Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Hill, Robert (1699-1777)

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
1389587Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 26 — Hill, Robert (1699-1777)1891Ronald Bayne ‎

HILL, ROBERT (1699–1777), learned tailor, the son of poor parents, was born on 11 Jan. 1699, at Miswell, Hertfordshire. His father died within a year of his birth, and his mother about five years later married Thomas Robinson, a tailor in Buckingham. Robert Hill was left to the care of his grandmother, Mrs. Clark, at Miswell, and on her removal in 1710 to Tring Grove became a farmer's boy. Proving too delicate for this occupation, he was apprenticed in 1714 to his stepfather in Buckingham, where the chance acquisition of a grammar at the age of seventeen inspired him with zeal for learning. His first studies were Latin and French. He married in 1721, and turned schoolmaster in 1724, on finding his increasing family hard to support on tailoring. For some years he numbered more than fifty scholars in his school. In 1730 he lost his wife. A second wife, whom he married in 1732, proved so unsatisfactory, that he left his home and travelled about the country. Before leaving home he had learned Greek, and during his wanderings worked at Hebrew. On hearing of his second wife's death, he returned in 1744 to Buckingham, and married a third time in 1747. About this date Hill came under the notice of a neighbouring clergyman, who introduced him to the learned world. This friend having given him a copy of the ‘Essay on Spirit,’ by Bishop Berkeley, he wrote some ‘Observations’ on it, and also a tract, ‘Some Considerations on the Divinity of the Holy Ghost.’ This was in 1753. In 1757 Joseph Spence published his ‘Parallel in the Manner of Plutarch, between a most celebrated Man of Florence, and one, scarce ever heard of, in England.’ This tract compares Hill with Magliabechi, giving an account of Hill's career; it was included in ‘Fugitive Pieces, by several Authors,’ published in two vols. by Dodsley in 1761, and several times reprinted. From a list of benefactors, three pages long, at the end of Spence's tract in Dodsley's volumes, we learn that Hill was substantially assisted by the benevolent, but in 1775 he was again in difficulties. In a ‘Premonition by a Friend of the Author,’ prefixed to ‘Christianity the True Religion—an Essay in answer to the Blasphemy of a Deist,’ by Mr. Robert Hill, Chester, 1775, 12mo, we are told that Hill's ‘learning and ingenuity have not been able to set him above the frowns of fortune.’ Hill inscribes the treatise to Sir John Chetwode ‘in acknowledgment of many generous favours.’ This is the last we hear of him. Besides the treatise mentioned, he wrote in 1753 a tract against papists, dedicated and presented to Lady Temple; a tract on the ‘Character of a Jew,’ when the bill for naturalising the Jews was in agitation; some short ‘Criticisms on Job;’ and made considerable progress in a Hebrew grammar. His literary ability is in no way extraordinary. He died at Buckingham in July 1777, after a long illness.

[Joseph Spence's Parallel; A Letter to the Rev. Mr. G. R., prefixed to Some Considerations on the Divinity of the Holy Ghost, and the Premonition noticed above, are the sources for the facts of Hill's life; see also Chalmers's Biog. Dict. xvii. 497, xxviii. 278.]

R. B.