Bathurst, Ralph

, a distinguished wit, and Latin poet, was descended of an ancient family, and was born at Howthorpe, a small hamlet in Northamptonshire, in the parish of Thedingworth, near Market-Harborough in Leicestershire, in 1620. He received the first part of his education at the free-school in Coventry, where his father seems to have resided in the latter part of his life. His mother was Elizabeth Villiers, daughter and coheir of Edward Villiers, esq. of the same place. They had issue thirteen sons, and four daughters. Six of the sons lost | their lives in the service of king Charles I. during the grand rebellion: the rest, besides one who died young, were Ralph (of whom we now treat), Villiers, Edward, Moses, Henry, and Benjamin, father of the late earl Bathurst, the subject of the preceding article. At Coventry school our author made so quick a progress in the classics, that at the age of fourteen he was sent to Oxford, and entered October 10, 1634, in Gloucester hall, now Worcester college; but was removed in a few days to Trinity college, and probably placed under the immediate tuition of his grandfather Dr. Kettel, then president, in whose lodging he resided (still known by the name of Kettel-hall), and at whose table he had his diet, for two years. He was elected scholar of the house, June 5., 1637, and having taken the degree of A. B. January 27th following, he was appointed fellow June 4, 1640. He commenced A. M.April 17, 1641, and on March 2, 1644, conformably to the statutes of his college, he was ordained priest by Robert Skinner, bishop of Oxford, and read some theological lectures in the college hall in 1649. These, which he called “Diatribae theologicEc, philosophies, et philological,” are said to discover a spirit of theological research, and an extensive knowledge of the writings of the most learned divines. He likewise kept his exercise for the degree of B. D. but did not take it. The confusion of the times promising little support or encouragement to the ministerial function, like his friend, the famous Dr. Willis, he applied himself to the study of physic, and accumulated the degrees in that faculty, June 21, 1654. Before this time he had sufficiently recommended himself in his new profession, and had not been long engaged in it, when he was employed as physician to the sick and wounded of the navy, which office he executed with equal diligence and dexterity, to the full satisfaction of the sea-commanders, and the commissioners of the admiralty. We find him soon after settled at Oxford, and practising physic in concert with his friend Dr. Willis, with whom he regularly attended Abingdon market every Monday. He likewise cultivated every branch of philosophical knowledge: he attended the lectures of Peter Sthael, a chymist and rosicrucian, who had been invited to Oxford by Mr. R. Boyle, and was afterwards operator to the royal society about 1662. About the same time he had also a share in the foundation of that society; and when it was established, he was elected fellow, | and admitted August 19, 1663. While this society was at Gresham college in London, a branch of it was continued at Oxford, and the original society books of this Oxford department are still preserved there in the Ashmolean Museum, where their assemblies were held. Their latter Oxford meetings were subject to regulations made among themselves; according to which Dr. Bathurst was elected president April 23, 1688, having been before nominated one of the members for drawing up articles, February 29, 1683-4. Nor was he less admired as a classical scholar; at the university a.cts, in the collections of Oxford verses, and on every public occasion, when the ingenious were invited to a rival display of their abilities, he appears to have been one of the principal and most popular performers. Upon the publication of Hobbes’s treatise of “Human Nature,” &c. 1650, Bathurst prefixed a recommendatory copy of Latin iambics, written with so much strength of thought, and elegance of expression, that they fully established his character as a Latin poet; and recommended him to the notice of the duke of Devonshire, by whose interest he afterwards obtained the deanery of Wells. He had thought fit, by a temporary compliance, to retain his fellowship at Oxford, under the conditions of the parliamentary visitation in 1648, and after the death of Cromwell, procured a majority of the fellows of his college, in 1659, to elect Dr. Seth Ward president, who was absolutely disqualified for it by the college-statutes. After the Restoration, he re-assumed the character of a clergyman, and returned to his theological studies, but with little hope or ambition of succeeding in a study, which he had so long neglected: however, he was made king’s chaplain in 1663. He was chosen president of his college September 10, 1664, and ^.he same' year he was married, December 31, to Mary, the widow of Dr. John Palmer, warden of All Souls college, a woman of admirable accomplishments. June 28, 1670, he was installed dean of Wells, procured, as before mentioned, by the interest of the duke of Devonshire. In April 1691, he was nominated by king William and queen Mary, through the interest of lord Somers, to the bishopric of Bristol, with licence to keep his deanery and headship in commendam; but he declined the acceptance of it, lest it should too much detach him from his college, and interrupt the completion of those improvements in its buildings, which he had already begun, and | an account of which may be seen in the History of Oxford. Had Dr. Bathurst exerted his activity and interest alone for the service of his society, he might have fairly claimed the title of an ample benefactor; but his private liberality concurred with his public collections. He expended near 3000l. of his own money upon it, and purchased for the use of the fellows, the perpetual advowson of the rectory of Addington upon Otmere, near Oxford, with the sum of 400l. in 1700. Nor was he less serviceable by his judicious discipline and example, his vigilance as a governor, and his eminence as a scholar, which contributed to raise the reputation of the college to an extraordinary height, and filled it with students of the first rank and family. He is said to have constantly frequented early prayers in the chapel, then at five in the morning, till his eighty-second year, and he punctually attended the public exercises of the college, inspected the private studies, relieved the wants, and rewarded the merit of his scholars. In the mean time he was a man of the world, and his lodgings were perpetually crowded with visitants of the first distinction. October 3, 1673, he was appointed vice-chancellor of the university, and continued for the two following years, the duke of Ormond being chancellor. During the execution of this office, he reformed many pernicious abuses, introduced several necessary regulations, defended the privileges of the university with becoming spirit, and to the care of the magistrate added the generosity of the benefactor. He established the present practice of obliging the bachelors of arts to stipulate for their determination: he endeavoured, at the command of the king, to introduce a more graceful manner of delivering the public sermons at St. Mary’s, to which church he was also a benefactor, and introduced several other improvements in the academical ceconomy. As Dr. Bathurst was intimately acquainted with the most eminent literary characters of his age, few remarkable productions in literature were undertaken or published without his encouragement and advice. Among many others, Dr. Sprat, Dr. South, Dr. Busby, Dr. Allestree, Creech the translator, sir George Ent, a celebrated physician and defender of the Harveyan system, were of his common acquaintance. Such were his friends; but he had likewise his enemies, who have hinted that he was unsettled in his religious principles. This insinuation most probably arose from his iambics prefixed to Hobbes’s book, | which are a mere sport of genius, written without the least connection with Hobbes, and contain no defence or illustration of his pernicious doctrine, which, however, did not appear at that time to be so pernicious. And the sincere and lasting intimacies he maintained with Skinner, Fell, South, Allestree, Aldrich, and several others, are alone an unanswerable refutation of this unfavourable imputation. He died in his eighty-fourth year, June 14, 1704. He had been blind for some time; and his death was occasioned by n fracture of his thigh, while he was walking in the garden, which, on the failure of his eyes, became his favourite and only amusement. Under this malady he languished for several days in acute agonies. It is said that at first, and for some time, he refused to submit to the operations of the surgeon, declaring in his tortures, that there was no marrow in the bones of an old man. He had lost his memory a year or two before his death, of which Mr. Warton has given an instance which we could have wished he had suppressed. He was interred on the south side of the antichapel of Trinity college without the least appearance of pomp and extravagance, according to his own appointment. He left legacies in his will to his friends, servants, and the college, to the amount of near 1000^. As to his character, it is observed that his temperance in eating and drinking, particularly the latter, was singular and exemplary. Amidst his love of the polite arts, he had a strong aversion to music, and discountenanced and despised the study of all external accomplishments, as incompatible with the academical character. His behaviour in general was inoffensive and obliging. The cast of his conversation was rather satirical, but mixed with mirth and pleasantry. He was remarkably fond of young company, and indefatigable in his encouragement of a rising genius. John Philips was one of his chief favourites, whose “Splendid Shilling” was a piece of solemn ridicule suited to his taste. Among his harmless whims, he delighted to surprize the scholars, when walking in the grove at unseasonable hours; on which occasions he frequently carried a whip in his hand, an instrument of academical correction, then not entirely laid aside. But this he practised, on account of the pleasure he took in giving so odd an alarm, rather than from any principle of reproving, or intention of applying an illiberal punishment. In Latin poetry, Ovid was his favourite classic. One of his pupils having asked | him what book among all others he chose to recommend he answered, “Ovid’s Metamorphoses.” The pupil, in consequence of this advice, having carefully perused the Metamorphoses, desired to be informed what other proper book it wouldbe necessary to read after Ovid, and Dr. Bathurst advised him to read “Ovid’s Metamorphoses” a second time. He had so mean an opinion of his performances in divinity, that in his will he enjoins his executors entirely to suppress all his papers relating to that subject, and not to permit them to be perused by any, excepting a very few such friends as were likely to read them with candour. We are told, however, that on Sunday, March 20, 1680, he preached before the house of commons at St. Mary’s, the university church, and gave much satisfaction. His manner was nearly that of Dr. South, but with more elegance and felicity of allusion. His Life, written by Mr. Thomas Warton, is perhaps one of the most correct of that author’s performances, and contains Dr. Bathurst’s miscellaneous works, which, though they have great merit in their particular way, and may be read with much pleasure, are not written in such a taste as entitles them to imitation. This is acknowledged by Mr. Warton. “His Latin orations,” says that ingenious Biographer, “are wonderful specimens of wit and antithesis, which were the delight of his age. They want upon the whole the purity and simplicity of Tully’s eloquence, but even exceed the sententious smartness of Seneca, and the surprising turns of Pliny. They are perpetually spirited, and discover an uncommon quickness of thought. His manner is concise and abrupt, but yet perspicuous and easy. His allusions are delicate, and his observations sensible and animated. His sentiments of congratulation or indignation are equally forcible: his compliments are most elegantly turned, and his satire is most ingeniously severe. These compositions are extremely agreeable to read, but in the present improwriiient of classical taste, not so proper to be imitated. They are moreover entertaining, as a picture of the times, and a history of the state of academical literature. This smartness does not desert our author even on philosophical subjects.” Among Dr. Bathurst’s Oratiuncuhe, his address to the convocation, about forming the barbers of Oxford into a company, is a most admirable specimen of his humour, and of that facetious invention, with which few vice-chancellors would have ventured to enforce and | eiiliven such a subject. We doubt, indeed, whether a parallel to this exquisite piece of humour can be found. With regard to the doctor’s Latin poetry, though his hexameters have an admirable facility, an harmonious versification, much terseness and happiness of expression, and a certain original air, they will be thought, nevertheless, too pointed and ingenious by the lovers of Virgil’s simple beauties. The two poems which he hath left in iambics make it to be wished tiiat he had written more in that measure. “That pregnant brevity,” says Mr. Warton, “/which constitutes the dignity and energy of the iambic, seems to have been his talent.” Dr. Bathurst’s English poetry has that roughness of versification which was, in a great degree, the fault of the times. 1

1 Life by Warton. Biog. Brit. Wood’s Ath. To!. Ti. Hist, of Oxford, vol. II,