« FöregåendeFortsätt »
For in conversation with the Earl of Huntingdon, his class-fellow Mr. Cholmley so represented his worth and accomplishments, as to engage in his behalf the warm interest of his father's patron. The Earl was much concerned to hear that his hopes of a fellowship were forestalled; but on learning the reason, resolved on a remedy. He sent for Mr. Gilby, and offered to make him his chaplain, on terms which gained his ready assent. Mr. Gilby tendered his resignation at Cambridge ; it was accepted, and three days of public competition for the vacant fellowship were named. The examination proceeded, and at the close of the second day word arrived that the Earl of Huntingdon was dead. Joseph Hall instantly repaired to the Master of the College, and entreated him, in regard for his friend now thrown destitute, to stay the election. He represented that his own youth less required the situation, and held out better prospects of provision in other ways. But he was told, that the place having been declared vacant, the election must proceed, and that his tutor “must wait upon the providence of God for his disposing elsewhere.” “ Then was I with a cheerful unanimity chosen into that society, which if it had any equals, I dare say had none beyond it, for good order, studious carriage, strict government, austere piety; in which I spent six or seven years more, with such contentment as the rest of my life hath in vain striven to yield. Now was I called to public disputations often, with no ill success ; for never durst I appear in any of those exercises of scholarship, till I had from my knees looked up to heaven for a blessing, and renewed my actual dependence upon that divine band. In this while, two years together I was chosen to the rhetoric lecture in the public schools, when I was encouraged with a sufficient frequence of au. ditors; but finding that well-applauded work somewhat out of my way, not without a secret blame of myself for so much excursion, I fairly gave up that task in the midst of those poor acclamations to a worthy successor, Dr. Dod, and betook myself to those serious studies, which might fit me for the high calling whereunto I was destined, wherein, after I had carefully bestowed myself for a time, I took the boldness to enter into sacred orders; the honour whereof having once attained, I was no niggard of that talent which God had entrusted to me, preaching often, as occasion was offered, both in country villages abroad, and at home in the most awful auditory of the Uni. versity."
The rhetoric lecture was not the only avocation of this tranquil period. Mr. Hall then first adventured in the field of authorship; but either from deference to an ecclesiastical censure strangely passed upon it, or because he had afterwards learned so completely to count all things but loss for Christ, we do not find him making any subsequent reference to a publication which has procured him applause among many who are ignorant of his nobler works. * It was in his 23d year that he gave to the world his Satires, and introduced a species of composition new to British literature. The circumstance of his being the first English satirist would entitle the Virgidemium to a place of importance in the history of our national poetry; but the united suffrages of skilful critics — with one formidable exception, and personal animosity made Milton here an incompetent judge—have awarded it other claims. Its greatest fault is obscurity—an obscurity which the learned notes of Warton and Singer have only partially dispelled - the more provoking as having been purposely assumed by one of the most perspicuous of writers, and not unjustly punished by the comparative Delect to which it has consigned the production. It was Hall's very natural mis. take, with no models but the ancient satirists, to consider their style of intricacy and innuendues essential; and so completely was he possessed by this misconception, that he thinks it incumbent to apologize for the excessive perspicuity of his verses.
• Warton observes, not with his usual judgment, that “the poet is better known than the prelate or the polemic.” So far is this from being the case, that ot many thousands who have read Bishop Hall's Meditations and Sermons with pleasure and advantage, few have ever heard that he was a poet, and still fewer that his poems were once proscribed by authority, as unfit to be circulated or read.-Chalmers' Biog. Dict. Art. Hall.
But more than the meaning is enigmatical. By clothing the elliptical sententious.
Beat the broad gates ; a goodly hollow sound,
And fills the tunnel with her circled nest. “ His Satires are neither cramped by personal hostility, nor spun out to vague declamations on vice, but give us the form and pressure of the times, exhibited in the faults of coeval literature, and in the foppery or sordid traits of prevailing manners. The age was undoubtedly fertile in eccentricity. *** From the literature of the age, Hall proceeds to its manners and prejudices, and among the latter derides the preva. lent confidence in alchymy and astrology. To us this ridicule appears an ordinary effort of reason; but it was in him a common sense above the level of the times."
To do justice to “the vigorous and musical couplets of this old poet," we must extract the opening passage of the 3d book, which our readers may like none the worse for its entire freedom from obscurity. No classical description of the golden age can surpass the playful ingenuity of the following:
Time was, and that was term’d the time of gold,
• Edinburgh Review, vol. xxxi. p. 481.
But if some nice and licorous appetite
Kept for the court, and for the king's own board, These Satires, though the principal, were not the only poetical effusions of our author. During his college days he complied with a prevailing taste, and composed a multitude of occasional poems, threnodies and gratulatory odes. From one of the earliest we transcribe a few stanzas, of which the euphonic pomp and well-adjusted expressions may help to reconcile us to an imagery which the long-forgotten occasion has rendered extravagant. The whole elegy on Dr. Whitaker seems to have been penned with ink from Cocytus, and is such as Chatterton, in one of his most dismal moods, would have delighted to imitate :
Bind ye my brows with mourning cyparisse,
And palish twigs of deadly poplar tree,
Those sadder shades veil my light-loathing eye;
Why didst thou in thy saffron robes arise ?
And wak'st the western world's amazed eyes?
To greet the sun, or glad the waking ear:
And ravens black of night, of death, of drear:
That we may not return to this subject — in later years Hall employed his muse on a dearer but more arduous theme, a metrical translation of the Psalms. The first ten appeared with the title, “Some few of David's Psalms, metaphrased for a taste of the rest.” We could have wished that his success had been more commensurate with his laudable design ; but the “ Metaphrase" wants the vigour, the pathos, the melody, in short the poetry of his youthful productions. There have been those who could call forth rich music from a lyre of their own, without being able to retune the harp of David ; nor can we wonder that the chords which refused the enchantments of Milton and Byron, should have been silent beneath the touch of Hall.
Having obtained orders, his own inclinations and the rules of the society to which he belonged, made him desirous of some extra-collegiate appointment. At that time a school had recently been opened at Tiverton in Devon, provided with an ample endowment, and left principally under the patronage of the Lord Chief Justice Popham. He applied to the master of Emanuel College to recommend a governor for the new erection. Dr. Chaderton without any hesitation nominated Mr. Hall, and immediately carried him to London, that he might introduce him to the Chief Justice. Tbe illustrious judge was so fascinated by the indications of genius and accomplishments which this interview revealed, that before they parted, the one had promised his influence, and the other signified his readiness to accept. On leaving his Lordship, Mr. Hall had not proceeded far when he was accosted by a messenger in the street, who put a letter into his hand. Dr. Chaderton remarking a change in the counte. nance of his friend as he perused his despatches, asked what the matter might be
Mr. Hall answered by handing him the letter, which contained a very pressing invi. tation from Lady Drury to the Rectory of Halsted in Suffolk. “Sir," said Mr. Hall, “methinks God pulls me by the sleeve, and tells me it is his will I should rather go to the east than to the west.” “ Nay,” said Dr. Chaderton," I should rather think that God would have you go westward, for that he hath contrived your engagement before the tender of this letter, which therefore coming too late, may receive a fair and easy answer.” “ Pardon my dissent,” was Mr. Hall's reply; “ I well know that divinity was the end whereto I was destined by my parents, and this I have so constantly proposed to myself, that I never meant other than to pass through this western school to it; but I see that God, who found me ready to go the farther way about, now calls me the nearest and directest way to that sacred end.” To this the good Doctor had nothing farther to oppose, and though it was the frustration of his journey to London, he recognized the finger of God, and joyfully relinquished his protegée to the better care of Providence. All that remained was to satisfy Lord Popham. This Mr. Hall undertook; and not only was his apology as frankly sustained as it was candidly given, but he was enabled to recompense the former kindness of a friend. For, remembering by whose representations to the Earl of Huntingdon he had obtained his fellowship, he stated the qualifications of Mr. Cholmley so effectually, that the vacant place was transfered to him, and they “two, who came together to the University, must now leave it at once.”.
His next step in life is too important not to be told, and his own account is too characteristic to admit of any other relating it. “Being now settled in that sweet and civil country of Suffolk, near to St. Edmund's-Bury, my first work was to build up my house, which was then extremely ruinous; which done, the uncouth solitariness of my life, and the extreme incommodity of that single housekeeping, drew my thoughts, after two years, to condescend to the necessity of a married estate, which God no less strangely provided for me. For walking from the church on Monday in the Whitsunweek, with a grave and reverend minister, Mr. Grandidge, I saw a comely modest gentlewoman standing at the door of that house where we were invited to a weddingdinner, and inquiring of that worthy friend whether he knew her, · Yes, quoth be, I know her well, and have bespoken her for your wife.' When I further demanded an account of that answer, he told me she was the daughter of a gentleman whom he much respected, Mr. George Winniff of Bretenham; that out of an opinion had of the fitness of that match for me, he had already treated with her father about it, whom he found very apt to entertain it, advising me not to neglect the opportunity; and not concealing the just praises of the modesty, piety, good disposition, and other virtues that were lodged in that seemly presence, I listened to the motion as sent from God, and at last upon due prosecution happily prevailed, enjoying the comfortable society of that meet help for the space of forty-nine years."
The increasing comforts of Halsted Rectory could not binder him from listening soon after to a proposal made by Sir Edmund Bacon, that he should accompany him in a continental tour. The amount of enterprise and resources which such an expedition then demanded can scarcely now be understood. In those days the travelling retinue of a nobleman resembled the Mecca caravan, and he marched under an escort which showed that he was taking his pleasure in an enemy's country. Mr. Hall possessed a high degree of that noble curiosity which compels some to labour in the fire for knowledge, whilst others, waiting till wisdom come, are contentedly ignorant. No one in reading his works can fail to be struck with the indications of a busy, quick, and observant eye. Many of his most striking and original remarks are the result of saga. ciously noting, and dexterously applying what passes before the eyes of other men too often to appear uncommon, that is, to appear in any way remarkable. But the pro
• From the above narrative, it will be seen that Mr. Campbell has committed an oversight in stating that Hall “ was some time master of the school at Tiverton, in Devonshire.”-British Pucts, II. 260. He was never actually appointed.
spect of exploring a field then so seldom traversed dilated his mind with absolute ecstasy, and he rejoiced in the ungathered harvest of knowledge which it promised. Above all, he wished to visit a Roman Catholic country. He longed to behold popery in reality; not the crippled crouching thing which prolonged a skulking existence in England, but the stalwart galled and raging Apollyon that stalked tremendously through Europe. Sir Edmund travelled in the protection of the English ambassador, and for farther concealment, Mr. Hall exchanged his canonicals for the silken robes and gay colours of a fashionable English gentleman. And notwithstanding the frequent debates into which his zeal betrayed him amongst jesuits and friars, the suspicious excellence of his Latin, and the sturdy protestantism, which only “the hulk of a tall Brabanter" saved from martyrdom at the procession of John the Baptist, he passed undetected from Calais to Brussels, from Nemours to Spa, and then, returning, to Antwerp and Middleburgh. It was our traveller's anxiety to view the ancient college of this last city, which lost him his voyage home. He left his party at Flushing, and lingered so long at Middleburgh, that his friends availed themselves of a favourable wind, and he arrived in time to look after their vessel far at sea. “ Sadly returning to Middleburgh, he waited long for an inconvenient and tempestuous passage.” In his epistles he has given an account of this expedition, an extract from which will serve the additional purpose of enabling the reader to compare his earlier -- more quaint, dense, and cramp -- with his later style. His six Decads of Epistles are the first specimens of that familiar and delightful composition since so common in our language. He claims this merit for himself, and we do not know of any British author who published letters of his own before him.
“ Besides my hopes, not my desires, I travelled of late; for knowledge partly, and partly for health. There was nothing that made not my journey pleasant, save the labour of the way: which yet was so sweetly deceived by the society of Sir Edmund Bacon, (a gentleman truly honourable, beyond all titles), that I found small cause to complain. The sea brooked not me, nor I it; an unquiet element, made only for won. der and use, not for pleasure. Alighted once from that wooden conveyance, and un. even way, I bethought myself how fondly our life is committed to an unsteady and reeling piece of wood, fickle winds, restless waters, while we may set foot on stedfast and constant earth. Lo, then everything taught me, everything delighted me; so ready are we to be affected with these foreign pleasures, which at home we should overlook. I saw much as one might in such a span of earth in so few months. The time fa. voured me: for now newly had the key of peace opened those parts which war had before closed; closed (I say) to all English, save either fugitives or captives. All civil occurrences (as what fair cities, what strange fashions, entertainments, dangers, de. lights, we found), are fit for other ears and winter evenings. What I noted, as a divine, within the sphere of my profession, my paper shall not spare in some part to report. .“ Along our way, how many churches saw we demolished! Nothing left, but rude heaps, to tell the passenger there hath been both devotion and hostility. Fury hath done that there, which Covetousness would do with us; would do, but shall not: the truth within shall save the walls without. And, to speak truly (whatever the vulgar exclaim), Idolatry pulled down those walls, not rage. If there had been no Hollander to raze them, they would have fallen alone rather than hide so much impiety under their guilty roof. These are spectacles, not so much of cruelty as justice; cruelty of man, justice of God. But (which I wondered at) churches fall and jesuits' colleges rise everywhere. There is no city where those are not either rearing or built. Whence cometh this? Is it, for that devotion is not so necessary as policy? Those men (as we say of the fox) fare best where they are most cursed. None so much spited of their own, none so hated of all, none so opposed by ours; and yet these ill weeds grow. Whosoever lives long shall see them feared of their own, who now hate them; shall see these seven lean kine devour all the fat beasts that feed on the meadows of Tiber.