« PreviousContinue »
Samuel or one of his brothers in turn read prayers to the family every morning and evening, from forms of prayer prepared by Dr. Richard Price. The Poet mentions his Dissenting parentage with just pride in the following lines :
What though his ancestors, early or late,
The elder Mr. Rogers at the Hill in Worcestershire, had been a strong Tory; but as Thomas Rogers the younger became after his marriage a Dissenter in religion, so he was naturally a firm Whig in politics. His children were brought up to watch with interest the Dissenters' unsuccessful struggles in Parliament for the Repeal of the Corporation and Test Acts, and to point to the new Mansion House in the City, as built by fines levied upon the Dissenters, who were chosen to the office of Sheriff, one after another, to the number of forty-five, and paid £400 a-piece, to escape taking the Church Sacrament on serving. Samuel was the third son ; and when the American revolution began with riots in Boston, in 1774, he was eleven years old. He then received a lesson which he never forgot, when his father one night after reading the Bible to his family, closed the book and explained to his children the cause of the rebellion, adding, that our nation was in the wrong, and that it was not right to wish the Americans should be conquered. He remembered also the Recorder of London in the following year, putting on mourning for the battle of Lexington, and Granville Sharp giving up, or refusing an office in the Tower, because he did not think it right to ship war-like stores against the Colonists.
He attended public worship with his father's family in the old Presbyterian Meeting House, on Newington Green, where Dr. Joseph Towers preached in the morning, and Dr. Richard Price in the afternoon, where his grandfather Radford, and his great-grandfather Harris, had attended before him. He sat in the south-east corner of the chapel, in the pew facing and furthest from the minister on his left-hand side. The chapel is not without other literary claims to notice. In the next pew to him on the east side, sat a young lady, afterwards eminent in letters, Mary Wollstonecraft; Daniel Defoe had attended worship there a century earlier ; and a few years after Mr. Rogers had left Newington Green, Mrs. Barbauld was a member of the congregation, while her husband occupied the pulpit.
Samuel's first school was at Hackney, under a Mr. Cockburn, and perhaps afterwards under a Mr. Pickburn, who kept a school a few years later in the same village. At the first Hackney school in 1773, he became acquainted with William Maltky, a boy two years younger than himseif, who was afterwards Librarian to the London Institution. As boys and afterwards as men they were alike in their taste for poetry and love of letters; and they encouraged one another in their studies and aim after improvement. The friendship then begun, continued unbroken for eighty years ; it was founded on mutual respect, and on similarity of tastes; and when William Maltby died in 1854, Samuel Rogers set up a tablet to his memory in Norwood Cemetery.
When too old for the school at Hackney, Samuel studied for a short time under Mr. Burgh, the author of a work on education, self improvement and a wise aim in life, which he entitled a Treatise on the Dignity of Human Nature : the author also of two volumes of Political Disquisitions. Mr. Burgh kept a school at the south-east corner of Newington Green ; but when ill health led him to give it up, he removed to Colebrook Row, Islington. There Samuel and his brothers went every day to read with him as their private tutor, and with very great advantage to themselves. Mr. Burgh was a man of an enlarged mind, of great reading, and good observation. His manner of teaching was thoroughly agreeable to his pupils; and for the excellence of the matter we may take the evidence of his printed works. He had a high aim in his views of education. He did not limit his pupils' studies to languages and mathematics. He did not set them to write essays or verses in Latin, nor perhaps give them a very exact knowledge of the dead languages. But he taught them to perceive the beauties of the great authors that they were studying, and to admire excellence as well in conduct as in writing. He had strong opinions in politics. He wrote in favour of the liberty of the press at a time when it was very much shackled by prosecutions, and in favour of a Reform in Parliament, when members were too often returned by close boroughs and by bribery; and he thought the American Colonies had not been treated with justice, when the nation was rushing into the American war. Such was the very able man under whom Samuel Rogers finished his school studies, and who sent him forth at the age of sixteen or seventeen with a knowledge that his education was thenceforth to be carried on by himself. In the Treatise of the tutor, we find thoughts which we again meet with in the early writings of the pupil.
While living as a boy at Newington Green, Samuel and his brothers and sisters were taken from time to time to pay a visit to their grandfather and aunts at the Hill near Stourbridge.
And these two houses, his grandfather's near Stourbridge, and his father's on Newington Green, most likely together supplied him with the scenery that his Poem on the ‘Pleasures of Memory' opens with. The house at the Hill, from which the aunts removed soon after their father's death, may have been
and have given him
• The garden's desert paths,'
"That ball where once, in antiquated state,
On the other hand,
The village green'
may have been that in front of his father's house where he was within the sound of Mr. Burgh's schoolbell, which he describes as
“Quickening my truant feet across the lawn.'
The Hill is in the parish of Old Swinford ; and there in the churchyard are the tombstones of the Rogers family. There he had thoughtfully traced the name of Rogers
'On yon grey stone, that fronts the chancel-door,
This churchyard the Poet had in his mind when he said
The visits to the Hill also sometimes led him to the Leasowes, lately the picturesque seat of the Poet Shenstone, who had been intimate with his father. At that time Shenstone's artificial additions to the natural beauties of the place had not fallen to decay ; and the visits to Worcestershire gave the following couplet to the . Pleasures of Memory,' —
Thus, thro' the gloom of Shenstone's fairy-grove • Maria's urn still breathes the voice of love."
In 1776, his excellent mother died. Through her the dissenting principles and strong feelings of religion