Gentleman: A Family Memoir
Barbauld' splendidly bound adorned his parlour to the end of his days. This whole story I heard from an old servant of the family, and my aunt who was present, did not contradict it in a single word. My father had a notion that her deport- ment alarmed young men, and rather struck them 'with amazement and blank awe' than won their hearts, but this was surely a mis- take, I know three or four of her lovers who never ceased to regard her with affection as well as admiration.
Her conversation in her happiest moods had a charm inexpres- sible; wit, playful wit, tempered with true feminine softness, and the gentle dignity of a high mind, unwont to pour forth its hidden treasures on all demands. She observed to me once, that she had never been placed in a situation which suited her. It was true, unless the bright years of Warrington might be excepted. But the manner of her home savored no doubt of puritanical rigor.
She and her mother, neat, punctual, strict, though of cultivated mind and polished manners, were thoroughly uncongenial. The removal of her father, Dr. Aikin, to Warrington as Theological tutor to the newly founded Academy or rather college there, took place when she was just fifteen.
Her person is thus described at this time. Her person was slender, her complexion exquisitely fair with the bloom of perfect health; her features regular and elegant, and her dark blue eyes beamed with the light of wit and fancy. Henry A. Where could those ministers be educated in theology un- shackled by creed and doctrine? On none did these questions press with greater weight than on John Seldon, the young minister at Warrington.
The idea of found- ing a new Academy was never dropped until it had been carried out in action. How he worked, and wrote, and explained, and begged!
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He is never discouraged, though his discouragements are innumerable. He is never down-hearted though his friends are always suggesting difficulties and pro- phesying evil A circular was sent round signed by Daniel Bayley of Manches- ter , John Lees, afterwards Sir Caryll Worsley, and seven others; and in June, , the first general meeting was held.
Hoghton, Messrs. Heywood and Percival, and other Manches- ter and Liverpool gentlemen subscribed to take houses in Warrington and appoint tutors for the new Academy. The tutors were Dr. Taylor of Norwich, author of the Hebrew Concordance, whose learning was so generally acknowledged that all the English and Welch Bishops and Archbishops, with but four exceptions, were subscribers to the work. Holt was mathematical tutor, and Dr. Aikin languages and literature, and after Dr.
Taylor's death, divinity; Dr. Priestley, Dr. Enfield, and the Rev. Gilbert Wakefield were afterwards ap- pointed.
Priestley, 'lived in the most perfect harmony. Warrington, was afterwards 17th and last Lord Willoughby of Parham ; the last also of the old Presby- terian nobility of England. Aikin held some obscure notions. Seddon to Dr. Aikin at Kibworth, one pas- sage is curious, as showing what travelling in England was a hundred years ago. Holland has given us some reason to hope y t you will come over to Warrington in the Easter week, in order to take a view of y r future situation ; if so, give me leave to recomend y e the following plan.
I'll suppose you set out from Kibworth on Sunday after- noon ; as you intend travelling in post- chaises, you'l easily reach Loughborough, or perhaps Derby that night, y e next night you may come to Offerton, w h is about a mile short of Stockport, where I am with Mrs. Roe, late of Birmingham, now lives there ; and we shall be glad to see you. If you'l write to me time enough, and be particular eno h in your time, I will endeavour to meet you with my own chaise, or send a servant for that purpose.
Howard the Philanthropist came in order that the younger Aikin might revise his MSS and correct his proofs.
Roscoe of Liverpool came, and first learned to care for Botany from his visits to the Warrington Botanical Gardens. Pennant the Naturalist; Currie, the biographer of Burns; and many a Pres- byterian minister, eminent then, though now forgotten--were among the visitors to the Athens of our country. Barbauld, then Miss Aikin, to her friend Miss Belsham 'as merry, blithe and gay, as you could wish ; and very smart and clever --two of them are the Miss Rigbys.
We have a West Indian family too, that I think you would like ; a young couple who seem intended for nothing but mirth, frolic, and gaiety. Bunny, and Miss Sally Rigby was wooed and wed- ded by Dr. Parry of Bath it was sadder still when the lively West Indian had to slip away from his creditors and leave War- rington for ever--saddest of all was it when 'our poetess' herself, after winning the hearts of half the students, some one or two of whom lived sighing and single for her sake--when she too followed the Miss Rigbys' unfortunate example, and was carried off to Palgrave.
Taylor, Dr. Aikin, and Mr. A College at Manchester was established to which the Warrington Trustees transferred their library--It then removed to York, and has now removed to London. It still retains the old Warrington characteristics of a free- dom quite unshackled, a fearless daring in the cause of truth, and a clear and penetra- ting glance into the deepest problems of theology.
An extract from a letter from Lucy Aikin to Mr. Bright will close the subject. Neither Oxford nor Cambridge could boast of brighter names in literature or science than several of these dissenting tutors--humbly content in an obscure town, and on a scanty pittance, to cultivate in themselves, and communicate to a rising generation, those mental acquire- ments and moral habits which are their own exceeding great reward. They had an immediate success. The reviews praised, letters of congratulation poured in--from old friends, --from entire strangers.
Two of these have been preserved, from Dr. Priestley, whose excellent wife was her dearest friend --and from Mrs.
Leeds, 13th June Boswell , with permission to publish it for the benefit of those noble islanders. He is confident that it cannot fail greatly to pro- mote their interest now that a subscription is open for them, by raising a generous ardor in the cause of liberty, and admiration of their glorious struggles in its defence. Its being written by a lady , he thinks, will be a circumstance very much in their favour, and that of the poem ; but there is no occasion for Mr.
Boswell to be acquainted with your name, unless it be your own choice some time hence. I own I entirely agree with Mr. Turner in these sentiments, and there- fore hope Miss Aikin will not refuse so reasonable a request, which will at the same time lay a great obligation on friends in England, and contribute to the relief of her own heroes in Corsica. Without any joke, I wish you would com- ply with this request. In this case you have only to send a corrected copy to us at Leeds, or to Mr.
Boswell by means of Mr. Vaughan or Mrs. Macaulay, or some other friends of liberty and Corsica in London.
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The sooner this is done the better. Turner regrets very much that it was not done some time ago. I shall not tell you what I think of your poems, for more than twenty reasons, one of which is that I am not able to express it. We are now all expectation at the opening of every packet from Warrington. My piece on Perspective is nearly ready for the press.
Come and see me before it is quite printed, and I will engage to teach you the whole art and mystery of it in a few hours. Paul's Churchyard. I am about to make a bolder push than ever for the pillory , the King's Bench Prison , or something worse. Tell Mr. Aikin he may hug himself that I have no connexion with the Academy.
On Monday next Mr.