« AnteriorContinuar »
ib. VI To Agesias of Syracuse,
ib. MISCELLANEOUS POEMS.
ib. Passage of the Red Sea,
21 Lines on Lord Grenville's Installation,
ib. Epitaph on a Young Naval Officer,
ib. An Evening Walk in Bengal,
ib. Lines Written to his Wife,
ib. The Moonlight March,
ib. To General Hill,
ib. Imitation of an Ode, by Koodrut,
Kight Rev. Reginald Leber, D.D.
SECOND BISHOP OF CALCUTTA.
Among the distinguished men of the present age, The next year he gained the chancellor's prize the late Bishop Heber, of Calcutta, deserves a at the university, by his Latin verse, “ Carmen high rank, as a most accomplished poet, as an Seculare.” In 1803, when but little more than acute, discriminating, pious, and learned divine; nineteen years of age, occurred one of those happy as a traveller possessing the talent of accurate ob- coincidences which occasionally make the paths of servation and perseverance in a very high degree; duty and of pleasure the way to enduring fame; but, especially, as a most disinterested and devoted a prize subject, for English verse, was that year Christian bishop and missionary, he has left behind assigned, which awaked "all that was within him an imperishable memory.
him," — Palestine. Upon this theme he wrote, ReginaLD HEBER was the second son of the and with signal success. It was recited, as usual, Rev. Reginald Heber, and was born on the 21st in the theatre, with much diffidence on the part of of April, 1783, at Malpas, in Cheshire, England, the author, to a greatly admiring audience, among where his father then held a pastoral charge. His whom was his aged father, whose feelings were so mother was Mary Allanson, daughter of the Rev. overcome by the applause bestowed upon his son, Dr. Allanson, of the same county. So that he that, immediately after the recitation, he mounted may be said to have been of Levitical descent: a his horse, and returned to his home. The poem circumstance which, probably, was not without produced a great sensation. It procured the prize, influence upon his mind from a very early period. was set to music, and brought to its author public The earliest dawnings of his mind are said to have and universal praise. The knowledge it displays given promise of those christian graces, with which of Scripture and of the Holy Land, its copious he was, through all the stages of his illustrious life, and flowing language, its beautifully diversified 80 richly endowed; and of those talents, which figures, and the exact discrimination, accurate coneventually gave bim an eminent rank among the ception, and pure taste which it displays throughliterary characters of the age. In his childhood, out, have given it a deservedly high rank among the eagerness with which he read the Bible, and the literature of the age. It has been said by an the accuracy with which he treasured up large English critic, that this is almost the only univerportions of it in his memory, were such as to ex-sity poem that has maintained its honours unimcite observation; and this first application of his paired, and entitled itself, after the lapse of years, powers undoubtedly laid the foundation of that to be considered the property of the nation. In masterly knowledge of the Scriptures, which he 1805, Mr. Heber obtained a third prize for an subsequently attained; and to the perfecting of English essay, On the Sense of Honour. which, almost all his reading was made, directly Shortly after this, he left England in company or indirectly, to contribute. His literary elucation with Mr. John Thornton, to make the tour of the was commenced at the grammar school of Whit- eastern parts of Europe. The war, at that time church, pursued under Dr. Bristowe, a teacher prevailing between England and France, excluded near London, and was completed at Brazen-nose English travellers from a large portion of the concollege, Oxford, where he was entered in 1800. tinent. Mr. Heber and his friend were, therefore,
At the university,” said his early friend, Sir only able to visit some parts of Germany, Russia, Charles Grey, at the time of his decease Chief- and the Crimea. He made a copious journal of justice of Calcutta,“ he was, beyond all question his travels ; but as he did not think proper to preor comparison, the most distinguished student of sent his observations to the public in his own his time. The name of Reginald Heber was in name, when Dr. E. D. Clarke sent his volume of every mouth; his society was courted by young travels through Russia, Tartary, and Turkey, to and old; he lived in an atmosphere of favour, ad- the press, he allowed him the free use of his jourmiration, and regard, from which I have never nal, of which Dr. Clarke availed himself to a conknown any one but himself, who would not have siderable extent in the form of notes to his work, derived, and for life, an unsalutary influence." by which its value was certainly largely increased.
Dr. Clarke, in his preface, and in various parts of he added another poem of a few lines, on the pashis volume, pays a well merited tribute to "the sage of the Israelites through the Red Sea. zealous attention to accuracy which appears in He returned from the continent in 1807, and every statement" of Mr. Heber. Of the closeness'soon afterwards was admitted to holy orders, and and discrimination of his observations, the vivid inducted into bis patrimonial preferment of Hodrecollection of Russian buildings, language, and net in Shropshire, estimated at 30001. per annum, incidents, which appear in his Indian journals, comprising the estate of his ancestors, which had written nearly twenty years later, afford very strik- been held by his father during the last years of his ing proofs. What he saw in Hindoostan is repeat- life. The patronage of this living had become edly compared with what he recollected to have vested in his family by a marriage with an heiress seen in Russia. He seems, at times, almost con- of the Vernon family. He now married Amelia, vinced that several Indian practices must have had the daughter of Dr. Shipley, Dean of St. Asaph, a Russian origin, and he frequently detected him- and thenceforward willingly devoted himself to the self in mingling Russian words with Hindoostanee enjoyment of the domestic charities, and to the when addressing the natives of India.* It was discharge of those unobtrusive duties which fill up during this journey, and while in the city of Dres- the life of a country clergyman. He was here surden, that he began a poem on Europe, which, rounded by his relatives, and an intelligent and however, he did not complete till after his return, agreeable society. He possessed as many of the and which he published in 1809. In the same ingredients which make up the sum of human year he published his poem of Palestine, to which happiness as he could desire. The love of fame,
however valuable in the eyes of most men, appears * We may introduce here Mr. Heber's account of a visit never to have had any strong hold upon his feelwhich Mr. Thornton and himself paid to the celebrated Plato, ings, and, at this period, probably had none whatarchbishop of Moscow, taken from Dr. Clarke's travels, to ever. His society was indeed courted by the world which it is annexed as a note.
which he was so well qualified to attract and gra“There is a passage in Mr. Heber's journal very character, tify; but he had set before himself, in the spirit istic of this extraordinary man. Mr. Heber, with his friend Mr. Thornton, paid him a visit in the convent of Defania ; of the truest and noblest ambition, a course of seand, in his description of the monastery, I find the following cret virtue and self-denying diligence, in pursuing account of the archbishop. 'The space beneath the rocks is which, he rightly estimated, that it was the way occupied by a small chapel, furnished with a stove, for winter to the purest earthly happiness, and that its brildevotion; and on the right hand is a little, narrow cell, con- liant termination would be richly worth every sataining two coffins, one of which is empty, and destined for the present archbishop; the other contains the bones of the crisice, should he be called to any, which he could founder of the monastery, who is regarded as a saint. The make for it. Devoted to his profession, he consioak coffin was almost bit to pieces by different persons afflicted dered it his most honourable distinction to become with the toothach, for which a rub on this board is a specific. the friend, the pastor, the spiritual guide of those Plato laughed as he told us this ; but said, " As they do it de whose spiritual interests had been committed to bon cæur, I would not undeceive them.' This prelate has been long very famous in Russia, as a man of ability. His his charge. “He laboured to accommodate his piety has been questioned ; but from his conversation we drew instructions,” says one of his friends, “to the coma very favourable idea of him. Some of his expressions prehension of all; a labour by no means easy to a would rather have singed the whiskers of a very orthodox mind stored with classic elegance, and an imagiman; but the frankness and openness of his manners, and the nation glowing with a thousand images of subliliberality of his sentiments, pleased us highly. His frankness on the subjects of politics pleased us highly. The clergy mity and beauty. He rejoiced to form his manthroughout Russia are, I believe, inimical to their govern. ners, his habits, and his conversation, to those who ment; they are more connected with the peasants than most were entrusted to his care, that he might gain the other classes of men, and are strongly interested in their sul confidence and affection of even the poorest among ferings and oppressions; to many of which they themselves his flock; so that he might more surely win their are likewise exposed. They marry very much among the daughters and sisters of their own order, and form almost a souls to God, and finally, in the day of the last caste. I think Buonaparte rather popular among them Pla. account, present every man faultless before his to seemed to contemplate his success as an inevitable and not presence with exceeding joy. He was, above all, very alarming prospect. He refused to draw up a form of singularly happy in his visitation of the sick, and prayer for the success of the Russian arms. II,' said he, in administering consolation to those that mourned; they are really penitent and contrite, let them shut up their places of public amusement for a month, and I will then cele
and his name will long be dear, and his memory brate public prayers' His expressions of dislike to the nobles most precious, in the cottages of the poor, by
vealthy classes were strong and singular; as also the whose sick beds he has often stood as a ministermanner in which he described the power of an emperor of ing angel." “His sermons," says another of his Russia, the dangers which surround him, and the improba: friends, “ were very original-sometimes expandbility of any rapid improvement. 'It would be much better,' said he, ‘had we a constitution like that of England. Yet'i ing into general views of the scheme and doctrines suspect he does not wish particularly well to us in our war of revelation, collected from an intimate acquaintwith France."-Heber's MS. Journal.
ance, not with commentators, but with the details
of holy writ itself, frequently drawing ingenious In 1812 he published a small volume of poems, lessons for christian conduct, from the subordinate including, beside those we have already alluded parts of a parable, a miracle, or a history, which a to, with the exception of the hymns, some translaless imaginative mind would have overlooked— tions of Pindar, and one or two smaller pieces. often enlivened by moral stories, with which his In 1815, he was chosen, though still young, and multifarious reading supplied him; and occasion- only in the first eligible degree, to deliver the ally by facts which had come, perhaps, under his Bampton Lectures before the university of Oxford. own observation, and which he thought calculated The lectures, conformably to the directions of the to give spirit or perspicuity to the truths he was founder
, were published the ensuing year, under imparting: a practice which, when judiciously re- the title of “The Personality and Office of the strained, is well adapted to secure the rustic hearer Christian Comforter asserted and explained in a from the fate of Eutychus, without giving offence course of Sermons on John xvi. 7." Of these even to nicer brethren: of which the powerful ef- lectures it has been said by a judicious and able fect is discoverable (though the figures may be critic, that the author " has displayed much depth grosser than the times would now admit) in the and accuracy of investigation; an extensive acsermons of Latimer and the Reformers; subse- quaintance with the hidden stores of learning, quently, in those of Taylor and South; and still whether laid up in the writings of the ancient phimore recently in the popular harangues of Whit- losophers and poets, the Christian fathers of the field and Wesley; and a practice we will add, Greek and Latin churches, or the still more re which derives countenance and authority from the condite Rabbinical compilers; and a richness and use of parables in the preaching of our Lord.” |grandiloquism of expression, which, to say the Both in the pulpit and in his ordinary conversa. least of it, is fully as appropriate to the poet of tion, his language was polished, yet seldom above Palestine as to the Bampton lecturer. The imthe reach of a country congregation; and when mense mass of learning introduced into this vo occasion required, was dealt out to them in a way lume is doubtless very creditable to the powers it was impossible to misunderstand. Frequently he and industry of Mr. Heber." indulged in bold and striking metaphors, and he A few critical essays, both theological and litewas always attractive in the happy adoption of ex- rary, which appeared in the periodical publications pressions from the pure and undefiled English of of the day, without his name, and an ordination the Bible, with which his mind was thoroughly sermon, printed at the request of the Bishop of imbued, and which he could call up at will. Chester, before whom it was delivered, comprise
It was while engaged in this way, that he found all his literary labours from the date last named, time for the occasional composition of some hymns, till 1822, when he again appeared before the pubof which he originally intended to prepare a se- lic, as the editor of an edition of the works of Jeries, adapted to the English Church service remy Taylor, to which he annexed an account of throughout the year, for the use of his own parish. the life of Bishop Taylor, and a review of his A few of them were first published in the Chris- writings from his own eloquent pen. While this tian Observer for 1811 and 1812, introduced by a work exhibits advancement to a more ripened brief statement of the motives which led to their knowledge, and improvement in taste and style, composition, which were correct in themselves, it derives a great interest, from the evident symand highly creditable to the author.* From some pathy with which Mr. Heber regards the life and cause he never completed the task which he had writings of that heavenly-minded man. Taylor set for himself; but among those which he did and Heber have, indeed, been thought to possess prepare, there are some very beautiful specimens much in common, a poetical habit of mind, disgust of devotional poetry, which would alone be suff- at intolerance, great simplicity of character and cient to preserve his memory from decay. Some feeling, a hatred of every thing sordid and conof them, as his missionary hymn, have obtained a tracted, a love for practical rather than speculavery just celebrity; and there are few readers of tive religion, and a degree of faith, not the less poetry who are not familiar with that beautiful bright and towering, because connected with a piece, beginning Brightest and best of the sons of lofty imagination. the morning.
It was about the same time, that he was elected * This statement may be found preceding the Hymns in preacher at Lincoln's Inn, which, requiring his
residence for a short period of each year in LonWhile on his primary visitation, at Meerut, in the heart don, brought him occasionally into more conspicuof India, he was delightfully surprised at hearing some of ous society, and withdrew him, in a measure, from these hymne sung in the church where he was preaching. that retirement, and even obscurity, which he had "I had the gratification.” he says in his journal, of hearing appeared to court
, and brought out his many virilag,' and that for St. Stephen's day, sung better than I ever tues in a light more fitted to show forth their vaheard them in church before."
lue, and to give them the influence they miglit
reasonably challenge. The greater part of the When Mr. Heber's acceptance of the bishopric year was, however, still spent by him at Hodnet, of Calcutta was announced to his friends, the inwhere he had now erected a dwelling for his per- telligence was received with surprise by some, and manent residence.
with deep regret by many, whose personal feelings In this manner upwards of fifteen years had were too powerful to be altogether excluded from passed away since he had settled at Hodnet, dur- the question. Satisfied, as they were, that a ing which he was in the enjoyment of all the be- bright career was open for him at home, and not nefits of refined society, and all the blessings of taking the enlarged view of human duty which domestic life, which no one could more highly was familiar to him, they suffered their own selfish appreciate. His income was much more than delight in his society and honours to interfere with competent to all his wants, and his pure and well his ardent desire to do good to all men. Bishop balanced mind was satisfied with his enjoyments. Middleton, too, it was well known, had sunk unHe sought not distinction, but gifted as he was der the heavy duties of the station, joined to the with the means of being useful to mankind, it was debilitating effects of a tropical clime; and to many beyond his power to avoid it. If he had desired of Mr. Heber's friends, it seemed that he was too eminence, the way was plainly open before him, ready to go, crowned indeed with flowers, like a and he had only to put forth those powers with victim to the sacrifice. It was, moreover, believwhich he was so liberally endowed, to reach it. ed, by some of those who would have dissuaded If ambition had been his object, he would have him from the duty, that his character possessed been fully justified in indulging sanguine hopes some points, which, however amiable in themselves, of advancement in England. Among the whole were calculated to prevent that eminent degree of bench of English prelates, if talents and virtues success, which could atone for the sacrifice he was constitute a claim, there was none better entitled to make, and the hazard he was certainly to ento his seat, or more capable of adorning it, than counter. It was thought, too, that the striking Reginald Heber would have been.
simplicity of his taste and manners would be little On the death of Dr. Middleton, the first En-suited to a country where the object chiefly sought glish Bishop of Calcutta, the diocesan charge of was wealth, and where pomp and show were unithe English Churches in India was offered to him. versal idols. There was, too, about him, notwithReluctance to leave his aged mother, and his coun- standing all he had seen and read of human life try, made him at once decline the offer. But its and human character, a prodigality of kindness acceptance was pressed upon him by friends, and confidence in his nature, which would render whose opinions he highly estimated; and after the it very difficult for him, it was supposed, to oppose lapse of a week, spent in devout meditation and himself with sufficient decision to the many obprayer to Him who holds the destinies of man, he stacles which he might meet with, in a course of desired that this station, of which the honour most government, yet barely tried upon those who were certainly, to use the language of Jeremy Taylor, to be the subjects of it, and among whom many would not pay the burthen, if not already disposed conflicting interests were likely to appear. No of, might be entrusted to him. He bent himself misgivings, however, of this kind, ever occurred to holily to that overruling Providence, which, in all his own mind. He knew, and had weighed well the incidents of his life, he never ceased to regard the various difficulties with which Christianity as working all things for good. And when the had to contend in India, and, modest and humble appointment was, at length, given hinn, a distrust- as he was, he had anxiously studied the quality ful and uneasy sensation, which had distressed his and bent of his own resources in regard to them. mind at the apprehension that he might have The more he thought of the matter in this light, shrunk, in too cowardly a spirit, from the obvious the more strongly was he convinced that India dictates of duty, passed away, and he acquired was the proper field for his Christian labours, and new confidence in himself, from the conviction that having brought his mind to this result, he deterhe had acted rightly. “I can say with confi- mined that no sense of personal gratification or dence," he wrote to a friend at this time, “that I comfort, nor any hope of future dignity, should have acted for the best ; and even now, that the interfere with a conviction, which he deliberately die is cast, I feel no regret at the resolution I have regarded as a voice from heaven, speaking to his taken, nor any distrust of the mercies and good-conscience. ness of Providence, who may protect both me and On Sunday, the twentieth of April, he took mine, and, if he sees best for us, bring us back leave of his congregation, in a discourse which has again, and preserve our excellent friends to wel- been repeatedly published, in the close of which
he bade them farewell, in the following pious,
* In explanation of this expression, it is stated, that in con- and chaplains of the Anglo-Indian Church are allowed to ro. sequence of the peculiarity of the service in India, the bishops I turn to England after a certain term of service.