Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

of whom, upon the death of his son, gave him some of his books, and among others there happened to be a Greek Testament. This was a new object of curiosity, and not being able to rest while he had a book in his possession which he could not read, he immediately applied himself to learn Greek. In this arduous task he received some assistance from a young gentleman at Buckingham, and in about three years he began to read a Greek author with some pleasure. The same restless curiosity and desire of knowledge, which thus attached him to books, induced him not to follow his business at home, but to travel the country, as an itinerary mender of clothes and stays; but in this state of poverty and dissipation, he was still a hard student, and when he was four and thirty years of age he began to learn Hebrew.

The first book that he read for this purpose happened to be Shindler's Grammar; but as all books that are written to instruct those who have no master, in the first rudiments of science, suppose many things to be known which they ought to teach, Hill found several deficiencies in Shindler, which he was at a loss to supply; and after much labour and much contrivance, he thought, if he could, in his peregrinations, associate himself with some Jew, who, like himself, was travelling the country for a subsistence, he might take the same rout, and should be able to get such instruction as he wanted. This project he immediately put in execution, and finding an itinerant Jew at Oakingham, he communicated his scheme, and stated his difficulties. The Jew was very ready to assist him, but Hill found him not able; this inability, however, he supposed to be accidental, and therefore applied himself io many others, but to all with as little success. To Hill, however, nothing was less eligible than to relinquish his purpose, he, therefore, had recourse to other Hebrew Grammars, of which he read eleven, some answered his purpose best in one particular and some in another, but not any one of them contained all that he expected to find, though he thinks, upon the whole, Mayer's is the best. After he had thus acquired the knowledge of Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, and made himself acquainted with whatever such travels as his could produce to bis observation, alınost constantly studying half the nigiit that he might pursue his journey and his business in the day, he returned to Buckingham, where he still continues buried in obscurity, and scarcely subsisting by his labour; but perfectly contented with his condition, extremely

modest and diffident in his discourse, and without any new fangled notions in religion, which generally distinguish a smatterer in learning.*

1754, Sept.

X. Account of Henry Wild, the learned Tailor of Norwich. MR. HENRY WILD, professor of the oriental languages, was born in the city of Norwich, and educated there at a grammar school, and almost fitted for the University ; but his friends wanting fortune and interest to maintain him there, bound him an apprentice to a tailor, with whom he served out the terın of seven years ; after which he worked as a journeyman seven years more. About the end of the last seven years, he was seized with a fever and ague, which continued two or three years, and reduced him at last so low, as to disable him from working at his trade. In this . situation, he amused hinself with some old books of controversial divinity, wherein be found great stress laid on the Hebrew original of several texts of scripture. Though he had almost lost his school learning, his curiosity and strong desire of knowledge excited him to attempt to make himself master of it. He was obliged at first to make use of an English Hebrew grammar and lexicon, but by degrees he recovered the language he had learned at school. As his health was re-established, he divided bis time between the business of his profession, and his studies, which last employed the greatest part of his nights. Thus self-taught and assisted only by his own great genius, by dint of continual application, and almost unparalleled industry, he added the knowledge of all, or the much greater part, of the oriental languages, to that of the Hebrew. But still he laboured in obscurity, till, at length, he was accidentally discovered to the world.

The late worthy Dr. Prideaux, dean of Norwich, a name justly celebrated in the learned world, was offered some Arabic MSS. in parchment, by a bookseller of that city.

(* He wrote, 1. Remarks on Berkeley's“ Essay on Spirit.” 2. “ The Character of a Jew.” 3. “ Criticisins on Job;" and died at Buckingham, in July, 1777, aged 78. According to his own account, he was seven years acquiring Latin, twice as much in learning Greek, but Hebrew he found so casy, that it cost him little time. E.]

But whether he thought the price demanded was too great, or whether he expected, as few would buy them, the bookseller would be obliged to lower his price, he left them on his hands. Soon after Mr. Wild heard of them, and purchased them. Some weeks after, the dean called at the shop, and inquired for the MSS. but was informed they were sold. Chagrined at his disappointment, he asked the name and profession of the person who had bought them. On his being told he was a tailor ;“ run instantly,” said the dean, in a passion," and fetch them, if they are not cut in pieces to make measures." He was soon relieved from his fears, by Mr. Wild's appearance with the MSS. He inquired whether he would part with them, but was answered in the negative. The dean hastily asked what he did with them ? he replied “ I read them.” He was desired to read, which he did; he was then bid to render a passage or two into English, which he did readily and exactly. Amazed at this, the dean, partly at his own expence, partly by a subscription, raised among persons, whose inclinations led them to this kind of learning, sent him to Oxford, where, though he was never a member of the University, he was, by the dean's interest, admitted to the Bodleian library, and employed for some years in translating, or making extracts out of oriental MSS. Thus he bid adieu to his needle.

About 1718, I found him at Oxford, and learned Hebrew of him ; but do not recollect how long he had been there before. He was there known by the name of the Arabiani tailor. All the hours that the library was open, he constantly attended; when it was shut, he employed most of his leisure time in teaching the oriental languages to young gentlemen, at the moderate price of half a guinea á language, except for the Arabic, for which, as I remember, he had a guinea.

About 1720, he removed to London, where he spent the remainder of his life, under the patronage of the famous Dr. Mead; there I saw him at the latter end of 1721. When he died I know not, but in 1734 his translation, out of the Arabic, of Al-Mesra, or Mahomet's journey to Heaven, was published. In the dedication, which was addressed to Mr. Mackrel, of Norwich, it is said, to be a posthumous work. It is the only piece of his that ever was printed, and I have heard him read it in MS.

When I knew him, he seemed to be about 40, though his sedentary and studious way of life, migl.t make him look older than he really was. jis person was thin and ineagre,

his stature moderately tall, and his air and walk liad all the little particularities observed in persons of his profession. His memory was extraordinary. "His pupils frequently invited him to spend an evening with them, when he would often entertain us with long and curious details out of the Roman, Greek, and Arabic histories. His morals were good, he was addicted to no vice, was sober and temperate, modest and diffident of himself, without any tincture of conceitedness or vanity. In his lectures he would frequently observe to us, that such an idiom in Hebrew resembled one in Latin or Greek; then he would make a pause, and seem to recal his words, and ask us, whether it were not so?

So much merit and industry met with little reward, and procured him a subsistence not much better than what his trade might have produced ; as I remember, his subscriptions amounted to no more than 20 or 30l. per annum. That part of learning which he excelled in, was cultivated and encouraged by few. Unfortunately for him, the Rev. Mr. Gagnier, a French gentleman, skilled in the oriental tongues, was in possession of all the favours the University could bestow in this way; for he was recommended by the heads of houses to instruct young gentlemen, and employed by the professors of those languages to read public lectures in their absence.

Such uncommon attainments in a person who made so mean an appearance, led some to suspect that he was a Jesuit under this disguise. These suspicions were heightened by his modesty and diffidence, his affecting sometimes to talk of foreign cities and countries, bis frequenting the University church only, where by way of exercise the sermons treat more of speculative and controversial points, than practical ones. But these suspicions were without any other foundation : for after I had left the University, I lived in a family, where I met with a woman who was a native and inhabitant of Norwich, who came there on a visit. I took this opportunity of making many inquiries about him. She confirmed many of the particulars before-mentioned, and assured me that she kuew him from a child, that he was born and bred up in that city,and never heard orknew he was absent from it any considerable time, till his removal to Oxford.

The memory of so extraordinary a person, who was so striking an example of diligence and industry, deserves to be perpetuated. Such an attempt is an act of justice due to such merit, and cannot but be of service to the world. 1 heartily wish that these imperfect memoirs may induce

one of his fellow citizens to correct, improve, and complete them, especially since the late Rev. Mr. Bloomfield, in his History of the City of Norwich, if I remember right, takes no notice of a man, who did honour to the place of his nativity, and his country.

Z. A

1755, March,

XI. Account of John Ludwig, a Saxon Peasant. MR. URBAN, IN the course of your entertaining work you have given us an account of a peasant, who, though otherwise extremely illiterate, had yet acquired surprising skill in numbers; and, as he could not write, was able to work any arithmetical question by mere memory. You have also given us an account of a poor tailor, who acquired the knowledge of the Greek, Latin, and Hebrew languages, while he was sitting on his board, or wandering about the country in search of work. I now send you an account, in many particulars, more extraordinary than either of these, which I shall be glad to see laid up in your Repository.

Yours, &c.

T. S. It is usual for the commissaries of excise in Saxony to appoint a peasant in every village in their district to receive the excise of the place, for which few are allowed more than one crown, and none more than three.

Mr. Christian Gotthold Hoffman, who is chief commis. sary of Dresden, and the villages adjacent, when he was auditing the accounts of some of these peasants in March, 1753, was told, that there was among them one John Lud. wig, a strange man, who, though he was very poor and had a family, was yet continually reading in books, and very often stood the greatest part of the night at his door, gazing at the stars.

This account raised Mr. Hoffman's curiosity, and he or. dered the man to be brought before him. Hoffman, who expected something in the man's appearance that corresponded with a mind superior to his station, was greatly surprized to see the most rustic boor he had ever beheld. His Jair hung over his forehead down to his eyes, his aspect was sordid and stupid, and his manner was, in every respect,

« ZurückWeiter »