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his own ideas was interrupted by those of other men, which involuntarily intruded upon him.
But while they give credit to his erudition, the public will perhaps be disposed to depreciate his talents; and they will be less inclined to credit the assertion that he was a man of great genius, of an excursive fancy, and of fine taste. Of all this, those only who enjoyed his conversation are competent judges. He seldom spoke upon any subject without reflecting lustre upon it, and putting it in a new and striking point of view. The observation may appear singular, yet the writer cannot help being of opinion that had Mr. Wakefield been less learned his genius would have been more conspicuous. He certainly, in illustrating the work of another, sometimes wasted those talents which might have produced a better. Those industrious students who devote themselves to elucidating ancient authors, purifying the text and rectifying error, are to be classed among the benefactors of literature, but abilities inferior to those of Mr. Wakefield are competent to this undertaking. Lord Bolingbroke has somewhere remarked that Littleton had the genius for a lexicographer; Stephens had talents superior to this servile task.
Of his taste, perhaps, no better specimens need to be produced than his imitations and translations of Horace, Juvenal, &c. In his prose productions there are also some passages illuminated with all the splendour of genius, though it must be confessed that the style of the majority of them is unequal. The most perfect of his works, in this point of view, are, perhaps, "A sermon preached at Richmond on the peace of 1782," which contains some beautiful passages, and his "Evidences of Christianity." Why the majority of his productions are destitute of that polish and excellence, which might be expected from a man of his superior accomplishments, may be accounted for from the nature of the subjects, and from the circumstances under which they were composed. He accounted it the first of duties, the end and object for which he was gifted with talents, to devote those talents to the study and explanation of the Holy Scriptures. The general bent of his studies, and the principal aim of his writings was this. Much of them were therefore employed in verbal criticism, where there is little scope for eloquence, and where the matter calls for more attention than the style. Perhaps too the composing much in a foreign and a dead language is not likely to
produce fluency and elegance in a writer of English; and perhaps his fond attachment to the writers of a preceding century, valuable indeed for their learning and information, but obsolete in their style, was not calculated to improve his taste. But, in truth, the great impediment to his excellence as a writer has been already intimated. The majority of his productions, and those on controversial subjects in particular, were too hastily composed. The first edition of his Memoirs was finished in the incredibly short space of twelve days; and the Letter to the Bishop of Landaff in one evening after tea. This, while it impresses us with astonishment as to the powers of the writer, affords an excuse for his imperfections, and, at the same time, leaves an impression of deep regret, that he who possessed such powers had not united with them a portion of patience; that he who was capable of so much should have left any thing imperfect.
In fine, let us remember that the career of Mr. Wakefield was, by the act of Providence, interrupted before he had arrived at what may be considered as the age of literary maturity. Had it pleased the Great Disposer of all things to have indulged him with a protracted existence, it is not probable that it would have passed without improvement. On.
the contrary, we may presume, that in some work more commensurate to his talents than any in which he had been previously engaged, he would have developed to posterity the riches of a mind highly gifted by nature, and stored with all that was valuable in the learning of Greece and Rome.
Epitaph on a mural Monument in the Church of Richmond, Surry.
In the adjoining Church-Yard, at the east end of the Chancel, lie the remains of
GILBERT WAKEFIELD, B. A.
formerly Fellow of Jesus College, Cambridge;
late Vicar of Kingston and Minister of this Parish:
by high attainments in biblical and classical literature, and the honesty and intrepidity of his endeavours to promote the cause of Truth and Liberty. Sustained by the affection of numerous and estimable friends, as well as by the testimony of Conscience, he endured with fortitude
a State-Prosecution, and two years Imprisonment,
for his "Reply to the Address of the Bishop of Landaff to the People of Great Britain." Returning from the County-Prison of Dorchester, with an unbroken spirit, but impaired strength, and resuming his accustomed exertions, he sunk under a fever, 14 weeks after his enlargement. The expectation of immortality by the Christian Covenant and the remembrance of his conscientious life enabled him to meet death with complacency. His loss, irreparable to his wife and children, was deeply regretted by all his friends and relatives.
Thomas Wakefield, B. A. the Minister of this Parish, erects this Memorial of his Erother's Desert and his own Affection.