Obrázky stránek




Born at Tallaton, in Devonshire - Educated at Oxford — His Poem on

Cromwell's death - Made Chaplain to Villiers, Duke of Buckingham His friendship with Cowley - Made Vicar of St. Margaret's, Westminster, Dean of Westminster, and Bishop of Rochester

Story of his preaching - Burial in Westminster Abbey — Works and Character.

[ocr errors]

THOMAS SPRAT was born in 1636, at Tallaton, in Devonshire, the son of a clergyman; and having been educated, as he tells of himself, not at Westminster or Eton, but at a little school by the churchyard side,' became a commoner of Wadham College, in Oxford, in 1651; and, being chosen scholar next year, proceeded through the usual academical course, and in 1657 [June 11] became Master of Arts. He obtained a fellowship, and commenced poet.

In 1659 his poem on the death of Oliver was published with those of Dryden and Waller. In his dedication to Dr. Wilkins he appears a very willing and liberal encomiast, both of the living and the dead. He implores his patron's excuse of his verses, both as falling “so infinitely below the full and sublime genius of that excellent poet who made this way of writing free of our nation,” and being " so little equal and proportioned to the renown of a prince on whom they were written ; such

1 great actions and lives deserving to be the subject of the noblest pens

[ocr errors]

From an obscure birth and education, in a far distant country, where I was the son of a private minister, God brought me to stand before princes, and raised me to so eminent a station in the Church.--SPRAT's Will, dated 28th Nov, 1711. Warburton is


upon him. “But the honour of being a Westminster schoolboy some have at one age, and some at another; and some all their liíe long. Our grateful bishop, though he had it not in his youth, yet it came upon him in his old age.”—Note on Pope's Translation of Horace, book ii. page 1, verse 109.


and most divine fancies.” He proceeds: “Having so long experienced your care and indulgence, and been formed, as it were, by your own hands, not to entitle you to anything which my meanness produces would be not only injustice, but sacrilege."

He published the same year a poem on the “Plague of Athens '-a subject of which it is not easy to say what could recommend it. To these he added afterwards a poem on Mr. Cowley's death.

After the Restoration he took orders, and by Cowley's recommendation was made chaplain to the Duke of Buckingham, whom he is said to have helped in writing the · Rehearsal.'? He was likewise chaplain to the king.”

As he was the favourite of Wilkins, at whose house began those philosophical conferences and inquiries which in time produced the Royal Society, he was consequently engaged in the same studies, and became one of the fellows; and when, after their incorporation, something seemed necessary to reconcile the public to the new institution, he undertook to write its history, which he published in 1667. This is one of the few books which selection of sentiment and elegance of diction have been able to preserve, though written upon a subject flux and transitory. The history of the Royal Society is now read, not with the wish to know what they were then doing, but how their Transactions are exhibited by Sprat.

In the next year he published “Observations on Sorbiere's Voyage into England, in a Letter to Mr. Wren.' This is a work not ill performed; but perhaps rewarded with at least its full proportion of praise.

In 1668 he published Cowley's Latin poems, and prefixed in Latin the Life of the author, which he afterwards amplified, and placed [1669] before Cowley's English works, which were by will committed to his care.

Ecclesiastical benefices now fell fast upon him. In 1668 he

? He is said to have risen to distinction by a repartee.- Horace to Scæva, 8vo., 1730, p. 25.

3 He was made chaplain to Charles II. 12th Aug. 1676, when Dr. Lamplugh was made Bishop of Exeter.—Lord Chamberlain's US. Warrant Books, vol. vüi.






became a prebendary of Westminster, and had afterwards the church of St. Margaret, adjoining to the Abbey. He was in 1680 made canon of Windsor, in 1683 (Sept. 21] dean of Westminster, and in 1684 [Nov. 2] Bishop of Rochester.

The Court having thus a claim to his diligence and gratitude, he was required to write the history of the Ryehouse Plot; and in 1685 published “A true Account and Declaration of the horrid Conspiracy against the late King, his present Majesty, and the present Government ’-a performance which he thought convenient, after the Revolution, to extenuate and excuse.

The same year [1685], being Clerk of the Closet to the king [James II.], he was made dean of the chapel-royal; and the year afterwards received the last proof of his master's confidence, by being appointed one of the commissioners for ecclesiastical affairs. On the critical day, when the Declaration distinguished the true sons of the Church of England, he stood neuter, and permitted it to be read at Westminster, but pressed none to violate his conscience; and, when the Bishop of London was brought before them,' gave his voice in his favour.

Thus far he suffered interest or obedience to carry him, but further he refused to go. When he found that the powers of the ecclesiastical commission were to be exercised against those who had refused the Declaration, he wrote to the lords, and other commissioners, a formal profession of his unwillingness to exercise that authority any longer, and withdrew himself from them. After they had read his letter, they adjourned for six months, and scarcely ever met afterwards.

When King James was frighted away, and a new government was to be settled, Sprat was one of those who considered, in a conference, the great question, whether the crown was vacant, and manfully spoke in favour of his old master.

He complied, however, with the new establishment, and was left unmolested; but in 1692 a strange attack was made upon him by one Robert Young and Stephen Blackhead, both men

• In his will, made in 1711, he speaks of his wife, Helen Sprat, with whom “I have lived these thirty-five years in faithful conjugal affection.” This fixes his marriage in 1676. She died 26th February, 1725-6.

5 For not suspending Dr. Sharp. Compton was the bishop.

« PředchozíPokračovat »