« PreviousContinue »
therefore, was regarded as one of the best metaphysicians in Europe ; his logic was looked upon rather as the work of a man skilled in metaphysics, than in the dialect of the schools; his treatise upon matter, was also thought to be the most ingenious paradox that ever amused learned leisure; and many were the answers made to it by the literati of Europe.
His fame as a scholar, but more his conversation as a man of wit and good-nature, foon procured him the friendship and esteem of every person of fortune and understanding; among the rest, Swift, that lover, yet derider, of human nature, became one of the most intimate; and it was by his recommendation that he was introduced to the earl of Peterborough, who made him his chaplain, and took him, as his companion, on a tour through Europe.
Some time after his return, he was promoted to a deanery, in which situation he wrote his Minute Phi-. lofopher, one of the most elegant and genteel defences of thay religion which he was born to vindicate, both by his virtues and his ingenuity. It was at this time also, that he attempted to establish an university for our American colonies, in Bermudas, one of the Summer islands. Doctor Depufch, an excellent musician, and some others of great abilities, were engaged in this de sign, and actually embarked in order to put it in execution; but the ship being cast away, Berkeley was left to contrive fomething else to the advantage of his country.
He interested himself deeply in a scheme for improving the English language, by a society of wits and men
E e 4
of genius, established for that purpose, in imitation of the academy of France; in this design Swift, Bolingbroke, and others, were united; but the whole dropt by the death of queen Anne, and the removal of Harley from the office of prime minister.
His friendship and connections, however, did not, as was the case with Swift and some others, prevent his promotion; he was made bishop of Cloyne ; and sure no clergyman ever had juster pretensions to the mitre ! No man was more assiduous or punctual in his duty, none exacted it more strictly from his inferior clergy, yet no bishop was ever more beloved by them. He spent his time with the utmost chearfulness, innocence, and humanity; the meanest peasant within ten miles of his feat, was familiar with him ; those of them that wanted, shared his bounty, and those that did not, had his friendship and advice. The country which was desolate and unimproved, he took the utmost pains to improve, and attempted to set an example of the proper methods of agriculture to the farmer, as he had before of piety and benevolence to the whole kingdom.
: Metaphysical studies were still his amusement, and the dispensations of charity he looked upon as his duty.-But the opinions of metaphysicians he, at last, began to contemn, and to doubt of the certainty, not only of every argument upon this subject, but even of the science. He therefore turned his thoughts to more beneficial studies, to politics and medicine, and gave instances in both, of what he could have done, had he inade either his particular study.
In politics, a pamphlet published by him, entitled The Querist, is a fine instance of his skill, and was attended with some beneficial circumstances to his native country.--His treatise on tar-water rendered him more popular than any of his preceding productions, at the fame time that it was the most whimsical of them all. Here he pretends to prove, a priori, the effects of this, sometimes, valuable medicine; but then he extends them to every, and even opposite disorders. The public were long undeceived before his lordship, who was the inventor, could be so. He had built an hospital at his own expence, near his gate, and to it all the poor were welcome; he attended them himself as physician ; dosed them with tar-water, of the virtues of which he was entirely confident.--His intention in this particular cannot be sufficiently applauded, though, perhaps, the success might not have answered his expectations. Perhaps he carried his veneration for tar-water to an excess : he drank it in abundance himself, and attempted to mend the constitutions of his children by the same regimen : this, however, he could never effect; and, perhaps, his desire of improving their health, and their understanding, at which he laboured most assiduously, might have impaired both. But his faults, if we know of any, all proceeded from motives of humanity, benevolence, and good-nature.
He preserved the closest intimacy with the gentlemen of the neighbourhood; and while he cultivated the duties of his station, he was not averse to the innocent amusements of life : music he was particularly fond of, and always kept one or two exquisite performers to amuse his leisure hours.
His income he was entirely contented with; and when offered by the earl of Chesterfield, then lord lieutenant
of Ireland, a bishopric much more beneficial than that he poffefied, he declined it, with these words, “ I love “ the neighbours, and they love me; why then should “ I begin, in my old days, to form new connections, “ and tear myself from those friends whole kindness to “ me is the greatest happiness I enjoy ?” ating, in this instance, like Pluiarch, who being asked, why he resided in his native city, so obscure and fo little ? “ I stay, said he, left it should grow less.” But at length, finding his health and constitution impaired beyond the power of medicine, even of his own tar-water, he removed, towards the end of the year 1752, to Oxford, an university he always loved, and at which he received a great part of his education, in hopes of receiving fome benefit from the change of air. His principal motive, however, was that he might himself superintend the education of his son, whom he took along with him; and the prospect of enjoying two or three years among the literati of that famous seminary.
After a short passage, and a very pleasant journey, he arrived at that famous feat of learning, where he was visited by many of his former friends and admirers: but the certainty there was of speedily losing him, greatly damped the pleasure they would otherwise have had in his company. In a short time after his arrival he expired, on the 14th of January, 1753, greatly regretted, by the poor, whom he loved, and the learned, whom he had improved.
* A Letter to a Member of Parliament in the
Country, from his Friend in London, relative
to the Case of Admiral Byng. Also an APPEAL to the People, containing the
genuine and entire Letter of Admiral Byng to the Secretary of the Admiralty : Observations on those Parts of it which were omitted by the Writers of the Gazette : And what might be the Reasons for such Omissions.
To hear both parties, and to condemn no man
without a trial, are the unalterable laws of justice. The man who lately commanded the English feet in the Mediterranean; after having had his effigies burnt in a hundred places, and his name disgraced by innumerable lampoons; after having suffered all that the malice of wit or folly could inflict on his reputation, now stands forth, and demands an audience from those who have almost universally condemned him, but condemned him in his own opinion without justice, and certainly without any calm or candid examination.
In this extract we shall join the two apologies together, and give the argument which shall result from their concurrences.
The general position which both pamphlets endeavour to prove is, that Mr. Byng is stigmatised with infamy,
• Both this and the subsequent article were originally printed in the Literary Magazine. · They are ascribed to Dr. Johnson on conjecture.