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Memoirs of the Rev. Samuel Parr
Ch. XXI. 1791-1796

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
Creative Commons License

Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
Produced by CATH
A.D. 1791—1795.
Publication of “A Sequel to the Printed Paper lately circulated in Warwickshire,” &c.—Extracts from it—Dr. Parr’s account of his own principles and conduct—Mr. Cumberland’s “Retort Courteous to Dr. Parr”—Publication of “A Letter from Irenopolis to the Inhabitants of Eleutheropolis”—Extracts from it—Publication of “Remarks on the Statement of Dr. Combe,” &c.—Dr. Parr’s critical labours as a reviewer—Utility of periodical criticism.

Circumstances, connected with the unhappy times of the Birmingham riots, give occasion to the two next publications of Dr. Parr; of which the first arose out of a dispute with a neighbouring clergyman, the Rev. Charles Curtis, vicar of Solihull, rector of St. Martin’s, Birmingham, and a brother of the well-known Sir William Curtis, alderman of London.

Born of parents, who were dissenters, it might have been expected that, even after entering within the pale of the church, Mr. Curtis would have retained some kindly feeling towards those of the sect, to which his family belonged. But it was proved that the Rector of Birmingham participated largely in the bitter spirit, of which Dr. Priestley and his non-conforming friends were the objects and the victims. Instances are left on record of the ardent and active zeal with which he pressed forward, among the champions of the
church and the king, on that most tremendous occasion.

It is not to be doubted that some portion of the same vengeful feeling was directed towards Dr. Parr, as the commiserating friend of the persecuted, and the firm and determined enemy of persecution. It is certain, at least that some offensive expressions uttered by Mr. Curtis, once in the presence, and once in the absence of Dr. Parr, were followed by two anonymous and abusive letters, which Dr. Parr suspected that Mr. Curtis had written. These suspicions, apparently resting on strong grounds, were met on the part of Mr. Curtis by a positive and solemn denial, at an amicable conference proposed by some common friend. Here the dispute might have been suffered, with consummate propriety, to end. But Mr. Curtis thought not so; and a printed statement of the whole case written and circulated by him, drew after it the publication, of which some account is now to be given. It is entitled, “A Sequel to a printed Paper circulated in Warwickshire by the Rev. Charles Curtis,” &c.

Respecting the principal subject of this publication, it is only necessary to say, that, though a strong case of suspicion was certainly made out against the rector of Birmingham, yet it was soon afterwards satisfactorily proved, that, however supported by appearances, the suspicion was unfounded in reality; and Dr. Parr, when afterwards convinced of his error, was not long in offering honourable reparation. It is this occurrence to which,
with amiable candour, he refers in the following passages:—

“To find by experience that friendships are mortal, is the hard but inevitable lot of fallible and imperfect man. It has, however, always been, and always will be, one of the first wishes of my heart, and one of my first prayers to Heaven, that no enmity of mine may ever be immortal. That my practice is correspondent to my profession, the candid reader will allow, when he is told, that from my unwillingness to perpetuate quarrels beyond the exigences of self-defence, I took occasion, in the summer of 1793, to make proposals for a reconciliation with a gentleman, with whom I have been engaged in an unpleasant and well-known controversy, and the affair was brought to an amicable termination.”1

But gladly turning away from the unhappy occurrences here referred to, and from another—most deeply disgraceful!—on which Dr. Parr animadverts with great severity; the writer hastens to observe, that, intermingled with the subject of private dispute, are many just and striking remarks on the great leading subjects of public discussion, during the earlier periods of the French Revolution; and many, also, it may be added, of which the high interest is, since that time, rather increased than diminished. For surely this is true of all that is here powerfully urged, on the necessity of admitting reforms into our civil and ecclesiastical systems, as the only means of preventing violent and hazard-

1 Reply to Combe, p. 75.

ous changes; and on the wise policy of introducing such improvements, as the views and wants of a more enlightened age demands. Some of Dr. Parr’s observations on these last important subjects, will be submitted to the attention of the reader hereafter. One or two extracts only are here subjoined.

In terms of conscious integrity and dignity, worthy of himself, Dr. Parr thus speaks of his own principles and conduct:—

“In the purity of my conversation—in the regularity of my morals—in the diligent and conscientious discharge of my professional duty—and in a steady attachment to the established religion of my country, I will not .yield the palm of superiority to any clergyman now living, however exalted may be his rank—however distinguished may be his talents—and however applauded may be his orthodoxy. Whether or no the course of my reading, and the habits of my thinking, may not have led me to more correct notions, and to a more ardent love of civil and religious freedom, than some men are supposed to entertain, is a question which I will not discuss to the extent to which I might carry such a discussion, without insincerity and without impropriety. But my principles, I am sure, will never endanger the church—my studies, I hope, are such as do not disgrace it—and my actions, I can say with confidence, have ever tended to preserve it from open, and what I conceive to be unjust attacks.”1

1 Sequel, p. 51.


The moderation of spirit and the cautiousness of temper, which marked his character as a religious and a political reformer, are thus described:—

“There are in this kingdom men of no mean consideration, for ability and rank,—men whom I thoroughly know and sincerely regard, and by whom I am myself neither unknown, nor I would hope, unregarded. These men, I believe, are not accustomed to charge me with an overweening fondness for sects, or any blind confidence in the leaders of sects. They are aware that with great constitutional warmth of temper, I unite those habits of discrimination, which gradually teach men to be impartial in opinion—to be temperate in action—and to accommodate the results of speculation to the real state of man. Sometimes, they may give me the praise of a little sagacity for discerning a greater or a less portion of bigotry in every quarter, where I see excess of zeal upon points of doubtful evidence; and, perhaps, of utility yet more doubtful. But they have much oftener seen me assailed with good-humoured raillery, for some wayward propensities towards the sternness of Toryism, when I resisted the vicious refinements of theory, and condemned all immoderate ardour for sudden and sweeping innovations, of which I can neither perceive the immediate necessity, nor calculate the distant consequences.”1

The “Sequel” called forth, not wholly without some fair pretext, a humorous production from the pen of Mr. Cumberland, entitled “Curtius

1 Sequel, p. 53.

rescued from the Gulf; or the Retort Courteous to the Rev. Dr. Parr, in answer to his learned pamphlet,” &c. By the help of the index to the Delphin and other editions of the Classics, the author contrived to draw together a number of passages, in which the Latin word par occurs: and with these he plays the punster ingeniously enough; pointing his witticisms chiefly against the love of ancient lore, in which he thought “the most learned doctor” had indulged himself satis superque.

For the second title to this little piece of merry wit, something might be urged; but the first is entirely a misnomer; since Curtius was not in the least rescued from the gulf; nor was one word said, tending, in the smallest degree, to relieve him from the imputations which, whether justly or unjustly, had been thrown upon him. It has been said, that the name of Cumberland was ever after a disagreeable sound in the ears of Dr. Parr; an assertion, which appears to the present writer, destitute of all probability. He, who could so little regard, and so easily forget, and so cordially forgive the biting satire of the “Pursuits of Literature,” could never be much annoyed by the harmless raillery of the “Retort Courteous.”

From what he has said of himself in the following passage, who, that intimately knew him, will withhold assent? “By that countless swarm of scribblers, who amuse themselves, and readers equally idle with themselves, by paragraphs upon my opinions in politics, my peculiarities in dress, or my love of ancient literature, I have too much
firmness, and too much understanding, to be offended for one moment. My character, I am told, presents a wide front for attack, to those puny assailants; and, so long as they abstained from the poisoned weapons of malevolence, I often smiled, as no doubt I often shall smile, at the light and feeble shafts of ridicule.”1 If
Cumberland’s shafts were not of the very best temper, nor aimed with the very best skill, they were certainly untouched with the poison of malignity.

A second publication of Dr. Parr’s, which connects itself with the history of the Birmingham riots, entitled “A Letter from Irenopolis to the Inhabitants of Eleutheropolis,” was sent from the press, in consequence of a report that a second commemoration of the rench Revolution was intended at Birmingham. The report proved erroneous; yet who will regret that it had the effect of calling forth, though but into momentary exertion, the powers of so acute and vigorous a mind? The “Letter” is, indeed, most excellent; full of just reasoning, noble sentiment, and fine writing: and one knows not whether to admire most the fair, the candid, the conciliating spirit of the writer, or the beauty, the richness, the energy, and the dignity of the composition. It has been pronounced by many competent judges, the best of Dr. Parr’s publications; and it was begun and finished in the course of a single day.

In the very opening of the Letter, how soothing to the outraged feelings! how respectful to the

1 Sequel, Pref. p. 7.

injured and insulted characters of those whom he addresses, are the following expressions!

“Permit me to address you in a spirit of candour and respect, under the sacred and endearing name of fellow-citizens and fellow-Christians. With intentions not less pure, and probably with researches not less diligent than your own, I cannot profess to think with you upon many speculative subjects, both of politics and religion. But freedom of inquiry is equally open to you and to myself: it is equally laudable in us, when conducted with impartiality and decorum; and it must equally tend to the enlargement of knowledge and the improvement of virtue, while our sincerity does not betray us into precipitation, and while our zeal does not stifle within us the amiable and salutary sentiments of mutual forbearance. The principles, upon which we are agreed, are surely of more exalted rank, and of more extensive importance, than those about which we differ; and while that importance is felt as well as acknowledged, we shall welcome every argument, and resist every invective, from whatever quarter they may proceed.”1

What generous anxiety appears in the following passage, to render the full measure of due praise to those, who had deserved so well from the community—but who had been so dreadfully injured in property—and then, in order to extenuate the wrong, so cruelly defamed in character!

“These plain but interesting considerations,

1 Page 1.

gentlemen, are presented to your view, by a man, who has risked, and would again risk the imputation of singularity, of indecorum, and even of apostasy, by doing to you what is just, and speaking of you what is true. Though he does not profess himself an advocate for many of your tenets, he can with sincerity declare himself not an enemy to your persons. He knows only few among you; but he thinks well of many. He respects you, for temperance and decency in private life; for diligence in your employments, and punctuality to your engagements; for economy without parsimony, and liberality without profusion; for the readiness you show to relieve distress, and to encourage merit with little or no distinction of party; for the knowledge which many of you have acquired, by the dedication of your leisure hours to intellectual improvement, and for the regularity with which most of you are said to attend religious worship. As to the late deplorable events, he believes you have been misrepresented, and he knows you have been wronged.”1

How honourable to the character of the illustrious but ill-requited Priestley, at once “the glory of his country, and its shame,” are the following expressions! and how gratifying must they have been to the feelings of his devoted and admiring congregation!

“The Scriptures, you will consider, still lie open to you. The house in which you did homage to your Creator, will soon be rebuilt. Though you

1 p. 9.

cannot again obtain the honour and the advantage you derived from such an instructor as
Dr. Priestley, your sect is hardly so barren of excellence as not to supply you with a successor, whose talents indeed may be less flattering to your honest pride, but whose labours will not be less meritorious, in discharging the duties of his clerical station, nor less instrumental in making you all wise unto salvation. I should not think well of your sensibility, if you were indifferent to the loss of so excellent a preacher as Dr. Priestley. But I should think very ill of your moderation, if you made that loss a pretext for perpetuating disputes, which, if my arguments or my prayers could prevail, would speedily have an end.”1

Who will dispute the truth of the following representation of himself, and of the great principles which actuated his own mind, and guided his own conduct?

“The writer is a lover of peace; and of liberty, too, he is a most ardent lover, because liberty is the best means by which real peace can be obtained and secured. He therefore looks down with scorn upon every species of bigotry, and from every species of persecution he shrinks with horror. He believes that wheresoever imperious and turbulent teachers have usurped an excessive ascendancy over the minds of an ignorant and headstrong multitude, religion will always be disgraced, morals always vitiated, and society always endangered. But the real honour, the real interests,

1 Page 17, 18.

the real and most important cause of the established church he has ever supported, and will support, as he also ever has contended, and will contend, in favour of a liberal, efficient and progressive toleration.”1

How touching and solemn the pathos in the concluding passages of this admirable letter!

“In regard to yourselves, gentlemen, the writer means to warn, rather than to censure. The effect of that warning he consigns to your own wisdom, and the unsearchable will of that Providence, in submission to which he has ever found the most solid comfort. But in giving you that warning, he has an entire confidence in the purity of his motives. In enforcing it, he boldly appeals to the justness of his argument; and, upon concluding it, he is at this moment conscious of having discharged a most important duty to you and to your neighbours, to the church and to the state, to his country and to his God.”2

Early in 1794, Dr. Parr was engaged in another controversy of a different nature, from that into which he had lately been drawn; more connected, indeed, with his pursuits as a scholar, but not less painful to his feelings as a man.

A variorum edition of Horace had been projected by the late Mr. Homer, in conjunction with Dr. Charles Combe, a physician of some eminence in London, a scholar of considerable attainments, who was particularly distinguished as a learned

1 Page 39. 2 Page 40.

medallist. The plan was to adopt the text of
Gesner; to give the best selection from the different commentators; to add the index of Tretter with some improvements; and to print the various readings of the first editions, and also of seven Mss. in the library of the British Museum. On the proposed plan, and during its progressive execution, the advice and occasionally the aid of Dr. Parr were sought and obtained. But when the work had advanced no further than the middle of the fourth book of Odes, Mr. Homer, who was generally considered as its real and efficient editor, died. After his death, in consequence of some difference of opinion, Dr. Parr withdrew his countenance from Dr. Combe; by whom, however, the work was completed, and finally presented to the public.

The first appearance of this new edition of Horace was accompanied with a prevailing report, that Dr. Parr was one of the editors of a book, in which he assisted only for a certain time, and to a certain extent, and of which, as a whole, he did not approve. In order to check that report, which he thought injurious to his reputation, as a scholar, he sent an advertisement, explaining the real state of the case, to the “British Critic;” and at the same time announced an intention to write a criticism on the work; which was accordingly published in the same Review, and was continued through four successive numbers. His remarks display all his usual acumen, taste, and judgment; and their general effect was, certainly, unfavourable to the credit of the new edition of Horace.


At this criticism the learned editor was vehemently incensed, which was natural; and his anger got the better of his judgment, which was unfortunate. Instead of defending his work, he assailed the critic; and, not content with calling in question the justness of his critical decisions, he shamefully aspersed his moral character.1 Under charges, bearing hard on his veracity, his integrity, and his generosity, especially in his literary and pecuniary transactions with his late friend, Mr. Homer, it could not be expected that Dr. Parr should remain silent. His answer, though somewhat tediously minute, is spirited and powerful; as a composition possessing much merit, and as a vindication of himself, complete and triumphant. It is entitled “Remarks on the Statement of Dr. Charles Combe, by an occasional Writer in the British Critic.”

From this pamphlet large extracts are inserted, in various parts of this work; and one or two are here subjoined, of which the first contains Dr. Parr’s own account of his critical labours in periodical reviews:

“The reader will I trust excuse me, if, for reasons of delicacy, I now take an opportunity to state the whole extent of the share I have ever had in Reviews. To the British Critic, I have sent one article, besides that, which was written for the

1 Even the very title of Dr. Combe’s pamphlet is fierce and astounding:—“A Statement of Facts relative to the behaviour of Dr. Parr to the late Mr. Homer and Dr. Combe, in order to point out the source, falsehood, and malignity of Dr. Parr’s attack, in the British Critic, on the character of Dr. Combe.”

Horace. For the Critical Review, I have furnished a few materials for two articles only.1 For the Monthly, I have assisted in writing two or three; and the number of those which are entirely my own does not exceed six or seven.2 In almost all the critiques, my intention was to commend rather than to blame; and the only one, in which I ever blamed with severity, related to a classical work, the editor of which deserved reproof for the following reasons. He clothed bad criticism in bad Latin. He had not availed himself of that information, which preceding editions would have supplied to any intelligent critic. From the stores of other critics he produced little, and from his own stores less, that was valuable. But he had indulged in rude and petulant objections against Dr. Bentley, and for this chiefly I censured him. Here ends the catalogue of my crimes, hitherto committed in Reviews; and as I have now somewhat more leisure than I formerly enjoyed, it is possible that I may now and then add to their number.”

His opinion on the utility and importance of periodical criticism is thus given:

“Of the share which I have already taken, and

1 One of these is a review of “Fellowes’ Body of Theology,” June, 1808.

2Bishop Bagot’s Charge. From my great regard to Dr. Bagot, I with difficulty got leave from Dr. Griffiths to insert rather a favourable account of this Charge in the Monthly Review. Dr. Griffiths afterwards told me that some of his colleagues were displeased with him for granting me this permission. S. P.”—“Manilii Astronomicon curâ Burtoni. I reviewed this shallow and censorious book. S. P.”—Bibl. Parr. p. 601. 693.

may hereafter take in these periodical publications, I never can be ashamed. I might plead the example of many scholars both at home and abroad, far superior to myself in vigour of intellect and extent of erudition. But I rather wish to insist upon the utility of the works themselves, and upon the opportunity they furnish to men of learning for rendering some occasional service to the general cause of literature. There is no one Review in this country but what is conducted with a considerable degree of ability; and though I decline the task of deciding on their comparative excellence, I have no hesitation in saying that they all of them deserve encouragement from learned men. They much oftener assist, than retard the circulation of books; they much oftener extend, than check the reputation of good books; they rarely prostitute commendation upon such as are notoriously bad. For my part, I am disposed to view with a favourable eye the different opinions and propensities, which may be traced in the minds of the different writers. By such collision of sentiments, truth is brought into fuller view; and the reader finds himself impelled by the very strongest curiosity to examine the reasons, upon which men of talents nearly equal have founded decisions so totally opposite. By posterity, too, Reviews will be considered as useful repositories of the most splendid passages in the most celebrated works. They will show the progress of a country, or an age, in taste and arts, in refinement of manners, and the cultivation of
science. They mark the gradations of language itself, and the progressive or retrograde motions of the public mind, upon the most interesting subjects in ethics, in politics, and religion.”

From the review of the variorum Horace in the British Critic, the following extracts are here given.—The first is a pleasing delineation of the character of Horace as a writer, and of the excellencies and the charms which so powerfully attract and delight every reader.

“The writings of Horace are familiar to us from our earliest boyhood. They carry with them attractions which are felt in every period of life, and almost every rank of society. They charm alike by the harmony of numbers, and the purity of the diction. They exhilarate the gay, and interest the serious, according to the different kinds of subjects upon which the poet is employed. Professing neither the precision of analysis, nor the copiousness of system, they have advantages, which, among the ordinary classes of writers, analysis and system rarely attain. They exhibit human imperfections as they really are, and human excellence as it practically ought to be. They develope every principle of the virtuous in morals, and describe every modification of the decorous in manners. They please without the glare of ornament, and they instruct without the formality of precept. They are the produce of a mind enlightened by study, invigorated by observation; comprehensive, but not visionary; delicate, but not fastidious; too sagacious to be warped by prejudice, and too gene-
rous to be cramped by suspicion: they are distinguished by language adapted to the sentiment, and by effort proportioned to the occasion: they contain elegance without affectation, grandeur without bombast, satire without buffoonery, and philosophy without jargon.”

The value of verbal criticism is thus fairly and forcibly stated.

“The attention of the present age has been very generally directed to experimental philosophy, to historical investigation, and to the discussion of the profoundest subjects in politics, in morals, and metaphysics.
Quod magis ad nos
Pertinet, et nescire malum est, agitamus.
As members of civilised society, and as friends to the whole commonwealth of literature and science, we acknowledge the utility of such researches; we are sensible of the difficulties attending them; and we admire all the judicious and intense exertions of the human understanding, by which those difficulties are gradually surmounted. But, however extensive may be the importance of the studies which are now most prevalent, and however brilliant the success with which they may have been prosecuted, we feel no diminution of our reverence for the labours of those scholars who have employed their abilities in explaining the sense, and in correcting the text of ancient writers. Verbal criticism has been rarely despised sincerely by any man who was capable of cultivating it successfully; and if the comparative dignity of any
kind of learning is to be measured by the talents of those, who are most distinguished for the acquisition of it, philology will hold no inconsiderable rank in the various and splendid classes of human knowledge. By a trite and frivolous sort of pleasantry, verbal critics are often holden up to ridicule, as noisy triflers, as abject drudges, as arbiters of commas, as measurers of syllables, as the very lacqueys and slaves of learning, whose greatest ambition is “to pursue the triumph and partake the gale” which wafts writers of genius into the wishedfor haven of fame. But even in this subordinate capacity, so much derided, so little understood, they frequently have occasion for more extent and variety of information, for more efforts of reflection and research, for more solidity of judgment, more strength of memory, and, we are not ashamed to add, more vigour of imagination, than we see displayed by many sciolists, who, in their own estimation, are original authors. Some of the very satellites of Jupiter are superior in magnitude, and, perhaps, in lustre, to such primary planets as Mars and the Earth.”