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&c. &c. &c.
For JANUARY, 1809.
Loquor de docto bomine et erulito, cui vivere est cogitare.
Letters from a late eminent Prelate to one of his Friends, 4to. 11. 7s.; 8vo. 125. ; with profiles of Bishops War
burton and Hurd. Cadell and Davies. 1809. THE private literary converse (for confidential letters are
nothing but conversations divested of their oracular tautology, and reduced to writing) of such men as Bishops Warburton and Hurd, cannot fail to interest all persons of taste and learning, not only in the present, but also in future ages. It has been justly observed, by several French writers, that “les lettres des hommes cclebres sont, ordinairement, la partie la plus curicuse de leurs ecrits;" and when they are published, as in the present instance, without any alterations or modulations to the public taste, they furnish the hest and most interesting specimens of literary biography, which we can ever hope to see. The originals of this cara respondence were deposited in port-folios under the following inscription and character, in the hand-writing of the late Bishop Hurd.
“ These letters give so true a picture of the writer's (Warburton's) character, and are, besides, so worthy of him in all respects (I mean, il the reader can forgive the playfulness of his wit in some instances, and the partiality of his friendship in many more), that, in honour of his memory, I would have them published after my death, and the profits, arising from the sale of them, applied to the benefit of the January 18, 1793.
R. WORCESTER." So far these volumes may be directly useful to the cause of humanity; but the glowing aud reiterated praise of the No. 127. Vol. 32. Jan, 1809.
author of the “ Moral and Political Dialogues," which abounds in these letters, would induce a suspicion that the worthy bishop had a mixed motive in this charitable donation. The warmth, however, of a mutual and ardent friendship may sufficiently excuse the rather overstrained panegyric of the respective authors, especially as they do not appear to have been either parsimonious of applause to their other friends, or extremely cautious in the censure of their opponents, or perhaps enemies. Their ingenuousness, if not their candour, is a proof of the natural goodness of their dispositions. The perspicacity, quickness, and ingenuous sensibility of Warburton were happily associated with the more grave insinuating suavity and neatness of Hurd. The former had wit, intrepidity of thought, and vivacity; the latter, humour, prudent circumspection, and diffident tenderness ;-the one depended on the boldness and originality of his conceptions for the attainment of his object; the other, on the usefulness and practicability of his measures. These, at least, are the impressions which the countenances of those two learned men would naturally make on the observing spectator unprejudiced hy their writings; and they are not very different from the conclusions which might be drawn from the history of their respective lives. Mrs. Warburton, indeed, as sensible women are generally very accurate observers of character, considered Mr. Hurd as a “courtier" so early as 1750; and his subsequent appointment of tutor to the Prince of Wales and Duke of York confirmed the justness of her observations. Hurd's diffidence also not unfrequently assumed, to common observers, the character of meanness; and his timidity rendered him content with directing his own conduct by the laws of rigid rectitude, without attempting to check, as he ought to have done, the aberrations of others. In this manner he acted the supple courtier without very materially corrupting the natural purity of his own mind; and hence his upright example, unaccompanied with any pointed precept, was much less efficient than necessary to the welfare of society. It is to be regretted, that in bequeathing these letters to posterity, he has, with some exceptions, carefully concealed his own opinions, and given only such a number of his answers to Warburton, especially in the early part of their correspondence, as leaves us room to conclude that more of them might have been procured had the author thought proper. The first of the series is dated “ Bedford-row, June 1, 1749," and the correspondence without intermission is continued to “ Dec.
19, 1776;" during a period of twenty-seven years, and consisting of 257 letters, but a small number of which were writ-, ten by Hurd. About 150 of the most distinguished writers of the last century are bere criticised, or rather honoured, with an opinion of their talents and principles; and although the utmost freedom is used, the observations appear not to be dictated either by personal malice or envy. We shall extract some of the remarks, all of which are characteristic of the author's usual acuteness, many of them profound and just, a considerable number paradoxical and visionary, and not a few totally false. Speaking of Hurd's Commentary on Horace's Epistles to Augustus and the Pisos, Dr.Warburton greatly preferred the commentator's reasoning on that to the Pisos, and thus expresses himself on Pope's imitations; which is so far curious, as he has been most unjustly accused of writing one opinion and believing another respecting the works of this poet.
" Mr. Pope, you know, uses the Roman poet for little more than bis canvas. And if the old design or colouring chance to suit his purpose, it is well; if not, he employs his own, without ceremony 01 scruple. Hence it is, that he is so frequently serious where Hoa race is in jest, and gay where the other is disgusted. Had it been
purpose to paraphrase an ancient satirist, he had hardly made. choice of Horace; with whom, as a poet, he held little in common, besides his comprehensive knowledge of life and manners, and a certain curious felicity of expression, which consists in using the simplest language with dignity, and the most adorned with ease.
But his harmony and strength of numbers, his force and splendour of colouring, his gravity and sublime of sentiment, are of another school.
you ask then why he took any body to imitate, I will tell youthese imitations being of the nature of parodies, they add a borrowed grace and vigour to his original wit."
In a subsequent letter Dr. Bentley is defended against the cabal formed by Garth, Swift, and Pope, although his plagiarism from Vizzanius is admitted; and Dr. Warburton affirms, with his usual acumen), that Bentley's Defence, which the Oxford people could not answer, "was his conviction,” as it proved that he originally translated from Vizzanius, and not Jamblicus, as he first pretended and afterwards actually did. Of Hume the writer speaks several times; and the following observations, when treating of his Julian, will furnish å fine treat to the petit maitre of the Edinburgh Review, for a pompous declamation on the intolerance of English prelates, and a philippic against the English established church: it will also affect his national prejudices, and
excite' his vindictive ire on behalf of metaphysics and his country.
“I am strongly tempted too to have a stroke at Hume in parting. He is the author of a little book called Philosophical Essays,' in one part of which he argues against the being of a God, and in another (very neediessly you will say) against the possibility of miracles. He has crowned the liberty of the press—and yet he has a considerable post under government. I have a great mind to do justice on his arguments against miracles, which, I think, might be done in a few words. But does he deserve notice? Is he known amongst you ? Pray answer me these questions. For if his own weight keeps him down, I should be sorry to contribute to his advancement to any place but the pillory.". p. 14. Sept. 28, 1749.
“ There is an epidemic madness amongst ds; to-day we burn with the feverish heat of superstition, to-morrow we stand fixed and frozen in atheism. Expect to hear that the churches are all crowded next Friday; and that on Saturday they buy up Hume's new Essays; the first of which (and please you) is The Natural History of Religion ; for which I will trim the rogue's jacket, at least sit upon his skirts, as you will see when you come hither, and find his margins scribbled over. in a word, the Essay is to establish an atheistic naturalism, like Bolingbroke; and he goes upon one of Bolingbroke's capital arguments, that idolatry and polytheism were before the worship of one God. It is full of absurdities; and here I come in with him; for they show themselves knaves: but, as you will observe, to do their business, is to show them fools.
this man has several moral qualities. It may be so: but there are vices of the mind as well as body; and a wickeder heart, and more determined to do public mischief, I think I never knew. This Essay has so much pro. voked me, that I have a great deal to say to him on other accounts.” P. 239. Feb. 1757.
“ Hume has outdone himself in this new history, in showing his contempt of religion. This is one of those proof charges which Arbuthnot speaks of in his Treatise of Politicul Lying, to try how much the public will bear. If his history be well received, I shall conclude that there is even an end of all pretence to religion. But I should think it will not; because I fancy the good reception of Robertson's proceeded from the decency of it. Hume carries on his system here, to prove we had no constitution till the struggles with James and Charles procured us one. · And he has contrived an effectual way to support his system, by beginning the History of England with Henry VII, and shutting out all that preceded, by asduring his readers that the earlier history is worth no one's while to enquire after.” 'P. 282. March, 1759.
The respective dates of these sentiments will show that they are not the effusions of a momentary impulse, but the deliberate and confirmed opinions of ten years' experience. That ume wrote his essays merely to attract attention by their extravagance, is confessed by himself, in the Memoirs of his own life: it is also acknowledged that they fell still