Bonnell, James

, a man celebrated for piety and virtue, was born at Genoa, Nov. 14, 1653, being the son of Samuel Bonnell, merchant, who resided some time at Genoa, and of Rebecca, daughter of Thomas Sayer, near Norwich, esq. His grandfather was Daniel Bonnell of London, merchant, and his great-grandfather, Thomas Bonnell, a gentleman of good family near Ipres in Flanders, who, to avoid the duke of Alva’s persecution, removed with his family into England, and settled at Norwich, of which, before his death, he was chosen mayor. Samuel Bonnell, father of James Bonnell, being bred up under that eminent merchant, sir William Courteen, knt. applied himself to the Italian trade, at Leghorn and Genoa, with such success, that about 1649, he was worth at least 10,000l. and his credit much greater than his fortune. But both were soon impaired by several accidents, by great losses at sea, and particularly by his zeal for kingCharles II. during his exile, and the rest of the royal family, whom he privately supplied with large sums of money. About 1655, he removed with his family into England; and, at the restoration, on account of the services he had done the royal family, and as a compensation for the large sums he had advanced them (which, it seems, were never repaid otherwise) there was granted him a patent to be accomptant-general of the revenue of Ireland, a place worth about 800l. a year, his son’s life being included in the patent with his own. But this he was not long possessed of, for he died in 1664, leaving his son and one daughter.

After this son, the object of the present article, had been instructed in the first rudiments of learning at Dublin, he was sent to Trim school, where he was eminent for sweetness of temper, and for a most innocent, gentle, and religious behaviour. At fourteen years of age he left that place, and was sent to a private philosophy school at Nettlebed in Oxfordshire, kept by Mr. William Cole, who had formerly been principal of St. Mary Hall in Oxford, and remained there two years and a half. But finding his | master was too remiss in matters of morality and religion ,*

*

This Cole was ejected from Oxford at the Restoration, and continued afterwards a nonconformist. Mr. Wesley, the father of the celebrated John Wesley, accused him of being an encourager of immorality in his family. Against this he is defended in Mr. S. Palmer’s Nonconformists’ Memorial, vol. I. p. 249; but Mr. P. appears not to have seen Mr. Bonnell’s statement* Life, p. 9.

a thing quite unsuitable with his strict temper; and observing there were in that place all the dangers and vices of the university, without the advantages, he removed to Catherine-hall in Cambridge, where he prosecuted his studies with indefatigable diligence, and performed all his exercises with general approbation. After taking the degrees of A.B. in 1672, and A. M. 1676, he removed into the family of Ralph Freeman of Aspenden-hall in Hertfordshire, esq. as tutor to his eldest son, and there continued till 1678, when, going with his pupil into Holland, he stayed about a year in sir Leoline Jenkyns’s family at Nimeguen. From Nimeguen he went, in the ambassador’s company, through Flanders and Holland: and returning to England, continued with his pupil till 16S5, when Mr. Freeman was sent into France and Italy. In 1684, Mr. Bonnell went into France, and met Mr. Freeman at Lyons, and in his company visited several parts of that country. From thence, however, he went directly to Ireland, and took his employment of accountant-general into his own hands, which had, since his father’s death, been managed by others for his use. In the discharge of it he behaved with so much diligence and fidelity, that he soon acquired the esteem of the government, and the love of all who were concerned with him. During the troublesome reign of king James II. he neither deserted his employment, as others did, nor countenanced the arbitrary and illegal measures of the court, and yet was continued in his office, which proved a great advantage to the protestant interest in Ireland, for whatever he received out of his office, he liberally distributed among the poor oppressed protestants. He also took every opportunity to relieve the injured, and boldly to plead their cause with those who were in power. But though his place was very advantageous, and furnished him with ample means of doing good, yet either the weight of the employment, or his ill state of health, or perhaps his desire of entering into holy orders, which he had long designed, but never effected, made him resolve to quit it; | and he accordingly parted with it to another person in 1693. In the whole course of his life he behaved in so upright and worthy a manner, that he was courted by his superiors and reverenced by his equals. In piety, justice, charity, sobriety, and temperance, few have excelled him. His devotion was confined within the strictest bounds of sobriety and reason, and free from the least appearance of affectation. He commonly gave away the eighth part of his yearly income to the poor, and his charity was not only extensive but impartial. His learning was very considerable; he thoroughly digested the Greek and Roman authors, understood French perfectly, and had made great progress in the Hebrew language. In philosophy and oratory he exceeded most of his contemporaries in the university, and applied himself with success to mathematics and music. In the course of his studies he read several of the fathers, and translated some parts of Synesius into English. There is nothing, however, of his published, but some Meditations and Prayers inserted in his Life, and a “Harmony of the Gospels,” written by another hand, but “improved by James Bonnell, esq. for his own use,” Lond. 1705, 8vo. This excellent man died of a malignant fever, April 23, 1699, and was buried in St. John’s church in Dublin. In 1693 he married Jane, daughter of sir Albert Conyngham, by whom he had three children, of whom only one daughter survived him a very short time. A neat monument was erected to his memory by his relict. “Such a character,” says Mr. Granger, “may, perhaps, be overlooked by some, because there is nothing remarkably striking in it. But the man who is uniformly good, and that to such a degree as Mr. Bonnell was, ought to stand high in our opinion, and to be esteemed what he certainly was, a great man.1
1

Biog. Brit.—Life of Bonnell, by Wm. Hamilton, A. M. Archdeacon of Armagh, and Funeral Sermon for, by Bishop Wetenhall, Lond. 8vo, 1708—18, and reprinted by Messrs. Rivingtons, 1807, being the fifth edition.