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consolation of his sister are not indeed of the most novel nature, nor the best adapted to afford it; and we may smile at the gravity of the young moralist, contrasted with the familiarity of the circumstances detailed in the latter part of the epistle, which I found no disposition to reject: but the letter, as it stands, will furnish no contemptible proof of his talents and fraternal affection, and may serve as a standard of comparison to parents, for estimating the abilities of their own children.
The period of tuition under Dr. Sumner passed rapidly, to the mutual satisfaction of the master and scholar, until Jones had reached his seventeenth year; when it was determined to remove him to one of the Universities. This determination was not adopted without much hesitation; for it had been strongly recommended to his mother, by sergeant Prime, and other lawyers, to place him, at the age of sixteen, in the office of some eminent special pleader: and they supported their recommendation by an observation, equally flattering to him and tempting to his mother, that his talents, united with such indefatigable in dustry, must ensure the most brilliant success, and consequently the acquisition of wealth and reputation. It is a singular proof of his curiosity to explore unusual tracks of learning, that, at this early age, he had perused the abridgment of Coke's Institutes, by Ireland, with so much attention, that he frequently amused the legal friends of his mother, by reasoning with them on old cases, which were supposed to be confined to the learned in the profession. The law, however, at that time, had little attraction for him; and he felt no inclination to renounce his Demosthenes and Cicero for the pleadings in Westminster-Hall. His disgust to the study of the law had also been particularly excited by the perusal of some old and inaccurate abridgment of law cases in barbarous Latin. This disinclination on his part, the solicitude of Dr. Sumner, that he should devote some years to the completion of his studies at the university, and the objections of his mother, founded on reasons of economy, to a profession which could not be pursued without considerable expense, fixed her decision against the advice of her legal friends. The choice of an university was also the occasion of some discussion. Cambridge was recommended by Dr. Sumner, who had received his education there; but Dr. Glasse, who had private pupils at Harrow, and had always distinguished Jones by the kindest attention, recommended Oxford. His choice was adopted by Mrs. Jones, who, in compliance with the wishes of her son, had determined to reside at the university with him, and greatly preferred the situation of Oxford.
In the spring of 1764 he went to the university, for the purpose of being matriculated and entered at college:* but he returned to Harrow for a few months, that he might finish a course of lectures, which he had just begun, and in which he had been highly interested by the learning, eloquence, taste, and sagacity, of his excellent instructor. They separated soon after, with mutual regret; and in the following term he fixed him. self at Oxford.
The name of Jones was long remembered at Harrow, with the respect due to his superior talents and unrivalled erudition; and he was frequently quoted by Dr. Sumner, as the ornament of his school, and as an example for imitation. He had not only distinguished himself by the extent of his classical attainments, and
* The following is the form of his admission into University College, copied from his own writing :.... Ego Gulielmus Jones, filius unicus Gulielmi Jones, Armigeri, de civitate Lond. lubens subscribo sub tutamine Magistri Betts, et Magistri Coulson, annos natus septemdecin.
his poetical compositions, but by the eloquence of his declamations, and the masterly manner in which they were delivered. In the varied talents, which constitute an orator, Dr. Sumner himself excelled: and his pupil had equally benefited by his example and instruction. In the behaviour of Jones towards his school-fellows, he never exhibited that tyranny, which, in the larger seminaries of learning, is sometimes practised by the senior, over the younger students. His disposition equally revolted at the exercise or sufferance of oppres. sion; and he early exhibited a mind strongly impressed with those moral distinctions, which he ever retained. Of the friendships which he contracted at school, many were afterwards cultivated with reciprocal affection ; and, among the friends of his early years, some still survive, who remember his virtues with delight, and deplore his loss.
His friend Parnell, whose departure from school he laments in the letter to his sister, was the late Sir John Parnell, who held the office of chancellor of the Exchequer, in Ireland. His testimony of the merits, capacity, and proficiency of his friend and fellowstudent at Harrow, extracted from a memorandum, which he gave to Lady Jones, will confirm my own account of him. “ The early period of life is not “ usually marked by extraordinary anecdote: but small “circumstances become interesting, when we can “ trace in them the first principles of virtue, and the “ first symptoms of those talents which afterwards so “eminently distinguished the character of Sir William “ Jones. He gave very early proofs of his possessing
very extraordinary abilities. His industry was very great, and his love of literature was the result of dis
position, and not of submission to control. He "excelled, principally, in his knowledge of the Greek
“ language. His compositions were distinguished by “ his precise application of every word, agreeable to "s the most strict classical authority. He imitated the “ choruses of Sophocles so successfully that his writ
ings seemed to be original Greek compositions; and “ he was attentive even in writing the Greek characters “ with great correctness. His time being employed in
study, prevented his joining in those plays and amuse“ments which occupied the time of his other school“ fellows; but it induced no other singularity in his
manners; they were mild, conciliating, and chearful. " When I first knew him, about the year 1761, he “amused himself with the study of botany, and in “ collecting fossils. In general, the same pursuits which “ gave employment to his mature understanding, were “ the first objects of his youthful attention. The same “ disposition formed the most distinguished features at
an early and at a late period of his life. A decision of “mind, and a strict attachment to virtue, an enthusiastic “ love of liberty, an uniform spirit of philanthropy, were “ the characteristics of his youth, and of his manhood: “ he did no act, he used no expression, which did not justify these assertions."
A collection of English poems, composed by Mr. Jones, at Harrow, was presented by him to his friend Parnell, in 1763. The first and longest of the collection, containing more than three hundred and thirty lines, is entitled Prolusions, and is a critique on the various styles of pastoral writers. This was written by Mr. Jones, at the age of fifteen, and is the original of the poem, which he afterwards published, under the title of Arcadia. *
The variations between his first attempt and subsequent publication are very considerable. In his
* Works, vol. iv. page 478.
earliest composition he makes Menalcas, who represents Theocritus, the father of pastoral poetry, adopt the language of Chauces, as the only model he could take for a specimen of the English Doric. Spenser speaks in his own dialect, and, as the poet says,
Masks in the roughest veil the sweetest song. In the original essay, Mr. Jones gives the prize to Tityrus, or Virgil ; but, in the latter, Theocritus divides the kingdom of Arcadia between Virgil and Spenser, and assigns to them his two daughters, Daphne and Hyla, by whom he understands the two sorts of pastoral poetry: the one elegant and polished, the other simple and unadorned; in both which Theocritus excels.
The remaining poems in the collection consist of translations and imitations of Horace, Sophocles, and Theocritus; Saul and David, an Ode; and a Satire on the inordinate Love of Novelty.
A manuscript of these poems, in the hand-writing of Mr. Jones, was presented to Lady Jones, by Sir John Parnell, a few weeks only before his death. I select, as a specimen of Mr. Jones's poetical talents, at the age of fourteen, the shortest in the collection, in imitation of a well-known Ode of Horace, and addressed to his friend Parnell.
How quickly fades the vital flow'r! ·
Steals unperceiv'd away:
Are destined to decay.
Can zeal drear Pluto's wrath restrain ?
His hallow'd shrine with blood,
To pass the Stygian flood.