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Woodfall of Little Britain, who printed it at his own hazard, and sold 8000 or upwards. "I published,” he says, “ a pamphlet, and spent a great deal of money, in the pursuit of a scheme to prevent the exportation of unmanufactured Wool. This pamphlet was in such great reputation all over the kingdom, that, without knowing who was the author of it, it was said that he deserved to have his statue set up in every trading town in England." When the demand for it began to subside, the Doctor, who was not unacquainted with the arts of trade, wrote an answer to it, under the title of “The Draper's Reply, 1741," which went through two or three editions. In 1741 he resigned his rectory and curacy, on being presented, by the recommendation of Abp. Potter, to the vicarages of Ware and Thundridge, by the master and fellows of Trinity college, Cambridge. In 1742 he published“ A Sermont preached before the House of Commons ;" in the same year, “A Sermon on the Fast at Ware;" in 1745 two Sermons preached at Ware; a volume of “ Tracts, Sermons, Discourses, and Letters,” Svo; and a second edition, enlarged, of “ An Appeal to the Laity on Tithes."
He was in this year, 1745, recommended by Earl Gower (to whom he had 20 years before dedicated two of his earliest productions) to the Earl of Chest terfield, then Lord-lieutenant of Ireland; for which kingdom he was about to depart, when the noble Earl's recall, to take upon him the office of Secre tary of State, put an end to that scheme, but not to the expectations of Dr. Webster, who was called upon to defend Earl Gower against the Jacobites, and visited Trentham to obtain materials, which were afterwards digested, but never appeared in print, and for which he complains that he was not rewarded. He afterwards wrote a political pamphlet, of which the proof-sheets were corrected by Earl Gower, and which received the royal approbation; his Majesty doing him the honour to say, was a very good essay. In 1746, he published “A Serinon preached at Ware on the Rebellion;" in 1748, “Two Sermons; 1. On the Duty of living peaceably; 2. Of Self-love and Benevolence;" in 1750, “An Essay on Anger and Forgiveness * 12mo; in 1751, “Two Sermons on the Sabbath ;" in 1753, “ Two Discourses on Prayer; wherein are several things with great Impartiality recommended particularly to the Papists and Dissenters of all Denominations ; with a becoming Freedom to the Infidels; with the most affectionate Esteem to the Clergy; with the highest Deference to the Nobility and Gentry. 2. On the Observation of the Sabbath. 3. On the Importance of Public Worship," 8vo. This book was inscribed to Abp. Herring, who honoured him with his patronage and correspondence; and on this publication he received the following short billet from the excellent Author of the Night Thoughts :
“ Dear Sir, I have read over your discourses with appetite; and I find in them much piety, perspicuity, eloquence, and usefulness. God grant them all the success they deserve, you wish, and the world wants! Most assuredly, Devotion is the balm of life; and no man can go unwounded to the grave,
I am yours affectionately, Ed. Young." In 1754, he published “The new Art of Contentment, contained in an Essay upon Phil. iv. 2.” 8vo; and in 1757, “A Treatise on Places and Preferments, especially Church Preferments," &c. 8vo.
In this year he was under the necessity of petitioning the Archbishops and Bishops for charity; to whom he represented, “ that he had been upwards of 43 years employed in parochial duties in the diocese of London, and 35 years a public writer ; that he was a year and a half out of all business, which involved him in debt; and his distresses had been much increased by a fit of the palsy; and that the addition of 401. or 50l. a year to his income would save him from great distress." That the Petition was of little effect, appears by “A plain Narrative * Mr. Christopher Smart addressed an Ode to him on this work.
of Facts; or, the Author's Case fairly and candidly stated, by Way of Appeal to the Publick, 1758," 8vo. In this Narrative he acknowledged his great obligations to the Earl of Hardwicke, for a hand some present; to Mr. Plummer, knight of the shire, and his parishioner, for 50l. given at a time when he must have gone to prison ; and to “another person, not less honourable for not being a gentleman, who is absolutely the greatest genius, the best and the most amiable man that I know in the world; I mean, Mr. Richardson the Printer*. When I came to Ware, I was gol. in his debt, though I had cleared off regularly, by quarterly payments, 501.; and never could save any thing out of my income, ever since the change of my livings, towards getting out of debt. As soon as I was possessed of Ware, or rather as soon as Ware was possessed of me, he sent me a kind letter; told me, that any sum of money that I wanted was at my service; and when he saw that I lived as frugally as possible, he forgave ine the whole debt. 'I forbear to enlarge upon
his character, because I know not how to do it justice.”
In the close of life, Dr. Webster represents himself as “ incapable of doing his duty, and incapable of hiring people to assist him;" and "his parishioners at Ware (some good people excepted) as more ready to defraud him of his right, than to bestow favours; to make his life as uneasy as possible, instead of rendering it comfortable." A great part of his living depended on voluntary contributions; and “ for several years Trade and Religion had declined together. The people had less money, and less inclination to part with it.” The publication of this Narrative he survived but a few inonths, as he died Dec. 4, 1758.
It is not at all surprising that a writer who employed himself so indiscriminately on all topics should have been honoured with a niche in the Dunciad; where we find him coupled with the celebrated Arch-methodist :
* See farther in these Essays, No. XIV.
“ Or such as bellow from the deep Divine ; There, Webster! peal'd thy voice; and, Whitefield * !
thine." On which the learned Commentator remarks, “ The one the writer of a news-páper called the Weekly Miscellany, the other a Field-preacher. This thought the only means of advancing Religion was by the New-birth of spiritual madness; that by the old death of fire and faggot: and therefore they agreed in this, though in no other earthly thing, to abuse all the sober Clergy. From the small success of these two extraordinary persons, we may learn how little hurtful Bigotry and Enthusiasm are, while the Civil Magistrate forbears to lend his power to the one, in order to the employing it against the other."
In the Preface to “The Divine Legation, 1740," Dr. Webster is also thus pointedly noticed: “The attack was opened by one who bore the respectable name of a Country Clergyman, but was in reality à Town-writer of a Weekly Newspaper; and with şuch excess of insolence and malice as the publick had yet never seen on any occasion whatsoever f."
* Of whom see particulars in vol. 11. pp. 99, 122.
+ Bishop Warburton's opinion of Webster (which Mr. Maty has communicated to the publick among his “ Literary Curiosi. ties") is too important to be omitted. It is extracted from various Letters to Dr. Birch, preserved in the British Museum.
“ I do not know what you think in Town of the Miscellany Papers; but, I protest, the surprieing absurdity made me think that people would imagine I got somebody to write booty, had not the equal virnlency shewn the writer to be in earnest.-I hope you read my last; you might perceive I was in a passion against Webster when I wrote; but his last letter against me has cured me of it, and I design to take no manner of notice of him in the preface of my Sermon. You will wonder at this odd kind of cure. But there is a certain point, at which when any thing arrives, it loses its nature; so that what was before only simple calumny, appears now to be madness; and I should have an inoffice to endeavour the cure of it."- It is a great pleasure to me that such judges as you approve of my Sermon, and almost as great that my enemies are such as Webster. As I am resolved for the future, not only not to answer, but even not to read, what that wretch writes against me; his putting his name to what he does will be of use to me. I wish you could contrive that that
Some farther particulars of him may be gathered from the following extracts from his letters to Dr. Zachary Grey, of which I have several in MS.
“ I sent a pamphlet to your bookseller, and hope it came safe. I have not yet heard from Mr. Clarke,
should come to his ear,”-In the same letter, which (as Mr. Maty observes) is no Warburtoniuna, but the Ana of every man who ever lived, “I have not seen Webster's circular letter. Pray, when you go by Mr. Gyles's shop, desire him to send it me."--" What a happy thing it would be if we could send over on a mission some of our hot zealots, to cool themselves in an Indian Savannah! Don't you think Venn and Webster would make a proper as well as pleasant figure in a couple of bearskins! Methinks I see them march in this terror of equipage, like the Pagan priests of Hercules of old,
“ Jamque sacerdotes, primusque Potitius, ibant
Pellibus in morem cincti, flammasque ferebant. "The fanaticism of some of these missionaries gave birth to a very serious thought, which you will find in the second edition of the Divine Legation, now printing ; therefore I shall not repeat it here. You see I have published a second edition of my first volume; there are several additions in support of my scheme, and reasonings on it, which I hope will not displease you, as likewise several omissions of passages which were thought vain, insolent, and ill-natured, particularly that against the author of the Enquiry into the Demoniacks, which I hope will less displease you.—Mr. Gyles has sent me word, that Webster has published all his letters; and thinks it proper to do the same by those news-papers wrote in defence of me. I have returned answer, that it was a matter of the utmost indifference, but that, if he thought it worth his while, I gave my consent; so I have left it to him to do what he thinks proper.—To think I will ever enter into a controversy with the weakest as well as wickedest of all mankind, is a thing impossible. This I shall do indeed, in a short preface to the second volume. I shall hang him'and his fellows as they do vermin in a warren, and leaye them to posterity to stink and blacken in the wind; and this will I do, was the Pope himself their protector. Other business with them in the way of argument I shall never have any.”—“I mentioned the second volume: it is now in the press, I have received two sheets, two more are coming, and they cry out for more copy. Inter nos, I only write from hand to mouth, as they say here; so that an East wind, a'fit of the spleen, want of books, and a thousand other accidents, will frequently make the press stand still. This will be an inconvenience to Mr. Gyles; but I told him what he was to expect; and his hands are so full of great works, that I may well te spared, amongst the first-rate of the fleet, and cruise ať my leisure on a lee-shore, safe from Webster, and the rest of these guarda-costas."