« PreviousContinue »
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
suitable age, 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,
Yet in his veins was running at his birth
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 Maltby, 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