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These gentlemen are very curious about the Natural History of Plants and Animals, even of the lowest kind; but the Natural History of their own species has no charms at all for them : and yet I maintain that, without knowing the Natural History of Man,—that is, what sort of animal he is in his natural state,—it is impossible to have any true knowledge of the Philosophy of Man, which, like every other philosophy, ought to be deduced from facts. I will venture to affirm, that, by your visit to Peter, you have enlarged your ideas of our species, and acquired a truer knowledge of it than is to be acquired from all the modern books put together, that have been written upon the subject. The people that have not those enlarged views of the species, and cannot conceive the progress of man from a mere animal to an intellectual creature, will not believe but that Peter is an idiot. But this opinion, I think, one half of the facts you have related, are suffi. cient to confute. And if a man has studied so much of the nature of language as to know that articulation is the most difficult art among men, he will not be surprised that a savage who never practised articulation till he was fifteen years of age, should have learned so little of it as Peter has done; though, from what you told me, his vocabulary is much larger than I thought it had been.
. The next thing to be inquired concerning him, and what is of still greater importance, is, to know the state he was in when he was caught; for this we have nothing, at present, but the information of newspapers, which I have collected, and which all agree in this—that, in the year 1725, he was caught in a wood in Hanover, called Homelin, going on all four, and feeding on whatever he could get in the woods; and particularly they mention the leaves and bark of trees ; and what you have heard concerning his way of subsisting in his travels, when he ran away, so far confirms this account of his diet in the woods. Sir Joseph Banks, at my desire, has applied to a Hanoverian baron, whom he names, to collect all the accounts that can be got of him in that country. His going upon all four, any more than his feeding upon wild fruits, needs no confirmation with me; as I hold it is impossible he could have walked otherwise, if he was exposed before he had learned to walk erect; and, accordingly, all the solitary savages that have been found in different parts of Europe, in the several centuries before this, of whom I have given an account in the first volume of the Origin of Language,' were all quadrupeds. But this, as well as a man subsisting upon vegetables not prepared by fire, must appear incredible to those whose notions of the human species are so confined, as to believe that man was always in the state we now see him in, at present, in Europe. I am sorry you can hear no more of the gentleman from Africa, who knew something of the orangoutang. He resembles very much what Peter was; only he is in a stage of human nature a little further advanced,- for he walks upright, uses a stick for a weapon, builds huts, and lives in some kind of society; and, being born of parents that have been wild since the beginning of the world, he is very much stronger and bigger than Peter ever was, who certainly is come of parents such as we are,—but being exposed very early, and leading a savage life till he was fifteen, I do not wonder at what you tell me of his being so much stronger and nimbler than the men of this country.'--pp. 73–76.
In the summer of 1782, Mr. Burgess was appointed tutor of Corpus, and held the office till 1791. In 1784, he was ordained both to deacon's and to priest's orders, by Dr. Cornwall, Bishop of Winchester. These events, and the employments which ensued consequent upon them, gave a new direction to his studies, and even led to more seriousness of disposition. About this time, too, or shortly after, he betook himself with much assiduity to the study of Hebrew. Still, however, he seemed very much at home, when chin-deep amid the coarse engagements of this lower world. About the beginning of 1785, we find him taking an active part in the formation of an agricultural society in Odiham. But this institution was of such a character that, without much incongruity, an enlightened ecclesiastic might well take a deep interest both in its establishment and in its operations. It had not merely a scientific, but also a moral bearing; for, while it sought to advance the knowledge of its members in matters of rural economy, it offered premiums for useful discoveries and improvements, and rewards to servants for good and faithful service, and promoted the establishment of Sabbath and day schools.
We have now arrived at an important period of the life of Mr. Burgess. On May 2, 1785, he received a note from Bishop Barrington requesting him to meet his lordship at the Star Inn, Oxford, on the Thursday following. He kept his appointment, and soon ascertained the purpose of the arrangement. The uncourtly scholar makes a very awkward figure on the occasion, and rather resembles a lady in her teens to whom a gentleman has proposed a very serious question, than a hard-headed student, or a man of business. His own account is the following:
• Upon the day specified, I received the promised message, and went to the Star, where I found him with Mrs. Barrington and Mrs. Kennicott. He conducted me into another room, seated himself opposite to me, and at once made me an offer, expressed in the kindest terms, of his chaplaincy. I was really so unprepared for the offer, and so surprised by it, that, to use a homely expression, it struck me all of a heap, and I could make no reply, but sat before him mute as a statue. Many persons would have concluded that I could be no better than an idiot, but he penetrated the real cause of my embarrassment, and after a short pause, rising up, said, he trusted he might construe my silence into consent; he then proposed to introduce me to the two ladies in the adjoining room, whither I followed him.'
Mr. Burgess, in his new relation—which was largely the
result of the friendship of Mr. Tyrwhitt-enjoyed for a long period much satisfaction, and many opportunities for doing good. The bishop was deeply intent on establishing Sundayschools in his diocese, and found a zealous instrument in his chaplain. They went forward together in their ecclesiastical operations with great harmony, till one day the prelate so far forgot his habitual courtesy, that he reproved his chaplain in rather unmeasured terms on the ground of some trivial occurrence, at which Mrs. Barrington had taken needless umbrage. The modest chaplain sat and heard all in perfect silence, and shortly after, quitting the room, he ordered his horse, and rode off to Oxford, leaving the bishop, when cool and at leisure, to ponder the cause of his chaplain's absence. A generous spirit soon became its own accuser; the bishop sat down, and with the utmost candor and kindness, wrote a letter of apology which amply atoned for the temporary wrong. Harmony was at once restored, and it never after suffered a moment's interruption.
We have now to record a fact which deserves to be had in remembrance. At a time when slavery was rampant, and the friends of abolition were few, although powerful, Mr. Burgess stood forth the strenuous and enlightened advocate of the oppressed negro. So early as 1789, he came forth with a treatise entitled . Considerations on the Abolition of Slavery, and the
Slave-trade, upon grounds of Natural, Religious, and Political * Duty. This publication was very seasonable; and, coming from such a quarter, it was read by many with less prejudice than would otherwise have attached to such a work. The London Abolition Committee, sensible of the value of his services, passed a vote of thanks to him, which was transmitted by the late Bennet Langton, Esq. It deserves also to be noted, that the proposition of Mr. Burgess so early as 1789, was in exact accordance, in its general provisions, with that ultimately adopted by the British parliament.
From the year 1790, our sphere of vision enlarges before us, and the subject of this work presents a daily more interesting aspect and attitude. In this year he preached his famous sermon before the University of Oxford, entitled “The Divinity of
Christ, proved from his own Declarations attested and inter'preted by his living Witnesses the Jews.' The ground of his argument in this ingenious discourse may be thus stated. On divers occasions our Saviour uses language respecting his own nature and attributes, which, interpreted according to the acknowledged and established rules of criticism, amounts to nothing less than the assertion of his divinity, and of his equality with the Father. If the slightest doubt could be entertained whether his words are to be interpreted in this their nlain and obvious sense, that doubt is completely removed by
the testimony of his Jewish hearers, who, being familiar with the same customs as himself, intimately conversant with their own native phraseology and idiom, in which he addressed them, and fully alive to all the circumstances of time, place, and occasion, were much better judges of the sense which his words conveyed, than even the most learned and critical scholars of modern times. Now the language and conduct of the Jews, on the occasions alluded to, demonstrate that they understood him in this high and peculiar sense ; for the historian represents them not only as burning with the fiercest indignation at the supposed blasphemy of the claim, but as attempting to inflict on him, in consequence, the summary punishment directed by the law of Moses against offenders in respect of this crime. The preacher urges his argument from John viïi. 57--59, compared with Exodus iii. 14; v. 18, 23; x. 33, 36, 38; xix. 7. Mark xiv. 55, 56; xiv. 60—64. pp. 137–141.
Upon the death of Dr. Thurlow, Bishop of Durham, in 1791, Dr. Shute Barrington was translated from Salisbury to the vacant see. This led Burgess to resign his office of tutor of Corpus, that he might follow the fortunes of his patron, who, in the course of 1794, gave the first stall that became at his disposal to his faithful chaplain, and, before the close of the same year, exchanged it for another of greater value. On this occasion the bishop addressed his chaplain in the following characteristic terms.
• It may be matter of doubt, my dear Burgess, whether you derive more pleasure from your preferment, or I from having bestowed it. The thanks of both are due to a gracious providence; from me, that it has given me the power of rewarding distinguished and unassuming merit; from you, that you have been the object of my choice. You have obtained the comforts which flow from ease and independence; I, those which result from the consciousness of having acted right; from the credit of my appointment; and from the friendship which this connexion has produced between us, and which I value among the happy circumstances of my life. Be that life long or short, may I, during the remainder of it, never forget that patronage is a trust to be rendered subservient to the great interests of religion and learning.'
- pp. 172, 173.
Ease and honor, however, and the luxuries of wealth and station, failed to impart solid satisfaction to the mind of Mr. Burgess, who sighed for retirement and an opportunity of more complete consecration to the duties of the Christian ministry. In furtherance of his object he solicited the bishop to bestow upon him the living of Houghton, then vacant, and to permit the relinquishment of the prebendal stall, and the chaplaincy. "You shall have it,' replied his lordship, “but you must now, in
'your turn, do me a favor. You must give it me back again ; you shall have a living, but it must be one which will not dissolve our connexion, nor sever you from Durham. The bishop understood the business of a good churchman much better than the chaplain; he considered the acceptance and holding of a living quite compatible with the stall and the chaplaincy; and according, in 1795, he gave him the rectorship of Winston-a place so famous for its beauty that Arthur Young declares it is worth going a thousand miles to see; and the editor of the Beauties of England and Wales expresses his surprise that an incumbent, once in possession, should ever resign it for any other situation under the sun. In this new capacity he seems to have acted in such a manner as to obtain the character of a good parish priest'-a character, in that day, easily acquired.
Mr. Burgess, now in the forty-third year of his age, and with three ample sources of revenue, began at last to think of matrimony, and set his affections on a Miss Bright, a lady of an ancient Yorkshire family. The knot was tied by the bishop, who knew his chaplain's want of all worldly wisdom, and conjecturing that he had probably made no provision at Winston Parsonage-whither the wedded pair were immediately to proceed-sent over an ample supply of delicacies to await their arrival. Just as they were about to drive off, the prelate amused himself by probing the fact. You have, no doubt, ‘taken good care to provide everything in the best manner for
Mrs. Burgess's reception at Winston ? The chaplain started at the question, and confessed it had never occurred to him. The bishop told them it was all right.
Burgess and Dr. Paley often met at Auckland Castle, the bishop's residence; and he frequently amused himself with contrasting the open-heartedness and honest simplicity of the doctor's manners and conversation with the obsequious complaisance of some of the guests. He gives the following example. Mrs. Barrington was one day discoursing in very glowing terms about the happiness of a certain married couple, whose days, according to her ladyship, passed in perpetual harmony, so entirely did they concur on all subjects. The ready sycophants, one after another, exclaimed, “How delight'ful! How enviable !' But the great moralist was silent. Mrs. Barrington could not stand it, and thus addressed him: Dr. 'Paley, what do you say to it? The doctor, in his own characteristic manner, replied, ' Mighty flat, madam ;' an expression which implied a principle that upset the discussion on connubial bliss. p. 201.
We now approach an eventful period in the life of Burgess. He had already taken his degree of B.D., and in 1803, on his way to London, he stopped at Oxford, and took that of D.D.