Enfield, William

, a dissenting divine of great learning and amiable character, was born at Sudbury, on March 29, O. S. 1741, of parents in a humble walk of life, but of very respectable characters. His amiable disposition and promising talents early recommended him to the rev. Mr. Hextall, the dissenting minister of that place, who took great care of his education, and infused into hi young mind that taste for elegance in composition, which ever afterwards distinguished him. In his seventeenth year, he was sent to the academy at Daventry, then under the direction of the rev. Dr. Ashworth, where he passed through the usual course of instruction preparatory to the office of the ministry; and with such success did he cultivate his talents, that, on leaving the academy, he was at once chosen, in 1763, minister of the congregation of Benri’s Garden, in Liverpool, where he passed seven of the happiest years of life, very generally beloved and esteemed. He manned, in 1767, the daughter of Mr. Holland, draper, in Liverpool, with whom he passed all the rest of his days in most cordial union. His literary reputation was extended, during his residence in this place, by the publication of two volumes of sermons, which were very well received, and were followed by “A Collection of Hymns and of Family Prayers.

About 1770, he was invited to take a share in the conduct of the dissenting academy at Warrington, and also to occupy the place of minister to the congregation, there, both vacant by the death of the rev. Mr. Seddon. His acceptance of this honourable invitation was a source of a variety of mixed sensations and events to him, of which anxiety and vexation composed too large a share for his happiness. No assiduity on his part was wanting in the performance of his various duties but the diseases of the institution were radical and incurable and perhaps his gentleness of temper was ill adapted to contend with the difficulties in Blatter of discipline, which seem entailed on all dissenting | academies, and which, in that situation, fell upon him, as the domestic resident, with peculiar weight. He always, however, possessed the respect and affection of the hestdisposed of the students; and there was no reason to suppose that any other person, in his place, could have prevented that dissolution which the academy underwent in 1783. During the period of his engagement there, his indefatigable industry was exerted in the composition of a number of works, mostly, indeed, of the class of useful compilations, but containing valuable displays ofhis powers of thinking and writing. The most considerable was his “Institutes of Natural Philosophy,1783, 4to, a clear and well-arranged compendium of the leading principles, theoretical and experimental, of the sciences comprized under that head. And it may be mentioned as an extraordinary proof of his diligence and power of comprehension, that, on a vacancy in the mathematical department of the academy, which the state of the institution rendered it impossible to supply by a new tutor, he prepared himself at a short warning to fill it up; and did till it with credit and utility,*


In our text we follow Dr. Aikin; but Mr. Wakefield says, “When he (Dr. Enfield) engaged in the mathematical and philosophical departments at Warrington, he appears to have mistakeu his talents, as many good men have done before him; and indeed this mistake of his judgment he afterwards acknowledged to me, with a magnanimity more honourable to his character than all superiority of intellectual accomplishments.” Wakelield’s Memoirs, vol. I. p. 223.

though this abstruse branch of science had never before been a particular object of his study. He continued at Warrington two years after the academy had broken up, taking a few private pupils. In 1785, receiving an invitation from the principal dissenting congregation at Norwich, he accepted it, and first fixed his residence at Thorpe, a pleasant village near the city, where he pursued his plan of taking a limited number of pupils to board in his house. He afterwards removed to Norwich itself, and at length, fatigued with the long cares of education, entirely ceased to receive boarders, and only gave private instructions to two or three select pupils a few hours in the morning. This too he at last discontinued, and devoted himself solely to the duties of his congregation, and the retired and independent occupations of literature. Yet, in a private way and small circle, few men had been more successful in education, of which many striking examples might be mentioned, and none more so than the | members of his own family. Never, indeed, was a father more deservedly happy in his children; but the eldest, whom he had trained with uncommon care, and who had already, when just of age, advanced in his professional, career so far as to be chosen town-clerk of Nottingham, was most unfortunately snatched away by a fever, a few years since. This fatal event produced effects on the doctor’s health which alarmed his friends. The symptoms were those of angina pectoris, and they continued till the usual serenity of his mind was restored by time and employment. Some of the last years of his life were the most comfortable; employed only in occupations which, were agreeable to him, and which left him master of his own time witnessing the happy settlement of two of his daughters contracted in his living within the domestic privacy which he loved and connected with some of the most agreeable literary companions, and with a set of cordial and kind-hearted friends, he seemed fully to enjoy life as it flowed, and indulged himself in pleasing prospects for futurity. But an unsuspected and incurable disease was preparing a sad and sudden change; a schirrous contraction of the rectum, the symptoms of which were mistaken by himself for a common laxity of the bowels, brought on a total stoppage, which, after a week’s struggle, ended in death. Its gradual approach gave him opportunity to display all the tenderness, and more than the usual firmness of his nature. He died amidst the kind offices of mourning friends at Norwich, Nov. 3, 1797. Besides the literary performances already mentioned, Dr. Enfielcl completed in 1791, the laborious task of an abridgment of “Brucker’s History of Philosophy,” which he Comprized in two volumes, 4to. It may be truly said, that the tenets of philosophy and the lives of its professors were never before displayed in so pleasing a form, and with such clearness and elegance of language. Indeed it was his peculiar excellence to arrange and express other men’s ideas to the utmost advantage; but it has been objected that in this work he has been sometimes betrayed into inaccuracies by giving what he thought the sense of the ancients in cases where accuracy required their very words to be given. Yet a more useful or elegant work upon the subject has never appeared in our language, and in our present undertaking we have taken frequent opportunities to acknowledge our obligations to it. Among Dr. Enfield’s | publications not noticed above, were his “Speaker,” a selection of pieces for the purpose of recital “Exercises on Elocution,” a sequel to the preceding “The Preacher’s Directory,” an arrangement of topics and texts “The English Preacher,” a collection of short sermons from various authors, 9 vols. 12mo; “Biographical Sermons on the principal characters in the Old and New Testament.” After his death a selection of his “Sermons” was published in 3 vols. 8vo, with a life by Dr. Aikin. As a divine, Dr. Enfield ranks among the Socinians, and his endeavours in these sermons are to reduce Christianity to a mere system of ethics. 1

Life as above.—Gleig’s Supplement to the Encyclopaedia Britannica.— Wakefield’s Memoirs.