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ceeded to the history of our own country, acquiring thereby a knowledge of our constitution, preparatory to his study of the law.
About this time Mr. Bowdler's health was delicate in a degree, which may, perhaps, excite surprise in those who know the strong muscular frame which he afterwards possessed; and during his visits to his father, who resided a few miles from Bath, he consulted Dr. Randolph of Bristol, a sensible physician, a pious and well-read theologian, * and a warm friend. The doctor, it appears, was apprehensive lest his young patient should suffer by tenderness of the lungs, and prescribed accordingly; and youth and exercise gradually carried him forward to a state of health and strength. This was indeed a season of most distressing anxiety. Mr. Bowdler's younger brother had lately met with a severe accident, and, in consequence of unskilful treatment, had been brought into a state which the first surgeons in the metropolis deemed altogether hopeless; a state, from
* Dr. Randolph was a Hutchinsonian, and, like the disciples of that school, much given to the study of the Scripture in the original Hebrew, and very averse to the favourite style of that day, which exalted reason and natural religion to nearly an equal rank with revelation; he was also equally averse to the doctrine of a spiritual motion in the heart of individuals, which, as taught by some enthusiasts, would render the revealed word of little effect. "Written revelation," said he, "is crucified between two thieves, Reason and the private Spirit; but the penitent one does not appear either on the one side or the other."
which he was delivered by the firm resolution of his mother who attended him. The pure air which breathes on the Malvern hills revived and invigorated him, and he has lived to adorn society by the successful cultivation of literature, and to improve it by that most useful and important work, the Family Shakspeare. To give a detail of his acute sufferings were a painful task; some idea may be obtained of the patience with which they were endured when he was only nine years old, and of the affection which it excited in those around him, from the following extract of a letter which happens to have been preserved:—
"We hope our dear Mr. Bowdler would meet with great relief in Mrs. Bowdler's letters, wherein she would tell you how far beyond all expectation his dear child bore the several painful operations; with what patience! with what resolution! amazing to think of! But God has been exceedingly gracious to the boy, and will, no doubt, continue to be so. O! had his dear father been witness to his behaviour on a late solemn and awful occasion, I may say preparatory to the trial which soon followed, what comfort, what heartfelt joy would it have afforded to our dearest friend; yes, and will still afford, I well know, in a very high degree, and may God sanctify it to your peace and permanent comfort. You will hear that the dear boy is in brave spirits."
The "occasion" alluded to in this letter is thus explained by his mother in writing to a friend in Scotland.
"As a few days were allowed me to write to Mr. Bowdler, I made use of the interval to prepare my dear child for the event which I was told was very uncertain, by getting him confirmed and admitted to the holy sacrament, which was done at my mother's house the day before the operation was to be begun. Judge what I must feel in offering up my little lamb at the altar, and yet the dear child's behaviour was such that joy and unfeigned praise for the mercies vouchsafed him took place of every other sentiment. On Sunday was fortnight the caustic was laid on, the pain of which was dreadful, and on Tuesday the operation was performed. Through all this his patience was incredible. He lay still without holding whilst they cut quite into the live flesh, and shook hands with Gunning the operator as soon as it was done. Since then, though confined to lie on one side only, and put to pain every day, he has never uttered a peevish word. I have resigned him into the hands of a merciful Parent, from whom if I receive him again, I shall be truly thankful; but weighing the dangers of this state of trial, I dare not wish but with the most entire submission."
The reader of this memoir will perhaps readily consent to be detained a little with this subject in order to be made acquainted with a father's feelings at so awful a period, as they are expressed in a letter to an intimate friend.
"Ashley, 28th Feb. 1764. "What strikes me most in your letter is, what you so kindly say of me with regard to my little boy. In this, as in every trial, I wish to behave as a Christian ought; knowing that I am as much bound in duty to suffer what God inflicts, as to do what he commands; but I know I fail in this, and in every thing. I am very fond of the child; and this touches me too near. In fact, I find myself not fit for business as formerly; and I am afraid of growing useless to myself, and to every body else.
"As to the child's life, I have little or no hope of it; so little, that the bitterness of his death is in a manner over with me. I am Christian enough to be most fully persuaded it is best for him to die: I am trying to be still more: to resign him, and all the pleasure I had in him, not barely with patience, but even with a cheerful and thorough submission to the will of God. If others can part with their children to make their fortunes in India, from whence they do not expect to live to see them return, why should not I part with him, to a far better place, and to his infinitely greater advantage? and where, too, I hope to see him again."
While this amiable and excellent man was preparing himself for a devout acquiescence to the will of God under so severe a dispensation, he was cheered by the reports which he received of his eldest son, whom his tutor represented to be "perfectly true to the principles of his religion, and as free as possible from all vice; and that," said he, "not because I think him void of the passions incident to youth of his age, I rather think the contrary, but purely for conscience sake, as knowing it is his duty to keep them under." And he himself expressed very feelingly his thankfulness for the good advice which he had received from his father, and his dread of falling into temptation and being the first bad man in the family; entertaining in those early years that wholesome and holy fear, which (as it is expressed by his favourite writer, the son of Sirach,) is the beginning and the root of wisdom, and the first step to be accepted of God.
In the month of November 1765, Mr. Bowdler left Spring Grove, where he had read many books, and acquired much valuable information which books cannot furnish; and in the following month went to reside in the Temple, and began to study the law under Mr. Barsham, a special pleader. At this time he formed an intimate friendship with several persons of no common worth and talent. One of these, Nathaniel Conant, the son of a very worthy clergyman in East Kent, and great nephew of Archbishop Wake, became afterwards a distinguished public character, being placed at the head of the police in London, some parts of which were established in compliance with a plan suggested by himself. At the time when Mr. Bowdler contracted a friendship with him, which continued for nearly forty years, he was beginning life with great fondness for literature, an extensive knowledge of books, and a remarkable facility of rapidly perusing them. His affections were as warm as his talents were bright, and the kindness of his heart and gentleness of his manners were even more remark