Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Peters, Charles (1690-1774)

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PETERS, CHARLES (1690–1774), Hebrew scholar, born at Tregony, Cornwall, on 1 Dec. 1690, was the eldest child of Richard Peters of that place. The statement in the ‘Parochial History of Cornwall’ (iii. 203–4), that his ancestor was an Antwerp merchant who fled to England to escape persecution, may be dismissed from consideration. He was educated at Tregony school under Mr. Daddo, and matriculated from Exeter College, Oxford, on 3 April 1707, graduating B.A. 27 Oct. 1710, M.A. 5 June 1713, and being a batteler of his college from 8 April 1707 to 20 July 1713. Having been ordained in the English church, he was curate of St. Just in Roseland, Cornwall, from 1710 to 1715, when he was appointed by Elizabeth, baroness Mohun, to the rectory of Boconnoc in that county. He remained there until 1723, and during his incumbency built the south front of the old parsonage-house, with the apartments behind it. On 10 Dec. 1723 Peters was instituted to the rectory of Bratton-Clovelly, Devonshire, and in November 1726 was appointed to the rectory of St. Mabyn in his native county, holding both preferments until his death. To the poor of St. Mabyn he was very charitable; and, being himself unmarried, he educated the two eldest sons of his elder brother. He died at St. Mabyn on 11 Feb. 1774, and was buried in the chancel of the parish church on 13 Feb. A portrait of him in oils belonged to Arthur Cowper Ranyard [q. v.]

Peters knew Hebrew well (by the enthusiastic Polwhele he was called ‘the first Hebrew scholar in Europe’), and at St. Mabyn he was able to pursue his studies without interruption. In 1751 he published ‘A Critical Dissertation on the Book of Job,’ wherein he criticised Warburton's account, proved the book's antiquity, and demonstrated that a future state was the popular belief of the ancient Jews or Hebrews. A second edition, corrected and with a lengthy preface of ninety pages, appeared in 1757; the preface was also issued separately. Warburton, in the notes to the ‘Divine Legation of Moses,’ always wrote contemptuously of Peters. The retort of Bishop Lowth in the latter's behalf, in his printed letter to Warburton (1765), was that ‘the very learned and ingenious person,’ Mr. Peters, had given his antagonist ‘a Cornish hug,’ from which he would be sore as long as he lived. Peters published in 1760 ‘An Appendix to the Critical Dissertation on Job, giving a Further Account of the Book of Ecclesiastes,’ with a reply to some of Warburton's notes; and in 1765 he was putting the finishing touches to a more elaborate reply, which was never published, but descended to his nephew with his other manuscripts.

After the death of Peters, in accordance with his desire—expressed two years previously—a volume of his sermons was printed in 1776 by his nephew Jonathan, vicar of St. Clement, near Truro. Some extracts from the private prayers, meditations, and letters of Peters are in Polwhele's ‘Biographical Sketches’ (i. app. pp. 17–28).

[Boase and Courtney's Bibl. Cornub. i. 464–5, 474–5; Boase's Collectanea Cornub. p. 727; Boase's Exeter Coll. Commoners, p. 250; Nichols's Lit. Illustrations, viii. 633; Polwhele's Biogr. Sketches, i. 71–5; Gent. Mag. 1795, pt. ii. p. 1085; Lowth's Letter to Author of Divine Legation, pp. 23–4.]

W. P. C.