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some degree, as a criticism on the performance of Dr. Johnson, and a defence of Dr. Watts upon some points of theology, about which it appeared that he was not altogether clear and decisive.
The work of Mr. Milner is distinguished for its research, its candour, and its style ; and is, in truth, an interesting biography. A few years since, an edition of Watts's Lyric Poems was published, to which was prefixed a short memoir from the pen of Dr. Southey. In this instance, as in most others, where religious biography is his subject — and especially of those with whose theological opinions he has no sympathy-the Laureate has signally failed in producing anything but a meagre outline, not free from prejudice, and hardly worthy of the name of a Life of Watts.
Dr. Johnson's sketch is, on the contrary, much to be admired for its almost unexampled candour and fairness, and for the brilliant style in which it is executed. It is, moreover, chiefly confined to a review of the moral, and religious and literary character of Watts, without attempting to figure away upon the debateable ground of polemical Theology ; but presenting us simply with a beautiful dissertation upon the whole character of the man. On these accounts it is with preference presented to the reader:
“ Isaac Watts was born July 17th, 1674, at Southampton, where his father, of the same name, kept a boarding school for young gentlemen, though
common report makes him a shoemaker.* He appears, from the narrative of Dr. Gibbons, to have been neither indigent nor illiterate.
Isaac, the eldest of nine children, was given to books from his infancy; and began, we are told, to learn Latin when he was four years old, I suppose, at home. He was afterwards taught Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, by Mr. Pinhorn, a clergyman, master of the Free-school at Southampton, to whom the gratitude of his scholar afterwards inscribed a Latin ode.
His proficiency at school was so conspicuous, that a subscription was proposed for his support at the University ; but he declared his resolution of taking his lot with the Dissenters. Such he was, as every Christian church would rejoice to have adopted.
“ He therefore repaired, in 1690, to an academy taught by Mr. Rowe, where he had for his companions and fellow-students Mr. Hughes the poet, and Dr. Horte, afterwards Archbishop of Tuam. Some Latin Essays, supposed to have been written as
* From Dr. Gibbons's Memoir, and Mr. Milner's work, it is certain that this was not Mr. Watts's calling. Wbile Isaac Watts was yet an infant at his mother's breast, his father was suffering a cruel imprisonment for his religious opinions, and Mr. Milner informs us, that “ family tradition has recorded the fact, that, during his imprisonment, the youthful and sorrowing niother has been known to seat herself on the steps of her husband's prison-house suckling this child of promise.” The same Biographer adds,“ the trials of the parents made, as may be conceived, a deep impression on the mind of the son. The adversities of his early years were remembered by him in after life; and doubtless here originated that ardent atachment to civil and religious liberty which marked his character, and which led his muse to hail its establishment with exultation when the dynasty of the tyrannical Stuarts was driven from the throne.”
exercises at his academy, shew a degree of knowledge, both philosophical and theological, such as very
few attain by a much longer course of study. · He was, as he hints in his Miscellanies, a maker of verses from fifteen to fifty, and in his youth he appears to have paid attention to Latin poetry. His verses to his brother, in the Glyconic measure, written when he was seventeen, are remarkably easy and elegant. Some of his other odes are deformed by the Pindaric folly then prevailing, and are written with such neglect of all metrical rules as is without example among the ancients; but his diction, though perhaps not always pure, has such copiousness and splendour, as shews that he was but a very little distance from excellence.
· His method of study was to impress the contents of his books upon his memory by abridging them, and by interleaving them to amplify one system with supplements from another.
“ With the congregation of his tutor Mr. Rowe, who were, I believe, Independents, he communicated in his nineteenth year.
“ At the age of twenty he left the academy, and spent two years in study and devotion at the house of his father, who treated him with great tenderness; and had the happiness, indulged to few parents, of living to see his son eminent for literature and venerable for piety.
“He was then entertained by Sir John Hartopp five years, as domestic tutor to his son ; and in that time particularly devoted himself to the study of the Holy Scriptures ; and, being chosen assistant to Dr. Chauncey, preached the first time on the birthday that completed his twenty-fourth year; probably considering that as the day of a second nativity, by which he entered on a new period of existence.
“ In about three years he succeeded Dr. Chauncey; but, soon after his entrance on his charge, he was seized by a dangerous illness, which sunk him to such a weakness, that the congregation thought an assistant necessary, and appointed Mr. Price. His health then returned gradually; and he performed his duty till (1712) he was seized by a fever of such violence and continuance, that from the feebleness which it brought upon him he never perfectly recovered.
• This calamitous state made the compassion of his friends necessary, and drew upon him the attention of Sir Thomas Abney, who received him into his house; where, with a constancy of friendship and uniformity of conduct not often to be found, he was treated for thirty-six years* with all the kindness that friendship could prompt, and all the attention that respect could dictate. Sir Thomas died about eight years
afterwards; but he continued with the lady and her daughters to the end of his life. The lady died about a year after him.
A coalition like this, a state in which the notions of patronage and dependence were overpowered by the perception of reciprocal benefits, deserves a particular memorial; and I will not withhold from the reader Dr. Gibbons's representation, to which regard
* A large portion of this period was passed at Sir Thomas Abney's seat at Theobald's, an estate adjoining the mansion which Raleigh erected for a favourite residence, and where he entertained his Royal Mistress and her court. A summer arbour composed of old laurels and other evergreens is now standing in the gardens belonging to Lady Huntingdon's college, which is said to have been formed by Dr. Watts, and which from its peculiar shape as well as history bas received the cognomen of the “ Doctor's wig."
is to be paid as to the narrative of one who writes what he knows, and what is known likewise to multitudes besides.
“Our next observation shall be made upon that remarkably kind Providence which brought the Doctor into Sir Thomas Abney's family, and continued him there till his death, a period of no less than thirty-six years. In the midst of his sacred labours for the glory of God, and good of his generation, he is seized, with a most violent and threatening fever, which leaves him oppressed with great weakness, and puts a stop at least to his public services for four years. In this distressing season, doubly so to his active and pious spirit, he is invited to Sir Thomas Abney's family, nor ever removes from it till he had finished his days. Here he enjoyed the uninterrupted demonstrations of the truest friendship. Here, without any care of his own, he had everything which could contribute to the enjoyment of life, and favour the unwearied pursuits of his studies. Here he dwelt in a family, which for piety, order harmony, and every virtue was an house of God. Here he had the privilege of a country recess, the fragrant bower, the spreading lawn, the flowery garden, and the other advantages, to sooth his mind and aid his restoration to health; to yield him, whenever he chose them, most grateful intervals from his laborious studies, and enable him to return to them with redoubled vigour and delight. Had it not been for this most happy event, he might, as to outward view, have feebly, it may be painfully, dragged on through many more years of languor, and inability for public service, and even for profitable study, or perhaps might have sunk into his grave under the overwhelming load of infirmities in the midst of his days; and thus the church and world would have been deprived of those many excellent