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Notwithstanding his promising advancement in classical learning, the subject of this memoir was hitherto designed by his father for no higher station in life than that of a London tradesman. Accordingly, when he was about thirteen years old, it was proposed, on his own choice, to bind him apprentice to a chemist, in which line his talents and scholastic acquirements might have found some profitable scope ; and a friend of the family, Mr. Calverley, a most worthy man, and an intimate companion of the late Wm. Stevens, esq., was applied to, on the subject of receiving him. But Mr. Calverley at once refused, as intending soon to retire from business : upon which the future Bishop appeared to have been influenced solely by his affection for that excellent person; since, when informed of his refusal, he desired that no other situation of the kind should be sought for, and at once avowed an inclination to pursue his studies, with a view to become a clergyman. This may justly be reckoned a critical period of his life; and Dr. Horsley, the rector of the parish, whom his father thought fit to consult, is said to have expressed an unfavourable opinion, or to have remonstrated against “diverting the boy from trade.” However, the wishes of the young aspirant were happily acceded to, and he was transplanted to a higher school. Westminster and St. Paul's were both considered to be ineligible, because at both the pupils were peremptorily required to attend, disregarding inclemency of weather, and from a child he had been liable to inflammation in the eyes, if exposed to cold or rain. The Merchant
Tailors' school was therefore preferred, and to that he was removed, probably in his fourteenth year. The Rev. Thomas Green was at that time headmaster; but the Rev. Samuel Bishop, who was then under-master, soon after succeeded to his place. Mr. Bishop was a very estimable man, and ranked high as a sound and an elegant scholar. Nor did his new pupil fail to shew a congenial mind, and proportionably to gain upon his affection. Specially did he excel in English exercises, both prose and verse, some of which are still extant in manuscript, and perhaps in print. Nevertheless, having been entered at too late an age, he was superannuated. No moral fault, nor any defect of learning, was imputed to him ; but he was too far advanced in years to wait for an opportunity of going off on a fellowship to St. John's, Oxford, which, both by himself and his friends, was much desired.
Consequently, Queen's college in that University, was his destination. He was entered there February 21, 1783, in the nineteenth year of his age; Dr. Fothergill being at that time provost, and Dr. Collinson, who succeeded him, holding the more immediately important office of tutor. Respecting Dr. Collinson, the Bishop always spoke in terms of affectionate esteem, and, were he still surviving, he might furnish some interesting recollections of his pupil. As the case is, a friend informs the writer, that they who knew him in college have been heard to say, that he was of regular and studious habits, and from the first applied himself more particularly to theology; and at the same time, a contemporary and acquaintance at another college, remembers to have always considered him a pleasant and gentlemanly companion, fond of music, and not very studious. These apparently conflicting statements may easily be explained and reconciled. Taken together, they denote the subject of them to have possessed a remarkably vigorous elasticity and cheerfulness, as well as a depth and solidity of mind, which, they who knew him best in his future course, will most readily testify to have been the fact. He could happily prosecute his studies, and lay a good foundation, without secluding himself, or ceasing to enjoy society. Indeed, there are other traditions and evidences that, at this period, he was fond of the elegancies of social life, and had a taste for polite accomplishments. Besides music, drawing and poetry were his recreations; in both which he seems to have been respectable as an amateur. And, since it is certain that he did not so turn aside after these, as to dissipate and enervate his faculties, or contract a distaste for more important objects, his friends may well consider it no discredit, but the contrary, that he could take pleasure in them. One who can thus moderately divert himself in his youth, is usually better adapted than the severe and painful student, to profit mankind with his graver learning in
It may be suspected that a voluntary estrangement from elegant amusements and literature, betokens quite as often a narrow or overburdened, as a really superior understanding. While a schoolboy, and during his vacations from Oxford, he held much intercourse with Mr. Percy, a nephew of the late Bishop of Dromore, who died at an early age. He was also acquainted with Mr., afterwards Serjeant Pell, and other young men of considerable talent, and literary promise. One of these, destined for the law, is said, about this period, to have bespoken for himself the Lord-chancellorship, for his friend “Van Mildert” the Archbishopric of Canterbury: the former part of this prediction entirely failed, the latter has been well nigh accomplished.
The future Bishop of Durham took the degree of B. A. Nov. 23, 1787, and that of M. A. July 17, 1790. The examinations previous to degrees were not then of a public or discriminating kind; it is impossible, therefore, now to discover how he acquitted himself, or what were his relative attainments. No doubt, however, he had made a becoming proficiency both in classical and other learning ; and certain it is, that his general conduct and disposition had been such as to win the cordial and lasting approbation of his superiors. This appears by a letter to him from his late tutor, dated 1793, at which period he was still an undistinguished curate; and the following sentences are so highly creditable both to the writer, and the person addressed, that they may here with much propriety be inserted :
“ It was not without concern that I received “ Mr. -'s directions to take your name out of
our books: and I now feel even more regret on “this account, from the consideration, that he had “ not clearly understood your meaning. Perhaps it “is not of much consequence; yet whatever seems " to separate us from those whom we have reason fare, and in every opportunity of shewing you “ that I am, and still continue to be, with real re“gard and esteem, my dear sir, your very affection“ ate friend,
“ to esteem, becomes an addition to the evils of life. “ The regard you express for the college is very
pleasing. I trust the college will ever be ambi“ tious to gain the favourable opinion of those of its “ members, whose conduct reflects on it the greatest “ credit. The candid and liberal manner in which
you formerly accepted my endeavours to do my duty towards you, then deserved my best acknow• ledgments; and the kindness with which you now
speak of me, affords me the truest satisfaction. I “ request you to accept my sincere thanks on both
accounts, and to be assured that I shall rejoice very cordially in hearing of your health and wel
SEPTIMUS COLLINSON.” “The Provost and the members of the common“ room desire me to present their best respects.”
In Trinity term, 1788, William Van Mildert was ordained deacon, by the Bishop of Oxford, upon the curacies of Sherborne and Lewknor, near Watlington, which he served from Oxford: but this his first engagement was of short continuance, and no particulars respecting it are known. In the following year, he was admitted into priest's orders, and took the curacies of New Church and Bonnington, in Kent; his residence being at Ashford, an inconvenient distance. That town, however, was then the abode of many of the clergy, who had parochial duty in the neighbourhood, and thus contained within