Born: John George Gmelin, naturalist and Siberian traveller, 1709, Tubingen; Rev. Rowland Hill, eminent divine, 1744; Thomas Bewick, celebrated wood engraver, 1753, Cherry Burn, Northumberland; George IV, king of England, 1762; Robert Southey, poet, 1774, Bristol; Francis Horner, politician, 1778, Edinburgh.
Died: Pope Gregory IX, 1241; Sir Thomas Smith, distinguished scholar, and author of The English Commonwealth, 1577; Pope Innocent XI, 1689; Nahum Tate, versifier of the Psalms, 1715, Southwark; William Sherard, founder of the botanical chair at Oxford, 1728, Eltham; Robert Stewart, Marquis of Londonderry (Lord Castlereagh), Tory statesman, died by his own hand at North Cray, Kent, 1822; George Stephenson, engineer, 1848; Dean Conybeare, geologist, 1857, Itchinstoke, Hants.
Feast Day: St. Euplius, martyr, 304. St. Muredach, first bishop of Killala, in Ireland, 5th century. St. Clare, virgin and abbess, 1253.
REV. ROWLAND HILL
Society, at the present day, rarely witnesses the exhibition of striking and eccentric traits of character on the part of individuals. The figures in the great picture of the human family seldom stand prominently forth from the canvas; angularities and roughnesses are gradually being smoothed, and the tendency to a fixed and unvarying uniformity is continually becoming more and more manifest.
This observation applies with very decided emphasis to the ministrations of the pulpit and the deportment of clergymen. True, we have the vagaries of Mr. Spurgeon, and one or two others of a similar class, though even these fall far short of the piquancy to which our ancestors were formerly accustomed under similar circumstances. The innumerable quaintnesses and witty sayings recorded of pulpit oratory in ancient times, the odd contretemps and whimsical incidents narrated by the jest-books in connection with clerical functions and services, are now almost entirely reminiscences of the past. And doubtless it is well that it should be so. The penny-postage, cheap newspapers, and railways, have been as efficacious in banishing them from the present generation, as they have been influential in the extinction of popular superstitions and observances in the remote parts of the kingdom.
One of the last of the old school of divines to which we have just referred was the Rev. Rowland Hill. The son of a Shropshire baronet, whose ancestors had held estates in the county from at least the days of Edward I, he presented to the close of his life, with all his peculiarities, the perfect model of the English gentleman-tall, vigorous, and energetic. Having received a good education at Eton and Cambridge, his eccentricities were prevented from degenerating into offensive displays of ignorance and bad taste; whilst his natural abilities and real kindliness of heart enabled him both to exercise the most extended and beneficial influence in his preaching, and gain the affections and esteem of those with whom he was brought in contact.
In his youthful days, the religious views of Wesley were just making their way amid opprobrium and ridicule to the extensive adoption which they afterwards attained. Their Arminianism, however, was too mild a nutriment for Hill, and he fastened with enthusiastic preference on the tenets of Whitefield, Berridge, and similar preachers of the more fiery sort. The religious convictions which had been impressed on him when still a boy at Eton, were renewed and strengthened during his sojourn at Cambridge, where his incessant activity in endeavouring to gain converts to Calvinism among the students, holding meetings for religious conversation and prayer, and occasionally preaching in the town and neighbourhood, drew down upon him severe rebukes from the college-authorities. He persisted, nevertheless, in his procedure; and having now satisfied himself, from the audiences which he attracted, that preaching was his vocation, he resolved to adopt it as his profession in, life.
Though retaining a strong attachment to the Church of England, he differed so much from her in many points of discipline and religious worship, that he was unable to bind himself by any pledge to refrain from deviating from her rules. Consequently, though he succeeded in being admitted to deacon's orders, he was refused episcopal ordination by one prelate after another, till at last he abandoned the attempt as hopeless. During the subsequent part of his life, he must therefore be regarded as a Dissenter; but, like Whitefield, he never promulgated any special form of orthodox doctrine, or attached himself to any particular sect. At first, he was entirely itinerary, preaching as opportunity offered; but, latterly, on the Surrey chapel being built for him in London, he assumed the functions of a settled charge, and he is chiefly known in connection with his ministrations in that place of worship.
The anecdotes recorded of Rowland Hill and his pulpit discourse are numerous and piquant. On one occasion, he was preaching for a public charity, when a note was handed up to him, inquiring if it would be right for a bankrupt to contribute. He noticed the matter in the course of his sermon, and pronounced decidedly that such a person could not do so in Christian honesty. 'But, my friends,' he added, 'I would advise you who are not insolvent, not to pass the plate this evening, as the people will be sure to say: 'There goes the bankrupt! ' 'Another time, at the church of St. John's, Wapping, he declared: 'I am come to preach to great sinners, notorious sinners, profane sinners-yea, to Wapping sinners.'
And one day, on announcing from the pulpit the amount of a liberal collection which had been contributed by his hearers, he remarked: 'You have behaved so well on this occasion, that we mean to have another collection next Sunday. I have heard it said of a good cow, that the more you milk her the more she will give.' One wet day he observed a number of persons enter his chapel to take shelter from a heavy shower of rain, and remarked pithily, that many people were blamed for making religion a cloak; but he did not think those were much better who made it an umbrella! Petitions were frequently handed to him in the pulpit, requesting the prayers of the congregation for certain persons. A wag one day handed up, 'The prayers of the congregation are requested for the Reverend Row-land Hill, that he will not ride in his carriage on Sunday.' Not being aware of the peculiar nature of the request till he had read it too far to recede, he went on to the end, and then added: 'If the writer of this piece of folly and impertinence is at present in the congregation, and will come into the vestry after service, and allow me to put a saddle on his back, I shall be willing to ride home upon him instead of in my carriage.'
He was very kind and charitable to the poor, but had a great intolerance of dirt and slovenliness. On noticing anything of the kind, he would say: 'Here, mistress, is a trifle for you to buy some soap and a scrubbing brush: there is plenty of water to be had for nothing. Good Mr. Whitefield used to say: ' Cleanliness is next to godliness.' In impressing upon his hearers the duty of owing no man anything, he would remark: 'I never pay my debts, and for the best of all reasons, because I never have any debts to pay.' Speaking to tradesmen, he would say: 'You are sometimes more in the path of duty in looking into your ledgers, than into your Bibles. All things should be done decently and in order.' Ludicrous stories are told of people who, from hearing so much about him, imagined his influence must be paramount in every quarter. A sentimental-looking lady one morning made her entree into his study in the most solemn manner. Advancing by measured steps towards the preacher, she began:
'Divine shepherd '
'Pon my word, ma'am!'
'I hear you have great influence with the royal family.'
Well, ma'am, and did you hear anything else?'
'Now, seriously, sir-my son has most wonderful poetic powers. Sir, his poetry is of a sublime order-noble, original, fine!'
Hill muttered to himself: 'Well, I wonder what will come next?' and his visitor continued:
'Yes, sir, pardon the liberty, and I therefore called to ask you to get him made poet laureate!'
'Ma'am, you might as well ask me to get him made archbishop of Canterbury!'
Whereupon the colloquy terminated.
Another day, a foreigner was announced, who entered with:
'Meester Hill, I have heard you are a wonderful great, goot man-can do anyting.'
'Mercy on us! then I must be a wonderful man indeed.'
'Yes, sare, so you are a very wonderful man; so I call to ask you to make my ambassador do his duty by me.'
'Sir, I can assure you I have not the honour of knowing him.'
'Oh, sare, but he regard a letter from you.'
'Sir, I can have no possible influence with him, and cannot take the liberty of writing to him on a subject about which I know nothing.'
'But, sare, I will tell you.'
Then seeing no other way of getting rid of his visitor, he concluded by saying:
'Well, sir, you may give my compliments to the ambassador, and say that I advise him to do his duty; and that will do as well as writing.'
'Very goot, sare-gout-day:
He was very severe in rebuking hypocrisy, and those persons who had disgraced their religious profession by some discreditable action. An individual in this predicament met him one morning as he was going out, and saluted him with:
'How do you do, Mr. Hill, I am delighted to see you once more?'
'What! ar'n't you hanged yet?' was the reply.
An adherent of Antinomianism, who was rather given to the bottle, asked him one day:
'Now, do you think, Mr. Hill, a glass of spirits will drive grace out of my heart?'
'No,' he replied, 'for there is none in it!'
A lady, who led rather a gay and worldly life, once remarked to him:
'Oh! I am afraid lest, after all, I should not be saved!'
'I am glad to hear you say so,' answered Hill, 'for I have been long afraid for you, I assure you.'
On one occasion he was addressing a number of candidates for the ministry, and said:
I will tell you a story. A barber, having amassed a comfortable independence, retired to his native place, where he became a preacher in a small chapel. Another person from the same village being similarly fortunate, settled there also, and attended the ministry of the barber. Wanting a new wig, he said to his pastor: 'You might as well make it for me,' to which he assented. The wig was sent home, badly made, but charged at nearly double the usual price. The good man said nothing; but when anything particularly profitable escaped the lips of the preacher, he observed to himself: 'Excellent-but, oh! the wig.' When the barber prayed with apparent unction, he also thought this should touch my heart, but, oh! the wig. Now, my dear young brethren, whenever you are placed, remember the wig!
The anecdotes recorded above of this celebrated divine may be depended on for their authenticity; but it is otherwise with a host of other sayings ascribed to him. It is related that he used, in the pulpit, to make personal allusions to his wife, as an example of the transitoriness of beauty and the necessity of humility and self-depreciation. In lecturing on the vanities of dress, he is reported to have said: 'Ladies love fine caps; so does Mrs. Hill. Yesterday, came home a five-guinea one; but she will never wear it, for I poked it into the fire, bandbox and all.'
On one Sunday morning, the same veracious chroniclers represent him as apostrophising his wife, when entering chapel, with: 'Here comes my wife with a chest of drawers on her head! She went out to buy them, and spent all her money in that hoity-toity bonnet!'
These pleasant little stories, like, unfortunately, many other good things related of different people, are purely fictitious. The subject of them was amused with the generality of them, but expressed great indignation on learning the speeches ascribed to him in reference to Mrs. Hill. 'It is an abominable untruth,' he would exclaim, 'derogatory to my character as a Christian and a gentleman-they would make me out a bear!'
In the course of his ministry, Rowland Hill paid three visits to Scotland, the last in 1824. On the first two occasions he delivered sermons to immense crowds in the Edinburgh Circus, and also on the Calton Hill, besides visiting Glasgow and Paisley. His style of preaching was rather a novelty in the north, where the smooth rounded periods of Blair and Robertson had, for many years, formed the models of pulpit eloquence. It was, moreover, made the subject of animadversion by the General Assembly of the Church, who issued a 'pastoral admonition' against countenancing such irregular and itinerant preachers as Rowland Hill and his coadjutors, the Haldanes. In connection with this subject, it is related of him that, on his being asked the reason why his carriage-horses bore such strange names (one of the quadrupeds being denominated Order, and the other Decorum), he answered: 'Oh, they said in the north, 'Mr. Hill rides upon the backs of order and decorum;' so I called one of my horses Order, and the other Decorum, that they might tell the truth in one way, if they did not in another.'
Rowland Hill married, in 1773, Miss Mary Tudway, of Somersetshire, with whom he lived happily for a space of nearly sixty years. She died in August 1830, and was followed shortly afterwards by her husband, who departed on 11th April 1833, in his eighty-eighth year. Almost to the last he maintained his mental vigour unimpaired, and delivered his last sermon in Surrey chapel little more than a week previous to his decease. Though so popular and renowned as a preacher, his literary productions are few; but the principal one, his Village Dialogues, will, from the vigour and raciness of humour which it displays, interest all classes of readers, apart from any religious predilections.
THE LAST OF THE GEORGES
The faults of character belonging to George IV have of late years been largely insisted on, and perhaps it is not possible to extenuate them in any great degree. It is, however, a mistake to suppose that, because a man is a voluptuary, and more remarkable for good manners than good morals, he therefore is a person wholly bad. There really is no such being as one wholly bad, or wholly good either. A human being is a mixture of various and often apparently incongruous elements, one relieving and redeeming another, sometimes one assuming a predominance and sometimes another, very much as the accidental provocations of external circumstances may determine. It was so with this monarch, as it was with the humblest of his subjects. In his lifetime, one often heard both of pleasant things said, and of amiable things done, by the king.
His restoration of the forfeited Scotch peerages in 1824 was a piece of pure generosity towards men who were suffering through no faults of their own. When that measure was determined on, the representative of a forfeited baronet of 1715 applied for a like extension of the royal grace. Though equally suitable from the fact of the family having purchased back their ancestral lands, it was refused by the ministers; but the king, on hearing of it, insisted on the gentleman being gratified. This we can tell on the authority of a person very nearly concerned in the matter.
In Mrs. Mathews's Memoirs of her husband is an anecdote shewing conclusively a very great deal of good-nature in the king. The old Polish dwarf, Count Boruwlaski, was, through Mathews's exertions, brought to Carlton House to see the king, who had known him many years before. The two visitors, a dwarf and a player, were treated by the king with great kindness, and, more than this, with much considerate delicacy. It was in July 1821, when the approaching coronation and some less pleasant matters were greatly occupying the royal mind. When Boruwlaski came away, Mathews found him in tears, and learned that it was entirely owing to the kindness the king had manifested towards him. While the two were for a little while apart, the king had taken the opportunity to inquire if the little count required any pecuniary help to make his latter days comfortable, avowing his desire to supply whatever was necessary.
The king had also offered to shew his coronation-robes to the dwarf, and further asked if he retained any recollection of a favourite valet of his, whom he named.
The count professing a perfect remembrance of the man, the king said: 'He is now, poor fellow, on his death-bed. I saw him this morning, and mentioned your expected visit. He expressed a great desire to see you, which I ventured to promise he should do; for I have such a regard for him, that I would gratify his last hours as much as possible. Will you, count, do me the favour of paying my poor faithful servant a short visit? He is even new expecting you. I hope you will not refuse to indulge a poor, suffering, dying creature.
The count of course expressed his perfect readiness to obey the king's wishes.
Boruwlaski was first shewn the robes, and then conducted to the chamber of the sick man, which was fitted up with every comfort and care; a nurse and another attendant in waiting upon the sufferer. When the count was announced, the poor invalid desired to be propped up in his bed. He was so changed by time and sickness, that the count no longer recognised the face with which his memory was familiar. The nurse and attendant having retired into an adjoining room, the dying man (for such he was, and felt himself to be) expressed the great obligation he felt at such a visit, and spoke most gratefully of him whom he designated the best of masters; told the count of all the king's goodness to him, and, indeed, of his uniform benevolence to all that depended upon him; mentioned that his majesty, during the long course of his poor servant's illness, notwithstanding the circumstances that had agitated himself so long, his numerous duties and cares, his present anxieties and forthcoming ceremonies, had never omitted to visit his bedside twice every day, not for a moment merely, but long enough to soothe and comfort him, and to see that he had everything necessary and desirable, telling him all particulars of himself that were interesting to an old and attached servant and humble friend. This account was so genuine in its style, and so affecting in its relation, that it deeply touched the heart of the listener. The dying man, feeling exhaustion, put an end to the interview by telling the count that he only prayed to live long enough to greet his dear master after his coronation-to hear that the ceremony had been performed with due honour, and without any interruption to his dignity-and that then he was ready to die in peace.
Mrs. Mathews adds:
Poor Boruwlaski returned to the royal presence, as I have related, utterly subdued by the foregoing scene; upon which every feeling heart will, I am persuaded, make its own comment, unmixed with party-spirit or prejudice.
To the rising generation, the name of Francis Horner is comparatively little known, though as the friend of Jeffrey, Brougham, and Sydney Smith, a contributor to the Edinburgh Review, and a brilliant and influential speaker on the side of the Whigs, in the House of Commons, his name is intimately connected with the political and literary history of the early part of the present century. Cut off by an insidious and consuming disease at the premature age of thirty-eight, in the very flower of his parliamentary. reputation, he had not yet so far matured his powers as to leave behind a durable impress of his character and abilities. Yet the universal regret by which the tidings of his death were received at the time, testify how exalted were the hopes which the intelligence of his countrymen had entertained respecting him hopes which a perusal of his literary remains, limited in amount as these are, induce us to pronounce to have been thoroughly justifiable.
The history of this brilliant young man is not much diversified by incident. His father was a wealthy merchant in the city of Edinburgh, and Francis received his education in the High School there, then under the rectorship of the distinguished classical scholar, Dr. Adam. Always of a studious, retiring disposition, he rarely mingled in the sports of the other boys, among whom, however, he held the proud pre-eminence of being the dux or head-scholar. The bent of his mind, from the first, seems to have been towards a profession to which the art of oratory formed a leading adjunct, and ho accordingly chose that of an advocate at the Scottish bar. With the view of getting rid of his northern accent, his father sent him, when about seventeen, to an academy at Shacklewell, near London, conducted by a Mr. Hewlett, who succeeded so well in smoothing down the young Scotchman's Doric, that in after-life it is said to have been perfectly indistinguishable. Returning to Edinburgh, he commenced his legal studies, and in due time; was admitted a member of the Faculty of Advocates. Here his avocations and sympathies naturally brought him into close fellowship with Francis Jeffrey, and the rest of that brilliant coterie which embraced so enthusiastically the cause of progress, and established the Edinburgh Review as the promulgator of their sentiments. He was also one of the most distinguished members of the Speculative Society, a debating association in Edinburgh, which then included some of the most splendid oratorical and literary talent in Great Britain.
After practising for some time as an advocate, he resolved on qualifying himself for the English bar, as affording a better field for his talents, and also as opening up to him more readily the path of distinction in public life. He accordingly proceeded to London, where he entered himself as a student at Lincoln's Inn, and was called to the bar in 1807, having the previous year been returned to parliament for the borough of St. Ives, in Cornwall, through the influence of Lord Henry Petty, afterwards the Marquis of Lansdowne. He subsequently sat successively in three other parliaments, the last place for which he was returned being St. Mawes, in Cornwall. During a period of about ten years, he distinguished himself as one of the most effective members of the Opposition, on all questions of commercial polity, and more especially those relating to the currency. Towards the end of 1816, his constitution, never robust, began visibly to give way, and in the hope of re-establishing his health, the was recommended to try the curative influences of a southern climate. He accordingly proceeded to ltaly, and took up his abode at Pisa, whore for a time he was cheered by the appearances of convalescence. These, however, proved fallacious, and the difficulty of breathing, and other symptoms of his malady, having returned with renewed severity, he expired on the evening of Saturday, 8th February 1817.
The regret occasioned in England by his death was great and profound. Eloquent tributes to his memory were rendered in the House of Commons by Lord Morpeth, Mr. Canning, and others; but it was in private life, among the personal friends to whom he had endeared himself by the uprightness and amiability of his disposition, that his loss was most sensibly felt. Sydney Smith used to declare of him, that he had the ten commandments written in his face, which bore so thoroughly the impress of virtue and honesty, that as the clerical wag remarked, no jury could possibly convict him on any charge, and he might consequently commit all sorts of crimes with impunity. His talents as an orator, statesman, and scholar were only exceeded by the modesty which characterised his whole deportment. Had he survived, there is little doubt that he would have attained to the highest offices in the state, and handed down his name to posterity as one of the ablest and most industrious of our political economists. But, like Henry Kirke White and John Keats, whom, however, he only resembled in the gentleness and goodness of his disposition, the brightness of the morning of his life was prematurely extinguished, and his sun went down whilst it was yet day.
THE OLD AND NEW VERSIONS OF THE PSALMS
Nahum Tate has a place in literary history solely on account or his connection with one of the two authorised versions of the Psalms, printed in the Book of Common Prayer. His merits would never have given him a niche in the Temple of Fame, but for that authorisation.
The Psalms of David have, individually and partially, been translated into an English lyrical form by many persons; hut the collections best known are the 'old version' and. the 'new version' -the one under the names of Sternhold and Hopkins, the other under those of Brady and Tate. Thomas Sternhold, in the reign of Henry VIII, being, as Wanton says, 'or it serious disposition, and an enthusiast to the reformation, was much offended at the lascivious ballads which prevailed among the courtiers; and with, a laudable desire to check these indecencies, undertook a metrical version of the Psalter-'thinking thereby,' says Anthony Wood, 'that the courtiers would sing them instead of their sonnets; but they did not, only some few excepting.' Sternhold translated thirty-seven of the Psalms; and they were published collectively in I549 'drawen into English metre,' as the title-page expressed it.
Some few years after this, John Hopkins (of whom very little is known) translated fifty-eight Psalms from the Hebrew, different from those which had been taken in hand by Sternhold; and in 1568 appeared The Whole Book of Psalms, collected into English metre, by Thomas Sternhold, John, Hopkins, and, others. Set forth and allowed to he, sung its all Churches before and after Morning and Evening Prayer, and also before and after Sermons. To this day, it is a matter of controversy how the word 'allowed' is to lie understood here; but whether the collection received Episcopal authorisation or not, it come into general use, was in after ears regularly printed with the Book of Common Prayer. The Psalms, however, under-went such repeated changes in words and general style, that Sternhold and Hopkins would hardly have recognised their own work. As originally Written, some of the words and phrases were of such a character that, though perhaps not notice-able at the time, they grated on the taste of a later age. The following examples are from four of the Psalms:
For why their hartes were nothyng bent,
To him nor to his trade;
Nor yet to keep nor to performe
The Covenant that was made!
What! is his goodness clean decaid
For ever and a day?
Or is his promise now delaid,
And doth his truth decay?
Confound them that do apply
And seeke to make my shame;
And at my harme do laugh, and cry
So, so, there goes the game!
Why dost withdraw thy hand aback,
And hide it in thy lappe?
0 pluck it out, and be not slack,
To give thy foe a rappe!
The last of these four verses is addressed to the Deity! The old version, even after all the dressing-up it received, was a very poor affair; but Bishop Seeker said a good word for it. He contended that the Psalms, thus set, suited the common people, for whom they were intended. The plainer they are, the sooner they understand them; the lower their style is, the better is it levelled to their capacities; and the heavier they go, the more easily can they keep pace with them.'
Nicholas Brady, born in Ireland in 1659, made a new metrical translation of some of the Psalms; and Nahum Tate, also born in Ireland about the same year, translated others. It is, however, not now known who prepared that 'new version' which comprises the labours of Brady, Tate, and others left unmentioned. Tate was, for a time, poet-laureate. A severe critic has characterised him as 'the author of the worst alterations of Shakspeare, the worst version of the Psalms of David, and the worst continuation of a great poem. (Absalom and Achitophel) extant;' but this is going a little too far in reference to the Psalms. These translations are, nevertheless, rather spiritless. Dr. Watts received a letter from his brother, in which the latter said:
Tate and Brady still keep near the same pace. I know not what beast they ride (one that will be content to carry double); but I am sure it is no Pegasus. There is in them a mighty deficiency of that life and soul which are necessary to rouse our fancies and kindle and fire our passions.' More modern versions of the Psalms are now very largely used in English churches; but as the ecclesiastical authorities have not made any combined move in the matter, the version of Brady and Tate is still bound up with the Book of Common Prayer.