Burgess, Daniel

, a dissenting divine of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, a wit himself, and “the cause of wit in other men,” particularly dean Swift and his contemporaries, was born in 1645 at Staines in Middlesex, where his father then was minister, but was afterwards, at the restoration, ejected for nonconformity from the living of Collingbourne Ducis, in Wiltshire. Daniel was educated at Westminster school, and in 1660 went to Magdalen-hall, Oxford, but having some scruples of the nonconformist stamp, he left the university without a | degree. It would appear, however, that he had taken orders, as we are told that immediately after he was invited to be chaplain to a gentleman of Chute in Wiltshire, and afterwards to a Mr. Smith of Tedworth, where he was tutor to that gentleman’s son. In 1667, the earl of Orrery, lord president of Munster, took Mr. Burgess over to Ireland, and appointed him master of a school which he had established at Charleville for the purpose of strengthening the protestant interest in that kingdom, and Mr. Burgess, while here, superintended the education of the sons of some of the Irish nobility and gentry. After leaving this school, he was chaplain to lady Mervin, near Dublin; but about this time, we are told, he was ordained in Dublin as a presbyterian minister, and married a Mrs. Briscoe in that city, by whom he had a son and two daughters.

He resided seven years in Ireland, at the end of which he returned, at the request of his infirm father, and notwithstanding the strictness of the laws against nonconformity, preached frequently in Marlborough in Wiltshire, and other places in the neighbourhood. For this he was imprisoned for some time, but was released upon bail, and in 1685 came to London; and the dissenters now having more liberty, his numerous admirers hired a meeting for him in Brydges-street, Covent-garden. “Being situated,” says one of his biographers, “in the neighbourhood of the theatre, and surrounded by many who are fools* enough to mock at sin and religion, he frequently had among his hearers those who came only to make themselvesmerry at the ex pence of religion, dissenters, and Daniel Burgess. This his undaunted courage, his pointed wit, and ready elocution, turned to great advantage: for he frequently fixed his eye on those scoffers, and addressing them personally in a lively, piercing, and serious manner, was blessed to the conversion of many who came only to mock.” Much of this may be true, but it cannot, on the other hand, be denied that Daniel provoked the mirth of his hearers by a species of buffoonery in language, to laugh at which was not necessarily connected with any contempt for religion.

He continued as a pastor over this congregation for thirty years, during which a new place of worship was built by them in Carey-street, and when much injured, or as it is called, gutted, by Dr. Sacheverell’s mob, was repaired at the expence of government. He died January 1712-13, | in the sixty-eighth year of his age, and was buried in St. Clement Danes, Strand. It has escaped the notice of his biographers, that the celebrated lord Bolingbroke* was once his pupil, and the world has perhaps to regret that his lordship did not learn what Daniel Burgess might have taught him, for Daniel, with all his oddities, which made him for so many years the butt of Swift, Steele, and the other wits of the time, was a man of real piety. Unfortunately, like his successor Bradbury, he had a very considerable portion of wit, which he could not restrain, and where he thought an argument might be unsuccessful, he tried a pun. One of his biographers has furnished us with two instances that may illustrate the general character of his preaching. When treating on “the robe of righteousness,” he said, “If any of you would have a good and cheap suit, you will go to Monmouth-street; if you want a stiit for life, you will go to the court of chancery; but if you wish for a suit that will last to eternity, you must go to the Lord Jesus Christ, and put on his robe of righteousness.” In the reign of king William, he assigned a new motive for the people of God who were the descendants of Jacob, being called Israelites; namely, because God did not choose that his people should be called Jacobites! His works were numerous, but principally single sermons, preached on funeral and ether occasions, and pious tracts. One of his sermons is entitled “The Golden Snuffers,” and was the first sermon preached to the societies for the reformation of manners. It is a fair specimen of Daniel’s method and style, being replete with forced puns and quaint sayings, and consequently, in our opinion, better adapted to amusement than edification. *

*

In 1702 Mr. Burgess’s only son was made commissioner of prizes; and in 1714, about a year after his father’s death, he resided at Hanover, as secre­ tary and reader to the princess Sophia, It is not improbable that he might owe these promotions to lord Bolingbroke.