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have been bred in the same line of life, and those parts, which have so much signalized the possessor of them, would have been lost in a warehouse or behind a counter.
But, even from his birth, the care both of his education and fortune was kindly undertaken by his maternal uncle, Mr. Thomas Bigg, an eminent surgeon in London, and afterwards, on the death of his elder brothers, owner of the Chilton estate, which is still enjoyed by that family.
The affectionate, it may be said the parental, care this gentleman took of all his nephews, particularly in giving them liberal educations, supplied the great loss they had so early sustained, and compensated in a great degree for their want of more ample fortunes. And it was always remembered, and often mentioned by them all, with the sincerest gratitude.
In 1730, William, then about seven years old, was put to school at the Charter-House; and in 1735 was, by the nomination of Sir Robert Walpole, on the recommendation of Charles Wither, of Hall, in Hampshire, Esquire, his cousin by the mother's side, admitted upon the foundation there.
In this excellent seminary he applied himself to every branch of youthful education, with the same assiduity which accompanied his studies through life. His talents and industry rendered him the favourite of his masters, who encouraged and assisted him with the utmost attention. At the age of fifteen he was at the head of the school, and, although so young, was thought well qualified to be removed to the University; and he was accordingly entered a commoner at Pembroke College in Oxford, on the 30th of November, 1736, and was the next day matriculated.
At this time he was elected to one of the Charter-House exhibitions by the Governors of that foundation, to commence from the Michaelmas preceding, but was permitted to continue a scholar there till after the 12th of December, being the anniversary commemoration of the founder, to give him an opportunity of speaking the customary oration, which he had prepared, and which did him much credit.
About this time he obtained Mr. Benson's gold prize medal of Milton, for verses on that poet.
Thus, before he quitted school, did his genius begin to appear, and receive public marks of approbation and reward. And so well pleased was the Society of Pembroke College with their young pupil, that, in the February following, they unanimously elected him to one of Lady Holford's exhibitions for Charter-House scholars in that house.
Here he prosecuted his studies with unremitting ardour; and although the classics, and particularly the Greek and Roman poets, were his favourites, they did not entirely engross his attention: logic, mathematics, and the other sciences were not neglected; from the first of these, he laid the foundation of that close method of reasoning he was so remarkable for: and from the mathematics, he not only reaped the benefit of using his mind to a close investigation of every subject that occurred to him, till he arrived at the degree of demonstration the nature of it would admit, but he converted that dry study, as it is usually thought, into an amusement, by pursuing the branch of it which relates to architecture.
This science he was particularly fond of, and made himself so far master of it, that, at the early age of twenty, he compiled a treatise intituled Elements of Architecture, intended for his own use only, and not for publication; but esteemed by those judges who have perused it, in no respect unworthy his maturer judgment, and more exercised pen.
Having determined on his future plan of life, and made choice of the law for his profession, he was entered of the Middle Temple on the 20th of November, 1741. He now found it necessary to quit the more amusing pursuits of his youth for severer studies, and began seriously reading law.
How disagreeable a change this must have been to a young man of brilliant parts, and a fine imagination, glowing with all the classical and poetical beauties he had stored his mind with, is easier conceived than expressed: he alone, who felt, could describe his sensations on that occasion; which he did in the following lines, some time afterwards published by Dodsley, in the 4th volume of his Miscellanies, under the title of The Lawyer's Farewell to his Muse.
“As by some tyrant's stern command,
There, melting at the well-known view,
Companion of my tender age, Serenely gay, and sweetly sage, How blithsome were we wont to rove By verdant hill, or shady grove, Where fervent bees with humming voice Around the honey'd oak rejoice, And aged elms, with awful bend, In long cathedral walks extend. Lull’d by the lapse of gliding floods, Cheer'd by the warbling of the woods, How blest my days, my thoughts how free, In sweet society with thee! Then all was joyous, all was young, And years unheeded roll’d along: But now the pleasing dream is o'er,These scenes must charm me now no more ; Lost to the field, and torn from you, Farewell!-a long, and last adieu !
There, in a winding, close retreat,
“Oh! let me pierce the secret shade,
“ Then welcome business, welcome strife,
“ Thus, though my noon of life be past,
The struggle of his mind is expressed so strongly, so naturally, with such elegance of sense and language, and harmony of versification, as must convince every reader, that his passion for the Muses was too deeply rooted to be laid aside without much reluctance, and that, if he had pursued that flowery path, he might probably have ranked amongst the best of our English poets.
Several little fugitive pieces, besides this, have at times been communicated by him to his friends, and he left (not with a view of publication) a small collection of juvenile pieces, both originals and translations, inscribed with this line from Horace,
“ Nec lusisse pudet, sed non incidere ludum."
Some notes on Shakespeare, which, just before his death, he communicated to Mr. Stevens, and which that gentleman inserted in his last edition of that author, shew how well he understood the meaning, as well as the beauties of his favourite poet *.
In November, 1743, he was elected into the Society of AllSouls College; and, in the November following, he spoke the Anniversary Speech in commemoration of Archbishop Chichele, the founder, and the other benefactors to that house of learning, and was admitted actual fellow.
From this period he divided his time between the University and the Temple, where he took chambers, in order to attend the Courts. In the former he pursued his academical studies, and on the 12th of June, 1745, commenced Bachelor of Civil Law; in the latter he applied himself closely to his profession, both in the Hall and in his private studies, and, on the 28th of November, 1746, was called to the bar.
In the early part of his professional life, upon a vacancy of the Civil Law Professorship in the University of Oxford, Mr. Murray (afterwards Earl Mansfield) took occasion of expostulating with the Duke of Newcastle, then Chancellor of the University of
* The verses, published in the name of had so long received without any pretenJ. Clitherow, (the editor of Sir W. B.'s sions: and in making this acknowledgeReports), in the Oxford Collection, on the ment, Mr. Clitherow also, in a note in his death of the Prince of Wales, in 1751, edition of Sir W. B.'s Reports, expressed and which were justly esteemed one of the a hope that it might atone for his having best compositions in that collection, were so long permitted it to have remained gewritten by Mr. Blackstone, who at that nerally unknown, particularly as, on those time exacted a promise of secrecy: which occasions, it was by no means unusual, or promise Mr. Clitherow considered himself reckoned a discredit to a young man, to absolved from by the death of the learned have his name prefixed to the production judge, and felt a sensible satisfaction in re
of another person. storing to the right owner that applause he