Page images
PDF
EPUB

rounding family, which he had unceasingly manifested while in health, continued, without the smallest change or abatement, to the very last; displaying a mind thoroughly at peace with itself, and able without disturbance or dismay to contemplate the awful prospect of futurity.

After his strength had been quite exhausted by illness, he expired calmly on the 22nd of December 1780, in the seventysecond year of his age.

His remains were deposited in the north aisle of the cathedral church of Salisbury, near those of his ancestors; and I cannot forbear to record tokens of unsolicited respect, honourable to my father's memory, and soothing to the recollection of his family, which were shewn from various quarters upon that melancholy occasion. Six gentlemen, his friends and neighbours, supported the pall. At the western door of the cathedral, the corpse was met by the whole choir, and a funeral anthem was performed while the procession moved towards the grave.

On the ensuing Sunday, the Rev. Mr. Chaffy, who preached at the cathedral, adverted in his sermon to the recent event of my father's death with such apposite and judicious commendation, as at once to mark his own sincere respect for a deceased neighbour, and strongly to excite the sympathy of his audience by the truths delivered concerning him.

A monument was soon after erected to the memory of my father, near the spot where he was interred, on which is the following inscription :

M. S.
Jacobi Harris Sarisburiensis

Viri boni, et docti,
Græcarum Literarum præcipue periti,

Cujus opera accuratissima

De artibus elegantioribus
De Grammatica, de Logica, de Ethice,
Stylo brevi, limato, simplici,
Sui more Aristotelis

Conscripta,
Posteri laudabunt ultimi.
Studiis severioribus addictus,
Communia tamen vitæ officia,

Et omnia Patris, Mariti,
Civis, Senatoris munia,

Et implevit et ornavit.
Obiit xxi. Die Decembris, M.DCC.LXXX.

Anno Ætatis LXXII.

Above this inscription, a female figure of Philosophy is represented, holding over a medallion of my father, a scroll, with the following inscription.

Το φρονειν
Μονον αγαθον
Το δ' αφρονείν

Kakov.

It remains for me to add some further particulars concerning my father, which, I think, are requisite to make his character completely understood.

The distinction by which he was most generally known, while living, and by which he is likely to survive to posterity, is that of a man of learning. His profound knowledge of Greek, which he applied more successfully, perhaps, than any modern writer has done, to the study and explanation of ancient philosophy, arose from an early and intimate acquaintance with the excellent poets and historians in that language. They, and the best writers of the Augustan age, were his constant and neverfailing recreation. By his familiarity with them, he was enabled to enliven and illustrate his deeper and more abstruse speculations, as every page almost of these volumes will abundantly testify. But his attainments were not confined to ancient philosophy and classical learning. He possessed likewise a general knowledge of modern history, with a very distinguishing taste in the fine arts, in one of which, as before observed, he was an eminent proficient. His singular industry empowered him to make these various acquisitions, without neglecting any of the duties which he owed to his family, his friends, or his country. I am in possession of such proofs, besides those already given to the public, of my father's laborious study and reflection, as I apprehend are very rarely to be met with. Not only was he accustomed, through a long series of years, to make copious extracts from the different books which he read, and to write critical remarks and conjectures on many of the passages extracted, but he was also in the habit of regularly committing to writing such reflections as arose out of his study, which evince a mind carefully disciplined, and anxiously bent on the attainment of self-knowledge and self-government. And yet, though habituated to deep thinking and laborious reading, he was generally cheerful, even to playfulness. There was no pedantry in his manners or conversation; nor was he ever seen either to

display his learning with ostentation, or to treat with slight or superciliousness those less informed than himself. He rather sought to make them appear partakers of what he knew, than to mortify them by a parade of his own superiority. Nor had he any of that miserable fastidiousness about him which too often disgraces men of learning, and prevents their being amused or interested, at least their choosing to appear so, by common performances and common events.

It was with him a maxim, that the most difficult and infinitely the preferable sort of criticism, both in literature and in the arts, was that which consists in finding out beauties, rather than defects; and although he certainly wanted not judgment to distinguish and to prefer superior excellence of any kind, he was too reasonable to expect it should very often occur, and too wise to allow himself to be disgusted at common weakness or imperfection. He thought, indeed, that the very attempt to please, however it might fall short of its aim, deserved some return of thanks, some degree of approbation; and that to endeavour at being pleased by such efforts, was due to justice, to good nature, and to good sense.

Far, at the same time, from that presumptuous conceit which is solicitous about mending others, and that moroseness which feeds its own pride by dealing in general censure, he cultivated to the utmost that great moral wisdom by which we are made humane, gentle, and forgiving ; thankful for the blessings of life, acquiescent in the afflictions we endure, and submissive to all the dispensations of Providence. He detested the gloom of superstition, and the persecuting spirit by which it is so often accompanied; but he abhorred still more the baneful and destructive system of modern philosophy; and from his early solicitude to inspire me with a hatred of it, it would almost seem that he foresaw its alarming approach and fatal progress. There is no obligation which I acknowledge with more thankfulness; none that I shall more anxiously endeavour to confer upon my own children, from a thorough conviction of its value and importance.

My father's affection to every part of his family was exemplary and uniform. As a husband, a parent, a master, he was ever kind and indulgent; and it deserves to be mentioned to his honour, that he thought it no interruption of his graver occupations, himself to instruct his daughters, by exercising them daily both in reading and composition, and writing essays for their improvement, during many of their younger years. No man was a better judge of what belonged to female education, and the elegant accomplishments of the sex, or more disposed to set a high value upon them. But he had infinitely more at heart, that his children should be early habituated to the practice of religion and morality, and deeply impressed with their true principles. To promote this desirable end, he was assiduous both by instruction and example; being himself a constant attendant upon public worship, and enforcing that great duty upon every part of his family. The deep sense of moral and religious obligation which was habitual to him, and those benevolent feelings which were so great a happiness to his family and friends, had the same powerful influence over his public as his private life. He had an ardent zeal for the prosperity of his country, whose real interests he well understood; and in his parliamentary conduct he proved himself a warm friend to the genuine principles of religious and civil liberty, as well as a firm supporter of every branch of our admirable constitution.

MALMESBURY.

[blocks in formation]
« PreviousContinue »