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learning, provided they be found, at degree-time, among the SENIOR OPTIMES for Mathematical and Philosophical knowledge. From the first moment that Milner heard of these honours, he secretly set his heart upon obtaining one of them; and, accordingly, read Thucydides and Sophocles, Cicero, and Horace, day and night; but yet did not neglect the Mathematical and Philosophical studies, so as to run any. hazard of not being qualified to be a candidate for a Medal, We have seen that he obtained a much higher degree than was necessary for that purpose *
It might seem invidious to record the names of the unsuccessful candidates on that occasion ; but it can be offensive to none, if the writer contents himself with saying, that the Candidates for the Chancellor's Medals in the year 1766, were uncommonly numerous and able; and that nobody perhaps remembers above half so many in one year. - Very high situations are at this moment held by some of them in the Church and in the Law. Dr. John Law, the present Lord Bishop of Elphin, and Joseph Milner, obtained the two prizes.
Several respectable Members of the University of Cambridge are alive, who well remember the general surprise caused by the success of Milner; and also how his humorous and spirited translations of Terence and Plutarch, shown by the Examiners to their friends, were handed about through the Colleges, and excited general admiration.
Milner's strength and excellence, as a classical * Any Senior Optime is qualified to be a candidate for one of the Chancellor's Medals. Perhaps twelve may be called the average number of Senior Optimes in any one year.
Scholar, consisted in the soundness of his understanding, the extensiveness of his reading, and the retentiveness of his memory, which enabled him to enter into the spirit of an author, and to develop the meaning of the most obscure and difficult expressions. Similar passages and similar constructions perpetually occurred to his mind, and assisted him in untying knots, which were above the art of persons of more confined reading, or of less penetration. In the above contest for the Medals, most of the Candidates had possessed the advantage of being educated at some of the great public schools; and, probably, were much superior to Milner in the knowledge of pronunciation. For besides that the knowledge of the quantity of syllables is usually less attended to in country-schools, the Yorkshire boys are well known to bring along with them a most unpleasant accent.
Joseph Milner would now have gladly remained in the University, and increased his literary reputation by employing his time in reading and meditation, and in composition. But there was no opportunity of electing him Fellow at Catharine Hall, and he was already somewhat in debt. During his first year's residence at Cambridge, the
. dent had lost, by a premature death, his affectionate Schoolmaster; and the management of Milner's slender finances was transferred from the economical hands of Mr. Moore to those of a careless and dissipated person. He was not old enough for Deacon's Orders, and it became absolutely necessary that he should look out for some employment.
He became assistant in a school, and afterward in the care of his Church, to a worthy Clergyman,
the Rev. Mr. Atkinson of Thorp-Arch, near Tad
This country-situation was delightful: the family was extremely orderly and agreeable ; and the master of it well informed and regular. Here he contracted an intimate friendship with his son the Rev. Mr. Myles Atkinson, the present excellent Minister of St. Paul's at Leeds. He always highly valued this connexion; and very often lamented that he could profit so little by it, on account of the distance at which these friends were settled from each other; and the more so, after it had pleased Almighty God to unite the heads and hearts of both so zealously and so perseveringly in the same views of the ministerial functions.
In this new situation Mr. Milner was faithful to his engagements, and exemplary in the discharge of his duties, according to the knowledge which he then had of himself and of the Scriptures.-But, in fact, he always gave this account of himself, “ That he
" was at that time worldly-minded, and greedy of literary fame.”
It is not much known that his poetical talents were very considerable. His schoolmaster, Mr. Moore, discovered them very early; and repeatedly exhorted his pupil to a diligent cultivation of them. Even before he took his degree of B. A. at Cambridge, he had conceived and begun to execute the bold project of an Epic Poem of twelve books, constructed very much on the ideas of Milton. He gave it the name of DAVIDEIS, or Satan's various attempts to defeat the purpose of the Almighty, who had promised that a Saviour of the World should spring from King David. At Thorp-Arch he prosecuted this work with diligence,
during intervals of leisure; and he afterwards finished it at Hull.
This Poem is about the same length as Paradise Lost. It was written in the short space of two years, or a little more. The manuscript of it is in existence, and is a fine monument of the Author's learning, taste, genius, and exuberant imagination. As it was written most rapidly, and has undergone hardly the smallest corrections, it is to be expected that such a hasty production of a youth should be incorrect and indigested. Mr. Milner, very soon after the first copy was finished, put his papers into the hands of that excellent Scholar and learned Critic, Dr. Hurd, the present Bishop of Worcester, who with great kindness and condescension took the trouble to peruse them, and with great integrity returned him his sincere opinion and advice. The writer does not feel himself authorized to take the liberty of communicating to the public the contents of a private letter written on such an occasion ; suffice it to say, that it was highly complimentary to the talents, learning, and principles of the Author; and that the advice on the whole was to defer the publication, partly on account of the times being singularly unfavourable to an Epic Poem, however. constructed; partly to a want of sufficient variety in his plan to engage the attention of the public; and partly that the Author's judgment might be more matured for the correction of it.
The advice was, unquestionably, excellent; and the Author had the wisdom to follow it. The Bishop told him, that whether he ever should publish the Poem or not,“ it was a noble exercise of his talents, and the fruits would remain with him ;" and so they
did, in many respects that might be mentioned. There is in all Mr. Milner's writings a boldness of imagery, and an animated glow of expression, which, doubtless, owe their origin to his having been so much accustomed, when young, to poetical figures of composition.—Mr. Milner laid the Poem aside; -probably with an intention to review, reconsider, and correct it; but Providence had for him other things in store.
He did not remain long with Mr. Atkinson of Thorp-Arch. While yet in Deacon's Orders he happened to observe in the York Courant an Advertisement for a Head-Master of the Grammar-school of Hull. He instantly, with the advice of all his friends, applied for the situation, and obtained it; and very soon after was elected Afternoon Lecturer of the principal church in the same town. His easy success in these applications was owing, partly to the splendor of his character, and partly to the recommendation of powerful friends at Leeds.Under his auspices the School, which had dwindled almost to nothing, through the negligence of the former Master and Assistant, soon acquired a very considerable celebrity, which it retained for many years, and as long as his health permitted him to bestow upon it the requisite attention. With the increase of Scholars the Master's salary received proportional augmentation, and Mr. Milner's income now on the whole amounted to upwards of 200l. per annum. It may
be useful to observe how he acted upon this great change of circumstances.
The father of Mr. Milner was a man of strong understanding, and had felt, in his own case, the