gained little reputation; his early sermons were too full of words, much too florid for his audience—and he did not compensate by the graces of his delivery for the deficiencies of his composition. He seems to have undervalued what he never possessed, once observing of a preacher, who excelled in his delivery, "I know nothing against him, except that he is a popular preacher §." Of his style in the pulpit his son gives us the following description :-" He had a peculiarity of delivery, and an awkwardness of attitude, particularly observable; but the attention of his hearers soon wholly merged in the matter, and was carried from the preacher to the subject. He seemed indeed to be inattentive to all arts and elegancies of elocution, and to prefer what might show him anxious to do his best, and do credit to his subject, rather than as at all desirous of the graces and decorations of delivery. The manner of his preaching was strong and striking, and

Meadley, p. 45.

Chamberlayne, fellow of King's college, was one of the best classical scholars of the University; he nobly acknowledged afterwards the superiority of Paley's essay.

The vanity of another senior wrangler is still among the stock stories of the Universities. Entering a side box of a London theatre, as a former duke of Cumberland entered on the opposite side, the audience

honoured the hero of Culloden by rising from their seats; our wrangler, in ignorance of a greater man having entered, took the compliment to himself, and turning in a state of confusion to his friend, remarked, "How extraordinary it is that they should know here that I am a senior wrangler."

§ Meadley, p. 50.

rather of a reproving cast, than soft or moving. He certainly approached the ludicrous when he attempted to move by his oratory. In his delivery, that taste and application to the wants and desiderata of his subject, which were conspicuous in his writings, were looked for in vain. His voice is stated to have been rough and inharmonious, and his accent provincial. This is not sufficiently qualified, his voice was not strikingly rough, but, on the contrary, in private sweet and very distinct, but, though deep, it was by no means strong nor very capable of exertion. Its roughness, if any, was on occasional exertion. Neither was his accent peculiarly provincial, it might have been called rather wanting in refinement, but by no means disagreeably so."

His printed sermons are not that portion of his works on which Paley's claims to immortality are founded; he who excelled in his addresses to the whole Christian and Infidel worlds, and in shewing to them the true faith they should profess, could not, seemingly, concentrate his powers into the circle of a single congregation-in his sermons, therefore, though he is always respectable he is rarely excellent; he ever commands our attention, but never demands our plaudits.

Paley's first preferment was his fellowship of Christ's college, to which he was elected on the 24th June 1766, when he was not quite twenty-three years of age. It was then worth not more than one hundred pounds per annum. He continued, however, at Green

wich until the October of 1767, when, in company with his pupil Mr. Ord, he took up his residence at the University, became a tutor, and filled certain college offices which brought him annually about eighty pounds. On the 21st December following, he was ordained a priest, by bishop Terrick, at St. James's chapel.

In the succeeding year Mr. Backhouse, one of the tutors of Christ's college, being appointed chaplain to his friend Mr. Cornwallis, then just translated from Lichfield to Canterbury, resigned his tutorship. Dr. Shepherd, the other tutor, being anxious to relieve himself from the entire burthen of his office, engaged Paley and Mr. Law as assistant tutors, offices which they ably and energetically filled, until at length Dr. Shepherd, rather than lose their services, gladly admitted them to a share in the emoluments.

In 1771, Paley was appointed one of the Whitehall preachers, but we have no account of his having ever preached before the king. His name first appears on the register of the chapel on the 21st April of that year.

The friendship of Mr. Law was decidedly advantageous to Paley, for the latter was introduced by him to his father, Dr. Law, then master of Peterhouse, and afterwards elevated to the bishopric of Carlisle by the Grafton administration. Mr. Law also introduced Paley to his talented brother, Edmund Law, afterwards the celebrated Lord Ellenborough, and the friendship of this talented family materially in after life advanced the interests of our author.

When the celebrated Horne Tooke applied, in 1771, for his degree of Master of Arts, Paley strenuously, though unsuccessfully, opposed the claims of this extraordinary character, whose fate it was through life to secure to himself opposition in every attempt he made to advance his fortunes. Paley's objections to Horne Tooke are supposed to have been founded on some violent passages contained in his Political Letters to John Wilkes. The opinion which Paley formed of Tooke, then first coming into public notice, was probably correct. He evidently acted on the impression that he was unfit for the office of a clergyman*.

John Horne Tooke was a man of first-rate talents, but far too acrimonious and uncompromising. He with

difficulty obtained his degree-failed in all his attempts to be called to the bar-and when he obtained, after a

In the next three years of Paley's life, there is little particularly deserving of notice. He continued labouring in his vocation of college tutor with the highest credit and success, was at once indefatigable and enterprising, and managed in a singular manner to preserve the respect, and even the affections, of his pupils. His convivial qualifications were excellent, his conversational powers of the first order-full of good humour, an excellent story teller, and the first to promote any harmless mirth. He had a saying in reference to this, that "if a man is not sometimes a fool he is always one."

Some of his early habits continued through life. It has been well said that the boy is the epitome of the man, and Paley was not an exception to the rule. He was still slow in his movements-the last to arrive at the dinner table-his letters to his friends were chiefly remarkable for their brevity-his writing was most illegible and awkward, which his correspondents were puzzled to decipher; and when, to extricate them from these difficulties, the Doctor himself was once or twice appealed to, he was unable to succeed, being set at defiance by his own mystic characters. His epistolary correspondence was very limited; there is, perhaps, no other celebrated author of the last century, whose letters are so few in number as those of Paley. He had, it appears, a great dislike to such literary efforts; and hence, his assiduous biographer, Meadley, tells us that he often paid a penny a line in postage for Paley's letters. Of his manuscripts, his son gives a curious description.

"They are contained," he tells us, "in eight or nine thick quarto paper books, with a number of smaller scrap-books, and some for pocket use. These books are full of scribblings from one end to the other, in one of the worst and most illegible hands that ever adorned genius, mixed up in a confused and unconnected heap with penmanship of a fair and seemly quality. It is quite impossible to make out any connection in either the pages of his books, the continuations of his sections, or even the scheme of his work. He seems to have filled up in any manner, or in any part of his books, the different divisions of his subject till the very last. The bookseller's copy was perhaps the only one perfectly arranged. Of the Moral Philosophy indeed, only one or two books remain besides his lecture book, nor are these wholly devoted even to one work, but present a jumble of Moral Philosophy, and Evidences of Christianity, with many scraps of less importance. To those who write straightforward on any given subject, it might be surprising; to those also who were acquainted with his way of seizing upon any idea that was of use to him, or have seen him busied and intent upon his work, it is more than amusing to survey the strange mixture of material which is to be found in his other books. For instance, in the midst of the manuscript of his 'Evidences,' there is one page containing the authenticity of the Historical Books of the New Testament, and on the opposite page to it a memorandum of having added a codicil to his will; then comes three or four pages full of family occurrences of all descriptions, interspersed with a few sentences, or a passage, to be found in some of his works. Any one reading, if he can read, these pages, will find some interesting argument interrupted in the next page, by the hiring of servants-the letting of fields-sending his boys to school-reproving the members of an hospital for bad conduct—and epistolary correspondence.... He has been heard twenty times to break out into a hearty laugh for

strenuous opposition, a seat in the house of commons, the house with reluctance refrained from expelling him, and immediately passed an act (41 George III., cap. 63), declaratory of the ineligibility of clergymen to be elected members of parliament.

Mr. Tooke successfully contended with men of the first powers of mind, even with the "unknown in

visible Junius;" being the only one who foiled this
mighty censor.
His was not a "middle compound
character," vulnerable by being publicly attacked in any
way. He died in 1812, and perhaps was well described
in the sentence of Junius, " His situation does not co-
respond with his intentions."-See Gen. Biog. Dict.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »