Page images
[ocr errors][merged small]
[ocr errors]

Henry GAUNTLETT, the lamented author of these
volumes, was born at Market Lavington, Wilts, on
the 15th of March, 1762. He was the eldest of eleven
children. His father was descended from an ancient
and respectable family in the county, and maintained
through life an irreproachable character for integrity
and moral worth. Although the doctrines of chris-
tianity were, at this period, but imperfectly understood
by the inhabitants of the town and neighbourhood of
Lavington, his mother was anxious to train up her
children to the best of her ability, and to the extent
of her knowledge, in morality and religion. She
carefully instructed them in the holy scriptures, and
the catechism of the church, and enforced a regular
attention to prayer. Naturally of a reserved dispo-
sition, she seldom made her own feelings or sentiments
the subject of conversation. For a period, her view
of religious truth might be described as neither “clear
nor dark, but at evening time it” was “ light.” She
lived to hail the dawn and progress of spiritual illu-
mination in the minds of most of her children, and
died in the faith of the Son of God ; looking for the

[blocks in formation]

glory that shall be revealed, and exemplifying the truth of the assurance, that " if any man will do the will of God, he shall know of the doctrine.”

Beyond the few anecdotes of his childhood and youth, occasionally related by my father to his family, little is known of the early part of his life. When he was about six years of age, the small-pox was prevalent in the neighbourhood of Lavington, where it spread with fatal virulence; and he narrowly escaped falling a victim to the practice of inoculation, then so generally adopted. Shortly after his recovery, he met with a severe affliction in the death of a favourite sister about three



age. It was acutely felt by him; and he recurred to this first opening of the fount of sorrow, but a few days before his own lamented departure. The relation of a similar event in the life of Mr. Crabbe, reminded him of his own grief; and he entered with much feeling into the lines :

“But it was misery stung me in the day
Death of an infant sister made his prey ;-
Though greater anguish I have since endured,
Some healed in part, some never to be cured,
Yet was there something in that first-born ill,
So new, so strange, that memory feels it still."

His parents placed him, at an early age, at the grammar school at West Lavington, then under the superintendence of the Rev. Mr. Marks, who rewarded the diligence of his pupil by his efforts to promote his advancement in learning. Several of his schoolfellows were subsequently distinguished for eminent talent; among whom may be mentioned General Le Marchant and Sir Thomas Lawrence. Of the latter my father would occasionally relate some anecdotes, and speak of the genius displayed in the life-like sketches with which he covered the blank leaves of his school books.

The principal amusement of his childhood (and it was a predilection my father retained to the close of life) was the natural history of birds. With their haunts, instincts, and habits, he was well acquainted; to which was added, an acute perception of the characteristic melodies of their various tribes. His friends have often heard him relate an incident, which, to some readers, may appear almost incredible. Among his captive birds was a favourite goldfinch, whose wild melody he considered the most perfect he had ever heard : being, however, in company with some canaries, it introduced into its song a foreign note. Its owner then gave it to a lady of his acquaintance, who had often expressed a wish for it. Shortly afterwards, when rambling in the wood which was his favourite resort, he heard the same goldfinch singing in a tree near him. My father did not for a moment doubt the identity of the bird, though he wondered very much how it could be there. On his return to the town, he called at the lady's. “So, ma'am, you have lost your goldfinch," he said. To this the lady assented; and asked, in some surprise, how he could have known the circumstance, as the bird had only made its escape that morning. “0,” replied he, I heard it singing in the wood as I came along.” This little anecdote may serve to illustrate the delicacy of his musical ear, for which he was remarkable. With little assistance, he became conversant with the theory of music, and proceeded some way in composing a catechism upon its principles.

After my father left school, he spent a large portion of his time for several years at ** Hall, the seat of Colonel **, situated at a short distance from Lavington. Here he shared in the studies and amusements of this gentleman's sons; with whom a mutually strong attachment and friendship was formed; and it continued to the termination of life, notwithstanding the dissimilarity of their subsequent career. This family, hospitable, generous, and benevolent, in a high degree, was not at this time governed by the principles of pure and undefiled religion ; and the young people were suffered to occupy in amusements, too much of the time bestowed as a precious talent to be faithfully improved, until the great Master shall require an account of its disposal. Such at least was my father's opinion, when he used to say that, from the age of fifteen to five-and-twenty, he was a slave to the pleasures and sports of the field.

During his education and early youth, he had no particular profession in view ; but when arrived at the age of twenty-one, he began in earnest to contemplate his prospects for the future. His friend, Colonel **'s lady, proposed his entering the church ; as in her view most consonant with his disposition, and suitable to his talents, of which she had formed

[ocr errors][ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

a good opinion. Upon this occasion he consulted the Rev. Dr. (afterwards Sir James) Stonhouse, * with whom he had some acquaintance. This acquaintance ripened into a friendship, which was characterized by a regard almost parental on one side, and a truly grateful and affectionate esteem on the other. Dr. Stonhouse encouraged his young friend in his design of entering the ministry, and recommended him to apply to the Bishop of Salisbury, for direction how to proceed in his purpose. Some time after, when recurring to this period, my father writes —“ He (Sir James Stonhouse) was one of the links in the chain of providence, by which I was led to be a minister of

• The Rev. Sir James Stonhouse, Bart., graduated in medicine, at St. John's College, Oxford, and practised for some time as a physician at Northampton ; where he became acquainted with Mr. Hervey, of Weston Favel, Dr. Doddridge, and some other eminent characters. He afterwards took holy orders; and was presented to the rectory of Great and Little Cheverel, in the county of Wilts. He was likewise the Lecturer of All-Saints, Bristol, where he resided part of the year.

This venerable and excellent man, died Dec. 8, 1795, in the eightieth year of his age; and was buried in the Wells' Chapel, where is an elegant monument to his meinory, with the following epitaph written by his friend Hannah More.

" Here rests awhile in happier climes to shine,
The orator, physician, and divine ;
"Twas his, like Luke, the double task to fill,
To heal the patural and the moral ill.

“ You, whose awakened hearts bis labours blessed,

every touch by every grace was dressed,
Oh! let

lives evince that stiil

you feel
Th' effective influence of his fervent zea).

" One spirit rescued from eternal woe,

Gives nobler fame than marble can bestow;
That lasting monument shall mock decay,
And stayd triumphant at the last great day."

« PreviousContinue »