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second wife, the lady Elizabeth Ashley, who was third daughter of Anthony earl of Shaftesbury, and sister to the celebrated author of the Characteristics, as well as to the Hon. Maurice Ashley Cooper, the elegant translator of Xenophon's Cyropædia. He was born upon the 20th of July, 1709. The early part of his education was received at Salisbury, under the Rev. Mr. Hele, master of the grammar school in the Close, who was long known and respected in the west of England as an instructor of youth.
From Mr. Hele's school, at the age of sixteen, he was removed to Oxford, where he passed the usual number of years as a gentleman-commoner of Wadham college. His father, as soon as he had finished his academical studies, entered him at Lincoln's Inn, not intending him for the bar, but, as was then a common practice, meaning to make the study of the law a part of his education.
When he had attained his twenty-fourth year, his father died. This event, by rendering him independent in fortune, and freeing him from all control, enabled him to exchange the study of the law for other pursuits that accorded better with his inclination.
The strong and decided bent of his mind had always been towards the Greek and Latin classics. These he preferred to every other sort of reading; and to his favourite authors he now applied himself with avidity, retiring from London to the house in which his family had very long resided in the Close of Salisbury, for the sake of enjoying, without interruption, his own mode of living.
His application during fourteen or fifteen years to the best writers of antiquity, continued to be almost unremitting, and his industry was such as is not often exceeded. He rose always very early, frequently at four or five o'clock in the morning, especially during the winter, because he could then most effectually insure a command of time to himself. By these means he was enabled to mix occasionally in the society of Salisbury and its neighbourhood, without too great a sacrifice of his main object, the acquisition of ancient literature.
I have heard my father say, that it was not until many years after his retirement from London that he began to read Aristotle and his commentators, or to inquire, so deeply as he afterwards did, into the Greek philosophy. He had imbibed a prejudice, very common at that time even among scholars, that Aristotle was an obscure and unprofitable author, whose philosophy had been deservedly superseded by that of Mr. Locke; a notion which my father's own writings have since contributed to correct, with no small evidence and authority.
In the midst, however, of his literary labours he was not inattentive to the public good, but acted regularly and assiduously as a magistrate for the county of Wilts; giving, in that capacity, occasional proofs of a manly spirit and firmness, without which the mere formal discharge of magisterial duty is often useless and inefficient.
The first fruit which appeared to the world of so many years spent in the pursuit of knowledge, and in habits of deep speculation, was a volume published in 1744, containing three treatises: the first concerning Art; the second concerning Music, Painting, and Poetry; the third concerning Happiness. These treatises, in addition to their merit as original compositions, are illustrated by a variety of learned notes and observations, elucidating many difficult passages of ancient writers, the study and examination of whom it was my father's earnest wish to promote and to facilitate. Lord Monboddo, speaking of the Dialogue upon Art, praises it, as containing “ the best specimen of the dividing, or diæretic manner, as the ancients called it, that is to be found in any modern book with which he is acquainted.”
In the month of July 1745, my father was married to miss Elizabeth Clarke, daughter and eventually heiress of John Clarke, esq., of Sandford, near Bridgewater, in the county of Somerset. Five children were the issue of this marriage; two of whom died young; myself and two daughters only have survived
father. This change in his state of life by no means withdrew his attention from those studies in which he had been used to take so great delight, and which he had cultivated with such advantage and reputation; for in 1751 he published another work, called “Hermes, or a philosophical inquiry concerning universal grammar.” An eulogium so honourable to this publication has been made on it by the learned Dr. Lowth, late bishop of London, that I cannot deny myself the pleasure of here inserting it, as of indisputable weight and authority. “Those," says the bishop, in the preface to his English Grammar, “who would enter deeply into the subject (of universal grammar), will find it fully and accurately handled, with the greatest acuteness of investigation, perspicuity of explication, and elegance of method, in a treatise entitled Hermes, by James Harris, esq. ; the most beautiful example of analysis that has been exhibited since the days of Aristotle.”
What first led my father to a deep and accurate consideration of the principles of universal grammar, was a book which he held in high estimation, and has frequently quoted in his Hermes, the Minerva of Sanctius. To that writer he confessed himself indebted for abundance of valuable information, of which it appears that he knew well how to profit, and to push his researches on the subject of grammar to a much greater length, by the help of his various and extensive erudition.
From the period of his marriage until the year 1761, my father continued to live entirely at Salisbury, except in the summer, when he sometimes retired to his house at Durnford, near that city. It was there that he found himself most free from the interruption of business and of company, and at leisure to compose the chief part of those works which were the result of his study at other seasons. His time was divided between the care of his family, in which he placed his chief happiness, his literary pursuits, and the society of his friends and neighbours, with whom he kept up a constant and cheerful intercourse. The superior taste and skill which he possessed in music, and his extreme fondness for hearing it, led him to attend to its cultivation in his native place with uncommon pains and success ; insomuch that, under his auspices, not only the annual musical festival in Salisbury flourished beyond most institutions of the kind, but even the ordinary subscription-concerts were carried on by his assistance and direction, with a spirit and effect seldom equalled out of the metropolis. Many of the beautiful selections made from the best Italian and German composers for these festivals and concerts, and adapted by my father, sometimes to words selected from Scripture or from Milton's Paradise Lost, sometimes to compositions of his own, have survived the occasions on which they were first produced, and are still in great estimation. Two volumes of these selections have been lately published by Mr. Corfe, organist of Salisbury cathedral ; the rest remain in manuscript, in possession of my family. His own house, in the mean time, was the frequent scene of social and musical meetings: and I think I do not hazard too much in saying, that he contributed, both by his own conversation and by the company which he often assembled at his house from various parts, to refine and improve the taste and manners of the place in which he resided.
In 1761, by the interest of his near relation and very respectable friend, the late Edward Hooper, esq., of Hurn Court in Hampshire, my father was chosen one of the representatives in parliament for the borough of Christ Church; which seat he retained to the day of his death. The year following, he accepted the office of one of the lords of the admiralty; from thence he was promoted, in 1763, to be a lord of the treasury. He remained in that situation until the ministry with which he was connected went out of office in 1765; and after that time he did not hold any employment until 1774, when he became secretary and comptroller to the queen. This appointment was always valued by him exceedingly: not only by reason of the handsome and flattering manner in which it was conferred upon him by her majesty, but also on account of the frequent occasions it afforded him of experiencing her majesty's gracious kindness and condescension, of which he had a very high sense, and which were continued to him without interruption to the end of his life; for in her service he died.
Although assiduous in the discharge of his parliamentary duty, and occasionally taking a share in debates, my father never contracted any violent spirit of party. He abhorred faction of every kind; nor did he ever relinquish, for public business, those still more interesting pursuits which had been the delight and occupation of his earliest years. If they were somewhat intermitted during the sitting of parliament, he renewed them with increased relish and satisfaction on his return into the country. Those who saw him in London, partaking with cheerfulness and enjoyment of a varied and extensive society, and frequenting dramatic and musical entertainments, while, during his stay in Salisbury, he always exercised a respectable, but well-regulated hospitality, were surprised that he could have found time to compose and publish, in 1775, another learned work. It contains, under the title of Philosophical Arrangements, a part only of a larger work that he had me
ditated, but did not finish, upon the Peripatetic logic. So far as relates to the arrangement of ideas, it is complete; but it has other objects also in view. It combats, with great force and ability, the atheistical doctrines of chance and materialism : doctrines which have been lately revived in France, under the specious garb of modern philosophy, and, issuing from thence, have overspread a great part of Europe ; destroying the happiness of mankind, by subverting, in every part of their progress, the foundations of morality and religion.
The last of my father's literary productions was printed in 1780, by the name of Philological Inquiries, but not published sooner than 1781. It is a more popular work than any
of his former ones; and contains rather a summary of the conclusions to which the philosophy of the ancients had conducted them in their critical inquiries, than a regular and perfect system. The principles on which those conclusions depend are therefore omitted, as being of a more abstruse nature than was agreeable to his design, which was to teach by illustration and example, not by strict demonstration. Indeed, this publication appears to have been meant, not only as a retrospective view of those studies which exercised his mind in the full vigour of his life, but likewise as a monument of his affection towards many of his intimate friends. I cannot therefore but consider it as a pleasing proof of a mind retaining, at an advanced age, a considerable degree of its former energy and activity, together with what is still more rarely to be found, an undiminished portion of its candour and benevolence.
Before this last volume was entirely concluded, my father's health had evidently begun to be very much impaired. He never enjoyed a robust constitution ; but for some time, towards the end of his life, the infirmities under which he laboured had gradually increased. His family at length became apprehensive of a decline, symptoms of which were very apparent, and by none more clearly perceived than by himself. This was evident from a variety of little circumstances, but by no means from any impatience or fretfulness, nor yet from any dejection of spirits, such as are frequently incident to extreme weakness of body, especially when it proves to be the forerunner of approaching dissolution. On the contrary, the same equable and placid temper which had distinguished him throughout his whole life, the same tender and affectionate attention to his sur