« PreviousContinue »
daughter, and their happiness was very dear to his affections ; but neither son, nor daughter, nor any other interest on earth lay so near his heart, nor occupied so much of his attention in his latter days, as that of Christ and his Church ; and the danger to which she is exposed, under the present circumstances of the Christian world, amongst the heaviest of the afflictions which he endured.”
heir sentied Mr. Bowdhd Mr. Stevents the housesens
: The friends with whom Mr. Stevens chiefly associated, in the latter years of his life were Richard Richards, Esq. of the Chancery Bar, her Majesty's Solicitor General*; James Allan Park, Esq. the King's Counsel ; John Bowdler, Esq. of Hayes, near Bromley, in Kent; and John Richardson, Ésq. Barrister at Law I. With Mr. Bowdler, who lived out of town, he could not have such frequent personal communication, although the congeniality of their sentiments, upon every point of religion and politics, led Mr. Bowdler to Broad-street whenever he visited London; and Mr. Stevens passed many agreeable hours at Hayes; but at the houses of each of the three other gentlemen, Mr. Stevens dined regularly once a week upon a set day, when either those friends were invited who delighted in his society, or he was at liberty to choose his own company, by inviting those whom he pleased to meet him; and those who saw him once, in the moments of cheerful ease and conviviality, were ever anxious to meet him again. In several of the letters now lying before me, his kindness and affection for his friends are pourtrayed in such strong
' * Now the Right Honourable Sir Richard Richards, Lord Chief Baron of the Court of Exchequer. • + Now the Honourable Sir James Allan Park, Judge of the Court of Common Pleas. : . Now the Honourable Şir John Richardson, another of the Judges of the Court of Common Pleas.
and marked characters, and his gratitude for their friendship so strongly expressed, that it would give infinite pleasure to the reader to peruse the overflowings of such a heart. But as many of those of whom, and to whom these ebullitions of an affectionate heart were poured forth, are still alive, I lament that it is the duty of the Biographer to forego this pleasure himself, and to deprive his readers of it.
A man so much attached as he was to his friends, and so beloved as he was for his virtues and his cheerfulness of disposition, was likely to receive all those attentions that could be grateful to his feelings, or make the close of life most agreeable to him. One of his friends, hearing him repeat edly speak of others of sound principles in Church and State, expressed a desire to look such men in the face; in consequence of which a meeting was appointed, and a club instituted in honour of their revered and much admired friend, denominated Nobody's Club, in conformity to the name which bis humility had induced him to assume when he collected his various pamphlets. This club was not to meet so often as to make the attendance burdensome, nor so seldom as to allow it to become meglected. Accordingly three meetings were to be held every year, during the winter and spring months, viz. the end of November, the beginning of March, and the 29th of May. The first meeting of this club was in the spring of the year 1800, and it was composed, besides the gentlemen above named, of two noble Lords, and persons of the first station for talents and worth in the three learned professions, and others of a literary character, who delighted in the conversation, admired the prin ciples, and honoured the prominent and active virtues of Mr. Stevens's character. In a letter to Bishop Skinner, describing the first meeting of the club, he says: Soro... . .. . . . .. .
,“ We should have been very happy to have had you make one at the meeting at the Crown and An. chor. Our excellent friend, Mr. Bowdler *, was much pleased on the occasion; and I own it appeared a mighty comfortable thing to see so many good fellows got together at one time; all true to the backbone. It was doing Nobody great honour to put him in the chair."
In a letter to another friend he says:-“ You are very right in preparing your good man to stay in town till after the 29th of November; he must assist at Nobody's Club; it is a kind of meeting suited to his taste; where Nobody is, there he likes to be ; and where he is, I like to be. I remember. Sam Johnson's friends, a year or two before his death, instituted a club for his amusement: this is some. • thing of the same nature; and will last about as longt: it may be the only opportunity your husband will have of attending, and he should not miss it.”
The same cause which has prevented me from speaking of Mr. Stevens's affectionate letters re. specting his living friends, obliges me to withhold any commendation of those who composed Nobody's Club: but as two of them departed this life in the time of the venerable head--and as they were men of considerable eminence, it is trusted there can be no impropriety in a work intended to produce, for the example of the living, models of departed worth, to make a more particular men tion of them. The very year in which this club
* See the Postscript.
+ How long Dr. Johnson's club lasted I know not; but Nobody's Club, instituted in 1800, still exists, (July 1825) though its venerable head be no more, under the name of Nobody's Friends: many new and respectable members, both for learning and worth, have been added since his death ; and I see no reason why it may not exist for many years to come.
was instituted proved fatal to one of them, George Downing, Esq. of Lincoln's Inn, Barrister at Law. His death was occasioned by a cold caught as an officer of the Light Horse Volunteers, in being exposed to the rain, during a whole night, on account of some riots in London. Mr. Stevens, in a letter dated the 16th of October, 1800, to Mr. Frere, thus deplores his death : 1.". But, alas ! this talking of Parr reminds me (not reminds me, indeed, for he is continually in my mind) of his pupil, our worthy friend, George Downing, who is be buried this day with military honours. The noble historian, in his character of Lord Falkland, observes, that the loss of that one man alone would make the Rebellion execrable to all posterity :'- so we may say, curse on the riots that were the occasion of poor George's death.!!!. re...
In another letter to Bishop Skinner, of the 9th of December, 1800, he says: .“ As you suspected, we have lost good George Downing. He was much missed at the meeting of some friends to dine with Nobody, at the Crown and Anchor, on the 29th of November. I never knew a man more universally lamented: he was not only a loss to his friends, as the Archbishop (Moore) observed to me, but he was a public loss."
ecrablene man Falkland noble med en ny frieontinuali me
Of such a man, whom I well knew and much deplored, I thought it right to procure a fuller account; and from my excellent friend, the Rev. Dr. Gaskin, who long knew Mr. Downing and his family, and who with the affection of a friend, and the sacred solicitude of a truly Christian pastor, attended his dying bed, I have received the following particulars of this much to be lamented.
man, of whose example the world was deprived when he had only attained thirty-seven years.
Mr. Downing was the son of the Rev. George Downing, one of the Prebendaries of Ely; and the intimacy of this young gentleman with Mr. Stevens arose from a friendship of long standing between the latter gentleman, Mr. Downing's father, Bishop Horne, and Mr. Jones. Young Mr. Downing re. ceived his classical education under the care of the celebrated Dr. Parr, and his eminent proficiency as a scholar, together with his amiable qualities as a pupil, ever were acknowledged by his learned pred ceptor. He was afterwards articled to Mr. Alston, a respectable Attorney at Nayland, in Suffolk: and was there introduced to the more immediate attention and kind offices of the excellent Mr. Jones, (whose life we have lately been so much contemplating) who was at that time Minister of the parish of Nayland, and in the full possession of his intellectual vigour. Mr. Jones was well qualified to ap preciate classical accomplishments, and the qualities of a virtuous, unassuming, and well principled youth; and Mr. Downing ever considered his introduction to Mr. Jones as one of the most important æras of his life. They became attached to each other, and notwithstanding the disparity of years, Mr. Jones was rejoiced to witness such dispositions in the son of his old friend; and Mr. Downing spent all his leisure hours, whilst he remained at Nayland, in the society of Mr. Jones. Under such an instructor and guide, his religious and political principles were matured and firmly established, on a basis which never could be shaken, and his classical and philosophical studies were pursued with satisfaction and advantage.
Having completed the term of his engagement with Mr. Alston, and being eminently qualified for the higher and more important departments of the law, he entered himself as a Student of the