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Intent to rescue some neglected rhyme,
JOSEPH BEAUMONT, the author of Psyche, an Allegorical Epic, and of a collection of minor poems, was born at Hadleigh, in Suffolk, on the 13th of March, 1615. His father descended from a younger branch of the ancient family of Beaumont in Leicestershire, and who died in 1653, had been for many years a woollen manufacturer in Hadleigh, then a very wealthy trading corporation; and being a man not only in easy circumstances, but of great respectability, he had been repeatedly elected into the office of chief magistrate of that town. Very fortunately, also, for the subject of our biography, he possessed, together with a deep sense of religion, a very decided taste for elegant liters
ature; and discovering in the early years of his son Joseph a peculiar attachment to letters, he very wisely determined to give him an education corresponding to the promise which his talents seemed to hold forth.
Much, however, as he prized the acquisitions of learning, and anxious as he was that his son, who was the favourite of his hopes, should have every advantage which the age could bestow, he was still more solicitous that these accomplishments should be based on the firm foundation of morality and religion. Apprehensive, therefore, of sending him to such a distance as would entirely remove him from his own immediate influence and inspection, he refused to listen to the suggestions of his friends, who had proposed Westminster as the primary seat of his education, but placed him at the grammar school of his native town, very justly concluding that the discipline which had nursed and produced such scholars as Overall and Alabaster, was not likely to disappoint his expectations. In fact, young Beaumont prosecuted his studies, whilst resident at this school, with so much assiduity and success, as to render himself, in a very extraor
dinary degree for his age, familiar with the best writers of antiquity. Terence was his favourite author, and it is said that of this elegant classic he had ever a small edition in his pocket to the close of his life.
The proficiency thus early acquired, enabled him to enter Peterhouse in Cambridge in his sixteenth year; and here the same love of classical learning which had so greatly distinguished him whilst a student in Hadleigh, continued to recommend him to the notice and esteem, not only of the members of his own society, but of the university at large. Nor had his disposition and conduct an inferior claim to their kindness and respect; for he was open and unaffected in his manners, strictly observant of the statutes and regulations of his college, and remarkable no less for the sweetness of his temper, than for the fervor and regularity of his devotional piety.
Qualifications such as these very speedily attracted the attention of Dr. Cosins, then master of Peterhouse, and subsequently bishop of Durham, and who was distinguished for his minute observance of the character and deportment of the students committed to his care. He singled
out Mr. Beaumont indeed as an object of his peculiar patronage, and as soon as he had obtained his bachelor's degree, he gave him the first fellowship in his college that became vacant.
It was now that he found himself at liberty to carry into execution the plan of study which he had some time before chalked out as his favourite pursuit; that of familiarising himself with the scriptures of the Old Testament in their native language. For this purpose he commenced, in his twenty-first year, the study of the Hebrew, comparing with the utmost diligence and exactness every version extant with the original, a task which at his time of life has been seldom undertaken, and, if undertaken, as seldom prosecuted with effect. After this appeal to the pure source of religion, he proceeded to read with critical accuracy the primitive writers on Christianity, abstracting and methodising their contents in the most lucid order, and exhibiting strong proofs of the taste and discrimination with which in particular he had digested the learning of Basil, and the free and fervid eloquence of Chrysostom.
Having employed three years in these im
If at any
portant pursuits, he was called, at the age of twenty-four, to the tutorship of his college, a charge which he sustained with the most exemplary vigilance and impartiality, yet with a sweetness and affability of temper that won for him the hearts of all entrusted to his care. time he assumed the aspect of severity, or the language of reproach, it was in consequence
of some instance of immorality or irreligion; for we are told that being “ himself assiduous and fervent in paying public homage to the Deity in the college chapel, he had always a strict eye upon the behaviour of his pupils in those sacred offices, and whatever marks of negligence or indevotion he observed in any of them, were sure to be followed by the strongest expressions of his displeasure and indignation : for he looked upon the want of reverence and gratitude to the Author of our life, as a testimony of a base and bad heart; and thought it impossible, that he, who could knowingly fail in these duties to that beneficent Being, could ever be a useful member of society, or a good man.”
• Account of his Life, prefixed to his Minor Poems, p. x.