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Rogers's Boyhood and Schoolmasters-His Father-William Maltby-Dr. Price and the Boys-Thomas Rogers's Politics-Dr. Price's Influence -Samuel Rogers and the Pulpit-The Coventry Election-Letters from Thomas Rogers-Samuel Rogers at Home.
THE too early death of Rogers's mother did not leave the family without a woman at its head. When Thomas Rogers married he went to live in the house of his father-in-law, and he found there, living as a member of the family, Mary Mitchell, who is spoken of in Mrs. Rogers's letters. She was the daughter of Paul Mitchell, who had married Mary Radford, the sister of Daniel Radford, and she was therefore first-cousin to Mrs. Rogers. Daniel Radford had taken his niece, who had been left an orphan, to be the companion of his only child, and she had lived with her all through her married life, assisting her in bearing the burden of her household cares. Miss Mitchell was a capable and cultivated person, whom the children looked up to as almost a second mother. She lived on with them till the home on Newington Green was broken up, and then with Mr. Henry Rogers at Highbury, where she died. Another of the ladies of the household was Mrs. Worthington, an older and more distant cousin than Mrs. Mitchell. She is the Milly of the family letters, and acted as governess to the children.
The kind of life the family led during Samuel Rogers's boyhood has been sufficiently shown in his mother's letters. In Mr. Hayward's appreciative notice in the 'Edinburgh Review,' written a few months after Rogers's death, there are some speculations on his conduct and character in boyhood, which Mr. Hayward borrowed from a letter written to him by Mrs. Norton, who humorously constructed an imaginary first childhood out of what she had known of Rogers when he was verging towards second childhood. Neither Mrs. Norton nor Mr. Hayward knew anything at all of Rogers's younger days. He was the very contrary of everything they describe in this futile attempt to construct biographical details out of their internal consciousness. He was sensitive, impulsive, imaginative, and emotional, as all lads who inherit the poetical temperament are. He was not strong enough for much athletic exercise, but he took his fair share in the games and adventures of boyhood. His life was gentle,' and his was just such a boyhood as thousands of English lads are enjoying now in families of some wealth and much culture, with only the outward differences that the lapse of a hundred and twenty years has made. His father had ideas as to the relation of parent and child which have become old-fashioned now. He was a somewhat strict disciplinarian. His grandson, Samuel Sharpe, describes him as having dressed, according to the fashion of the day, in a brown coat, with great amplitude in the sleeves, and worn a cocked hat, powder, and a queue. The powdered hair was, in those days, not inconsistent with Whiggism; a little later, when Fox had set the fashion of leaving his hair of the colour
HOME AND SCHOOL
nature had given it, the Whigs followed his example, and with them, at least, powder went out of fashion. Thomas Rogers was what would now be described as a Radical, as were all the Whigs of a century since. Samuel Sharpe tells us that he had voted for the Byngs, father and son, at every Middlesex election, except when he was displeased with the Coalition Ministry. That he was a good man of business his success may be taken to prove. His household was conducted with the regularity which became the chief person in a Dissenting congregation. He read prayers with his family in the morning, and they were regular in their attendance at the Stoke Newington Chapel. In the next pew to them sat Mary Wollstonecraft, then a girl; and the pulpit was filled by Dr. Towers in the morning and by Dr. Price in the afternoon. Thomas Rogers was affectionately regarded by his children, though in those days there was always a certain distance between the head of the house and the other members of the household. His children address him in their letters with the formality now reserved for strangers, and with them all his will was law.
Soon after his mother's death Sam was sent to his last schoolmaster--the Rev. James Pickbourne of Hackney. Mr. Pickbourne had been librarian to Dr. Williams's library, of which Thomas Rogers was one of the trustees. He had afterwards acted as travelling tutor to some young men, with whom he had made the grand tour. He was the author of a Dissertation on the English Verb,' and of another on Metrical Pauses.' His school was in Grove Street, Hackney. One of the most lasting friendships of Rogers's life was begun at this
school. This was with William Maltby, a near relative of Edward Maltby, who was afterwards Bishop of Durham. Maltby writes to his friend on the 12th of December, 1781, of the many joyful hours I have passed in your company under the confinement of scholastic restraint,' and now that school days are over, expresses the most sanguine hopes of a pure and lively pleasure from our new correspondence and increasing friendship, the latter of which I flatter myself will neither be dissolved by diversity of opinion nor distance of habitation, but will be as durable as sincere.' Such anticipations are often expressed, but rarely realised. In this instance they were literally fulfilled. The schoolboy friendship proved as durable as sincere.' It lasted for more than seventy-two years after this letter was written, and was only dissolved by death. William Maltby went to Cambridge when Samuel Rogers went to business, though, being a Dissenter, he was unable to take his degree. He afterwards practised as a solicitor, and in 1809 was appointed librarian of the London Institution in succession to Porson. He was relieved from duty in 1834, but continued to live in the librarian's house till he died in January 1854, in his ninetieth year. His schoolboy friend survived him, and erected a tablet in Norwood Cemetery to his memory.
While Samuel Rogers was still at school, Dr. Price suddenly bounded into fame by publishing his great work on the war with the American Colonies. This obscure preacher to a small and decreasing suburban congregation had already become known and esteemed beyond the little circle of those who appreciated his religious teaching and admired his character. He had
published in 1758 a Treatise on the Foundation of Morals,' and in 1767 a volume of dissertations, among which was one on 'Providence' and another On the Junction of Virtuous Men in a Future State.' These essays attracted the notice of Lord Shelburne, who read them during a period of gloom and depression occasioned by the loss of his wife. Lord Shelburne asked Mrs. Montagu, who had recommended the book, for an introduction to its author, and thereupon called on Dr. Price at Newington Green. The interview was so satisfactory to both that it was soon repeated with important results.
Lord Shelburne felt the charm of Dr. Price's simple and unaffected character; Dr. Price respected and esteemed Lord Shelburne for his serious earnestness, and a friendship was begun which only ended with their lives. This intercourse with Dr. Price led to Lord Shelburne's introduction to Dr. Priestley, and to Dr. Price's acquaintance with Mr. Dunning and Colonel Barré. The same book which had brought Lord Shelburne to Newington Green soon afterwards brought Lord Lyttelton thither on a similar errand. His • Dialogues of the Dead' had been published in 1760; fourteen years earlier he had written a work on the • Conversion of St. Paul,' and he now went to Dr. Price to talk with one of the clearest thinkers of the age on the transcendent themes in which he felt so profound an interest. The acquaintance thus begun between an old neighbour of Thomas Rogers and his next door neighbour and minister at Newington Green was cut short by Lord Lyttelton's death a few years later in 1773. Dr. Price was all this time becoming known for
LORD SHELBURNE AND LORD LYTTELTON