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Memoirs of the Rev. Samuel Parr
Ch. III. 1761-1765

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. 1761—1765.
Dr. Parr’s destination for the medical profession—His dislike to it—His reluctant attention to his duties—Progress of his private studies—Accomplishment of his wish to exchange the medical for the clerical profession—His opinion of the former—His father’s proposal of sending him to Cambridge.

In the spring of 1761, Dr. Parr was removed from Harrow School. His father thought it was now time that he should turn his attention from the general pursuits of literature to the studies more immediately connected with the medical profession; for which, from his childhood, he was designed. As he grew up, indeed, he felt and avowed the strongest aversion from it; but that aversion being regarded as little more than youthful folly or caprice, was over-ruled, and his future destination fixed by parental authority.

Returning accordingly to his father’s house, under his direction, at the age of about fourteen, he began, and for the three or four next years, continued to read medical books,1 to prepare medical prescriptions, and to assist in surgical operations. But in none of these employments did he engage

1 “When my father wished me to be educated to the practice of medicine, he judiciously and earnestly recommended to me Huxham’sEssay on Fever,’ and Boerhaave’sAphorisms.’ S. P.”—Bibl. Parr. p. 469.

with a willing mind; and, for the last, from a degree of nervous sensibility, which he could not controul, he felt himself utterly unfit. He once described to the writer of these pages the extreme horror, which shook his whole frame, when requested to give assistance in the amputation of a limb, and the stern look, which his want of firmness drew upon him at the time from his father, followed by the bitterest reproach afterwards. “But nature,” he said, “was too strong for reason or reproof.” “For a physician,” added he, “I might have done well enough, but for a surgeon never.”

One or two amusing anecdotes are related of him at this period of his life. Being called from some more agreeable employment to compound medicines in the surgery, he revengefully pointed out to his father a grammatical error he had committed in a Latin prescription, which drew upon him the animated reproof, “Sam, d— the prescription, make up the medicine.” On another occasion, in obedience to orders received, he prepared a prescription, which his father had entered, after much hesitation, in the day-book, and in which was included a small quantity of laudanum; an article then for the first time cautiously introduced into medical practice. The next day reporting, with some exultation, the good effects of his medicine, his father expressed, though still hesitatingly, an intention of repeating the dose. “You may do that safely, sir,” said the son. “Don’t be rash, boy. Beginners are always too bold. How should you know what is safe?” “Because, sir, when I made up the prescription,” re-
plied the son, “I doubled the dose.” “Doubled the dose! how dared you do that?” angrily said the father. “Because,” coolly rejoined the son, “I saw you hesitate.”

Neither time nor paternal authority could overcome his extreme dislike to the profession in which he was at present engaged. Glad, therefore, to escape at every opportunity from the duties imposed upon him by his father, he returned with ardour to those literary pursuits, in which he most of all delighted, and in which he was most of all qualified to excel. There is a pleasing little story related on the authority of one who was afterwards his pupil,1 which strikingly shows, even at that early age, his inextinguishable thirst for knowledge, and his anxious endeavours to obtain it. Withdrawn from the instruction of Harrow School, all the value of which he well understood, he yet contrived to secure for himself its benefits, in some degree, by the following happy expedient. Being regularly informed every day of the lesson, which the head class was to study, whilst engaged in the business of the surgery, rolling the pill, or pounding the mortar, he laid his book containing that lesson open before him. On that lesson he fixed at every interval his eye, and devoted as much of his attention to it as he could, in the full expectation of afterwards receiving the aid of Dr. Sumner’s comments upon it. For these comments were always, at his urgent request, conveyed to him by one of his friends, Jones, or Bennet, or Lytton, or some

1Maurice’s Memoirs of Himself,” part 2. p. 162.

other boy equally smitten with the love of learning, and touched, like them, with the generous desire of cherishing and promoting it in the minds of others, as well as his own.

Besides the lessons of Harrow School, all the benefits of which he might almost have been said still to receive, though no longer one of its scholars; he found time for pursuing a plan which he had laid down for himself, of reading and studying closely and critically some of the best Greek and Roman authors. He not only renewed but extended his acquaintance with the works, to which he had been introduced at school; and consulted some of the best commentaries, which came within his reach. He now began, indeed, to engage more earnestly in those philological researches, to which he devoted so much of his time and attention in future life. He entered, too, most seriously on metaphysical investigations; and these, ever after, became with him a favourite object of pursuit. Even at this early period, he read and meditated, with some degree of care, the pages of De Crousaz and Locke, of Plato and Aristotle. He wrote much on classical subjects, in the language of the classics; and greatly improved his taste and skill in English composition, by frequent and diligent practice; particularly in writing two series of essays, chiefly on moral subjects. A strange story is told, not very credible, and scarcely intelligible, that all his youthful exercises, as well as those of his two literary associates, Jones and Bennet, were at a subsequent period stolen, and carried off to Holland. Sermons, written by Dr. Parr, it is said,
at the age of fourteen, are still in existence; but whether these are to be found among the stolen property in Holland, or in the hands of some curious collector in England, is not stated.1

In this manner, more devoted to the pursuits of literature than to the business of the surgery, he passed three or four years of his life; reluctantly engaging in the duties of his profession, and perpetually urging his desire to relinquish it. Embarrassed with this opposition to his wishes, his father endeavoured to overcome it, by suggesting new plans and unfolding new prospects, more flattering, as he thought, to the ambitious views of his son’s aspiring mind. At one time, it was proposed that he should remove to London, and place himself under the direction of Mr. Trusdale, an eminent practitioner in the metropolis; thus gaining an introduction to a wider and more important sphere of exertion and improvement. At another time, an offer was made of sending him to one of the Scotch universities, for the prosecution of his medical studies on an extended scale, preparatory to his entering on the higher department of the profession. But earnest entreaties and alluring representations were found to be equally unavailing; and at length his father wisely determined, and he would have acted still more wisely if he had sooner determined, to yield to the strong bent of his son’s inclinations. About the close of the year 1764, Dr. Parr obtained the permission which he had so long and so fervently desired of

1 Annual Obituary for 1826, p. 123.

exchanging the profession of medicine for that of divinity. He had then nearly completed his seventeenth year.1

Though he could not help regretting that so many years had been devoted to pursuits which were now to be finally abandoned; yet he often confessed that to his medical studies he owed obligations, on which he ever afterwards reflected with much satisfaction. For thus he was qualified to give occasionally useful hints of medical advice, which in a retired village pastor is often a qualification of great public benefit. Thus, too, he found a source of increased pleasure and interest in the perusal of medical books, which he was always much in the habit of reading;2 and thus he availed himself, with more ease and advantage, of opportunities, as they occurred, of forming acquaintance and cultivating friendship with medical men—whom, as a body, he held in the highest estimation. “They are a class of men,” says he, writing to his friend, Dr. Percival, “whom, after a long and attentive survey of character, I have found to be the most enlightened professional men in the circle of human arts and sciences.”3 Often, on other occasions, he has added this further to their praise—that they are the most learned and the most moral of all the classes of the community.

With his views now directed towards the sacred

1 Europ. Mag. 1809.

2 Dr. Parr’s library contained a very considerable collection of medical works.

3 See this letter referred to, p. 8.

offices of the church, the advantages of academical education became an object most desirable, and almost indispensable, to
Dr. Parr; whilst, at the same time, the means of providing for its necessary expenses also became a question of serious and anxious consideration to his father, whose circumstances, though probably easy, were far from being affluent. For reasons of economy, too perseveringly urged, it is said, by his stepmother, the condition of his going to the university, at first proposed and insisted on, was that he should enter as a sizar, or servitor; which, perhaps, some readers may require to be told, is a low order of students, who gain their maintenance by waiting upon others. To this degradation the high spirit of the son would not readily submit; and he desired a month for the consideration of the terms, which at the end of that time were rejected.

Afterwards, however, it appears that either parental pride was roused, or parental feelings were touched; and Dr. Parr obtained the desired permission to proceed to Cambridge, unaccompanied by the humiliating conditions. A small sum was advanced, sufficient for all present demands, with the hope that he might procure future supplies by his own exertions, as a scholar, or a private tutor. After much discussion, the choice of a college was decided in favour of Emanuel College, chiefly by the friendly interference and advice of Dr. Sumner; who entertained a high opinion of his former pupil, and who ever felt a deep interest in all that concerned his improvement and his happiness.