Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 61.djvu/46

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White
White
40

in the regular time … it ed. not be granted.' The suspicions of the provost, subsequently set at rest, as would seem by a letter of his to White of 24 Dec. 1758 (Bell, ed. vol. i. p. xxxviii), were doubtless excited by the fact that, some two months before, the father of Gilbert White had died, and he, being the eldest son, might naturally be presumed to have inherited property of an amount that by statute or custom would have voided his fellowship. It is certain that this was not the case. Gilbert's father was never a rich man; he had a large family to educate; he had retired on his marriage from the bar, where his practice was inconsiderable, and even the house at Selborne (The Wakes) in which he lived was not his own, but belonged to a relative. Stronger evidence to this effect is afforded by the fact that in 1750 he borrowed money (10l. or so) of his son Gilbert, which was not repaid until May 1753 (Bell's ed. ii. 332), and a careful examination of the family papers made by the present Mr. Holt-White shows that Gilbert's patrimony must have been of the slenderest. He had, indeed, little more than his fellowship and eventually his Northamptonshire living upon which to depend until the death of his uncle Charles in 1763 put him in possession of The Wakes, which he and his father before him had occupied as tenants. Even that inheritance was of small pecuniary value (the annual rent was but five guineas), though it was obviously the thing he most desired, and it was apparently with the view of living at Selborne that soon after his father's death he had given up the curacy at Durley and accepted that of Faringdon, an adjoining parish. For a short time he held the curacy of West Deane in Wiltshire, where, according to Mulso, he felt lonely and unhappy by reason of its distance from Selborne. Mulso's letters constantly allude to White's narrow means, while praising his economy and hoping for his preferment. It might be inferred from one letter (23 March 1 759), though this is uncertain, that he had taken a legal opinion as to the propriety of holding his fellowship, and that the reply satisfied him, as well as others, that he could do so. A little earlier (4 Feb. 1759) Mulso had met Musgrave, the new provost, and asked him as to his own intentions and those of the college towards White, receiving for an answer that 'it was in your own [G. W.'s] breast to keep or leave your fellowship, for nobody meant to turn you out if you did not choose it yourself.' Some two years later the two men seem to have been quite reconciled. White was at Oxford, and Mulso was able to write (13 Jan. 1761): 'The provost and you begin to have your own feels for one another, such as you had before competitions divided you … and as I know you have the good of the foundation at heart, it will make you forget what was disagreeable in his election.' In January 1768 Musgrave died very suddenly, and Mulso thought that White might be his successor; but, though the idea must have crossed his mind (letter of 26 July 1768), the opportunity was lost.

Meanwhile Mulso, who, having married the niece of Bishop Thomas, was rapidly rising in the church, kept harping on his friend's prospects, suggesting even an application to the lord chancellor for a living, and it seems that on the promotion of Sir Robert Henley [q. v.] to be lord keeper in 1757 and chancellor in 1761, White, with whom he was acquainted, had hope of obtaining some preferment in the neighbourhood of Selborne, which would have allowed him still to reside there. On his uncle Charles's death in 1763, application was undoubtedly made for one of his livings (probably Bradley), which were in the private patronage of Henley, by that time Lord Northington; but the latter was dissatisfied with what he termed the 'cold, lingering manner' in which White had voted for Richard Trevor [q. v.], bishop of Durham, in the contest of 1759 with Lord Westmorland for the chancellorship of Oxford, and so withheld the boon.

White's desire, which in no long time became a determination, to live and die at Selborne, was the reason why he passed benefice after benefice which came to his turn as fellow of his college. Yet his love of his native place, the beauties of which he and his brothers were at no small pains and expense to improve, did not stay his practice of taking long riding journeys —a 'hussar parson' Mulso calls him in one of his letters (February 1762)—and visiting his relations in Sussex, in London, and in Rutland, or his friends at Oxford and other places. In 1760, having at the time no clerical duty (Moreton-Pinkney being permanently served by a curate), he was absent for six months with his brothers Thomas and Benjamin at Lambeth, or with his sister (Mrs. Barker) at Lyndon. He undoubtedly took what nowadays might be called an easy view of some of the duties of his cloth; but the tradition, which can hardly be ill-founded, has come down of his especial kindliness to his poorer parishioners and neighbours, while the absence of ambition in his character, except perhaps in regard to the provostship of his college, is manifest. Despite his moderate