Imágenes de páginas
[graphic][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

LIFE AND CORRESPONDENCE OF JOHN Lancashire into Yorkshire, through the vale FOSTER.

of Todmorden, was one of the most beauti[The decease of a person so distinguished ful in England. Its hill-tops, thrown into in the literary and religious world as the au- every variety of shape, seemed to lift themthor of the Essay on Decision of Character, selves aloft as if to break the force of the and the publication of his Correspondence, winter storm, or to present a natural resthave naturally called forth notices of greater ing-place to the summer clouds as they or less extent in many of the leading British coursed each other from height to height, journals. We have seen none of these more

and threw their fitting shadows over the completely and candidly presenting the life, Barren, and have so been since the upburst

glens below. Some of those heights were and mental and moral traits of the man, than of the mighty forces which made them what the following from the British Quarterly, an they are; but the less elevated were crowneminent dissenting periodical. While it willed, or clothed from base to summit, with be found friendly to the subject, it deals fairly ancient and richly hanging woods. The with his well-known faults as an author and a dells, which receded right and left from the man; and as Foster's fame has become almost main line of road, presented curves and as familiar with us as with his own countrymen, slopes, and sometimes abrupt and jagged we leel sure that the sketch will be well re- outlines, in almost every form, intersecied ceived and profitably read.-ED ]

with rock, and wood, and verdure; and,

after rain, while the voice of birds welcomed From the British Quarterly Review.

the returning sunshine, every hill-side might The Life and Correspondence of John Fos- be heard tossing forth its tributary waters

ter. Edited by J. E. Ryland. With to feed the Hebden, as it rolled through its Notices of Mr. Foster, as a Preacher and deeper bed beneath. The little of handia Companion. By John SHEPPARD, cralt which mixed itself with the husbandry Author of 'Thoughts on Devotion,' &c. of the district, was not more than sufficed Two vols. 8vo. pp. 468. 590.

to impart those traces of man to Nature,

which make even Nature more beautiful. About a century since, the pass from This description, be it remembered, applies Vol. IX. No, IJÍ.


to the vale of Todmorden, as it was in the particularly good, the exclamation was not last century, when its seclusion had nou unfrequently heard, “That's sound divinity,'

been broken in upon either by canals or or, ' Author, I am of thy opinion. This · railways, and when the space now occupied estimable man lived to be eighty-eight years

with tall chimneys, and lofty square build- of age. He died in 1814. His wife, who ings, and with grouped or scatiered multi- is described as his counterpart in soundness tudes of artizan dwelling-places, had little of understanding, integrity, and piety, surof its present appearance.

vived him two years. One point of this valley bears the name Such was the birth-place, and such were of Hebden bridge, and, at the time of which the parents of the Rev. Jolin Foster, who we speak, there stood at no great distance was born on the 17th of September, 1770. from that spot, in the direction of Wains. On the tomb-stone of the elder Foster, is gate, a small farm-house. The couple who, the following characteristic inscriptionabout the middle of the latter half of the John Foster exchanged this life for a betlast century, were the occupants of that ter, March 21, 1814, in the eighty-eighth house, had their employment, afier ihe man- year of his age, and the sixty-third after ner of the time, partly in the labor of the God had fully assured him that he was one farm, and partly in weaving. The husband of his sons. The subject of these memoirs was no common person. It was his habit was the first child of his parents, and the of caution and forethought which had pre- only further addition to their family was a vented his taking upon him the responsibil- second son, about four years younger. Fosities of a family until he had passed his for- ter saw his parents for the last time in 1801, tieth year.

He was then a devout man-a in the thirty-first year of his age, and then Christian. Mr. Grimshaw, of Haworth, one said of them, “They fear not death, nor of that small, but noble-hearted band of need to fear it; for they are eminently ripe clergymen, who, about that time, began to for heaven. I have never met with piety preach the gospel in the manner of men more active and sublime.' who understood and believed it, had been In the early life of inen of genius we see the means of giving the mind of our farin less of the fruit of circumstances, than of ing and weaving friend this wholesome di- the power which is not to be controlled by rection. But, as often happens in such circumstances. The charm of their story cases, the convert did not remain a church commonly is, that they should have done so

He became a member of the small much for themselves, amidst an outward Baptist church at Wainsgate. His temper allotment that did so little for them. It was cheerful, and his views were much more would sometimes seem as though the gifts expanded than was common with men in of the mind came from one sovereignty, and his circumstances; but, on the whole, his the gifts of what is called fortune from anhabits disposed him to avoid society rather other, and that the two crowns are at issue than to seek it. Not a few of his happiest --so marked are the apparent cross purpohours were given to reading, meditation, ses observable in these two kinds of bestowand prayer. Near Hebden bridge there is ments. But this is done that there may be a secluded spot, at the bottom of a wood by an aristocracy of nature, placed over against the side of ihe Hebden, and marked by its the aristocracy of accident—that your high projecting rock, which still bears the name family pretensions might be counterpoised of this good man. It was his 'cave' of by pretensions based on a still higlier relarefuge for thought and devotion. We can lionship—that the wealth of the inner life readily suppose that among his brother of man, which comes from above, might be Baptists such a man would be a good deal played off in the game of existence against of an oracle. He was not only better read the wealth of the outer life, which at best is than most of his neighbors in theology, but only of the earth. Two things, it would as possessing more than the common share seemn, are necessary to the efficiency of this of acuteness and discrimination, was better more natural aristocracy-that there should qualified than most to digest what he read be power, and that the power possessed On the decease of the Baptist pastor, this should be somewhat severely resied—that gifted brother was one of a small nuniber it should be power called 10 that kind of who read Gurnal's Christian Armor,' for warfare with opposing influences which is the common benefit, on alternate Sundays. favorable to a growing manhood. It is reinembered of this reader, that when The power of Foster was a power thus he came to passages which struck him as tried and matured. In his early years be


[ocr errors]

was subject to many disadvantages. His moved by indications of vastness and power, disposition was naturally, we may, perhaps, than by the merely beautiful. We remember say hereditarily—thoughtful and reserved. once standing ai his side when the object His strong individuality was ever disposing before him was a caged eagle, when the him to collapse upon himself. When not anatomical display of strength in the noble more than twelve years old, this peculiarity bird was the special object of his attention, was so dominant as to cause him to feel a and he remarked on the tendency of the painful want of affinity both with the young signs of mere power to call forth admiration and old about him. As a boy, he was no in a manner which showed that the speculacompanion for boys; and with older persons tion was no novelty to his thoughts. At any it was often matter of bewilderment how the time he would probably have turned from a mind of such a child as 'yon' should have Claude, or a Poussin, to works in the mancome by such ‘old-fashioned' ways of think-ner of a Salvator Rosa, or a Michael Aning and talking. No one acquainted with gelo. In his youth he was, of course, sufthe writings of Foster, and especially no ficiently innocent of knowing any thing one acquainted with his earlier letters as about the existence of such geniuses; but printed in this collection, can feel the slight- the strength of his imagination, and the alest difficulty in conceiving of his childhood most living force of his associations, made and youth as being of this description. The him particularly susceptible of impressions absence of all sisterly influence, the dispar- from the great, the awful, and the mysteriity between his own years and those of his ous, even from his earliest childhood. We only brother, the advanced age of his pa- suspect that the young of the present genrents, and the fact that he grew up alınost eration know little of the superstitious terto manhood under the parental roof-all rors with which the novitiate of life in the these were circunstances tending necessa- case of their fathers and grandfathers was rily to separate him from sympathy, and to so dreadfully beset. Foster, speaking of throw him almost entirely on his own pent- his childhood, says—'the time of going to up musings and emotions. The natural bed was an awful season of each day ;' and effect followed. His manner became timid, the children were few in those days who shrinking, awkward, amounting, it is said, had not been taught to assign a place in to an infinite shyness ;' and this mischief, their sleeping-room, in the long passage, or though parıly overcome in aster lise, left its in some adjoining apartment, to the superimpression on his character and manners to natural; though in the case of our embryo the end of his days. Writing, in later years, man of letters, pictures of that sort were to his valued friend, the Rev. Joseph probably more frequent and vivid than with Hughes, he says—I had, when a child, boys of a much duller fancy. The skeleton the feelings of a foreigner in the place, and which met him every night in the room some of the earliest musings that kindled through which he had to pass to his chammy passious, were on plans for abandoning ber, was seen, no doubt, by his theurgic it. My heart felt a sickening vulgarity, be vision, with a clearness which no other boy fore my knowledge could make compari- in Hebden bridge, or Wainsgate, could sons. My involuntary unreflecting percep-have brought to the scrutiny; and vain tions of the mental character of my very would have been his effort to make others few acquaintance were probably just, as to see those processes of Indian torture, the their being qualified to reciprocate my sen- sight of which, as he tells us, he could not timents and fancies.'

ilt times himself escape from, by any effort But if the people about the place of his for the purpose. That trumpery stool there, birth were lille to his mind, the scenery of in the corner of the room, what is there rethe neighborhood commanded his adınira-markable about that? The boy, John Fos. tion. It was good in what it was, and bet- ter, will never use it years pass, and still ter in what it suggested. It assisted him to he will not use it-why is this? The stool revel in imagination amidst the scenes of had been the property of a man who came more profound beauty, or of more affecting by his death in a sudden and strange way, grandeur, of which his books, from time to and whose ghost, it was said, had been seen time, gave him some conception. The very in a baro near his house! To that timid, words, woods and forests, called up pictures taciturn boy, there was more about that of sublinity which filled him with emotion. stool than the eye could look upon, or than Calm and grave as his temperament always any sense could recognize. To him it was seemed to be, he was generally much more an object of the imagination, and though it

On every

might not speak to others, to him it never «When about fourteen years old, he comfailed to speak, and the mind must be slug-municated to the associate just nained, the gish in its discernment which does not see poignant anxiety he had sutiered from comin that small incident a strongly-marked ele- paring his character with the requirements of

ihe divine law, and added, that he had found ment of the future man.

reliel' only by placing a simple reliance on

the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for acceptance But unfavorable as this home education, before God. Six days after the conipletion of and much beside, may have been, the lot his seventeenih year be became a minber of of young Foster was not wholly an adverse the Baptist church at Hebden bridge. His one. His parents exercised a most effect- venerable pastor, Dr. Fawcett, and other ual guard over his moral and religious his early thoughtlulness and piety, urged

friends, who had watched with deep interest training. The circle in, which he grew him to dedicate his talents 10 the Christian up was one of kindness, and one in which ministry. Whether he had himsell previousgood sense and integrity were united with ly formed such a design is not known: the sincere piety. In the objects of his filial object of their wishes soon became his delibaffection and confidence, he saw the per- erate choice, and after giving satisfactory sons who were regarded with similar feel- proofs of his abilities, he was set aparı' for ings by the best people in all the neighbor- the ministerial office by a special religious serhood.

of One of his father's favorite sen- instruction and general mental improvement, tences, he informs us, was—' The noblest he became, shorily after, an inmate at Brearmotive is the public good!' His house ley Hall, where Dr. Fawcett, in connexion was a kind of sanctuary. Religious meet with his labors as an instructor of youth, diings were often held there.

rected, at that time, the study of a lew theoTuesday evening, Mr. Foster presided at logical candidates. Part of each day was a prayer meeting under his own roof, and still spent in assisting his parents ai their in offering the concluding prayer,


usual employments. During the rest of the

time, his application to study was so intense he always did, it was observed that he as to excite apprehensions for his health. Frenever omitted the petition-Oh, Lord, quently, whole nights were spent in reading bless the lads !'—the lads being John Fos- and meditation, and on these occasions his ter, and his then only companion, Henry favorite resort was a grove in Dr. Fawceti's Horsefall

. Nor was the father aliogether garden. Hisscholastic exercises were marked insensible to the intellectual aptitudes of by great labor, and accomplished very slowly the son. When the boy was not more him in the readiness with which they per.

Many of his interiors in mental power surpassed than four years old, the father was known formed the prescribed lessons. One method to lay his hand upon his head and say, which he adopted for improving himself in This head will some day learn Greek.' composition, was that of taking paragraphs Some thirteen years, however, from that from different writers, and trying to remodel time, passed away, and there was still little them, sentence by sentence, into as many forms sign that this prophecy of the gond, man, ture on these occasions. was to sit with a

of expression as he possibly could. His posconcerning his first-born, would be fulfilled. band on each knee, and, moving his body to The education of Foster during those years and fro, he would remain silent for a considhad been, of course, confined to his own erable time, till bis invention in shaping his Janguage. He read at times voraciously, materials had exhausted itself. This process but as will be supposed, with little system, he used to call pumping. He had a great and with a very defective and confused re-aversion to certain forms of expression which sult. During the later portion of this were much in vogue aniong some religious peospace he wrought at bis father's craft, spin- punge ilieni from every hook by act of parlia

ple, and declared that, if possible, he would erning wool to a thread by the hand-wheel, meni: and often said, "We want to put a ney and afterwards weaving what are called face upon things.'' pp. 9, 10. double stuffs, such as lastings, &c. But nothing, we are told, was farther from the Brearley Hall, where our young divine

inclination of the youth, and few things pursued his studies thus sedulously, was farther from his thoughts, than that he beautifully situated. It was inclosed at all should continue at such occupations. One points by the neighboring woods, except consequence of this sort of forecasting was, on the south, where it opened by a gentle that he made but a very indifferent weav- descent upon the valley. With the surer. The change which at length opened rounding landscape, and with the many before him is thus described by the intelli- ylen and woodland retreats which were gent editor of these memorials :

There accessible to him, Foster was deeply interested; and the memory of those scenes was, had his vein of humor, and knew how is often referred to in his after life as among to enjoy that thing in others; and though the most delightful visions retained from not very sprightly himself, was never a his early years. Such a mind, exposed to check on the rational buoyancy of the such influences, was not to be restricted young about himn. In the matter of industry, to a dull educational routine. Beside read- his example was such as often to come uping such works in theology as seemed to on the conscience of young Foster with bim most pregnant with thought and ear- the force of a painful rebuke. His views nestness, he seized with special avidity on of human nature, however, were of the books of voyages and travels,-productious sombre cast, and perhaps contributed somewhich, in that day, were immeasurably what to give a coloring of that sort to the more the staple reading of the young than early thoughts of his pupil. In regard to at present, both the old and the new world public affairs, Dr. Fawceit was one of that old being now so far explored, narrowed and school of dissent, who were more concerned exposed, as to afford small supply in that for quiet than for change. In this respect shape to a passion for the marvellous. Fond- Foster appears even then to have been litness for this kind of re ng in Foster ile in sympathy with his venerated tutor. seemed to grow by what it fed upon, and Foster's education at Brearley Hall was · if prosecuted with more discrimination in preliminary to his admission into the Baphis subsequent years, we shall see that to iist Acadeiny at Bristol. The manner of the last it was somewhat unduly indulged. our young divine's journey from TodmorBut locality as well as temperament tended den to that city should be mentioned, as to this result. Such was Foster's passion-contrasting soinewhat strongly with the ate sympatlıy with the appearances of na- softer habitudes of not a few modern stuture, that one summer evening he pre- dents of divinity. To pedestrianize from vailed on a young man to walk with him Todmorden to Manchester was no very by the river side in the vale of Todmor- formidable business; and from Manchester den from night-fall till dawn, that they to Birmingham the youth enjoyed the luxumight watch the effect of day-break and ry, such as that was in 1791, of having his morning on the scenery of that romantic seat outsede a coach. But then there was district.

the journey from Birmingham to Bristol, Dr. Fawcet, the master of Brearley Hall, and for securing the said wheel luxury was a personage of stately presence and over that space, the bank, it seems, was bearing. He was tall, and large withal, unequal, and within the next two days the possessing a countenance somewhat satur- eighiy-eight miles between Birmingham nine, features which bespoke habitual seri- and Bristol were traversed by our future ousness, and a powerful voice. His preach-essayist, yard by yard, on fooi. We can ing seldom rose above common-place; but imagine the arrival of the weary stranger his alınost funereal gravity, which rendered at the door of the Academy there, opposite his services somewhat repulsive to the the Full-Moon in the city of Bristol, -a young, gave weight to his utterances with house at which, all respectable as it ihen minds more of his own experience and was, you may now purchase drugs in the complexion. It was not one of the doc-one department, if you need them, and protor's most conspicuous virtues to bear op- vender for man and beast in the other. So position with patience, or, in truth, to sub-cometh change! In that institution Robert mit readily to correction in any way. He Hall had recently been the classical tutor. was considerably accustomed to deference, His place was now supplied by the Rev. and was disposed to expect it; but he was Joseph Hughes, between whom and this a person of good sense in most things, of new student a friendship was speedily sincere piety, and, on the whole, of kindly formed, not such as usually obtains befeeling. His reading was more free and tween tutor and pupil, but such as binds extended than was usual in those days equal to equal. Foster's friendship with with ministers boasting of their puritanical that intelligent and truly estimable man descent. He had read such books as Field-was of more benefit to him than all his ing's novels; and Foster long remembered his other friendships taken together. That the substance of a discriminating critique the only influence of time upon it should which fell one day from his old tutor at have been to mellow and ripen it was perBrearley Hall on one of those productions fectly natural. Indeed, the worthy gentleman, grave as he Foster had some peculiar notions about

« AnteriorContinuar »