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George Walker, the subject of the following memoir, was born about the year 1735, at Newcastle-upon-Tyne. The family from which he descended may be traced to a considerable antiquity; and it has been transmitted by them as a kind of hereditary anecdote, that an ancestor in the reign of James I was reluctantly advanced to the honours of knighthood. The reader will recollect, that an obsolete law of the second Edward, which, affixing the value of a knight's fee, compelled every one, who posseśsed lands to that amount, either to assume the rank and duties of a knight, or compound by the payment of a stipulated sum, was revived by the arbitrary James, for the pur
pose of replenishing his exhausted coffers. Few at that time aspired to the distinction, as it involved in it very important services, and reduced the possessor of it to a state of great dependence, by obliging him personally to attend in the field, or to incur the penalty of an arbitrary fine. which thus subjected the owner to all the burdens and the honours of knighthood, had been in the possession of the family for more than a century, being originally either a gift or a purchase from Henry VIII. From that time to the present it has been enjoyed by them, in an uninterrupted succession from father to son, and is now held by William Walker, esq., of Killenbeck Hall, near Leeds, cousin-german to the author of these volumes, who has in his possession the king's original transfer.
Though his father's circumstances must have sensibly felt the expenses of a numerous family, yet at no period does this appear to have operated to our author's prejudice, by depriving him of any of those advantages necessary to qualify him for the
exercise of a profession, to which he appears to have been early destined. He received the rudiments of his education at the grammar-school of Newcastle, then under the care of the Rev. Dr. Moises, a clergyman of the church of England, but a man of great liberality of sentiment, and who had des servedly acquired a very high reputation for the rapid progress of his scholars *.
In this situation he gave early indications of a distinguished character. Before he had attained the age of five, he had made so considerable a proficiency in the Latin language, that he was deemed fully competent to enter upon Cæsar's Commentaries. This rapidity of attainment, the consequence of a superior capacity united to a more than ordinary share of application, was not accompanied, as is usually the case, with that
* This gentleman has had the honour of educating several,, who afterward attained to very considerable. eminence in life, among whom may be numbered the present Lord Chancellor, and his brother Sir William Scott.
gravity of temper and conduct, that seems to forbid. a participation in the sports ercises congenial to the period of youth: on the contrary, he possessed all the characteristic cheerfulness of a boy, and entered with more than common ardour into the juvenile amusements of his school-fellows. For his rapid progress in school learning he was no doubt greatly indebted to the judicious care and attention of his master, who appears early to have, distinguished him from the rest of his pupils, and to have bestowed
upon him a more than ordinary share of attention:
In a visit to Newcastle about four years ago, our author availed himself of the
opportunity of calling on this respectable character, then in extreme old
age. The meeting between the venerable tutor and his early pupil was singularly cordial. The Doctor spoke of him ag of one, whom he was proud to enumerate among his scholars, and of whom ħe had early formed the high expectations, which he had lived to see realized. A few
letters, with which the Doctor had occasionally favoured the author in after life, are strongly expressive of the continued interest that he felt in the welfare of his pupil, and the favourable opinion he always entertained of his character and talents. After the publication of one of his fast sermons in the year 1782, which was dedicated to Mr. Pitt, at that time the champion of the whigs and the zealous promoter of reform, the Doctor, in a letter to the author, declares, that he had perused it with great eagerness; "for though,” adds he, “our spe“ culative opinions are different both in po" litics and religion, this difference could never conceal from me great ingenuity, “ invincible honesty, and deep learning; and " then 'twas impossible but that my
best “ wishes' would be interested in the prospe
rity of the possessor of such talents. The “ address to the minister is sensible, intrepid, “ and yet sufficiently civil. The part of the
sermon, which relates to the doctrine of a superintending Providence, is well argued,