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frequently practised by men of skill and ability, were utterly unknown to him. It was very seldom that he contradicted any one; or if it were necessary at any time to inform any one better, who was in a mistake, it was in so soft and gentle a manner, that it had nothing of the air of dispute or correction, and seemed to have little of opposition in it. I never heard him say any thing that put any one that was present the least out of countenance; nor ever censure, or so much as speak diminishingly, of any one that was absent.
He was a man of no irregular appetites. If he indulged any one too much, it was that of study, which his wife would often complain of (and, I think, not without reason), that a due consideration of his age and health could not make him abate.
Though he was a man of the greatest temperance in himself, and the farthest from ostentation and vanity in his way of living ; yet he was of a liberal mind, and given to hospitality; which considering the smallness of his preferments, and the numerous family of children he had to provide for, might be thought to have out-done those who made more noise and show.
His name, which was in great esteem beyond sea, and that deservedly, drew on him visits from all foreigners of learning, who came to Oxford to see that university. They never failed to be highly satisfied with his great knowledge and civility, which was not always without expense.
Though at the restoration of king Charles, when preferment rained down upon some men's heads, his merits were so overlooked or forgotten, that he was barely restored to what was his before, without receiving any new preferment then, or at any time after; yet I never heard him take any the least notice of it, or make the least complaint in a case that would have grated sorely on some men's patience, and have filled their mouths with murmuring, and their lives with discontent. But he was always unaffectedly cheerful; no marks of any thing that lay heavy at his heart, for his being neglected, ever broke from him. He was so far from having any displeasure lie concealed there, that whenever any expressions of dissatisfaction, for what they thought hard usage, broke from others in his presence, he always diverted the discourse; and if it were any body with whom he thought he might take that liberty, he silenced it with visible marks of dislike.
Though he was not, as I said, a forward, much less an assuming talker; yet he was the farthest in the world from being sullen or morose. He would talk very freely, and very well, of all parts of learning, besides that wherein he was known to excel. But this was not all; he could discourse very well of other things. He was not unacquainted with the world, though he made no show of it.
His backwardness to meddle in other people's matters, or to enter into debates, where names and persons were brought upon the stage, and judgments and censure were hardly avoided; concealed his abilities, in matters of business and conduct, from most people. But yet I can truly say, that I knew not any one in that university, whom I would more willingly consult, in any affair that required consideration, nor whose opinion I thought it better worth hearing than his, if he could be drawn to enter into it, and give his advice.
Though in company he never used himself, nor willingly heard from others, any personal reflections on other men, though set off with a sharpness that usually tickles, and by most men is mistaken for the best, if not the only seasoning of pleasant conversation ; yet he would often bear his part in innocent mirth, and, by some apposite and diverting story, continue and heighten the good-humour.
I shall give you an instance of it in a story of his, which on this occasion comes to my mind ; and I tell it you not as belonging to his life, but that it may give you some part of his character ; which, possibly, the very serious temper of this good man may be apt to make men oversee. The story was this : There was at Corpus-Christi college, when he was a young man there, a proper fellow, with a long grey beard, that was porter of the college. A waggish fellow-commoner of the house would be often handling and stroking this
grey beard, and jestingly told the porter, he would, one of these days, fetch it off. The porter, who took his beard for the great ornament that added grace and authority to his person, could scarce hear the mention, in jest, of his beard being cut off
, with any patience. However he could not escape the mortal agony that such a loss would cause him. The fatal hour came; and see what happened. The young gentleman, as the porter was standing at the college-gate with other
people about him, took hold of his beard with his left hand, and with a pair of scissors, which he had ready in his right, did that execution, that the porter and by-standers heard the cutting of scissors, and saw a handful of grey hairs fall to the ground. The porter, on that sight, in the utmost rage, ran immediately away to the president of the college ; and there, with a loud and lamentable out-cry, desired justice to be done on the gentleman-commoner, for the great indignity and injury he had received from him. The president demanding what harm the other had done, the porter replied, an affront never to be forgiven ; he had cut off his beard. The president, not without laughing, told him that his barber was a bungler, and that therefore he would do him that justice, that he should have nothing for his pains, having done his work so nego ligently; for he had left him, for aught he could see, after all his cutting, the largest and most reverend beard in the town. The porter, scarce able to believe what he said, put up his hand to his chin, on which he found as full a grown beard as ever. Out of countenance for his complaint for want of a beard, he sneaked away, and would not show his face for some time after.
The contrivance of the young gentleman was innocent and ingenious. He had provided a handful of white horse-hair, which he cut, under the covert of the other's beard, and so let it drop; which the testy fel. low, without any farther examination, concluded to be of his own growth; and so, with open mouth, drew on himself every one's laughter; which could not be refused to such sad complaints and so reverend a beard.
Speaking of the expedite way of justice in Turkey, The by
he told this pleasant story; whereof he was an eye. witness at Aleppo. A fellow, who was carrying about bread to sell, at the turn of a street spying the cadee coming towards him, set down his basket of bread, and betook himself to his heels. The cadee coming on, and finding the basket of bread in his way, bid some of his under officers weigh it (for he always goes attended, for present execution of any fault he shall meet with); who finding it as it should be, left it, and went on. The fellow watching, at the corner of the street, what would become of his bread; when he found all was safe, returned to his basket. standers asked him why he ran away, his bread being weight? That was more than I knew, says he; for though it be not mine, but I sell it for another; yet if it had been less than weight, and taken upon me, I should have been drubbed.
Many things of this nature, worth notice, would often drop from him in conversation; which would inform the world of several particularities concerning that country and people, among whom he spent several years. You will pardon me, if on the sudden
bad memory cannot, after such a distance of time, recollect more of them. Neither perhaps had this now occurred, had I not, on an occasion that revived it in my memory some time since by telling it to others, refreshed it in my own thoughts. I know not whether
amongst the his, that are, as you say, put into your hands, any Arabic proverbs, translated by him. He has told me that he had a collection of 3000, as I remember; and that they were for the most part very good. He had, as he intimated, some thoughts of translating them, and adding some notes, where they were necessary to clear any obscurities; but whether he ever did any thing in it before he died, I have not heard. But to return to what I can call to mind, and recover of him.
I do not remember that, in all my conversation with him, I ever saw him once angry, or to be so far provoked as to change colour or countenance, or tone of voice.
papers of Displeasing actions and accidents would sometimes occur ; there is no help for that ; but nothing of that kind moved him, that I saw, to any passionate words; much less to chiding or clamour. His life appeared to me one constant calm.
How great his patience was in his long and dangerous lameness (wherein there were very terrible and painful operations) you have, no doubt, learnt from others. I happened to be absent from Oxford most of that time; but I have heard, and believed it, that it was suitable to the other parts of his life.
To conclude, I can say of him, what few men can say of any friend of theirs, nor I of any other of my acquaintance: that I do not remember I ever saw in him any one action that I did, or could in my own mind blame, or thought amiss in him.
Sir, if I had been put upon this task soon after his death, I might possibly have sent you a paper better furnished than this is, and with particularities fitter for your purpose, to fill up the character of so good and extraordinary a man, and so exemplary a life. The esteem and honour I have still for him would not suffer me to say nothing ; though my decaying bad memory did ill second my desire to obey your commands. Pray accept this, as a mark of my willingness, and believe that I am
Your most humble servant,
A Letter to the Reverend Mr. Richard King.
Oates, 25 Aug. 1703. Yours of the 4th instant I received ; and though I am conscious I do not deserve those advantageous things, which your civility says of me in it; yet give me leave to assure you, that the offers of my service to you, which you are pleased to take notice of, is that