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النشر الإلكتروني

BIOGRAPHICAL, HISTORICAL, AND CRITICAL

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PREFACE

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THE OBSERVER.

Richard CUMBERLAND, the author of the OBSERVER, has been his own biographer. He has published memoirs of himself; and though, when a man writes his own life, we must

make some allowance for the operation of vanity, and deduct something for the delusion of self-conceit, yet every individual who gives an account of himself, will not fail, however unintentionally, to develope no small portion of his internal self, and consequently furnish the best clue for the appreciation of his real character.

If learning, like nobility, were an affair of pedigree, and gathered an accession of lustre in its descent, RICHARD CUMBERLAND could not have failed of possessing more than ordinary erudition.-For he was the grandson of RICHARD Bentley, the greatest scholar of his own, or perhaps of any times, and the great grandson of RICHARD CUMBERLAND, Bishop of Peterborough, author of a work-De Legibus Naturæ,-a prelate of eminent talents, as well as of singular piety and disinterestedness.

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XXXVIII.

RICHARD CUMBERLAND, the object of the present biographical sketch, was born in the Master's Lodge, at Trinity College, Cambridge, on the 19th of February, 1732. His mother, who was the daughter of Dr. BENTLEY, appears to have been a woman of considerable sagacity, and of more literary attainments, than were, at that time, commonly distributed among her sex.

At six years old, our author was sent to the Classical School of Bury St. Edmunds, which enjoyed some repute under the management of the Rev. ARTHUR KINSMAN. KINSMAN had been of Trinity College, and was a friend of BENTLEY, whom he was in the habit of seeing when he visited the university. It was on one of these occasions that the learned pedagogue, who was fond of dilating on the superior advantages of his school, said to BENTLEY, 'Master, I will make your grandson as good a scholar as yourself;'—to which the great Aristarchus jestingly replied, “Pshaw, ARTHUR, how can that be, when I have forgot more than thou ever knewest?'

As young CUMBERLAND usually passed his holidays at Cambridge, he had frequent opportunities of observing the habits, and hearing the opinions of his grandfather.But, of these, he preserved, or at least has communicated fewer memorials than might have been expected, and were to be desired. One of the few sayings of BENTLEY which CUMBERLAND has recorded was, that JOSHUA BARNES had as much Greek, and understood

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it about as well as an Athenian blacksmith.' He remarked of WARBURTON, who was at at that time emerging into celebrity, that he seemed to have a voracious appetite for knowledge, but he doubted if there was a good digestion. The manners of BENTLEY in the domestic sphere, and within the confines of his own family, must not be appreciated by his irritability as a critic, or by his violence as a controversialist. For his grandson tells us, that he was wont to interest himself in the amusements of children, and would detach himself from his immediate pursuits, in order to assist in their sports, or contribute to their merriment.

When a boy, CUMBERLAND was rallied by his mother for asserting that he never slept. BENTLEY called his grandson to account for this, which he did by stating that he never knew himself to be asleep, and therefore supposed that he never slept. The great critic very good-humouredly gave the child credit for this defence; and said to his mother, ‘Leave your boy in possession of his opinion; he has as clear a conception of sleep, and at least as comfortable a one, as the philosophers who puzzle their brains about it, and do not rest so well.'

After the death of Doctor BENTLEY, Mr. CUMBERLAND's family fixed their residence in the parsonage house of Stanwick, near Higham Ferrers, in Northamptonshire. His father united the sacred functions of a clergyman, with the more secular occupation of a

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justice of the peace. But he appears to have been amiable in both characters, and to have made both contribute to the production of amity and good-will in his own parish, and the immediate neighbourhood.

Though young CUMBERLAND had no robustness in his frame, he excelled in athletic exercises, and was remarkably swift of foot. His father was a bold rider, and attached to the diversion of hunting; in which he was at first followed and afterward rivalled by his

son.

During his vacations, CUMBERLAND's mother bestowed considerable pains in improving his taste and cultivating his understanding. SHAKSPEARE was the author whom they most frequently read together.-—Her comments and instructions,' says CUMBERLAND, • were such aids and instructions to a pupil in poetry as few could have given. What I could not else have understood she could aptly explain, and what I ought to admire and feel, nobody could more happily select and recommend. I well remember the care she took to mark out for my observation the peculiar excellence of that unrivalled poet, in the consistency and preservation of his characters; and wherever instances occurred, amongst the starts and sallies of his unfettered fancy, of the extravagant and false sublime, her discernment often prevented me from being so dazzled by the glitter of the period as to misapply my admiration and betray my want of taste. With all her father's critical acumen, she could

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trace, and teach me to unravel all the meanders of his metaphor, and point out where it illuminated, or where it only loaded and obscured the meaning, &c. &c.'

Of the hours, which were thus happily and instructively passed, a very pleasureable impression seems long to have remained on Mr. CUMBERLAND's mind; and it is, perhaps, to this early perusal of SHAKSPEARE, that we may trace that taste for dramatic composition, in which he afterward so liberally indulged. His first essay in the wide province of the drama was a kind of cento from the works of the great bard of Avon, which he entitled "Shakspeare in the Shades.' This composition was far from being destitute of merit, when compared with puerility of the author, who had not completed his twelfth year.

When Mr. KINSMAN retired from Bury School, young CUMBERLAND was placed at Westminster under Dr. Nichol, who was then at the head of that ancient seminary. He was put into the fifth form, where he remained half a year; and one year in the sixth.

He mentions that, during this period, he made a particular proficiency in composition. VINCENT BOURNE, who is hardly surpassed by Ovid, or TIBULLUS in the delicacy and elegance of his Latin verse, was usher of the fifth form. ColMAN and LLOYD, who afterwards obtained high literary distinction, were at the same period in the under school; and Mr. CumBERLAND mentions it, as a remarkable circumstance, that there were also three boys to

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