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Torrens, Perrin, Blacker, and other ornaments of the Irish bar; with George Croly, and Charles Maturin, who have gained for themselves a universal fame. In this galaxy of talent Jebb shone not the least conspicuous; he won the honours of the University nobly, and he wore them unenvied, for his amiable temper, his kind heart, and his utter disregard of self, had endeared him to all. His success at the scholarship examination seemed to be regarded as a personal triumph by every member of the University but himself.
Mr. Jebb was a distinguished member of the Historical Society, and the charms of his eloquence are still among the pleasant reminiscences of his contemporaries. Only one of his addresses has been preserved; it was delivered from the chair of the Society on the occasion of the death of two young men, Reid and Sargent, youths of high promise, cut off prematurely at the moment when the hopes and proud anticipations of their friends seemed about to be realised. Similarity of disposition and pursuits had united them to Jebb in the strictest bonds of affection; and he, who had to pronounce their funeral eulogy, was the person who felt their loss most bitterly. No stranger can read this simple and pathetic address without being affected; but those alone who heard it can picture the effect that its delivery produced.
In 1797 Mr. Jebb obtained two of the three divinity premiums established that year on the foundation of Dr. Downes.
To his college life he always looked back with fondness and regret. His eloquent assertion of its merits in the House of Lords, in 1824, was manifestly an outpouring of treasured affection, casting back “ a longing, lingering look.”
“ The University,” he said, “which, in its earliest days, produced Usher, the most profoundly-learned offspring and ornament of the Reformation; and Loftus, in Oriental letters rivalled only by his great coeval, Pococke; which afterwards sent forth, to shine among the foremost of our Augustan age, Parnell, the chastest of our poets; Swift, the purest of our prose writers; and Berkeley, the first of our metaphysicians; which formed, nearly in our own time, perhaps within the
recollection of some noble Lords who hear me, Goldsmith, our most natural depictor of life and manners; Burke, the greatest philosophic statesman of his own or any other age or country — and why should I not add Grattan, the eloquent assertor of his country's rights, the parent of Irish indepen. dence ? — the University which sent forth such men is not now degenerating, nor likely to degenerate, from her ancient rank and name, and needs not blush to be compared with either University of England."
The church was, from an early period, the choice of Mr. Jebb; but the unfortunate state of the country, and the necessity of substituting the duties of the soldier for the studies of the candidate for orders, delayed his ordination till January, 1799. He was ordained a deacon by Dr. Matthew Young, Bishop of Clonfert, in the chapel of Trinity College, Dublin, with many of his intimate associates, on a peculiarly interesting occasion, when the Fellow of highest character in the University, just raised to the episcopal bench, performed the first act of his sacred office before that society of which he had long been the pride and the ornament. Mr. Jebb's character was so fully established, even at this early age, that immediately on his ordination two flattering proposals were made to him; the present Bishop of Ferns, acting as the confidential friend of the then Bishop of Ferns, Dr. Cleaver, offered him a curacy in that diocese, and a special recommendation to the diocesan; and Mr. Alexander Knox made a similar offer for the Bishop of Kilmore, Dr. Broderick. Fortunately for his future prospects, Mr. Jebb accepted the latter offer, and commenced his ministerial labours as curate of Swanlinbar.
For about five years Mr. Jebb continued curate of Swanlinbar; and, like Heber at Hodnett, was universally beloved; by the Catholics he was revered as highly as by the Protestants; in works of charity he knew no religious difference, his spirit was too mild and gentle for acrimonious controversy ; he felt that sincere belief, though erroneous, was entitled to respect; and that violence, even in support of truth, injures
the cause it professes to defend. In a letter to a theologian of a very different spirit, he says, — “I do not think the controversial the best mode of bringing up children in the deep, serious, practical, heart-felt love of our true reformed Christianity. And I question, whether the early disputant on debated points may not, in riper years, be the most likely to waver or apostatise. The habit of argumentation is certainly not friendly to settlement of opinion, and he was a wise man who invented and bequeathed that maxim to posterity — disputandi pruritus ecclesiarum scabies.” Those who have witnessed the animosities, the heart-burnings, and even the deeds of actual violence, engendered and perpetuated by the fanatic zeal of controversial preachers in Ireland, can best understand what a blessing such a man as Jebb was in an Irish parish. Thirty years have elapsed since he quitted Swanlinbar, but the memory of his virtues is “still green in the souls” of his former parishioners.
On his promotion to the archiepiscopal see of Cashel, Dr. Broderick gave a signal proof of his discernment, by taking Mr. Jebb with him. Here he remained for several years as reader of the cathedral; and had not only the advantage of the Archbishop's society, but also considerable assistance in his studies from the diocesan library, of which he made con
The only publication, however, which appeared during this period was a sermon preached before Lord Hardwicke, President of the Association for discountenancing Vice, and promoting the Knowledge and Practice of the Christian Religion. The sermon is written with great elegance; and the miscellaneous notes attest the variety of the resources upon which the preacher had been drawing for information. In the year 1810 the Archbishop had an opportunity of showing his estimation of Mr. Jebb, and he presented him to the valuable living of Abington. But so short-sighted are all our views, that this apparently most advantageous preferment seems to have laid the grounds for a premature decay. The absolute retirement of the glebe house forbidding all society, and the variety of parochial duty requiring active exertion, encouraged
the too studious habits of Mr. Jebb, and exercise was taken only irregularly and from compulsion. At Abington, however, commenced that intimacy with the Rev. Charles Forster, which cheered the declining years of his life by the sympathies of private friendship, such as seldom are exhibited in this heartless world ; this friend resigning the charms of society dearly prized, and the enjoyment of exuberant spirits, to the call of duty; and devoting six years of life to watch the couch of the suffering invalid.
While rector of Abington, Mr. Jebb published a volume of “ Practical Sermons,” and an “ Essay on Sacred Literature.” Soon after the appearance of the latter, Archbishop Broderick had another opportunity of showing his favourable opinion of the author, by appointing him Archdeacon of the diocese, upon which Mr. Jebb took the degrees of B.D. and D.D. in the University of Dublin.
Higher preferment, however, awaited him; and on the removal of Dr. Elrington to the see of Ferns, the bishopric of Limerick was, in January, 1823, conferred on Dr. Jebb. The diocese of Limerick, one of the most extensive in Ireland, contained in it some of the most miserable and disturbed districts. It had also its full share of neglected curates, and a slight sprinkling of negligent rectors. The gentle mind of Jebb seemed ill calculated to encounter such a complication of difficulties, but he soon showed that mildness is not inconsistent with firmness, and that the meek, when principle is concerned, manifest a strength of resolution which cannot be shaken. The new bishop declared that he would disregard aristocratic influence, and he kept his word : in bestowing patronage, his choice was guided by merit alone; the unostentatious claims of the working clergy were with him more powerful than the pressing solicitations of the great ; and the curate who despaired of reward, because he had no patron, found that his labours were his best introduction, and that his most powerful advocate was the heart of his diocesan.
On the 10th of June, 1824, onthe third reading of the
Irish Tithes Composition Amendment Bill (Marquis Wellesley's act), the Bishop, for the first, and it is believed for the only, time, addressed the House of Lords in support of the
The main object of his speech (which was subsequently published) was to vindicate the clergy of Ireland from the charges which had been brought against them, and to show that the value of the great benefices in that country was much over-rated by common report. He stated, that his own see, though one of the best in his province (Munster), produced under 50001. per annum; and, adopting the data furnished by Mr. Leslie Forster, he assumed, that that sum was rather above than below the average value of the episcopal preferments of all Ireland, archbishoprics included. To this he added a severe exposure of the inhumanity of Irish landlords, resident and absentee.
Dr. Jebb's name now became at once popular in England; enquiries were made respecting his literary productions: their value for the first time was made known; and, at the same moment, he came into possession of the fame of an accomplished orator and a sound theologian. At that period no prelate of the united church occupied a more distinguished place in the public esteem: his society was eagerly sought by all, by the young and the old, the learned and the
gay, statesman and the divine. Though cold and reserved in manner at first, he entered into conversation with great animation, and had the happy talent of bringing forward the various treasures of his mind in the way best adapted to the acquirements of the individuals with whom he conversed. He interested alt, and while he amused, he instructed them.
This career of exertion and utility was destined to be short. Four years after his appointment to the episcopal bench, in the early part of the summer of 1827, he was seized with a paralytic stroke while sitting at dinner, and apparently in good health. As soon as removal was possible, the Bishop was taken to England for change of air and better advice—and he never returned. In the latter end of the year 1828 considerable hopes were entertained of his recovery;