LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

Memoirs of the Rev. Samuel Parr
Ch. XXIV. 1794-1800

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. 1794—1800.
Death of Mr. John Smitheman—of Mr. Homer—of Bishop Horne—of Dr. Balguy—Case of Mr. Oliver, who was tried and condemned for murder at Stafford—His intended defence—Mr. Oliver visited in prison, and attended to the place of execution by Dr. Parr—Ireland’s literary imposture—Spital Sermon preached by Dr. Parr—Letter to the secretary of the Humane Society.

In the month of March, 1794, an event, distressing to Dr. Parr, happened in his own family, at Hatton. This was the death, after a few days’ illness, of one of his pupils, John, the son of John Smitheman, Esq. of West Coppice, in Shropshire. An interesting account of the piety and the sensibility, which Dr. Parr discovered, on that affecting occasion, was given by the Rev. Mr. Morley, then of Hampton Lucy, in a letter to a friend, from which the following are extracts:—

“Visiting him at Hatton, in obedience to a summons which I received,” says Mr. Morley, “I found him in the greatest distress. Such, indeed, was the bitterness of his grief, that you would have thought a darling child of his own had died. The day was spent most sorrowfully; and the next morning, after a messenger had been sent to convey the melancholy tidings to the unexpecting parents, the doctor went in search of comfort to his friend and neighbour Lord Dormer. Returning home in the evening, and entering the library,
Mrs. Parr, her two daughters, and myself, were sitting, he sat down, without speaking, by the fire, and sobbed like an infant. His attention was, however, soon called to the preparations necessary for the funeral: in the midst of which, the wonted vigour of his mind returned; and he dictated to me one of the most pathetic and impressive funeral orations, that, perhaps, have ever been penned in any language. What follows will never be effaced from my memory. We were smoking our pipes the evening before the interment, when it was told to the doctor that the coffin was about to be screwed down. He sat quietly a few moments, and then hurried me along with him to the chamber, where the deceased lay. There, after taking a last view of the corpse, he ordered the whole house to be assembled; and, falling on his knees, while his grief seemed as if it would, every moment, stop his utterance, he burst forth into an extempore prayer, so piously humble, so fervently devout, so consummately eloquent, that it drew tears from all present.”1

The remains of the deceased were interred within the chancel of Hatton Church, and the last offices of humanity and religion were performed with striking and mournful solemnity. The funeral discourse, dictated by Dr. Parr, was delivered by Mr. Morley; and deep was the impression which it fixed on all who heard it. A mural monument was afterwards placed near the grave of the much-lamented youth, of which the inscription was writ-

1 Public Characters, 1810.

ten by his afflicted tutor; who also honoured his memory by a biographical notice, which appeared in the
Gentleman’s Magazine.1

Some time before this melancholy event, the learned world had to lament the loss of one of its most laborious and useful members, and Dr. Parr of one of his most respected and beloved friends, in the death of the Rev. Henry Homer, his able and diligent coadjutor in the publication of Bellendenus; whom he estimated highly as a scholar, and of whom, as a friend, he declared that, with the exception of Sir William Jones, and two persons not named, “he possessed more of his confidence than any other human being.”2 Mr. Homer was a man of pure integrity of heart, and of undeviating rectitude of conduct; and he has entitled himself to a high place in the records of honourable fame, by his firm and unshaken adherence to the dictates of conscience, in resigning his fellowship, and relinquishing all his prospects of rising in a church, to the religious dogmas of which he entertained serious and insurmountable objections. A very pleasing delineation of his moral and literary character, taken from the scattered notices of him, which occur in “Dr. Parr’s Reply to Combe,” will be found in a future page.

About the same period died at Bath, the amiable and excellent Dr. Horne, Bishop of Norwich, to whose mild virtues and respectable talents Dr. Parr has borne his testimony in the following beautiful passage:

“Of such a prelate as Dr. George Horne, who

1 Gent. Mag. April, 1794. 2 Reply to Combe, p. 79.

would not be eager to record that the life, which had been spent in virtue, was closed in calm and pious resignation? Little as I am disposed to embrace some philosophical opinions which he was known to entertain, or some proofs of scriptural doctrines which he was accustomed to enforce; I cannot forbear to praise Dr. Horne, at that moment, when to flatter him were vain. To me, his character was known only by his writings, and by report. But they who were acquainted with him personally, concur with me in giving him credit, for uniting a playful fancy with a generous heart. He is, indeed, distinguished as an antagonist of the Unitarians, and as an advocate for the Hutchinsonians. But his temper was never contaminated by the virulence of bigotry; and his taste diffused a colouring of elegance over the wild but not unlovely visions of enthusiasm. His peculiarities did not obscure his excellencies. He loved Hebrew; and he understood Greek. He defended
Hutchinson; but, in spirit and in truth, he had learned Christ. His known sincerity gave a wider and a fuller effect to his celebrated piety. Dr. Horne professed only what he believed, and practised all that he taught. Having been really “a saint in crape,” he did not affect the appearance of being “twice a saint in lawn.” May the Church of England ever be adorned by such prelates, such scholars, and such men, as a Watson, a Bagot, and a Horne!”1

Nearly about the same time, that church was deprived of another of its most distinguished mem-

1 Sequel, p. 107.

bers, by the death of
Dr. Thomas Balguy, Archdeacon of Winchester. He was the learned and ingenious son of a learned and ingenious father, the Rev. John Balguy, Prebendary of Sarum; to whom the religious world is indebted for several valuable moral and theological works; and especially for two volumes of Sermons, which rank among the best in the English language. It is remarkable that, while the father belonged to the school of Hoadly, the son was associated with that of Warburton: the first, the most reasonable in its doctrine, and the most liberal in its spirit, of any that was ever formed with in the pale of the English church; the last, disgraced by its paradoxical absurdities, and still more disgraced by its dogmatism and its bigotry. It appears, however, that Dr. Thomas Balguy was, of all its disciples, the least tainted with the vices of a school, to which he was attached more, perhaps, from admiration of its great master, than from approbation of its peculiar tenets, or from participation in its arrogant and intolerant temper. In 1781, the bishopric of Gloucester was offered to his acceptance; but decay of sight, and infirmity of health, obliged him to decline it. His character as a divine, a man of letters, and the friend of Warburton, is thus traced by Dr. Parr:

“No man living is, in my opinion, more able than Dr. Balguy to unfold with precision the character of Bishop Warburton, or to state with impartiality the merits of those controversies in which he was engaged. But bodily infirmities have already deprived the English church of this great
and good man’s protection as a prelate; who would have been vigilant without officiousness, firm without obstinacy, and pious without superstition. The same unhappy and unalterable cause will, I fear, deprive posterity also of that instruction, which, as a biographer of Warburton, he was qualified to convey, by solid learning, by an erect and manly spirit, by habits of the most correct and enlarged thinking, and by a style which is equally pure, elegant, and nervous. The history of those who defended, and of those who opposed Warburton, would, in the hands of so consummate a master, have been a most interesting and instructive work, not unworthy of being called in
Cicero’s language a πεπλογραφία Varronis.1

Early in the year 1797, the attention of Dr. Parr, in consequence of the representations of some common friend, was drawn to the melancholy case of Mr. Oliver, a surgeon of great respectability at Burslem, in Staffordshire; who appears to have been remarkably distinguished by serious religious principle and correct moral conduct, by mild and benevolent dispositions, and pleasing and engaging manners. This unfortunate gentleman had paid his addresses to Miss Wood, the daughter of a considerable potter, in that neighbourhood; and his proposals were favourably received by herself, and were approved, at first, by her father and her friends. Afterwards, however, Mr. Wood thought proper, for reasons which do not appear, to withdraw his consent, and to forbid all further intercourse between the parties. The disappoint-

1 Preface to Tracts of Warburton, &c. p. 183.

ment preyed upon a mind subject, in a high degree, to morbid irritability; and in the anguish of his spirit, Mr. Oliver was urged on to the dreadful resolution of destroying himself. For that purpose, and, as he always affirmed, for that purpose only, he borrowed pistols, east bullets, and proceeded with all the cool deliberation which, in such cases, is not uncommon.

On the morning of the day, which he had fixed for the last of his life, he went to the house of Mr. Wood, with two loaded pistols concealed about his person; and having obtained an interview with that gentleman, in the presence of his clerk, Mr. Bathwell, he inveighed, in strong terms, against the wrong and the cruelty of first encouraging, and then, for no just cause, rejecting his proposals to his daughter. He was heard with indifference, or with contempt; when—continuing his remonstrance with increasing warmth—he vehemently declared that his life was become insupportable; and finally protested that he was determined to die, and to die at that very instant, in that very house. In a moment, eagerly and hurriedly, he drew out one of his pistols; and presented it, with the butt-end, to Mr. Wood, passionately imploring death at his hands. Mr. Wood, perhaps, considering the whole as an attempt to terrify him, pushed away the pistol, with some expressions, either of cutting reproach, or of sneering insult. All this was more than Mr. Oliver, in the high-wrought, half-frensied state of his mind, could bear. He was stung, as he himself said, almost to madness; and, in the moment of extreme irritation, reversed his pistol,
and fired. Mr. Wood fell, mortally wounded. The wretched perpetrator, struck with horror at his own dreadful but unpremeditated deed, instantaneously pulled out his second pistol; and, in the very act of dispatching himself, was seized, disarmed, and overpowered by Mr. Bathwell. Then, exclaiming, “Oh! what have I done!”—“what misery have I brought upon this family and upon myself!”—he sat down in an agony of grief and distraction, passively waiting the arrival of the officers of justice.

He was committed, for trial, to Stafford jail. There, in consequence of his own earnest solicitation, he was visited by Dr. Parr; to whom he disclosed all the circumstances of his case, with an urgent request that the whole might be put into the form of a defence, to be read at his trial. The request, with every assurance of compassionate concern, was granted.

Dr. Parr, on his return to Hatton, summoned to his aid the present writer, as his amanuensis; and for the greater part of two days, and almost the whole of the intervening night, they were occupied in arranging and preparing the proposed defence. He who now records the affecting story, well remembers Dr. Parr’s distressful feelings on the occasion, and his devoted attention to the task, in which he had so benevolently engaged. All the powers of his mind seemed to be stretched in full and vigorous action. In the midst of his labours, as if to excite himself to the greatest exertion, he often exclaimed, “Ah! let us do our best!”—“It is a work of justice, as well as of compassion.”—
“Let us struggle to save, if not the life, at least the character, of an unfortunate, more than a guilty man.” In the course of the second day the defence was completed. The facts of the case were detailed in a clear and striking manner: much strong reasoning, and many forcible observations were introduced; and the whole was skilfully directed to the point of proving a case of that extreme provocation, to which the lenient spirit of the English law extends merciful indulgence, imputing the crime to infirmity rather than malignity; and instead of wilful murder, construing it into the milder offence of manslaughter. The closing appeal to those, on whose verdict the awful sentence of life or death depended, was powerfully pathetic, and reminded the writer of a similar address, composed by
Dr. Johnson, for the unfortunate Dr. Dodd.

The defence, thus anxiously prepared, was, however, not called for. Though a strong case of gross provocation was fairly made out, yet, on careful reconsideration, under legal advice, it was thought, that resting as it did, almost entirely on the statement of the accused, unsupported by other evidence, it would fail of producing the intended effect. It was finally determined, therefore, to change the ground of defence into a plea of insanity; for which, it was believed, that sufficient evidence would be found, in the fact of hereditary mental malady, and in the deranged state of the prisoner’s mind, during his confinement, and some time before it, as attested by the evidence of his servants, several of his friends and neighbours,
and especially by that of two eminent physicians,
Dr. Arnold of Leicester, and Dr. E. Johnstone of Birmingham. The plea, so supported, did not, however, avail. The accused was found guilty, and received sentence of death.1

Dr. Parr arrived at Stafford a day or two before the commencement of the trial; and passed almost all his time in visiting, advising, and consoling the unhappy man; and, when every hope of life was extinguished, he exerted all his remaining efforts in administering to him the supports of friendly sympathy and of religious consolation. He passed with him almost the whole of his last day, and nearly the whole of his last night.

His behaviour, as Dr. Parr often related, was, to an astonishing degree, calm, collected, and even cheerful; except when, indeed, his unfortunate attachment was alluded to, either by himself or others; for then, he was greatly agitated—his countenance was convulsed—and his whole appearance completely maniacal. But at other times, he had generally the look, and even the smile of complacency, and seemed not to feel the least wish for life, nor the least dread of death. He acknowledged the criminality of the act, as the effect of sudden and ungovernable passion; but utterly and steadily repelled the imputation of every thing like preconceived malice, or premeditated design. Having retired for a few hours, long after midnight, Dr. Parr returned once more to his unhappy charge, early on the morning of execu-

1 See the “Trial,” published at Stafford.

tion; assisted him in the last awful preparations; accompanied him to the foot of the scaffold; and there took of him a solemn and affectionate leave. The unhappy man died with perfect composure and submission; and never after was his name mentioned by Dr. Parr, but with deep commiseration for his fate, intermingled with the regret which all must feel for his crime.

The year 1797 was remarkable, in the history of literature, for a most extraordinary imposition upon the curiosity and credulity of the nation; in which Dr. Parr, himself deceived, was made the instrument of deceiving others. This was the daring and infamous attempt of the two Irelands, father and son, to pass upon the world some forged writings of their own, for the genuine manuscripts of the incomparable Shakspeare. Amongst these, was a tragedy, called “Vortigern and Rowena,” which so far imposed upon Mr. Sheridan, then manager of Drury Lane Theatre, that he agreed to purchase it for a very considerable sum. But, on the very first night of representation, it received its sentence of condemnation, and the whole imposture was soon afterwards detected, to the full satisfaction of the public, by Mr. Malone, in an admirable work, full of deep research and of just criticism, entitled, “Enquiry into the authenticity of the pretended Shakspeare Papers,” &c.

Like many persons of unquestionable sagacity and judgment, Dr. Parr was too easily induced to give credence to the solemn affirmation of the two bold literary forgerers; and was even prevailed upon to draw up a full and formal attestation to the
authenticity of their fabricated manuscripts; which he was himself the first to sign. To this instrument a considerable number of respectable names was afterwards affixed; though it is curious to observe that, among these, the name of
Mr. Sheridan is not to be found. He, it seems, had always entertained some secret doubts in his mind; and it was probably under the influence of similar distrust, that the celebrated Porson, being urgently solicited to add his name to those of the attesting believers, steadily refused; wittily observing, that “he had ever felt the strongest repugnance to signing articles of faith.”

Among the forged papers is one, entitled “Shakspeare’s Profession of Faith;” in which some striking and beautiful expressions do certainly occur; though hardly enough to justify the encomium pronounced upon it by the late Dr. Joseph Warton; who, on perusing it, exclaimed, “there are many beauties in the liturgy of our church; but this composition far surpasses them all!” These words Mr. Ireland, it seems, had reported as uttered by Dr. Parr: to which circumstance Dr. Parr alludes in the following note, annexed to his copy of “Ireland’s great and impudent forgery, called ‘Shakspeare’s Miscellaneous Papers,’ &c.”—“I am almost ashamed to insert this worthless and infamously trickish book. Ireland told a lie, when he imputed to me the words which Joseph Warton uttered, the very morning when I called on Ireland, and was inclined to admit the possibility of genuineness in his papers. In my subsequent conversation, I told him my change of opinion.
But I thought it not worth while to dispute in print with a detected imposter. S. P.”

Sustaining a distinguished character as a public man, warm in his attachment, firm in his adherence to the principles of those, who usually stood opposed to the measures of administration, Dr. Parr found himself, as might have been expected, shut out from the great preferments and the high dignities of the church; the honours and emoluments of which have been so notoriously employed as instruments of promoting state purposes, rather than those connected with learning or religion. But that he should never have been called by any of his ecclesiastical superiors to the honourable office of preaching at any of their visitations; or, that he should never have been raised to the rank of a magistrate, to which clergymen of far inferior consideration have so often been elevated: these are instances of studied neglect, which may surely be considered as violating the fair claims of common civilities, or as transgressing the due bounds of political decorum.

Amidst this too general neglect of learning and worth, it is pleasing to mention one public mark of respect which Dr. Parr received from an enlightened and patriotic senator, Harvey Christian Combe, Esq., then Lord Mayor of London; by whom he was nominated to preach the annual charity sermon at Christ Church, commonly called the Spital Sermon. On this occasion a large concourse of people, amongst whom were many distinguished literary characters, assembled. “Before the service began,” says one of his friends, “I went into the vestry,
and found Dr. Parr seated, with pipes and tobacco placed before him on the table. He evidently felt the importance of the occasion; but felt, at the same time, a confidence in his own powers. When he ascended the pulpit, a profound silence prevailed. Unfortunately, from the great extent of the church, his voice was very imperfectly heard, especially towards the close of his sentences. The sermon occupied nearly an hour and a quarter in the delivery;1 and in allusion to its extreme length, it was remarked by a lady, who had been asked her opinion of it, “enough there is, and more than enough”—the first words of its first sentence. This bon mot, when reported to the preacher himself, was received by him with much good-humour.”2

This sermon was afterwards published by request. The subject is benevolence, considered under the amiable form of the private and partial affections, and as it assumes the grander form of universal philanthropy. Being a subject to which

1 “Apropos of the Spital Sermon. It gave birth to a tolerably facetious remark of Harvey Combe, albeit unused to the facetious mood. As they were coming out of church, after the delivery of that long discourse, ‘Well,’ says Parr to Combe, ‘how did you like it?’ always anxious for well-merited praise, from whatever quarter it proceeded. ‘Let me have the suffrage of your strong and honest understanding.’ ‘Why, Doctor,’ returned the alderman, ‘there were four things in your sermon that I did not like to hear.’ ‘State them,’ replied Parr eagerly.’ ‘Why, to speak frankly then,’ said Combe, ‘they were the quarters of the church clock, which struck four times before you had finished it.’ The joke was good-humouredly received.”—New Month. Mag. Nov. 1826.

2 New Month. Mag. Aug. 1826.

public attention was greatly directed at that time, it was not improperly nor unseasonably chosen by the preacher. But it must be acknowledged that, in his manner of conducting the discussion, and even in the spirit in which it is conducted, there is much to be disapproved. It is surely to be lamented that, in the discourse of such a preacher on such a topic, there should be more of the rhetorical declaimer than the sagacious or powerful reasoner, more of the warm and the vehement disputant contending for victory, than of the calm philosopher investigating truth, or the grave divine explaining and enforcing it.1 It is still more to be regretted that this discourse should have been the vehicle of a personal attack upon a celebrated writer,
Mr. Godwin, who was, at that time, an acknowledged friend; and who, in his reply, soon afterwards published, complains, not without reason, that he was unfairly treated, since he was reproved for errors in his work, which he had ingenuously confessed, and was charged with consequences as flowing from his principles, which he utterly denied and disclaimed. But when all these objections are admitted, to their fullest extent, for this discourse the praise may still be claimed of having called forth much energy, much learning, and much eloquence to the arduous task of fixing and

1 “The Education Sermon is I think superior to his famous Spital Sermon: certainly its manner is less controversial, which is some advantage; for where Parr had any doctrine to refute, he was a stanch polemic, full as anxious to get the victory as to discover the truth.”—New Month. Mag. Nov. 1826.

elucidating the nature of general as distinguished from partial benevolence; of investigating and determining how far the one is compatible with the other; and of pointing out, and warning against, the danger of checking the growth of the private affections, on which human happiness chiefly depends, by adopting wild and extravagant theories of universal philanthropy, and of obstructing the active duties of social life, which always lie near home, by indulging the vain conceit of effecting great and important good to the whole collective species. Of this sermon some further notice will be taken hereafter.

Considering the fame of Dr. Parr as a scholar, and his powers as a preacher, it may seem strange that the influence of his name, and the aid of his services should not have been oftener employed in support of those charitable institutions, which have always owed so much to the zeal and the eloquence of the Christian advocate; and which, by their number and their importance, reflect, in so high a degree, honour on this country. It should appear, however, from a letter 1 addressed to Dr. Hawes, who had applied to him, in the name of the Royal Humane Society of London, to preach their annual sermon, that he was not much disposed to listen favourably to such applications. Of this letter the following are extracts:—

“Indeed, Sir, I am not holding the jargon of trite and hollow profession, when I express to you my grateful sense of the honour which the steward

1 Nichols’ Anecdotes.

and members of the Humane Society have conferred upon me, by requesting me to preach before them at the next anniversary. I am sure that an institution, so benevolently designed and so judiciously conducted, deserves the serious attention, and, where circumstances will admit, the active support of every conscientious clergyman.” “But the distance at which I live from London; the inconvenience which I have more than once experienced from leaving my parochial business in the spring; and the necessity which the frequent applications to me for charity sermons has imposed upon me of fixing some limitation to compliance, compels me to state, though with reluctance, that I am unable to perform the office, which, by your letter, I am desired to undertake,” &c. &c.