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Harrison, who, as a famous Nonconformist teacher, is noticed in Dr. Calamy's account of ejected ministers,* attained a high reputation in Manchester as a preacher, an author, and a scholar. In the academy there he was appointed professor of the Greek and Latin languages, and of polite literature. He produced many able works of an educational character; and left behind him a volume of discourses that fully bear out his claim to the affectionate regard in which his character and ministrations were held. Of these sermons, which, with a biographical memoir, were first printed in
* From another source, a manuscript to which we have had access, we derive some particulars relative to this said Cuthbert, far too curious to omit. Cuthbert, the youngest son of Richard Harrison, who resided at Newton, was born about 1627, and was regularly ordained. In 1672 he übtained the king's license to preach in Elswick Lees, according to the ductrines of "the persuasion called Congregational;” but this license served him but for a short time, the Parliament declaring the meetings illegal; and he preached as before, in his own house at Bankefield, and also at others," very privately in the night, to such as would venture to hear him.” The following extract from a leiter written by one of his descendants explains the rest, and fully develops at once his character and his persecutions : Mr. Richard Clegg, vicar of Kirkham, fell violently upon him, first, in the ecclesiastical court, for preaching, marrying one James Benson, and baptising his child, and got botli him and Benson excommunicated. [He was absolved from this censure in 1677.] He sometimes repaired to the parish church at Kirkham, particularly one Lord's day, whilst he was under the aforesaid censure, and took his place amongst the gentlemen in the chancel. Mr. Clegg, the vicar, who wrote his prayer before sermon, and all his sermons also, in characters, was got into the pulpit, and, looking aside and seeing him come in and place himself
, lost the end. He could not find it again, and was silent for some time; then ordered the churchwardens to put him out. They went to our father, and told him what Mr. Clegg lad ordered, and desired lie would go out. He refused; and said that, except Mr. Clegg himself would put him out, he would not go. Mr. Clegg then desired Mr. Christopher Parker, who was justice of the peace, and then in church, and sat within six foot of our father, to put him out; but Mr. Parker refused, and said he would not meddle. Then Mr. Clegg went to our father, and took him by the sleeve, and desired him to go out. He went along with Mr. Clegg, and opened the chancel-door, and was no sooner out, but with a strong voice said, 'It's time to go when the devil drives.' Thou canst scarce imagine a greater disorder than was reported to have been in the church at that time. Shortly after, the vicar sued our father at common law, upon the statute called Qui tam, for 201. a month, for six months absenting t:om the church, and the case was brought to a trial at the assizes at Lancaster; but I could never know the judge's name. Our father, in his defe, ice, proved that he was at church one Lord's day in one of the months, on his jornall to Chester, being cited to appear and answer a libel of Mr. Clegg's, a Lord's day in another month, and under the church censure for the other time, and that he went to church and was put out as aforesaid. The judge was hearty, and after he had summed up the evidence, he told the jury There was fiddle and be hanged, and there was fiddle not and be hanged. The defendant was under church censure, which might prevent his going to church. Gentlemen, pray consider it.' The iury brought in for the defendant, and all costs were thrown on Mr. Clegg, with many affronting scoff's.” There are other characteristic stories of this veteran Nonconformist. The war was continued, even to the writing of his epitapti.
1813, a new edition appeared in 1827. It may nere bu inentioned, as a somewhat rare occurrence in the life of a Presbyterian minister, that this reverend person, the grandfather of the subject of this sketch, realised, by fortunate speculations in land and building, a large fortune, leaving behind him upwards of 60,0001. Of this union two sons were born; the elder named William Harrison, the younger, Thomas Gilbert, who, distinguishing himself at Cambridge, and taking a scholarship there, unfortunately fell into illhealth from over-study, which so affected his nervous system that he never took his degree, and his intention of going into the church was therefore abandoned.
William Harrison Ainsworth was born on the 4th of February, 1805, at the house of his father, in King-street, Manchester; but not long after, the family removed to a very commodious and pleasantly situated country-house, called Beech Hill, about two miles from the town, on the Chetham side. Here was a very extensive garden; and here all the time that could be spared by its possessor from professional pursuits was devoted to the studies and recreations of which he was so passionately fond. The grounds were laid out under his own eye, and several of the trees were planted by the young brothers.
To the education of the elder of these it is now necessary to refer. The early part of it was undertaken by his uncle, the Rev. William Harrison; and then, while still very young, he was placed at the free grammar-school in Manchester, in one of the classes of the Rev. Robinson (afterwards Dr.) Elsdale. In this school, which was founded early in the sixteenth century, many persons eminent for science and learning have been educated. The list extends as far back as the reign of Mary, opening with the well-known name of John Bradford, who suffered martyrdom in 1555. Reginald Heber (the father of the bishop) was here—Cyril Jackson, and his brother the Bishop of Oxford—the first Lord Alvanley, Mr. Morritt of Rokeby, David Latouche, the celebrated banker, the present Mr. Justice Williams, and many others. Here our youthful student so far distinguished himself as to have received very flattering testimonials from Dr. Smith (the then head-master of the school), and his colleague, Dr. Elsdale. He wrote several translations from the Latin and Greek poets, which obtained their approbation. At that period (the practice, we believe, has been since discontinued) there were held, once a year, “ speaking days"—the head boys reciting passages from the poets and orators in Greek and Latin; and upon one of these occasions he obtained great praise and credit by reciting Seneca's Quis vere Rcx ? with a translation by himself. In this school he remained, gathering honour and advantage, until he reached the first form, when his father, who designed his son to be his successor, placed him as a clerk with Mr. Alexander Kay, a then rising, and since risen, solicitor in the town.
The blossom of that literary fruit, on which the public, in more than one nation, has since fed with such eagerness and relish, had begun to develop itself previously even to this youthful period— and not in one form only, but in many; not in translations merely, but in original compositions—in tales, sketches, dramatic sceneseven in tragedies.
But, to begin with the beginning, it should be mentioned that these literary predilections had their precursors in other tastes. The first passion, if report speaks truly, took a pyrotechnic direction; it shot upward like a rocket. Firework-making was, in short, the earliest predilection that manifested itself with any considerable potency; and the first throb of young ambition was to make a rocket in earnest. Roman candles, serpents, &c., were accomplished satisfactorily; but the greatest was behind,” the grand triumph was the rocket; and in the blaze and brilliancy of this—for it was at last achieved—the passion for pyrotechnic glory seems to have evaporated. Success sometimes involves terrible disappointinent, and has the most unlooked-for consequences-swallowing up, in the moment of victory, all care and concern for the very objects of success.
We hear no more of this passion; but of anoiner which succeeded it we may justly say, that while it lasts it burns with such ardour as to consume or draw to itself every other youthful feeling. This is the rage for private theatricals. The nature on which this had now taken hold was not one to surrender itself by halves, with reluctance, or with misgivings. The whole heart of the schoolboy, for as yet he was no more, was freely given to the new passion. He constructed a theatre in the cellar (the majesty of buried Denmark speaking from the cellarage!"), put together the machinery, fixed the great essential, the curtain, painted the scenes, made the dresses, acted the characters—having first written the piuys! It is to this circumstance, perhaps, that our libraries are indebted for many admirable romances; as it is to such seemingly trivial accidents we may often trace the first workings of a genius which, in its fully developed beauty, delights the world with animated pictures drawn from the past or imagined of the future-dazzling the eye with glittering fictions, and filling the soul with sweet perfumes.
His literary career, ere he had yet left school, may now be said to have commenced, since he contributed largely to a weekly literary journal then existing in Manchester, called “ The Iris;" and so profusely were his youthful feelings and opinions poured forth, that it may be doubted whether he ever wrote more, even at the busiest season of his subsequent career. His reputation as a writer was thus so far advanced, that a printer was induced to bring out a small theatrical paper, written solely by him; and, subsequently, a journal (on the plan and in the form of the Indicator") entitled the “ Bæotian.” Of this work (the motto of which was Boeotấm crasso jurares aëre natum, in merry allusion to the town where it was produced) six numbers were published. Its young editor about the same time contributed regularly to the “ European Magazine.”
It had been his father's wish, when the period of the youth's law-studies commenced, that he should devote himself chiefly to that branch of the profession which it was intended he should practise-conveyancing; but no great progress was made in this study. Byron, Scott, and Shelley had charms that title-deeds coul. never boast; writing verses was far more attractive than making abstracts, and drawing drafts bore no comparison to sketching for Magazines. It was the old story—he was literally
A youth foredoom'd his father's hopes to cross,
Who penn'd a stanza when he should engross. The nameless editor of a Magazine was, in his enchanted view, greater by far than the greatest of the whole tribe of lawyers; and the occupation of the editorial chair appeared in his fanciful dream an object worthier of a lofty ambition than a seat on the woolsack. What his present feeling may be—now that he has accomplished his young desire to the full—we pause not to ask. It is enough to know that coming events often cast before them shadows far gaudier than themselves. The glory fades in possession_“the beautiful has vanished, and returns not.” And yet-for there is no end to contradictions—the carly vision has been more than mealised
But if law failed to attract, other studies were not at this time neglected. His father's lavish care had provided masters of various kinds, and he continued to read the classics, on two days of the week, with Dr. Smith, the head-master of the school he had quitted. Literature only consumed the time apportioned by parental anxiety to severer pursuits; but that the literary fruits of these stolen marches were not slight, a simple enumeration of his published pieces will show. Having composed, prior to the appearance of Lord Byron's “Foscari,” a tragedy on the same subject, he sent scine account of it to Constable’s “ Edinburgh Magazine,” in which miscellany a notice appeared a month previous to the publication of Byron's drama. A regular contributorship to that periodical ensued; but it did not absorb all his literary interest, for he wrote a tale for Taylor and Hessey's “ London Magazine,” called the “Falls of Ohiopyle;” and through the medium of Mr. Arliss, the printer, published with Whittaker two poems, entitled the “Maid's Revenge,” and “A Summer Evening's Tale.” Some of the tales and essays thus scattered over various periodicals were afterwards collected into a little volume, under the title of “ December Tales,” and published by Whittaker.
Of what was unpublished we know nothing; but all these productions saw the light before their author was nineteen years of age. Thus early was he a prolific writer. It was at this period that his father's death occurred, from the shock naturally consequent upon which he awakened to a sense of the expediency of completing his term as a conveyancer, and qualifying himself for assuming the professional responsibility which this bereavement devolved upon him.
him. With this view he repaired to London, to finish his term with Mr. Jacob Phillips, of the Inner Temple. Yet it does not appear that he devoted himself with the adequate diligence and zeal to professional study. The literary enthusiasm was still the stronger feeling, though less productive in its immediate results than before; for the metropolis was a novel scene, and some time was spent in acquainting himself with its amusements.
Not long before the completion of his appointed stay in town, he commenced an acquaintance with Mr. Ebers, at that time the manager of the Opera House. A constant attendance there was, of course, included among his London pleasures. Still literature asserted its claims; and with Mr. Ebers, a few months after the commencement of their intimacy, he published a romance entitled “ Sir John