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presently be a struggle amongst the sects for dominion and power; and secular enough as dissent already is, it would become greatly more so, if the vast fabric of the Church were demolished. In the ensuing pages, there has been no attempt at exaggeration or high colouring; every thing has been set down calmly, and almost literally ; care, however, being always taken to avoid every tendency to personality. The writer, also, is well satisfied that these brief notices of the experience of one individual contain much that is common to many; others beside himself have undergone precisely the same kind of annoyances,—for much as the dissenters may boast themselves friends of liberty, they exercise a most troublesome dominion over their pastors. Here, then, they may read their own characters, and may learn not to boast themselves too much of their religious superiority, nor to set themselves up as religious dictators to that Establishment, by which they have been hitherto tolerated and rendered respectable in a political view, and not altogether inefficacious in a religious one.—Preface, pp. vi. vii.
The very nature of this work requires us to be liberal in quotations; any observations of our own would be but tame after the bona fide sketches from the life of our author. We shall, therefore, reprint as much as serves our purpose, recommending our readers to complete the picture of dissent by a perusal of the work in full. Thus explicitly does the author commence his undertaking:—" I am not going to make a fiction that shall look like truth; but rather, to exhibit a truth which shall look like fiction." (P. 2.)
I am the youngest of five, and my father, at the time of my birth, and for many years after, was a linen-draper in the Borough of Southwark. He had been brought up a strict dissenter, and was as pleased to trace his descent from the nonconformists of the days of Charles II. as any Welshman can be to trace his pedigree up to Noah s ark. My mother also was a Puritan by descent, and all their friends and acquaintances were more or less of the same class. I was imbued from my earliest childhood with the idea that nothing good could exist out of the pale of dissent. None but the books of our own sect were ever admitted into our house, and as much as possible all care was taken that we should not hold intercourse with the people of the world; for so we designated all who did not belong to our sect. Sometimes, indeed, it was absolutely necessary to meet with individuals belonging to the Established Church, but on such occasions, I observed, that so little conversation passed, that we seemed to be in the company of foreigners, who could not speak our language. As for going into a church, we should as soon have thought of going into a play-house, which building we were taught to regard as the house of the devil;—we did not indeed call the church by the same name, but we regarded it with almost the same abhorrence, and we used to speak of a church parson as of one who had no religion, morals, or even understanding.—Being of a rather ardent temperament, I entered into the spirit of our family religion with no slight degree of zeal, and I regret to say, that the religion of my early youth, which was particularly commended by the pastor of the flock to which my father and mother belonged, consisted for the most part of a very pharisaic contempt for others. I used to make very many severe remarks on the religion of the world in general, and of our own more immediate neighbours in particular. I recollect very distinctly the indignation with which on Sunday I was in the habit of declaiming against the sin of Sabbath-breaking, when I saw persons setting out in gigs or on horseback on country excursions; and if I read in the newspapers any account of persons being drowned in the river on Sunday, I felt rather more delight in this manifestation of a Divine judgment, than rightly became a Christian and a youth. I was invariably attentive to the discourses of our pastor, but I rather think, upon recollection, that I listened to them so closely, prompted more by the vanity of being afterwards able to repeat the heads of the sermons, than by any truly serious feeling, or any desire after religious instruction.—Pp. 2—4.
Our hero goes to school, where he learned to construe Virgil by the help of Duncan, and Horace by the help of Smart; and where he did not learn to write Latin verse, but did something infinitely better, learned to ridicule those who did. With his contempt for classical learning increased his ambition to soar above the counter; and as his father fell off. in business, the only profession open to him was that of preaching. He was, therefore, sent to college, but whether Highbury or not, is not stated.
I think, if I recollect rightly, the standard of admissibility into this college was, that the candidate should be able to read Horace, and that he should have made some progress in Greek grammar. I believe there was no objection to Smart's Horace.—Pp. 10, 11.
I therefore, a few days before the time appointed for my examination, procured an edition of Horace which contained some account of the metres, but I found, to my great dismay, that the treatise on the metres was written in a very difficult sort of Latin, which I could by no means make out, nor could 1 make head or tail of the different systems ot verse which were there set down. I closed the book in despair, and I became more and more convinced that my schoolmaster was decidedly right in determining that metres were of no use.
The day for my examination arrived, and I went with a swelling but trembling heart to my pastor's house to drink tea, with Smart's Horace in one pocket, and a Greek grammar in the other. In my eagerness and haste not to be too late, I was a little before my time, and 1 was shewn into the study, where I found myself with no other company than the books. Curious enough it was, that among the books which were lying on the table, I should find Smart's Horace and Duncan's Virgil. I was delighted to discover this similarity of classical taste between my pastor and myself. The sight of these books was indeed delightful to me—though at the moment I was not aware of the fulness of the relief that they promised me. 1 afterwards discovered, and I record it here lest I should forget the fact, that this reverend gentleman, who was appointed to be my examiner, was as much afraid of me, as I was of him; he was apprehensive that, if he set me to construe an ode of Horace, and I should be unable to construe it, he should be also as unable to set me right, for he, like many others, as I have since ascertained, possessed the reputation of much greater erudition than had really fallen to his lot. When he came into the study, I took a great deal of pains to look as if I had not been looking upon the table, and I think I succeeded. We went into another room to tea, and after tea the important work of examination commenced. 1 trembled a little, but not so much as I should have done, if I had not seen Smart's Horace and Duncan's Virgil on the table in the next room.
I think I can remember the examination almost word for word; therefore, with the reader's leave, I will set it down as it occurred. My pastor was the first to speak, and he began by saying, in a very pleasant and gentle voice,— "So, young gentleman, I find that you are desirous of undertaking the office of
the ministry, and for this purpose you are a candidate for admission into
College. 1 suppose you are aware that the directors of that institution, being sensible of the great importance of a learned ministry, make a point of requiring all young men who seek to be admitted there, to undergo a previous examination as to their classical attainments."
It was well for me that I bad seen Smart's Horace and Duncan's Virgil in the next room, or I should certainly have betrayed symptoms of great agitation. As it was, however, I replied with much self-possession, "I am perfectly aware of it, sir."
In all affairs of this kind, there is nothing like putting a good face on the matter. 1 was, indeed, astonished at my own boldness; but I found that it answered. My examiner, without hesitation, replied smilingly, " In your case, of course, the examination must be a mere matter of form; for considering the high reputation of the school at which you received your education, mid the excellent character which you sustained there, no doubt can exist as to your competency, only I must be able to say that I have had proof of your classical knowledge. Now the directors of this college, in order to fix the standard of proficiency high enough, require that a young man, before he is admitted, lie able to construe Horace."
I was just on the point of taking Smart's Horace out of my pocket, but my pastor, hastily rising up, said, "I will fetch a Horace out ot the next room, and perhaps you will be kind enough to do me the favour to construe a line or two."
He was soon back again, bringing with him, not Smart's Horace, but the Delphin Horace, and presenting it to me open at the first ode of the first book, he said, " Read where you plense."
I accordingly began, and very boldly proceeded with the first ode, construing it with as much accuracy and elegance as 1 could. I had not gone very far, when my examiner graciously and kindly interrupted me, saying, "That will do, sir, perfectly well! admirably well! You not only construe Horace, but you enter into the spirit of your author. I shall have great pleasure in making a favourable report of your scholarship." Then after a moment's silence, and with a little hesitation, the gentleman proceeded, " Pray, sir, at your school did you learn the metres?"
I felt rather uneasy at this question; but having got through the construing
with so much eclat, I was emboldened, and fearlessly replied, "Mr. did
not think metres of much use."
At this reply of mine, I thought at the time, and I have had greater reason to think so since, my examiner felt somewhat relieved, and he replied with great alacrity, " I am quite of his opinion; and I believe that at the college where you are going, the same opinion is entertained. Some pedantic individuals have occasionally endeavoured to introduce into our seminaries of learning an attention to these trifles, but good sound sense has got the better of the pedants. Indeed, sir, what can we know of the Latin quantity? We know not how the Romans pronounced their prose, and we are much less likely to know how they pronounced their poetry." Thereupon the examiner smiled, and I smiled, and the Delphin Horace was laid upon the table, and our conversation dew off to other topics, and I found that I had passed my exami-nation most triumphantly, and that the learned college was anticipating a valuable addition to its literary reputation in my learned person.—Pp. 13—18.
The course of collegiate education is next laid open to us, and we
take the following as an exceeding witty sample of what sort of 9
thing a dissenter's academical course is like.
Extemporaneous prayer used to be considered, and by some persons still is, as the result of a momentary inspiration; but with the generality of those who use it, it is most likely the result of habit, of knack,—even as any other kind of off-hand dexterity in the use of words. If, then, extemporaneous praying, or extemporaneous preaching, be a desirable qualification, and it it be only to be acquired by habit and practice, the habit must be formed at an early period. Early enough is the attempt made in dissenting colleges;—I could, were I so disposed, enumerate many ludicrous anecdotes of ridiculous blunders made by young beginners in the art of extempore prayer; but I shall not enter into particulars, for there may be some persons now living, who may not be pleased to be reminded of the follies of their youth,—I say follies, not sins, for whatever sin there might be in the matter, lay rather at the door of those elderly persons who permitted and prompted young persons thus to commit themselves. In the college now referred to, it was a standing rule, that each student in rotation, after the completion of the first year of his academic course, should conduct the family devotion in the evening. It was not expressly stated that the prayer should be extemporaneous, but it was generally understood so, and I never remember to have witnessed any deviation from that practice. It is indeed true that some tew, not daring to trust themselves to the impulse of the moment, and to the words which might present themselves on the occasion, did previously compose a prayer, which they committed to memory; but I feel very confident, that, had any student read this composed prayer from the paper on which it was written, he would have met with reproof from the theological president. Now when it is considered that students were admissible into this institution at the early age of sixteen, and that individuals of various measures of talent were, of course, all expected to perform the same kind of duty, it may very naturally be supposed, that by some it would be but awkwardly done. I remember even now, with a painful and mortifying distinctness, several scenes in which devotion has been converted into diversion. Frequently would some trembling novice, forgetting what he had learnt by heart, abruptly pause in the midst of his prayer, painfully exerting his recollection to gather up the broken thread; and frequently would some inexperienced youth, trusting to his power of extemporizing, fluently commence with a bold and steady effusion of devotional common-places, and then suddenly would he become confused, forgetting what he had said, and perhaps repeating it; or, becoming more bewildered, would ramble into all manner of incoherences, and talk such nonsense as no waking man would think of under other circumstances. To young men whose risible faculties are not under due subjection, such scenes are highly provocative of laughter; and I well remember the difficulty with which many suppressed the actual explosion of loud laughter, while almost every side was snaking. Surely the acquisition of the knack of extemporaneous prayer must be a matter of immense value, when such means are used to gain it. Much has been said of late concerning the irreverence with which prayers are attended to in the English Universities, but nothing can equal the indecorum of exposing prayer itself to the risk of becoming the means of merriment. Besides, if an extemporaneous devotional fluency be the result of inspiration, what prevents thnt inspiration from being as perfect in the case of youth and inexperience, as it is in more advanced life! But the truth is, that almost all parties know that the matter depends upon intellect and habit.—Pp. 81—34.
In the academic establishment which I have been describing above, the -utmost liberality of political opinion prevailed, and frequently political topics were given to us as the subject of our themes; and I believe it was generally considered a piece of academic etiquette to take the anti-national side of a question. There were several shades and gradations of opinion, from the sober whig down to the conceited and roaring democrat. Paine's Age of Reason was of course not in great esteem among us, but his Rights of Man were highly popular: nor did we much relish the Socininnism of Dr. Priestley, but we admired him us a martyr to the cause of liberty; and though we adopted not the Arianism of Dr. Price, we gloried in his avowal of the right of the people to call kings to account, and to cashier them for misconduct. We regarded America as the ne plut ultra of political perfection,—as the pare land of liberty, civil and religious. We hated the name of William Pitt, and all but worshipped that of Charles James Fox. We could not very well understand Tooke's Diversions of Purley, but we venerated his politics. We had, in our college library, in four volumes, the trial ofThelwall, Hardy, Home Tooke, and others, for high treason; and we regarded Sir Francis Burdett as one of the first of living characters. Indeed, whatever theological or political prejudices I had been imbued with under my paternal roof, these were by no means abated or diminished by the society or pursuits of the college; but though they were not immediately and palpably diminished, yet 1 think that ultimately, by means of
VOL. XVII. NO. IV. E E
the excess to which the opinions were carried, and the bigotry with which they were maintained, the hold which they originally had of my mind was very greatly shaken. This effect did not appear at once, but was developed several years after, much to my annoyance. 1 believe that one of the reasons why we never read Aristophanes was, that he makes democracy look so exquisitely ridiculous. The difficulty of the author could be no objection, for to our classical tutor one author was quite as easy as another, if it had hut a Latin version at the bottom of the page, and we used to be verv proud of reading iEschylus, Thucydides, and Longinus. The fact is, that the eminence of our classical tutor's scholarship was so great, that he could read any Greek author with a Latin version, and none without it.—Pp. 37—39.
I do not indeed wonder, considering all that I have seen and heard of dissenting places of academic instruction, that the dissenters themselves feel an anxiety after admission into the universities; yet I do not see how that will much mend the matter, unless there be also conceded to them an eligibility to all places of honour and profit, which belong to the several colleges, for these prizes stimulate the diligence of the young men. Nor, indeed, do 1 think that those persons who are hearty dissenters, would choose to run the risk of sending their sons to these ecclesiastical establishments. The fact is, that the dissenters in urging forward this question, have no very distinct apprehension of remote consequences, but they have two unpleasant feelings which they wish to get rid of; and one of these feelings is, the consciousness that their own ministers though not absolutely ignorant and uneducated, are yet very superficial in their learning, and very shallow in their general acquirements; and the other feeling is, that they are marked, and so far degraded, by the exclusion from academic honours. Vet, I must say, that if they were admitted to the honours, and excluded from the profits of the universities, they would feel the degradation much more, and would make a much louder cry about the grievance. If I may be permitted to use a somewhat ludicrous comparison, I would say that the dissenters, being barefooted, are crying for shoes, which shoes, when they get them, will pinch their feet, and then they will cry more loudly and more importunately than ever—not to get rid of the shoes, but to have" them cut, stretched, and distorted for their own ease and accommodation, and then the shoes will be spoilt.—Pp. 41—43.
Having passed his collegiate ordeal, our author goes out to preach on trial, as the wont is of nonconformists; and here ambition struggling against intrigues, in which the chief agents are tallow-chandlers and dry-salters, he vainly aspires to the ministry of a chapel with carriages at the door, and is obliged to be content with a mere plebeian tabernacle. The mystery of preaching is handled dexterously, and the following anecdote is introduced to illustrate it.
In my preaching also, I took particular pains to show that I understood Greek and Hebrew, for I seldom preached a sermon in which I did not take especial care to set the translators right; whether my text was from the Old or from the New Testament, I always told ray hearers how the expression ought to have been translated, and what was the peculiar force and meaning of the original Greek or Hebrew. I never went so far as to quote Greek or Hebrew in the pulpit, or even Latin; I should have called that pedantry. Now that I am on this topic, an anecdote occurs to my recollection, which, as it is somewhat amusing and appropriate, I think I may as well relate in tins place. A fellowstudent of mine, who had more ambition after the reputation, than talent or diligence for the acquisition of literature, preaching once at a country chapel or meeting-house, where the audience were for the most part rustics of the simplest class, suddenly became very eloquent, and burst forth in a declamation in praise of the fathers of the church, talking \ery learnedly about St. Augustin,