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LIFE OF SAMUEL ROGERS,
BY HIS NEPHEW SAMUEL SHARPE.
THE following short notice is by no means offered to the reader as a complete Life of my uncle, Samuel Rogers, the poet. I neither feel equal to the task of writing such, nor called upon to undertake it. A near relation is not likely to possess, or wish to possess, the required impartiality; but these few pages may be useful as a preface to his published works. In the life of an author we wish to be told, in the first place, the order in which he wrote his several works, that we may be enabled to study in them the growth of his mind and the progress of his thoughts. We wish also to be told the manner in which he wrote them, whether carefully, or hastily; whether by the help of observation in the world, or of study in books. And we further wish to be told the particulars of his family, of his childhood, and of his education, and the other outward circumstances which helped to form his mind, and
guide his tastes, and which were some of the causes that produced the writings that we admire. This information I have endeavoured to supply, so far as my knowledge reaches; but I have not ventured further. Mr. Rogers was not only a poet. His society was as much valued as his writings. He was for the last fifty years of his life the possessor of a choice collection of pictures and antiquities, an acknowledged judge in matters of art, the friend of all authors and artists, and the patron of many who needed his help. In these characters, and for his latter years, the materials for his Life are open to all in numerous published works; and they may perhaps be made use of in due time by some who can perform the task better than I can hope to do. For though I am now one of his nearest relations, and for many years enjoyed his full and intimate confidence as his partner in business, yet my opportunities of listening to his conversation have not been more frequent than those of many others. I never lived in the same house with him; my engagements in business and at home did not allow me to visit him so often as he kindly wished; and I was separated from him by a wide difference in our ages.
IN the year 1763, Thomas Rogers the elder, the Poet's grandfather, was a wealthy glass manufacturer at Stourbridge in Worcestershire, and lived at a large
house called the Hill, near that town. His wife Martha, a daughter of Richard Knight of Downton, was dead. His family at the Hill consisted of himself and five unmarried daughters. Without giving up his business at Stourbridge he had entered into partnership with Daniel Radford, who was a large warehouseman in Cheapside; and his only son, Thomas Rogers the younger, had left Worcestershire to join this London partnership. This led to an intimacy with Daniel Radford's only child, Mary, whom Thomas Rogers the younger married in the year 1760. He thereupon became an inmate in Daniel Radford's family; and they lived together in Daniel Radford's house in Newington Green, Middlesex, till the death of the latter in 1767. The house stands on the Southgate road, on the west side of the green, and is the house nearest to London on that side. Here Samuel Rogers was born on the 30th of July, 1763.
The last hundred years have made fewer changes in Newington Green than in most other spots in the neighbourhood of London. Modern stucco has made
the old red-brick house white, as indeed the Poet took the liberty of describing it. It still has a row of elms in front of it, and a large field on the side, though the road into which the gate opens from the field no longer deserves the name of the 'Green Lanes,' by which it was once known. In other respects it is much the same as when he claimed to
'Point out the Green Lane rough with fern and flowers; "The sheltered gate that opens to my field,
' And the white front, thro' mingling elms revealed.'
Daniel Radford, the Poet's grandfather on his mother's side, by careful attention to business, had been the maker of his own fortune. He was the son of Samuel Radford, a linendraper in Chester, and of Eleanor, a daughter of the Rev. Philip Henry, once incumbent of Worthenbury, in Flintshire, but afterwards one of that noble band of two thousand clergymen, who, on the passing of the Act of Uniformity in the beginning of Charles the Second's reign, left their churches and livings for conscience sake, and became the founders of the sect of English Presbyterians. Daniel and his three sisters were early left as orphans, and they very much fell to the care of their uncle, the Rev. Matthew Henry, the eminent dissenting minister, and author of the Exposition of the Bible. Daniel Radford left Chester, and established himself in business in London, about the same time that his uncle, Matthew Henry, left the Presbyterian congregation at Chester to take charge of that at Hackney. Daniel Radford, about the year 1731, married Mary Harris of Newington Green, whose father, Samuel Harris, was an East India merchant, and had married a daughter of Dr. Coxe, physician to Queen Mary. This marriage probably led to Daniel Radford's settling at Newington Green, as his daughter Mary's marriage was afterwards the cause of Thomas Rogers the younger's settling there.
Thomas Rogers the younger, soon after his marriage with Mary Radford, formed a new partnership with two gentlemen of the name of Welch, as bankers, first in Cornhill, and afterwards in Freeman's Court, Cornhill.
Both the houses have since been pulled down to make way for Exchange Buildings.
Thomas Rogers the younger was, on his mother's side, cousin to Richard Payne Knight, the well known writer on Art and collector of Greek antiquities, and to Andrew Knight the writer on Horticulture; while his wife, Mary Radford, was cousin to William Coxe, the traveller and historian, and to Peter Coxe, the auctioneer, who had the honour of selling that portion of the Orleans Gallery of Pictures which its illustrious importers disposed of in London. These two literary and active-minded families may have had some share in moulding the character of the family in Newington Green. But we do not inherit our tastes and opinions from all our forefathers in an equal degree; and the opinions most firmly cherished in the house on Newington Green were those which came down to them from the teacher of religion, who had felt called upon to leave his pulpit and throw up his income for conscience sake, and to change his home under the cruel enactments of the Five Mile Act. These opinions were an earnest piety, a strict attention to religious observances, accompanied with a freedom of inquiry in matters of religion, and a rejection of all creeds and articles of faith as fetters upon the mind and snares to the conscience. The Rev. Philip Henry's practice of keeping a religious journal to remind him of his shortcomings, and to encourage him in his good resolutions, was imitated by his daughter Eleanor Radford, by his grandson Daniel Radford, and by his great granddaughter Mary Rogers; and when her sons were of a