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Memoirs of the Rev. Samuel Parr
Ch. V. 1767-1771

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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Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
Produced by CATH
A. D. 1767—1771.
Dr. Parr, head assistant of Harrow School—Some of its distinguished scholars—Mr. Sheridan—Dr. Parr’s official labours—His private studies—His ordination—His appointment to the curacy of Willesden—Death of Dr. Sumner—Dr. Parr’s inscription for his monument—Intended Memoirs of his Life.

Departing with slow and reluctant steps from the hallowed seat of learning and science, in which he had cherished the fond hope of passing many important and happy years of his life, Dr. Parr returned once more to Harrow. But here, too, the scene was mournfully changed! During the short period of his absence, as already noticed, his father had died, leaving him without the means even of a bare subsistence; and, in the house of his stepmother, if he found the shelter, he certainly could not find the pleasures or the comforts, of a home. Bitter were the pangs which, at that time, he felt—as he often said, with a deep sigh at the recollection—both in looking back to the golden prospects which had just closed upon him, at Cambridge, and in looking forward, through the gloom which then hung over his views, to the future.

But, under these circumstances of distress and discouragement, he was soon consoled, in no slight degree, by the testimony to his merits, which he received from one well qualified to estim-
mate them justly; followed by an advantageous offer, which the same person, with friendly urgency, pressed on his acceptance. This was
Dr. Sumner, his former preceptor, who, with every gratifying assurance of sincere and high regard, tendered him the office of head assistant in the school in which he had been educated. Though this office was, in many respects, agreeable to his wishes, and, in all, honourable to his character; yet it was not accepted, without some strong feelings of reluctance, arising principally from the consideration of his own youthful age,—not having yet reached his twentieth year—and the difficulty of maintaining authority over those, as pupils, with many of whom he had formerly associated as schoolfellows. But, in a little time, the repeated solicitations of Dr. Sumner prevailed; and Dr. Parr himself had the satisfaction to find that, in the event, the dreaded difficulty was more easily overcome than he had expected, by the natural firmness of his mind, and still more by the influence which his talents and qualifications soon obtained for him, and which every advancing year confirmed and increased.1

In the month of February, 1767, Dr. Parr entered on his new and laborious office, which he continued to hold during the space of about five years; and whilst, for the able and faithful discharge of his duty, he was highly respected by his superiors; at the same time he greatly endeared himself, by his kind temper and manner, to all his

1 Europ. Mag. Aug. 1809.

pupils. He often related of himself, that though he used more indulgence than those who had preceded him at Harrow, yet he kept better order; “because,” said he, “I treated the boys with the respect due to young gentlemen.” Thus they were taught to respect themselves, and to acquire, in some degree at least, those feelings of self-dignity, which are ever found to be the surest preservative from low and unworthy actions, and the strongest incentive to propriety and rectitude of behaviour.

About this time, there were several scholars of Harrow, who afterwards appeared with honourable distinction in the literary and the political world—among whom may be mentioned the Earl of Hardwicke,1 the Marquis of Abercorn, Earl Spencer, Wm. Lytton, Esq., Nathaniel Halhed, Richard Archdall, and Mr. Sheridan.

Of this last celebrated person, it has been said that the honour was reserved for Dr. Parr of being the first to discover, and to call forth into active exertion, those extraordinary powers which afterwards blazed out, with so much lustre, in some departments of literature, and especially on the great theatre of public affairs. This account, though generally received, is, however, declared by Dr. Parr, in a letter recently published, to be incorrect.2 Speaking of himself and his learned coadjutor, he says, “We both of us discovered

1Athenian Letters, &c. The first edition was lent me by the late Lord Hardwicke. I have a second and a much improved edition given me by the present Lord Hardwicke, who was once my pupil. S. P.”—Bibl. Parr. p. 334.

2 Moore’s Life of Sheridan, vol. i. p. 6, &c.

talents which neither of us could bring into action, while
Sheridan was a school-boy. He gave us few opportunities of praising him, yet he was aware that we thought highly of him; and anxiously wished that more should be done than he was disposed to do.” It evidently appears, however, from Dr. Parr’s own statement, to which the reader is referred, that something considerable was successfully done by the two able teachers, for the improvement of their careless and indolent, but ingenious and interesting pupil.

If, then, according to this amended account, the praise hitherto appropriated to Dr. Parr must be imparted in a degree to Dr. Sumner, yet it does not follow that it must be so in an equal degree. On the contrary, from the details of the statement above referred to, it is clear that the larger portion of that praise is still due to him, to whom the whole has been, perhaps, erroneously assigned; and what his own modesty or generosity refuses to accept, the justice of others may be permitted to claim for him. The facts of the case seem now to be these:—

In the absence of Dr. Sumner, when the charge of the two upper forms devolved upon Dr. Parr, the talents and the deficiencies of young Sheridan were, for the first time, distinctly observed and accurately marked by the assistant; and by him were afterwards fully reported to the principal. In consequence of that report, the eye of Dr. Sumner was directed, with more strict and observant attention, to the pupil, and some new and stronger efforts were exerted for his improvement.
Even the plan itself, adopted for this purpose by Dr. Sumner, was first suggested and was always greatly aided by Dr. Parr; and the effect of it in fixing volatile thought, and in stimulating careless indolence to close application, was by no means small, though still much less than might have been wished or expected. On the whole, therefore, the account which has already gone forth to the public, seems not to be far from the truth; and, in reply to his own statement, it might have been said to the learned assistant of Harrow, “Hujus autem rei tu, es dux, si etiam comes sit.”1

Amidst the daily and almost hourly toils of delivering instructions, not only in the public school but also to some private pupils on whom he attended, it must now be related, that Dr. Parr was still ardent and incessant in his own studies. These, besides occupying the short intervals of leisure occurring in the day, usually commenced with more serious deliberation in the evening, and were frequently continued to a late hour of the night.2 He now extended to a wider range his classical readings, and dived with deeper researches into the treasures of philological lore,3 contained in the writings of commentators and critics, ancient and modern. He perused with continued and increased attention the works of the great metaphysical writers, and entered, for the first

1 Cicero. 2 Europ. Mag. Aug. 1809.

3Marklandi Epistola Critica ad Fr. Hare. This was the first publication of Markland; and one of the first philological works ever read by Dr. Parr.”—Bibl. Parr. p. 311.

time, into the vast field of theology; the whole compass of which he afterwards traversed with the bold step, the searching eye, and the impartial spirit of an honest, an ardent, and a fearless inquirer after truth. It must be owned, however, that the truth which he discovered for himself, he did not always feel the obligation of avowing, for the benefit of others.

In all his religious and philosophical inquiries, and classical and other literary pursuits, Dr. Parr received much important assistance, as well as much animating encouragement from Dr. Sumner; who was accustomed, when the daily business of the school ended, to withdraw with him into some more retired apartment, and to engage with him in free discussion on the various subjects to which his thoughts or his reading had been directed. Thus aided by the knowledge and experience, guided by the taste and the judgment of his learned superior,1 who seems to have been a man of the most enlarged and enlightened views, on all subjects of literature, politics, and religion, Dr. Parr gradually formed those maxims of thinking and acting, which became, in matters both of specula-

1 Of men, who, unfortunately, “have passed away without leaving any trace behind, except in the admiring recollection of their contemporaries,” who would not gladly gather up every little fragment? The following story is told on the authority of Mr. Lytton: “Dr. Sumner was so delighted with Fielding’s Tom Jones, that he used to declare he would, at any time, give ten guineas wholly to forget that fascinating novel, for the pleasure of coming anew to the literary banquet.”—Maurice’s Mem. part 2. p. 149.

tion and practice, the great leading and governing principles of his future life.

It is mentioned in the “Memoirs of his own Life,”1 by Mr. Maurice, the author of “Indian Antiquities,” who was himself a pupil of Dr. Parr, that the democratic spirit prevailed at this period in Harrow School; though, as he carefully adds, “to no culpable extent;” and he traces the cause of it to the admirable lessons so zealously inculcated on the young scholars, in the course of their classical studies. For who could help, as he well remarks, catching something of that love of freedom, and hate of tyranny, which breathes with such high and glowing spirit in all the great orators, poets, and historians of Greece and Rome—when these writings were explained, and those grand swelling sentiments of liberty enforced, by the learning, the argument, and the eloquence of the master of Harrow? To such early and powerful influence, acting on young and ingenuous minds, may undoubtedly be ascribed, in no small degree, that devotedness to freedom, and that attachment to popular rights, which marked so honourably the character of Dr. Parr, and his distinguished friend Sir Wm. Jones, especially in times, unhappily, too remarkable for corrupt subserviency to power, and for the meanest political sycophancy. Even of Dr. Bennet, when advanced to a bishopric, and thus removed from the retirement of a college into the circle of a court, it is only justice to say, that he ever acted with an independence of spirit, wor-

1 Part 1. p. 62.

thy the pupil of
Sumner, and the associate of Parr and of Jones; and that he has entitled himself to a rank, not only amongst the most learned, but also amongst the most enlightened and liberal prelates, who have, in any age, possessed and adorned the episcopal dignity.

But, whilst occupied in the various labours of public and private tuition, and in the prosecution of his own important studies, Dr. Parr did not lose sight of the sacred profession, on which his early choice had been fixed, and to which his more matured wishes had been constantly directed. Having for some time entertained serious thoughts of entering into holy orders, at Christmas, 1769, he applied for ordination, and received it from the hands of Dr. Terry, Bishop of London. He immediately commenced his ministerial services at Willesden and Kingsbury, two neighbouring parishes in Middlesex, to the curacy of which he had been appointed by the incumbent, the Rev. Moses Wight. But the inconvenient distance of these places, five or six miles from Harrow, obliged him to relinquish the engagement, so early as the Easter of 1770.1

In the autumn of 1771 an event took place which was most truly mournful to Dr. Parr, and which was followed in its consequences by a great and painful change in his present situation and his future prospects. This was the death of “his beloved friend, instructor, and guide”—for so he reverently and affectionately speaks of Dr. Sumner

1 Europ. Mag. Aug. 1809.

—a name consecrated to honourable and lasting remembrance, not, indeed, by the learned works which he produced, for he wrote little,1 but by the eminence of his virtues and attainments, and by the ability, the fidelity, and the success with which he discharged his various duties, as head of an important public seminary.2

The character of Dr. Sumner, finely drawn and beautifully coloured by Sir William Jones, has been already noticed;3 and the fervent, almost enthusiastic praise of one, so accomplished as a scholar, and so excellent as a man, is no slight encomium. Another tribute to his memory, equally estimable for the weight of its authority, was offered with equal warmth of veneration and gratitude by Dr. Parr himself, in the monumental inscription placed over the spot, near which his remains lie interred, in Harrow Church. It is written in Latin, with all the force and the elegance which that language so well admits, and

1 He published only one sermon, a Concio ad Clerum; “which, in point of Latinity, equals,” says Dr. Parr, “any of the compositions from the pen of any one of our countrymen in the last century.”—Gent. Mag. May, 1825.

2Dr. Sumner deservedly possessed the confidence of his scholars, and the respect of his literary companions. He had elegant manners, various erudition, and most exquisite taste. He was the instructor of my boyhood, and the guide of my youth; and during the thirty-eight years that have elapsed since his death, I have often thought of him, and often spoken of him, as ‘animam qualem neque candidiorem terra tulit, neque cui me esset devinctior alter.’ Samuel Parr, Hatton, Oct. 21, 1810.”—Bibl. Parr. p. 175.

3 See page 17.

which the writer so well knew how to employ.—It commemorates the rich endowments of Dr. Sumner’s mind, and the assiduity and success with which they were cultivated—the vast and various learning which he acquired—the extraordinary powers of eloquence which he possessed—the sportive wit which he had ever at command; in which, if there was any poignancy, it was softened and blended with Attic delicacy:—and all these it celebrates, as accompanied with the higher qualities of a heart, in all its inmost recesses pure and sincere—of manners, at once amiable and dignified—and of morals, studiously formed and invariably governed by the strictest rules of virtuous conduct.1

Such was Dr. Sumner. These are not the exaggerated praises of the tomb; but, according to the report of all who knew him, the fair and faithful representation of his life and character.—He died of an apoplectic seizure, at the age of forty-one, Sept. 22, 1771; and his sudden and premature death struck with grief and consternation not only the school over which he so honourably presided, and the wide circle of his acquaintances and friends, throughout which he was the object equally of respect and love, but also the whole literary world, which he adorned by his genius and his erudition; and which there was hope, had his life been lengthened, he would have instructed and delighted by some literary production worthy of himself.

Of such a man, it is surely to be lamented that

1 App. No. II.

no biographical record exists. A memoir of him, indeed, was meditated, and in part executed, by
Dr. Parr, about the year 1815. It is left, however, in a state too imperfect to admit of its being given to the public. At least such is the report; but that the work had reached a state of great forwardness appears by the following extracts from a letter addressed by himself to his friend, the late John Nichols, Esq.2

“I have not lost sight of the Memoirs of Sumner.”—“My friend, I am far more anxious than you can be to get this business off my spirits; and the more so, as my intentions are known at Eton, Harrow, and Winchester, and much curiosity is excited.”—“Oh! that I could finish this work about Sumner! Books, letters, thoughts and materials are all ready; but where is to be found the scribe?”—“Between two and three hundred folio pages are now lying in my library; and must continue to lie there, till I can get a diligent and faithful scribe. The floor of my upper library is covered with books, to which I must have recourse; and I am sure that with the materials I have collected, and with my habits of rapid composition, I could in seven or eight days complete my Memoirs of Robert Sumner. I should suppose that seventy or eighty additional pages would be sufficient.”1

1 Gent. Mag. June, 1827.

2 This account of the state of the work is confirmed by another letter, published in the same number of the Gent. Mag. from E. H. Barker, Esq. of Thetford, who was employed as the amanuensis.