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LIFE OF THE AUTHOR,
REV, ISAAC MILNER, D.D.
It is a common and a just observation, that the characters of deceased persons are often over-valued and adorned with imaginary excellencies, by their surviving friends. The writer of this short Narrative of Mr. MILNER's Life does not pretend to be free from partiality. On the contrary, he feels and acknowledges its force; but, it is his express intention to guard against its influence and operation as much as possible. His principal object is, to instruct, exhort, and admonish the Living, by calling their attention to the example of the Dead. And if, while he does this, he may be permitted to gratify the affectionate feelings of the inhabitants of a large and populous town where Mr. Milner lived, by recording a few remarkable particulars respecting his life and conduct, he will accomplish his utmost wishes *
The detail of the particulars he has in view will
* A Life of Mr. Milner, composed by his friend Mr. Stillingfleet, was communicated to the Rev. Dr. Isaac Milner, the writer of this Narrative, with full leave to make whatever use he pleased of it. Every thing Mr. Stillingfleet says in this Life is strictly true; but his unbounded affection for Mr. Milner, leads him, sometimes, to express himself in terms, which will be suspected of partiality. The writer's first intention was to have kept the account, which Mr. Stillingfleet was so kind as to transmit to him. perfectly distinct from his own; but finding that this plan would make a good deal of repetition unavoidable, he relinquished it as inconvenient, and has availed himself of the liberty given him, by freely mixing both accounts, just as it happened to suit. He finds it impossible to express the gratitude which he feels towards that truly affectionate and excellent person, VOL. I.
not, it is hoped, fatigue the reader, or disgust him by their insignificance.
JOSEPH MILNER was born in the neighbourhood of Leeds, on the 2d of January 1744, and was a sound and healthy child, during the first two or three years of his life. The measles seem to have affected his constitution permanently. He recovered from that disorder with great difficulty. His life was in a precarious state for the space of eight or ten years; and though the vigour of his natural stamina checked the progress of his complaints, till he was nearly forty or forty-five years old, there is reason to believe that during all that time he was never THOROUGHLY well in the lungs.
His bodily infirmities, and particularly an early disposition to asthma, rendered him utterly incapable of mixing with his school-fellows in their plays and diversions. While they were very properly acquiring strength of constitution, by bodily exercise and feats of activity in the open air,-he was doing the best he could, -amusing himself in the closet with a book, preparing himself for the lessons of his schoolmaster, and exercising his memory in a variety of ways.
The Rev. Mr. Moore, Usher of the Grammar School of Leeds, and afterwards Head-Master of the same, was his classical instructor, from a child, till he went to the University. He was an orthodox divine, and well skilled in the learned languages. Moreover, he excelled in the art of communicating knowledge, and was an admirable discerner of genius and capacity.
The extraordinary talents of Milner could not long escape the observation of a person of this sort; and accordingly he began to pay particular attention to him before he
This attention was increased, and also became mixed with kindness and concern on account of the extreme bad health of the boy, and the narrow circumstances of his parents. The Schoolmaster soon saw there was no prospect of his scholar's acquiring a comfortable maintenance in any way, except by learning; and there is reason to believe, that he formed a very early resolution of doing his utmost to encourage him, and bring him forward, in case the boy should live. He apprized Milner's parents of their son's great abilities, and of the nature of the case in general; but, did not much explain his own intentions or real hopes at that time. He constantly, however, pressed them to persevere in keeping him at school, and never to think of any thing else for him but some literary employment.
JOSEPH MILNER had no great turn for Arithmetic, or for the Mathematics in general. The strength, both of his parts and of his taste, discovered themselves, at a very early period, in the study of Greek and Latin, and in composition both in prose and verse in his own language. His memory was unparalleled.--The writer of this narrative has heard of prodigies in that way, but never saw his equal, among the numerous persons of science and literature with whom he has been acquainted.
His memory retained its strength to the end of his life; for though he himself used to say that it was not so retentive as it had been, nobody else perceived any decay or alteration in that great and useful faculty.--He has often been tried by having a single verse read to him from those parts of the