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Memoirs of the Rev. Samuel Parr
Ch. II. 1752-1761

Ch. I. 1747-1752
‣ Ch. II. 1752-1761
Ch. III. 1761-1765
Ch. IV. 1765-1766
Ch. V. 1767-1771
Ch. VI. 1771
Ch. VII. 1771-1776
Ch. VIII. 1771-1776
Ch. IX. 1776-1777
Ch. X. 1779-1786
Ch. XI. 1779-1786
Ch. XII. 1779-1786
Ch. XIII. 1780-1782
Ch. XIV. 1786-1789
Ch. XV. 1786-1790
Ch. XVI. 1776-1790
Ch. XVII. 1787
Ch. XVIII. 1789
Ch. XIX. 1790-1792
Ch. XX. 1791-1792
Ch. XXI. 1791-1796
Ch. XXII. 1794-1795
Ch. XXIII. 1794
Ch. XXIV. 1794-1800
Ch. XXV. 1794-1800
Ch. XXVI. 1800-1803
Ch. XXVII. 1801-1803
Ch. XXVIII. 1800-1807
Vol. II Contents
Ch I. 1800-1807
Ch II. 1807-1810
Ch III. 1809
Ch IV. 1809-1812
Ch V. 1810-1813
Ch VI. 1811-1815
Ch VII. 1812-1815
Ch VIII. 1816-1820
Ch IX. 1816-1820
Ch X. 1816-1820
Ch XI. 1816-1820
Ch XII. 1816-1820
Ch XIII. 1816-1820
Ch XIV. 1819
Ch XV. 1820-1821
Ch XVI. 1816-1820
Ch XVII. 1820-1824
Ch XVIII. 1820-1824
Ch XIX. 1820-1824
Ch XX. 1820-1825
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Produced by CATH
A.D. 1752—1761.
Dr. Parr’s admission into Harrow School—Notice of his two preceptors, Dr. Thackeray and Dr. Sumner—His progress in learning—His two rival associates, Sir William Jones and Dr. Bennet—Their voluntary exertions for their own improvement.

Intended by his father for the profession of which he was himself a member, young Parr, at the early age of five years, was sent to the school, which has so long given to his native village its great celebrity. This important institution owes its origin to the liberality of Mr. John Lion, who lived in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, and possessed and cultivated a considerable estate in the neighbourhood. Of such a public benefactor, it was surely to be regretted, that, for the space of more than two hundred years, no sepulchral memorial to record his name, or to commemorate his good deeds, existed. But, at length, this cause of just regret was removed; and in 1805, a mural monument was erected, in the middle aisle of Harrow Church, near the spot where his remains lie interred. The inscription, in Latin, written with all his usual purity and elegance, was furnished by Dr. Parr.1

It was at Easter, 1752, that he, whose name has

1 See App. No. II.

since conferred upon it one of its proudest distinctions, was admitted a free scholar of Harrow School, at that time under the superintendence of
Dr. Thackeray; a man well entitled, by his own merits, to demand a place in the records of honourable fame. But, as the preceptor to whom was committed the first forming of Dr. Parr’s mind, and by whom was laid the foundation of that high reputation which he afterwards attained, the master of Harrow may justly claim some grateful and respectful notice in the pages dedicated to the memory of his eminently distinguished pupil.

The Rev. Thomas Thackeray, D.D. was born at Hamsthwaite, in Yorkshire. He received the first part of his education at Eton; whence he went to Cambridge, and entered of King’s College. At a subsequent period, he offered himself as a candidate for the provostship of that college. But though his claims were powerful, yet ministerial influence interposed between him and the object of his ambition, and prevailed.1 Thus disappointed, he was induced to accept the office of assistant-master of Eton College. In 1746, he was chosen to succeed Dr. Coxe in the headmastership of Harrow School; and held this important post fourteen years. By his learning as a scholar, and by his abilities as a teacher, he raised the reputation of the school, and gradually ac-

1 “He was candidate for the headship of King’s, and would have beat all men but George; and George too, if Sir R. Walpole had not made George’s promotion a point.”—Letter from Dr. E. Pyle to his father, given in RichardsHistory of Lynn.

quired for it a degree of celebrity which it had not before possessed.

With the virtues adorning private life he united that firm attachment to the rights and liberties of his country, which gives value and dignity to public character. As connected with the history of Dr. Parr’s opinions, it must be noticed that his earliest preceptor was an ardent and inflexible Whig; who, rather than deviate from the straight line of political integrity, turned indignantly away from some flattering prospects, which were, more than once, opened before him. As, at that time, his necessities were great; strong, in proportion, must have been the temptation which he thus nobly resisted; for he had a family of fourteen children dependent for support on his personal exertions, aided by the income of one small living in Essex.

Afterwards, better fortune attended him. His learning and his worth, and perhaps also the proof which he had given of political firmness and consistency, drew towards him the favourable notice of the truly excellent Bishop Hoadly; to whom, however, he was personally unknown. But the story cannot be better told than it is in the lively letter of Dr. Pyle before referred to.1 “The Bishop of Winchester,” writes the Doctor to his father, “never saw this man in his life; but had heard so much good of him, that he resolved to serve him if ever he could; yet said nothing to anybody. On Thursday last, he sent for this Dr. Thackeray;

1 See page 13.

and when he came into the room, my lord gave him a parchment, and told him, that he had long heard of his good character, and had long been afraid he should never be able to give him any serviceable proof of his good opinion of him; but that what he had now put into his hands was the archdeaconry of Surry, which he hoped would prove acceptable to him. Dr. Thackeray was so surprised and overcome, that he was very near fainting, as the bishop was giving him institution.”

Such, as a man and a scholar, was the instructor to whom Dr. Parr, almost in his infancy, was committed; and under whose care, for eight years, he continued. Of Dr. Thackeray he was ever accustomed to speak with the greatest reverence and gratitude; and often expressed the deepest sense of obligation for the valuable instructions and the kind treatment, to which he owed, he said, so much of the improvement, and so much of the happiness of his early life. In a work published some years ago, the following mention of his earliest preceptor occurs: “I have reason to love and revere him as a father, as well as a master.”1

One strange peculiarity, indeed, marked his character as a tutor. It was a rule with him never to bestow the least praise, even on the best performances of his pupils; because he conceived that applause tended only to produce indolence and vanity. This unhappy error,2 which excluded

1Remarks on Combe’s Statement,” p. 22.

2 Did Sir William Jones regretfully glance at his first preceptor, when he thus marks, with commendation, the opposite conduct of his second? “Amicâ laudatione, quæ in optimo

from his system one of the most powerful motives to exertion in the young and the generous mind,1 was counterbalanced by many of the best qualities, which can belong to an instructor of youth. He was vigilant, patient, laborious; and though a strict disciplinarian, possessed much kindness of temper, and much suavity of manner. In the summer of 1760, declining health obliged him to resign his office; and in the autumn following he died.2

To him succeeded Dr. Robert Sumner; a man, who was eminently conspicuous for great learning, in happy union with great talents; and who has always been represented as estimable in an uncommon degree for the pleasing attractions, blended with the solid and shining worth of his character. It was his high praise, that he was not only honoured reverently as a tutor, but loved fervently as a friend, by all those whose happy fortune placed them under his charge. By one of that favoured number, Dr. Parr himself, his literary claims are thus slightly touched: “He was a man, whose erudition, taste, and sagacity, have long induced me to rank him among the great ornaments

quoque animo vim habet summam ad majora incenderet.”—Præf. Pers. Asiat. Com.

1 “Mihi ille detur puer, quern laus excitat, quem gloria juvat,” &c. Quint.

2 Dr. Thackeray, like his successor Dr. Sumner, wrote little, as appears from the following paragraph: “My friend, I have had the good fortune to meet with the only writing which Thackeray ever sent to the press; and I am in possession of every syllable that Sumner ever printed.”—Letter from Dr. Parr to Mr. Nichols, Gent. Mag. June, 1825.

of our literature.”1 By another pupil, of still more illustrious name,
Sir W. Jones, his whole character, moral, as well as literary, is beautifully drawn, in the Preface to his “Poesios Asiatic Comm.;” of which the following translation, though feeble and inadequate, may prove acceptable to the English reader.

“If there ever was a man worthy to be honourably remembered, it was he. In him, high powers of mind were united with pure integrity of heart. His dispositions were most excellent, and his manners most amiable. His learning was exact and profound. In the art of communicating and enforcing instruction, he was not surpassed by any master, whom I have ever known. Such were the sweetness and cheerfulness of his temper, that it would be difficult to say, whether he was more the love and the delight of his friends, or of his pupils. He was deeply versed in Grecian and Roman literature; and though, like Socrates, he wrote little himself, yet none ever displayed more acuteness, or more judgment, either in discovering and correcting the faults, or in discerning and applauding the excellencies of other writers.2 If instead of being placed at the head of a school, the course of events, or the favour of fortune, had conducted him to the bar or the senate; few would have ventured to dispute with him the praise of eloquence, even in England—the only country in the world where, at this time, the art is cultivated. For he pos-

1 Letter to Mr. Nichols, Gent. Mag.

2 Munus et officium, nil scribens ipse, docebo. Hor.

sessed all the great qualities of an orator, if not in their full perfection, yet certainly in a very high degree. His voice was powerful and melodious; his style was polished; his wit sportive; his memory wonderfully retentive. His eye, his look, his action, were not those of an ordinary speaker, but those rather of another
Demosthenes. In a word, we may say of him, as Cicero said of Roscius, that whilst he seemed to be the only master fitted for the instruction of youth, he appeared to be at the same time the only orator fitted for discharging the most important offices of the state. For such a one, ought I not, then, to claim a high and distinguished place amongst the great and good of mankind?”

To the charge of these two masters young Parr was happily for himself confided; and under their fostering cares the powers of his mind soon began to open and expand; giving, as they expanded, high promise of future excellence. He was early marked by the whole school as an extraordinary boy; and in the first efforts of his understanding might have been perceived, as in the infant Hercules, all the greatness of that strength to which it afterwards grew. He himself often observed, that his mental faculties were unfolded very prematurely:1 adding, too, that with him prematurity did not, as years advanced, sink into imbecility;

1 He once said to a friend, “When a boy, I used to rise at five o’clock, and go into the garden, with a Greek grammar for my companion; and I made myself master of it in that way.” It is said of him, also, by an old schoolfellow, that he used to write exercises for many of the other boys of the school.

and that early proficiency did not seduce him, either into inglorious satisfaction with past, or careless indifference about future improvement. Through the whole of his course, at Harrow, he acquired for himself honourable distinction amongst his schoolfellows, and passed through the different classes, attended, not with the approbation only, but with the admiration of his tutors. Even
Dr. Thackeray could not help expressing, by his complacent looks, those praises, which an uncompromising adherence to system forbade him to utter with his lips. His pupil, however, encouraged, if not by receiving the applauses of his master, at least by the consciousness of deserving them, pushed on, with ardour and diligence, in his career of classical learning—the great study of the school; and such was the rapidity of his progress, that, in Jan. 1761, “before he had quite completed his fourteenth year, he arrived at the first place of the first form.”1

Yet it must now be distinctly mentioned that, in pursuing the prize of literary honour, he had to contend with some powerful rivals; among whom, besides Mr. Halhed2 and Mr. Lytton,3 were his two

1 His own words. Spital Sermon, p. 125.

2Halhed’s Grammar of the Bengal Language. The gift of the author. Cui pudor, et justitiæ soror, incorrupta fides, nudaque veritas, quando ullum invenient parem? S. P.”—“Cruden’s Concordance. This book I have given to my dear friend Dr. Parr, the 4th day of the week, the 10th day of the month January, 1783. N. B. Halhed.”—Bibl. Parr. p. 38.243.

3Politiani Omnia Opera. This beautiful edition of Politian was given to me by the learned Richard Warburton Lytton. S. P.”—Bibl. Parr. p. 317.

constant and favourite associates, the late learned and excellent
Dr. Wm. Bennet, Bishop of Cloyne, and the celebrated person, just mentioned, Sir William Jones,1 one of the most accomplished scholars, and one of the wisest and best men of his age; of whom Dr. Parr said, applying to him his own words—“It is happy for us all that this man was born!”2 The fond affection, which bound together these three young scholars, and which ripened into sincere and lasting friendship, appears the more remarkable, when it is considered with what eager emulation they contended for the praise of superiority, in every difficult attainment to which their minds were directed. “We lived together, we conversed together,” said Dr. Parr to a friend, “with the most perfect cordiality: there was no jealousy among us—that is a feeling only for little minds.” The classical reader may easily recollect and apply the words of the Roman biographer: “Id, quod erat difficillimum, efficiebatur, ut inter quos tantæ laudis esset æmulatio, nulla intercederet obtrectatio, essetque talium copula.”3

It is to be wished that some one, better informed upon the subject than the present writer, would tell, for the direction and encouragement of young scholars, more than is yet generally known of those extraordinary plans, which were adopted by the noble trio of Harrow School, for their own improvement, in addition to all that was required

1 Dr. Samuel Johnson pronounced him to be “the most accomplished of the sons of men.”

2 Spital Sermon, p. 136.

3 Corn. Nepos in Vitâ Attici.

in the regular and ordinary course of their studies. It is related by
Lord Teignmouth, in his “Life of Sir Wm. Jones,” that they were accustomed to divide the neighbouring fields, so as to bear, to their imaginations, some rude resemblance to the map of Greece; and that each of them assumed, according to his fancy, some ancient name, and appropriated to himself some peculiar district, the honour and the integrity of which he was to maintain against all assailants. Thus, at one time, it was agreed that Jones should be called Euryalus, king of Arcadia; Bennet, Nisus, king of Argos; and Parr, Leander, prince of Abydos and Sestos.1 Under these, and other similar names, they held councils; they wrote memorials; they uttered harangues; they declared war; they negociated peace; whilst some of their schoolfellows consented to be styled barbarians, whose hostile attempts they were to prevent or resist. Puerile as such amusement may seem, it must have contributed much to fix in their memories the great events, and great characters, of ancient times; to fill their minds with just ideas of international law and civil government; and to form them to the habit of properly arranging their thoughts, and expressing them with precision, fluency, and force.

Nor was this all. The three youthful associates studied, together, the art of logic;2 and disputed with each other, on various topics, in the syllogistic form. Ancient history, and heathen mytho-

1 Europ. Mag. Aug. 1809.

2Ars sciendi sive Logica. Dr. Parr and Sir William Jones studied logic from this book.”—Bibl. Parr. p. 424.

logy would, of course, afford them the principal subjects of these disputations. But they often turned to the discussion of other subjects, particularly those of natural history and botany; some knowledge of which they found, no doubt, necessary, or, at least, useful, in reading such productions as “
The Works and Days” of Hesiod, and the “Bucolics,” and “Georgics” of Virgil. They even ventured to soar into the airy regions of metaphysics. Here, abstruse questions, such as easily admit of debate, would soon occur; of which many were suggested to them by Dacier’s translation of Plato’s Dialogues. In this last sublime and difficult science Dr. Parr carried his inquiries, according to his own account, farther than his two associates; whose wonder, he said, was often excited by the manner in which his whole thoughts seemed to be absorbed, and lost in speculations, into which they did not enter. “In truth,” added he, “I was often engaged in diving into the depth, or unravelling the intricacies, of subjects, which they could not, at that time, comprehend.”

As another trial of intellectual strength and skill, the three young scholars challenged each other to produce the most perfect imitation of some popular or favourite author. Dr. Parr has often been heard to speak with rapturous delight of his struggles to surpass his two associates;1 the one, in writing short abrupt sentences in the manner of “Phalaris’ Epistles;” the other, in copying the gaudy and meretricious, though captivating style of “Hervey’s

1 Europ. Mag. 1809.

Meditations.”1 Such was the generous emulation which glowed in the breast of these extraordinary youths; and Dr. Parr might truly say, as he often said, with an animation which spoke the ardour as well as sincerity of his feelings, “that he owed much, indeed, to his good fortune in having had for his earliest companions and rivals two most uncommon boys, as they were afterwards most distinguished men!”

In forming and improving their own style, their choice was happily directed to the purest and best models in the pages of Swift, Addison, Johnson, and other classical writers of England.2 These they read perpetually, and their comparative merits they often discussed in conversation. Each adopted, for the object of his imitation, the author which he most admired; and all strove to transfuse into their own compositions some portion of the excellencies of those, which they had selected for their models. It were easy to surmise which of the three great writers, just mentioned, allured and fixed the choice of Dr. Parr, and fired his ambitious hopes even at this early period. Of his youth-

1Hervey’s Meditations. This book was the delight of Dr. Parr when he was a boy; and, for some time, was the model on which he endeavoured to form a style.”—Bibl. Parr. p. 438. From this book Dr. Parr borrowed much of the sermon, which he was accustomed, for many years, to deliver in Hatton church, on May-day.

2Ossian’s Poems, by Macpherson. I read this book, when a boy, and was enamoured with it. When at college, I again read Ossian with increased delight. I now, though convinced of the imposture, find pleasure in reading Macpherson. S. P.”—Bibl. Parr. p. 525.

ful compositions, one of the first is said to have been a tragedy founded on the story of Ruth; and, indeed, it appears that both himself and
Sir W. Jones were accustomed, sometimes jointly, and sometimes separately, to compose slight tragedies; usually constructed on the basis of some historical narration by which their fancy had been struck, or their feelings interested, in the course of reading or conversation.

The voluntary exercises, with a view to their own improvement, in which the three young scholars employed the hours,1 usually devoted by other boys to their sports, it should be remembered, were superadded to that vigorous application which their classical studies no doubt demanded, when conducted by such masters as Dr. Thackeray and Dr. Sumner. On the resignation of the former, the charge of their education passed into the hands of the latter.2 The fame of the new master as a great scholar and an able teacher, eclipsed even that of his predecessor; and it was a subject of deep regret to Dr. Parr that he was permitted to receive the benefit of his instructions only for the space of eight or ten months; whilst it was the happier fate

1Dodsley’s Preceptor. When I was young, this book entertained and instructed me.”—“Baker’s Medulla Poetarum Romanorum. When I was a schoolboy at Harrow, with Sir W. Jones, this book was a favourite of his, and he occasionally lent it to me. S. P.”—“Nature Displayed, 7 vols. translated from the French of Pluche. The favourite book of Dr. Parr when a boy.”—Bibl. Parrian. p. 148. 475. 517.

2 Europ. Mag. Aug. 1809.

Sir W. Jones and Dr. Bennet to enjoy that high advantage three or four years longer.1

Such are the few, but if he mistake not, interesting particulars, which the present writer has been able to collect of Dr. Parr, during the period of his education at Harrow School. Of youthful age thus beating high with literary ardour—thus pressing forward to literary distinction—who would not venture to predict great future excellence, even with far inferior powers of intellect? This was, indeed, a result as surely to be expected as any natural effect from any natural cause whatever.

1Philosophical Survey of Nature. This book is rather favourable to the doctrine of necessity. In page 70 is the story of the Hanover wild boy. When Dr. Parr was at Harrow this boy lodged in the boarding-house of Mrs. King, where Sir W. Jones and Bp. Bennet also boarded. S. P.”—Bibl. Parr. p. 705.