Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB
[blocks in formation]

The family from which the late Bishop of Limerick descended was settled in Nottinghamshire (where they appear to have enjoyed considerable local respectability) during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Few families have produced more persons connected with literature. Samuel Jebb, M.D., who was eminent among the nonjurors, found leisure, amidst the cares and avocations of his medical career, to produce a variety of works in philosophy and criticism. He was the father of Sir Richard Jebb, M.D., Physician Extraordinary to King George the Third. Of Sir Richard it is said, that he was the first of the faculty who had the bravery to throw off the professional paraphernalia, - the flowing wig, the scarlet cloak, and the gold-headed cane. The Very Rev. Dr. John Jebb, Dean of Cashel, brother to Samuel, was the father of the learned John Jebb, M.D. F.R.S., whose fame as a scholar and a controversialist was scarcely second to that of any of his contemporaries. He took an active and effective part in all the discussions which involved questions of civil and religious liberty, from the era of Wilkes to that of the French revolution. Conscientious scruples led him to give up the preferment which he had acquired in the church, and to embrace the profession of medicine after he had passed the early years of his youth.

Richard, the eldest brother of Dr. Samuel Jebb, and of Dean Jebb, was the grandfather of the able and amiable prelate whose death we now record. As there had been several notices of the Jebb family in Mr. Nichols's “ Literary Anec

p. 398.

dotes," and in enumerating its members it was stated that “ Richard Jebb, it is thought, settled in Ireland,” the late Bishop, in 1819, addressed a letter to Mr. Nichols, which is printed in the “ Illustrations of Literary History," vol. v.

“ At the beginning of the last century," he says, my grandfather settled in Drogheda ; where, as a merchant, he established, and through life maintained, a high character, both for integrity and commercial knowledge and ability.” His only son, John, succeeded his father in business, and was an alderman of Drogheda. By his second wife, Alicia Forster, who was likewise descended from a good family, and was well connected, he had two sons,— Richard, lately one of the Judges of the Court of King's Bench, in Ireland, and John, the late Bishop of Limerick.

The Bishop was born at Drogheda on the 27th of September, 1775. In his early years, owing principally to the attention of his admirable and affectionate mother (to whom the occupations of his business compelled Mr. Jebb to leave the almost exclusive management of the family), he enjoyed the blessing of an excellent education ; and when, at the

age

of eleven, he was sent to a public school, he carried with him a mind trained to habits of study and reflection, and prepared to receive and appreciate classical literature. Having passed through the ordinary routine of studies at Celbridge and Londonderry, he was, in the year 1791, admitted a student of Trinity College, Dublin, under the tuition of the late Archbishop of Dublin, Dr. Magee. The talent of the pupil soon attracted the notice of his tutor, and a friendship early commenced, which was terminated only by the death of the Archbishop

This was the “golden age” of the Dublin University : never was there a period in its history when science and polite literature were so ardently cultivated, and so closely united. Among Jebb's contemporaries were Lloyd, the present Provost; Davenports the unflinching advocate of liberal principles “ when evil days came;" Wray, Sandes, Sadlier, and Wall, now Fellows of the University; M.Mahon, Wallace,

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

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

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

stant use.

« AnteriorContinuar »