« PreviousContinue »
IT has frequently been a subject of complaint, that a
above mentioned, and to enable both Clergy and Laymen
It would indeed be discreditable to an age, in which the
of its Author, comprising a general account of the times in
An Argument or concise Summary of Contents will be
may appear necessary or useful; and at the end of each
THE illustrious prelate with whose works we begin our series, was a younger son of Dr. WILLIAM SHERLOCK, Master of the Temple, and Dean of St. Paul's, a divine who, having passed the greater part of his life in the excitement of polemics, became celebrated in his day for the multiplicity of his controversial writings, but is more advantageously known to posterity by his admirable Treatise on Death. After living to see his son Thomas, who is the subject of this Memoir, rapidly advancing in a course honorable to himself and useful to mankind, he died at Hampstead, June 19, 1707, and was buried in his own cathedral, leaving a very considerable property to his surviving family, which consisted of two sons and as many daughters.
Bishop SHERLOCK was born in London, A. D. 1678. Of his infancy and childhood I find no traces, nor can I discover that he showed any precocity of intellect, though his genius soon distinguished him at Eton, a school well SHERL. b
adapted to excite and bring out those qualities of emulation and ambition which continued always to distinguish him there he laid the foundation of that classical elegance and purity of style, which shine so conspicuously in his writings; there he acquired an early knowlege of character, an anticipated experience of society, which was of great service to him in after life; and there also he formed powerful connexions, which materially contributed to advance him in his profession. Among the friends of his early youth, who became promoters of his future interests, may be reckoned Lord Viscount Townshend, Mr. Pelham, and Sir Robert Walpole; the latter of whom not only entertained, but invariably expressed, the highest opinion of his talent and integrity. Nor was it in the studies of the place only, and at the head of his class, that young Sherlock was seen to advantage: he was equally eminent for his skill in athletic exercises; and never failed to lead his companions in those sports and amusements, over which Hygeia herself may be said to preside, and which, while they strengthen the body, add vigor also to the mental powers. It is always understood that Pope's expression of the plunging prelate,'* in the Dunciad, bears an allusion to those early habits of promptitude and decision, of which he exhibited an example in the exercise of bathing; for when other boys stood hesitating and shivering on the bank of Father Thames,' Sherlock plunged in headlong,
-Foremost to cleave
With pliant arm his glassy wave.
This at least is the interpretation given to it by Warton on the authority of Sir Robert Walpole.
*Book ii. 1. 323.
When he quitted those delightful scenes, so calculated to impress indelibly their images on the youthful mind, he was removed to Cambridge in 1693, and admitted of Catherine Hall, under the tuition of Dr. Leng. What induced his father, who was himself a member of Peter House, to place him at this college, I am unable to determine; but it is a curious circumstance, that the master, and the tutor under whom he was admitted, his great rival and contemporary Hoadley, whom he found there, as well as Sherlock himself, were all promoted to the episcopal bench.*
It redounds much to his credit, that in so small a society, where the incentives to emulation are necessarily curtailed, at a time also when no prizes were instituted, as at present, to call forth the powers and exercise the genius of academic youth, he neglected not the study of those ancient authors, whose very language affords constant exercise to the mind, in struggling with intellectual difficulties, whilst they abound with sentiments and images of the greatest beauty and sublimity. But though that powerful stimulus to exertion which numbers give, was now withdrawn, still even in the circumscribed limits of his present society, Sherlock found one strenuous candidate, who
* Sir W. Dawes, the Master, was made Bishop of Chester, 1707; Archbishop of York, 1714. Dr. Leng, Bishop of Norwich, 1723; Hoadley, Bishop of Bangor, 1715; Hereford, 1721; Salisbury, 1723; Winchester, 1738. Sherlock, Bishop of Bangor, 1727; Salisbury, 1734; London, 1748. The present worthy Master of Catherine Hall, when he showed me the order-book, pointed out to my notice the solitary instance in which Sherlock signed it as Fellow, on occasion of the Audit, Nov. 7. 1798; when the signatures of the three above-mentioned distinguished persons appear with only one other, that of Mr. Thomas Tillson.