Fell, John

, a dissenting minister of considerable learning, was born, Aug. 22, 1735, at Cockermouth in Cumberland, of poor parents, and was at first brought up to the business of a taylor. He was pursuing this employment in London, when some discerning friends perceived | in him a taste for literature, and an avidity of knowledge, which they thought worthy of encouragement; and finding that his principal wish was directed to the means of procuring such education as might qualify him for the ministry among the dissenters, they stepped forward to his assistance, and placed him at the dissenting academy at Mileend, then superintended by Dr. Conder, Dr. Gibbons, and Dr. Walker. Mr. Fell was at this time in the nineteenth year of his age; but, by abridging the hours usually allotted to rest and amusement, and praportionably extending those of application to his studies, and by the assiduous exercise of a quick, vigorous, and comprehensive mind, he made rapid advances in learning, gave his tutors and patrons the utmost satisfaction; and in due time, was appointed to preach to a congregation at Beccles, near Yarmouth. He was afterwards invited to take upon himself the pastoral office in a congregation of Protestant dissenters, at Thaxted, in Essex, where he was greatly beloved by his congregation, and his amiable deportment, and diligence in all the duties of his station, attracted the regard even of his neighbours of the established church. At Thaxted, Mr. Fell boarded and educated a few young gentlemen, and it was also during his residence there, that he distinguished himself by the rapid production of some wellwritten publications, which conduced to establish his character as a scholar. After he had thus happily resided several years at Thaxted, he was unfortunately prevailed upon 'to be the resident tutor at the academy, formerly at Mile-end, when he was educated there, but now removed to Homerton, near London. The trustees and supporters of this academy appear to have been at first very happy that they had procured a tutor peculiarly calculated for the situation; but he had not been there long before differences arose between him and the students, of what nature his biographers have not informed us; but they represent that he was dismissed from his situation without a fair trial and complain that this severity was exerted in the case of “a character of no common excellence a genius of no ordinary size a Christian minister, well furnished with gifts and graces for that office a tutor, who for biblical knowledge, general history, and classic taste, had no superior, perhaps no equal, among any class of dissenters.” This affair happened in 1796, and Mr. Fell’s friends lost no time in testifying their unaltered regard for | his character. An annuity of 100l. was almost immediately procured for him, and he was invited to deliver a course of lectures on the evidences of Christianity, for which he was to be remunerated by a very liberal subscription. But these testimonies of affection came too late for his enjoyment of them. Four of his lectures had been delivered to crowded congregations at the Scotch church at Londonwall, when sickness interrupted him, and on Wednesday Sept. 6, 1797, death put a period to his labours. The four lectures he delivered were published in 1798, with eight by Dr. Henry Hunter, who concluded the course, but who does not appear well qualified to fill up Mr. FelPs outline. Mr. Fell’s previous publications, which show that the character given of him by his friends is not overcharged, were 1. “Genuine Protestantism, or the unalienable Rights of Conscience defended: in opposition to the late and new mode of Subscription proposed by some dissenting ministers, in three Letters to Mr. Pickard,1773, 8vo. 2. “A Fourth Letter to Mr. Pickard on genuine Protestantism; being a full Reply to the rev. Mr. Toulmin’s Defence of the Dissenters’ new mode of Subscription,1774, 8vo. 3. “The justice and utility of Penal Laws for the Direction of Conscience examined; in reference to the Dissenters’ late application to parliament. Addressed to a member of the house of commons,1774, 8vo. 4. “Daemoniacs. An enquiry into the Heathen and the Scripture doctrine of Daemons, in which the hypothesis of the rev. Mr. Farmer and others on the subject are particularly considered,1779, 8vo. (See Farmer). 5. “Remarks on the Appendix of the Editor of Rowley’s Poems, printed at the end of Observations on the Poem attributed to Rowley by Rayner Hickford, esq.” 8vo, no date (1783). 6. An Essay towards an English Grammar, with a dissertation on the nature and peculiar use of certain hypothetical verbs in the English language,“1784, 12mo. 7.” The Idolatry of Greece and Rome distinguished from that of other Heathen Nations, in a Letter to the rev. Hugh Farmer," 1785, 8vo. Mr. Fell ranks among the orthodox, or calvinistic dissenters; but how far, or whether this had any share in the animosity exerted against him, we are unable to discover, from the obscure manner in which his biographers advert to the disputes in the Homerton academy. 1


Protestant Dissenters’ Magazine, vols. IV. V. and VI,