Hurd, Richard (DNB00)

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search

HURD, RICHARD, D.D. (1720–1808), bishop of Worcester, second son of John Hurd, a substantial farmer, by Hannah his wife, was born at Congreve, Staffordshire, on 13 Jan. 1719-20. He was educated at Brewood grammar school and Emmanuel College, Cambridge, where he graduated B.A. in 1738-9, and proceeded M.A. in 1742, taking a fellowship and deacon's orders. After a brief experience of parochial work at Reymersham, near Thetford, he returned to Cambridge, was ordained priest in 1744, and graduated B.D. in 1749. At Cambridge he formed a close friendship with his pupil and old schoolfellow, Sir Edward Littleton, bart. William Mason and Gray were also among his contemporaries and friends. His first literary effort took the shape of Remarks on a late Book [by William Weston, q.v.] entitled "An Enquiry into the rejection of the Christian Miracles by the Heathens,"' London, 1746, 8vo. In 1748 he contributed an English poem of very modest merit on the blessings of peace to the 'Gratulatio Academies Cantabrigiensis,' published on the occasion of the peace of Aix-la-Chapelle. In 1749 he published 'Q.Horatii Flacci Ars Poetica. Epistola ad Pisones. With an English Commentary and Notes,' London, 8vo. In the text he generally followed Bentley, but in the commentary and notes (though these display considerable erudition and taste) he developed the theory, long since discredited, that the poem was a systematic criticism of the Roman drama (see Colman, George, the elder, and Gibbon, Misc. Works, edit. 1796, ii. 27 et seq.) The work was anonymous, but a judicious compliment in the preface gained Hurd the patronage of Warburton, through whose influence he was appointed Whitehall preacher in 1750. The 'Ars Poetica' was followed by 'Q. Horatii Flacci Epistola ad Augustum, with an English Commentary and Notes; to which is added A Discourse concerning Poetical Imitation,' London, 1751, 8vo. Both editions were highly praised by Warburton in a note to Pope's 'Essay on Criticism,' 1. 632. Hurd, in return, dedicated to him in fulsome terms a new and enlarged edition of his two works on Horace, London, 1753, 2 vols. 8vo (reissued with various additions in 1757, 1766, and 1776). A German translation by Eschenburg appeared at Leipzig in 1772, 2 vols. 8vo.

Hurd also published in 1751 a pamphlet entitled 'The Opinion of an Eminent Lawyer [Lord Hardwicke] concerning the right of appeal from the Vice-chancellor of Cambridge to the Senate; supported by a short Historical Account of the Jurisdiction of the University of Cambridge,' &c., 8vo. In 1753 he accepted the donative curacy of St. Andrew the Little, Cambridge, which he exchanged in 1757 for the rectory of Thurcaston, Leicestershire. In 1755 he chastised Dr. Jortin for venturing in his 'Sixth Dissertation' to reject Warburton's theory that the descent of Æneas into Hades in the sixth book of the 'Æneid' was intended to allegorise the rite of initiation into the Eleusinian mysteries, in a piece of elaborate and unmerited irony entitled 'On the Delicacy of Friendship: a Seventh Dissertation addressed to the Author of the Sixth,' 8vo. In 1757 he edited Warburton's 'Remarks' on Hume's 'Natural History of Religion.' Hume keenly resented the flippant and insolent tone of this pamphlet, which appeared without either author's or editor's name, but was at once attributed to Hurd (see Warburton, Works, ed. Hurd, i. 67-8, xii. 341, and Hume, 'On my own Life,' in his Essays). In 1759 Hurd published a volume of 'Moral and Political Dialogues,' in which he introduced historical personages as interlocutors. Henry More and Waller discourse 'On Sincerity in the Commerce of the World,' Cowley and Sprat 'On Retirement,' the Hon. Robert Digby, Arbuthnot, and Addison 'On the Golden Age of Queen Elizabeth,' Sir John Maynard, Somers, and Burnet 'On the Constitution of the English Government.' The dialogues were much admired, although Johnson was offended by their 'wofully whiggish cast.' Hurd's reputation was further enhanced by the publication in 1762 (London and Dublin, 8vo) of a volume of 'Letters on Chivalry and Romance' by way of sequel to the dialogue 'On the Age of Elizabeth,' in which he discussed the origin of knight-errantry, and vindicated Gothic literature and art from the imputation of barbarism. Two dialogues 'On the Uses of Foreign Travel,' in which Shaftesbury and Locke were the speakers, followed in 1763, and a complete edition of the 'Dialogues' and 'Letters' was published at Cambridge in 1765, 3 vols. 12mo. Hurd had obtained in 1762, through Warburton's influence, the sinecure rectory of Folkton, Yorkshire. In 1764 an opportunity of showing his gratitude presented itself. Dr. Thomas Leland had had the audacity to controvert a position in 'The Doctrine of Grace.' Hurd accordingly vindicated Warburton in a 'Letter to the Rev. Dr. Thomas Leland,' which was, in its way, as offensive as the 'Dissertation ' addressed to Jortin. Hurd would gladly have had both forgotten, but Dr. Parr reprinted them in 1789 with a very caustic preface and dedication to Hurd, in 'Tracts by Warburton and a Warburtonian, not admitted into the Collections of their respective Works.' In 1765, through the influence of Warburton and Charles Yorke [q.v.], afterwards lord chancellor, Hurd was appointed preacher at Lincoln's Inn. In 1767 he was collated to the archdeaconry of Gloucester; in 1768 he graduated D.D. and was appointed to deliver the first Warburton lectures. They were preached in the chapel at Lincoln's Inn, and published in 1772 under the title 'An Introduction to the Study of the Prophecies concerning the Christian Church, and in particular concerning the Church of Papal Rome' (London, 8vo). In them he adopted the theory of Joseph Mede [q.v.], whom he pronounced a 'sublime genius.' They were popular, and passed at once into a second edition; a third appeared in 1773, a fourth in 1776, a fifth in 1788, 2 vols. 8vo. A new edition by E. Bickersteth was published in 1839, London, 12mo. Soon after their publication Hurd received a private note from Gibbon under a feigned name, stating with great ability certain objections to the authenticity of the 'Book of Daniel.' Hurd returned a courteous and candid reply, and the matter dropped. Nearly a quarter of a century afterwards Hurd's reply was found by Gibbon's executors among his papers, and published in Kurd's lifetime in Gibbon's 'Miscellaneous Works' (ed. 1796), i. 455 et seq. Gibbon's letter was first published after Hurd's death as an appendix to the 'Lectures' in the collected edition of Hurd's works, vol. v. Hurd edited Cowley's works in 1772, and in 1775 Jeremy Taylor's 'Moral Demonstration of the Truth of the Christian Religion.'

On 30 Dec. 1774 Hurd was nominated to the see of Lichfield and Coventry, on the recommendation of Lord Mansfield. He was consecrated on 12 Feb. 1775. Hurd's manners were courtly, and he was soon in high favour with the king. On 5 June 1776 he was appointed preceptor to the Prince of Wales and the Duke of York; in 1781 he was elected a member of the Royal Society of Gottingen and was translated to Worcester. In 1783 he was offered the primacy, which he declined 'as a charge not suited to his temper and talents.' On 2 Aug. 1788 the king and queen, accompanied by the Duke of York, the princess royal, and the Princesses Augusta and Elizabeth, visited him at Hartlebury Castle, and from the 5th to the 9th at the Palace, Worcester.

On Warburton's death Hurd had bought his books, which, added to his own, compelled him to build a new library at Hartlebury Castle. He had also undertaken to edit Warburton's works, a task which he completed in 1788 (London, 7 vols: 4to). 'A Discourse by way of General Preface,' giving an account of Warburton's life and an estimate of his genius which was little less than an unqualified eulogy, was not issued until 1794, and Warburton's correspondence with himself, 'Letters from a late Eminent Prelate to one of his Friends,' Kidderminster, 1808, 4to (2nd and 3rd editions, London, 1809, 8vo), was first published after Hurd's death. Hurd died unmarried on 28 May 1808, and was buried in Hartlebury churchyard. The funeral, by his desire, was without pomp, and the tomb very plain. A cenotaph was afterwards placed to his memory in Worcester Cathedral.

Besides the works mentioned above, Hurd published several volumes of sermons and some charges. From material found among his manuscripts an annotated edition of Addison's works was published in 1811, London, 6 vols. 8vo. A collected edition of his own works in 8 vols. 8vo, and a new edition of Warburton's works in 12 vols. 8vo, with the 'Discourse by way of General Preface' prefixed, appeared at London in the same year.

Hurd was a moderate tory and churchman, orthodox in his theology, but suspicious of religious enthusiasm. Gibbon, while censuring his style, knew 'few writers more deserving of the great, though prostituted, name of the critic' (Misc. Works, ed. 1796, ii. 27). The praise is excessive, but Hurd deserves to be remembered for his 'Letters on Chivalry and Romance,' which helped to initiate the Romantic movement.

In person he was below the middle height, well proportioned, and with regular features. An engraving of his portrait by Gainsborough is prefixed to the collected edition of his works.

[Hurd's Works, vol. i. ‘Some Occurrences in my own Life;’ Nichols's Lit. Anecd. and Illustr. of Lit.; Letters from a late Eminent Prelate to one of his Friends; Eccl. and Univ. Reg. 1808, pp. 399 et seq.; Gent. Mag. 1808, pt. i. p. 562; Kilvert's Life and Writings of the Rt. Rev. Richard Hurd, D.D., Lord Bishop of Worcester, 1860; Watson's Life of Warburton, 1863; Boswell's Life of Johnson, ed. Croker, v. 67-8; Horace Walpole's Journal of the Reign of Geo. III, ii. 49, and Letters, ed. Cunningham, iii. 289; Parr's Works, iii. 349 et seq. and Warburton's Tracts, 209 et seq.; Harris's Life of Lord Hardwicke; Chalmers's Biog. Dict.; Le Neve's Fasti Eccl. Angl.; Hallam's Literature of Europe, ed. 1839, iii. 580, iv. 457, 468; Abbey's English Church and its Bishops, 1700-1800; Abbey and Overton's English Church in the Eighteenth Century.]

J. M. R.