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MEMOIRS OF THE LIFE
THE REV. GILBERT WAKEFIELD.
Continuation of " Silva Critica"-Dr. Kipling, Dr. MilnerMr. Tyrwhitt's Liberality-" Spirit of Christianity compared," &c.
THE "Memoirs of the Life of Gilbert Wakefield" were carried on by himself to March 1792. At this period there was nothing in his personal history sufficiently remarkable to interest the public.
The small portion of leisure which he allowed himself was chiefly passed amidst his family, by whom he was so deservedly beloved, and whom he was so well fitted to entertain and instruct. The leading objects of his studies were the prosecution of a work which we shall presently mention, and the collection
and arrangement of materials for his editions of various classic authors, some account of which will be given in the progress of this narrative.
Of Mr. Wakefield's publications that which claims our earliest notice is the third part of his "Silva Critica," dedicated, like the first, to the university of Cambridge.
The design of this curious and learned work was explained on its first appearance. Nor is it ill described by a periodical critic, who commends the author for making the books of the New Testament a "stem, around which he entwines many beautiful wreaths of flowers, gathered from the garden of classic learning." Perhaps the person could not easily be
"Memoirs," I. 292.
It has been objected to this work, that some of the criticisms are unimportant, and others ill supported. Of this, no one was more sensible than their author. He attributes the defect, in a great measure, to the early period at which many of them were composed, and the unfavourable circumstance of his residing in a very retired part of the country, almost wholly secluded from the advantages of a good library and the intercourse of literary men. On the other hand, he frankly avows his persuasion, that many of the articles in these volumes, especially those employed in the illustration and explanation of the New Testament, are both new, and capable of enduring the severest test. See Præfat. ad Lucret. I. P. xviii.
d Month. Rev. N. S. v. 571.
named who rejoiced more than Mr. Wakefield in a conviction that Christianity was neither a collection of paradoxes," at which Reason stands aghast, and Faith herself is half confounded," nor "a cunningly devised fable," but an intelligible guide fitted to direct the way-faring man" in the road to happiness. And in the continuation of these memoirs it will be found that as opportunities presented' it was his highest ambition, in imitation of his great Exemplar, "to preach the gospel to the poor, and to bind up the broken-hearted."
Yet the course of a scholar's life naturally led him among persons of cultivated minds, and he could not but observe their too frequent neglect and disregard of Biblical learning. He was therefore desirous of presenting those subjects in such an attractive form as might possibly secure more general attention; for he was accustomed to declare his persuasion that persons of taste and curiosity, especially in early life, would be often encouraged seriously to examine the Jewish and Christian Scriptures if tutors would recommend those writings to their attention, to be studied like
• Bishop Hurd's Sermons, II. 287.
f See, in a subsequent chapter, Mr. Wakefield's intercourse with condemned criminals in Dorchester gaol.
other literary productions, instead of hastily occupying their minds with the opposite systems of opinion, which by different sects they have been supposed to countenance.
Those who were sufficiently intimate with our friend to observe the course of his daily employments, or who have acquainted themselves with his various writings, will easily perceive that in prosecuting his studies, or offering the result of them to the public, he never lost sight of this important object.
His theological productions are graced with many a classic ornament. In his other works, whether political or literary, he seizes every fair occasion, by allusions, or the accommodation of apposite and striking passages, to acknowledge the sacred writers as "the men of his counsel." Such, especially, were his views in the plan and prosecution of the Silva Critica.
A fourth part of this work (with the addition of three Orphic hymns from manuscripts, never before published,) was prepared for the press in 1792, as appears by an Advertisement to the Reader, dated the first of November in that year; yet for several months the publication was delayed by the following unexpected cir
See Mem. I. 341.
A short time only had passed since the author dedicated the third part of the Silva Critica to his Alma Mater, as a grateful acknowledgment of her liberality, in affording him the advantages of the University press. The terms upon which an author is allowed these advantages have been explained by himself. The failure of his application, on the present occasion, he attributed to the unfriendly interference of Dr. Kipling and Dr. Milner. The first of these gentlemen has, for several years, executed the important office of King's Professor of Divinity, one of the numerous preferments of a justly celebrated, and professedly disinterested prelate; "a deputy, who excites in the gown some regret of his illustrious principal and predecessor." * Of Dr. Milner some account has been given in the former volume.'
These two Christian divines had just born a very distinguished part in the prosecution of Mr. Frend, fellow of Jesus College, for publishing a pamphlet intitled "Peace and Union." The proceedings upon that occasion sufficiently shew the illiberality of which these
h Mem. I. 279.
i Silv. Crit, p. 4. Pref.
* Wakefield's intended "Address to the Judges," p. 2).
Mem. I. 136.