Pearce, Zachary

, a learned English prelate, was born at London, Sept. 8, 1690. He was the son of Thomas Pearce, a distiller, in High Holborn, who having acquired a competent fortune by his business, purchased an estate at Little Ealing, in Middlesex, to which he retired at the age of forty, and where he died in 1752, aged eighty-eight. His son, after some preparatory education at a school at Ealing, was removed in 1704 to Westminster school, where he was soon distinguished for his merit, and in 1707 was elected one of the king’s scholars. He remained at this school till the year 1710, when he was twenty years old. This long continuance of his studies has been attributed to the high opinion Dr. Busby | entertained of him, who was accustomed to detain those boys longer under his discipline, of whose future eminence he had most expectation. That Dr. Busby had such a custom is certain, and that it was continued by his successor is probable, but Mr. Pearce could not have been under the tuition of Busby, who died in 1695. To this delay, however, without doubt, Mr. Pearce was greatly indebted for the philological reputation by which he was very early distinguished.

He was elected to Trinity college, Cambridge, in 1710, and during his first year’s residence, amused himself occasionally with the lighter species of composition. Among these were a letter in the Guardian, No. 121, signed Aw Mum; and two Spectators, No. 572, and 633; specimens of that easy humour which characterizes these periodical works. In 1716 the first fruits of his philological studies* appeared at the university press, in an excellent edition of Cicero “De Oratore,” with very judicious notes and emendations. This volume, at the desire of a friend, he dedicated to lord chief justice Parker, afterwards earl of Macclesfield, to whom he was then a stranger, but who became his patron. The first favour he bestowed on Mr. Pearce, was to apply to Dr. Bentley for his interest in the election of a fellowship, for which he was a candidate, and which he accordingly obtained. Soon after this he paid a visit to the chief justice, who received him in the kindest manner, invited him to dinner at Kensington, and gave him a purse of fifty guineas. From that time an intimacy commenced, which was dissolved only by his lordship’i death.

In 1717 Mr. Pearce was ordained a deacon by Dr. Fleetwood, bishop of Ely, and in the following year, priest, by the same prelate. It had always been his intention to devote himself to the church but, as he himself informs us, “he delayed to take orders till he was twenty-seven years of age; and, as he thought, had taken time to prepare himself, and to attain so much knowledge of that sacred office, as should be sufficient to answer all the good purposes for which it is designed.” In 1718 he went to reside as domestic chaplain with lord Parker, then lord Chancellor, who in 1719 gave him the rectory of Stapleford Abbots, in Essex, and in the following year that more valuable one of St. Bartholomew Exchange. When he attempted to return his thanks to the chancellor for this | last preferment, his lordship said, “You are not to thank me so much as Dr. Bentley, for this benefice.” “How is that, my lord?” “Why,” added his lordship, “when I asked Dr. Bentley to make you a fellow of Trinity college, he consented so to do but on this condition, that I would promise to unmake you again as soon as it lay in my power; and now he, by having performed his promise, has bound me to give you this living.

Not long after this, Mr. Pearce was appointed chaplain to his majesty; and in 1723 was presented by the chancellor to the vicarage of St. Martin’s in the Fields, on which he resigned St. Bartholomew’s. The parish, of which he was now vicar, being large, and honoured with the residence of the royal family in it, the chancellor represented to Mr. Pearce the propriety of taking the degree of doctor in divinity and as he was not of sufficient standing in the university,*


He was at this time only of fourteen years standing; but nineteen are required, it ought to be added, that he refused to accept a degree by royal mandate, as proposed by the chancellor, and preferred the Lambeth degree.

that honour was obtained for him by application to the archbishop of Canterbury. In 1724 he increased his reputation, as a critic, both at home and abroad, by his edition of Longinus “De Sublimitate,” with a new Latin version and learned notes. This appeared first in an elegant 4to, but has since been reprinted in 8vo, and remained the best edition, until the publication of that of Toup.

In 1739, in consequence of the late queen Caroline’s having recommended him to sir Robert Walpole, Dr. Pearce was appointed dean of Winchester. He informs us in his memoirs of what led to this promotion. When vicar of St. Martin’s, lord Sundon was one of his parishioners, and one of the members of parliament for Westminster. These two circumstances brought them acquainted together, and Dr. Pearce was sometimes invited to dinner, where he became acquainted with lady Sundon, queen Caroline’s farourite, and by her means was introduced to her majesty, who frequently honoured him with her conversation at the drawing-room, The subjects which her majesty started were not what are often introduced in that circle. One day she asked him if he had read the pamphlets published by Dr. Stebbing, and Mr. Foster, upon the sort of heretics meant by St. Paul, whom in Titus iii. 10, 11, he represents as self-condemned. “Yes, madam,” replied the | doctor, “I have read all the pamphlets written by them on both sides of the question.” “Well,” said the queen, “which of the two do you think to be in the right” The doctor answered, “I cannot say, madam, which of the two is in the right, but I think that both of them are in the wrong.” She smiled, and said, “Then what is your opinion of the text?” “Madam,” said the doctor, “it would take up more time than your majesty can spare at this drawing-room, for me to give my opinion and the reasons of it; but if your majesty should be pleased to lay your commands upon me, you shall know my sentiments of the matter in the next sermon which I shall have the honour to preach before his majesty.” “Pray do then,” said the queen, and he accordingly prepared a sermon on that text, but the queen died a month before his term of preaching came about, and before he was promoted to the deanry of Winchester. In 1744 the dean was elected prolocutor of the lower house of convocation for the province of Canterbury, the archbishop having signified to some of the members, that the choice of him would be agreeable to his grace.

In 1748 dean Pearce was promoted to the see of Bangor, but the history of this and of his subsequent translation to Rochester, will be best related in his own words: “In the year 1746,” says he, " archbishop Potter being alone with dean Pearce one day at Lambeth, said to him, ‘ Why do you not try to engage your friend lord Bath * to get you made a bishop?’ * My lord,‘ said the dean, ’ I am extremely obliged to your grace for your good opinion of me, and for your kind intentions in my favour; but I have never spoken to him on that subject, nor ever thought of doing so, though I believe he would do what lies in his power; but I will tell your grace very frankly, that I have no thoughts of any bishopric. All that I have in view in this: I am now dean of Winchester; and that deanry is worth upwards of 600l. a year; my vicarage of S,t. Martin’s is about 500l. a year, and this last I should be glad of an opportunity of resigning, on account of the great trouble and little leisure which so large a parish gives me; but if I should out-live my father, who is upwards of eighty years

* His acquaintance with Mr. Pul- improved into a friendship that lasted

teney arose in 1124, at an interview very nearly forty years, and till the

with him respecting the re-building of death of this statesman, who sat then

S‘. Martin’s church, and gradually in the heuie of lords as carl of Ba’.h, | ld, I shall come to his estate, being his eldest son, which will enable me to resign my vicarage; and the profits of the deanry alone, with my father’s estate, will make me quite contented.‘ The archbishop smiled, and said, " Well, if you will not help yourself, your friends must do it for you.’ Accordingly he spoke to the earl of Bath, and they two agreed to try what they could do to make the dean of Winchester a bishop.

"In 1748 the bishopric of Bangor became vacant. The dean was then at Winchester, and received there a letter from Mr. Clark (afterwards sir Thomas, and master of the rolls) informing him, that lord chancellor Hardwicke wished to see dean Pearce thought of on that occasion, and that he hoped the dean would answer Mr. Clarke’s letter in such a way, as when seen, might be approved of by the ministry. Dean Pearce answered the letter with acknowledgment of the favour thought of for him; but assuring Mr. Clark, who, as he perceived, was to communicate the answer to lord Hardwicke, that he had long had no thoughts of desiring a bishopric, and that he was fully satisfied with his situation in the church and that as to the ministry, he was always used to think as favourably of them as they could wish him to do, having never opposed any of the public measures, nor designing so to do. In truth, the dean had then fixed upon a resolution to act no otherwise than as he had told the archbishop he should do, upon his father’s death. The dean received no answer to this letter written to Mr. Clark, and he thought that there was an end of that matter.

"About a fortnight after this, the dean went up to his parish in Westminster; but in his way thither, lay one night at his father’s house, in Little Ealing, near Brentford; where, the next morning early, a letter was brought to him from the duke of Newcastle by one of his grace’s servants, signifying that his grace had his majesty’s order to make the dean of Winchester an offer of the bishopric of Bangor, and desiring to see him at the cockpit the next day at 12 o’clock. Accordingly he waited upon him, when, with many kind expressions to the dean, the duke signified the gracious offer of his majesty, which he had the order to make him. The dean asked his grace, whether he might be permitted to hold his deanry of Winchester in commendam with Bangor, to which the answer was, No j but that he might hold the vicarage of St. | Martin’s with it. The dean said, that he was desirous to quit the living, which was troublesome to him, and would be more so as he was growing in years; but if that could not be indulged him, he rather chose to continue in his present situation. The duke used some arguments to persuade the dean to accept of the offer with a commendam to hold the living. He could not, however, prevail with the dean any farther, than that he would take three days’ time to consider of it. During that time, the dean had brought his father and lord Bath to consent, that he might decline to accept of that bishopric without their displeasure; but before the dean saw the duke a second time, lord Hardwicke, then chancellor, sent for him, and desired him to be, without fail, at his house, that evening. He went, and lord Hardwicke told him. that he found, by the duke of Newcastle, that he made difficulties about accepting the bishopric which was so graciously offered him. The dean gave his lordship an account of all that had passed between the duke and him; upon which his lordship used many arguments with the dean to induce him to accept the ofter, as intended. Among other things, he said, * If clergymen of learning and merit will not accept of the bishoprics, how can the ministers of state be blamed, if they are forced to fill them with others less deserving?‘ The dean was struck with that question, and had nothing ready in his thoughts to reply to it. He therefore promised lord Hardwicke to consent, the next day, when he was to see the duke of Newcastle. ’ Well then,‘ said lord Hardwicke, * when you consent, do it with a good grace.’ The dean promised to do that too; and accordingly he declared to the duke, the next day, his ready acceptance of his majesty’s offer, with such acknowledgments of the royal goodness as are proper on the occasion; and on Feb. 21, 1748, he was consecrated bishop of Bangor.

"In the year 1755, the bishop of Bangor being with archbishop Herring at Croydon, and walking with him in his garden, he said, ‘ My Lord, you know that the bishop of Rochester, Dr. Wilcocks, is very ill, and probably will not live long; will you accept of his bishopric and the deanry of Westminster, in exchange for yours of Bangor?’ The bishop excused himself, and told him plainly, that his father being dead, and his estate come to him, he had now nothing in view, but to beg his majesty’s leave to resign the see of Bangor, and to retire to a private life in the year | 1757; that so long, he was contented to continue in the possession of the bishopric of Bangor; but that then he designed to try if he could obtain leave to resign, and live upon his private fortune. The archbishop replied, ‘ I doubt whether the king will grant it, or that it can be done.’ A second time, at another visit there, he mentioned the same thing, and a second time the bishop gave him the same answer. But in a short time after, upon another visit, when the archbishop mentioned it a third time, he added, ‘ My lord, if you will give me leave to try what I can do to procure you this exchange, I promise you not to take it amiss of you, if you refuse it, though I should obtain the offer for you.’ c This is very generous in your grace,‘ said the bishop, c and 1 cannot refuse to consent to what you propose to do.’

Sometime after, in the same year (the bishop of Rochester declining very fast), the duke of Newcastle sent to the bishop of Bangor, and desired to see him the n x ext day. He went to him, and the duke informed him, that he was told, -that the chancellorship of Bangor was then vacant, and he pressed the bishop so much to bestow it upon one! whom he had to recommend, that the bishop consented to comply with his request. ‘ Well, my lord,’ said the duke, * now I have another favour to ask of you.‘ * Pray, my lord duke,’ said the bishop, e what is that?‘ c Why,’ said the duke, ‘ it is, that you will accept of the bishopric of Rochester, and deanry of Westminster, in exchange for Bangor, in case the present bishop of Rochester should die.’ * My lord,‘ said the bishop, ’ if I had thoughts of exchanging my bishopric, I should prefer what you mention before any other dignities.‘ ’ That is not,‘ said the duke, * an answer to my question: will you accept them in exchange, if they are offered to you?’ ‘ Your grace offers them to me,’ said the bishop, ‘ in so generous and friendly a manner, that 1 promise you to accept them.’ Here the Conversation ended; and Dr. Wilcocks dying in the beginning of the year 1756, the bishop of Bangor was promoted to the bishopric of Rochester and deanry of Westminster.” On the death of Dr. Sherlock, bishop of London, lord Bath spoke to the bishop of Rochester, and offered to use his endeavours with his majesty for appointing him to succeed that eminent prelate; but Dr. Fearce told him, that from the earliest time that he could remember himself to have considered about bishoprics, he had determined nevefc | to accept the bishopric of London, or the archbishopric of Canterbury, and he begged his lordship not to make any application in his behalf for the vacant see of London. Lord Bath repeated his offer on the death of Dr. Osbaldiston in 1763, but Dr. Pearce again declined the proposal, and was indeed so far from desiring a higher bishopric, that he now meditated the resignation of what he possessed. This is one of the most remarkable circumstances in the Jife of Dr. Pearce. Being now (1763) seventy-three years old, and finding himself less fit for the duties of bishop and dean, he informed his friend lord Bath of his intention to resign both, and to live in a retired manner upon his own private fortune; and after much discourse upon, the subject at different times, he prevailed upon his lordship at last to acquaint his majesty with his intention, and to desire, in the bishop’s name, the honour of a private audience from his majesty for that purpose. This being granted, Dr. Pearce stated his motives as he had done to lord Bath, adding that he was desirous to retire for the opportunity of spending more time in his devotions and studies; and that he was of the same way of thinking with a general officer of the emperor Charles V. who, when he desired a dismission from that monarch’s service, told him, ‘.’ Sir, every wise man would, at the latter end of life, wish to have an interval between the fatigues of business and eternity.“The bishop then shewed the king, in a written paper, instances of its having been done several times, and concluded with telling his majesty, that he did not expect or desire an immediate answer to his request, but rather that his majesty would first consult some pf his ministers as to the propriety and legality of it. This the king consented to do; and about two months after, he sent for the bishop and told him, that he had consulted with two of his lawyers, lord Mansfield and lord Northington, who saw no objection to the proposed resignation, and in consequence of their opinion, his majesty signified his own consent. The interference, however, of lord Bath, in requesting that his majesty would give the bishopric and deanry to Dr. Newton, then bishop of Bristol, alarmed the ministry, who thought that no dignities in the church should be obtained from the crown, but through their hands. Lord Northington suggested to his majesty some doubts on the subject, and represented that the bishops in general disliked the design; and at length Dr. Pearce was told by his majesty, that he must think 110 more about resigning | Vtae bishopric but” that he would have all the merit of having done it." In 1768, however, he was permitted to resign his deanry, which was nearly double in. point of income to the bishopric which he was obliged to retain.

With respect to Dr. Pearce’s earnest desire of resigning his preferments, his biographer observes, that it gave occasion to much disquisition and conjecture. “As it could not be founded in avarice, it was sought in vanity; and Dr. Pearce was suspected as aspiring to the antiquated praise of contempt of wealth, and desire of retirement.” But his biographer, who had the best opportunities of judging, is of opinion, that his motives were what he publicly alleged, a desire of dismission from public cares, and of opportunity for more continued study. To a private friend the bishop declared that “as he never made a sinecure of his preferments, he was now tired of business, and being in his 74th year, he wished to resign while his faculties were entire, lest he might chance to outlive them, and the church suffer by his infirmities.

Being now disengaged from his deanry, bishop Pearce seemed to consider himself as freed from half his burthen, and with such vigour as time had left him, and such alacrity as hope continued to supply, he prosecuted his episcopal functions and private studies. It redounds greatly to his honour, that in the disposal of ecclesiastical preferments, he never gave occasion to censure, except in the single instance of a young man*, on whom he bestowed the valuable rectory of Stone, in consideration of his being great grandson of his first patron, the earl of Macclesfield, whose favours, conferred forty years before, his gratitude did not suffer him to forget.

In 1773, by too much diligence in his office, bishop Pearce had exhausted his strength beyond recovery. Having confirmed at Greenwich, seven hundred persons, he found himself, the next day, unable to speak, and never regained his former readiness of utterance. This happened on the first of October, and from that time, he


The reverend Thomas Heathcote. “This appointment gave so much offence to one, named by himself Clericus fcoffensis, who seemed to think the rights of seniority violated, that he wrote against his diocesan, a pamphlet filled with the acrimony of disappointment; but which must conduce more to raise the character of the man at tacked, than many panegyrics because it shews, that he who desired to say evil, had at last nothing to say.” With respect to lord MacclesBeld, th? reader will find one of the ablest vindications of that nobleman from the pen of bishop Pearce, in the “Life” published by Mr. Derby.

| remained in a languishing state; his paralytic complaint increased, and at length his power of swallowing was almost lost. Being asked by one of his family, who constantly attended him, how he could live with so little nutriment, “I live,” said he, “upon the recollection of an innocent and well-spent life, which is my only sustenance.” After some months of lingering decay, he died at Little Ealing, June 29, 1774, aged eighty-four, and was buried by his wife in the church of Bromley in Kent, where a monument is erected to his memory with an epitaph written by himself, merely rehearsing the dates of his birth and death, and of his various preferments. A cenotaph was afterwards erected in Westminster-abbey, with a Latin inscription.

Bishop Pearce married, in Feb. 22, the daughter of Mr. Adams, an eminent distiller in Holborn, with a considerable fortune, and lived with her upwards of fifty-one years in the highest degree of connubial happiness. Their children all dying young, he made his brother William Pearce, esq. his heir and executor. He bequeathed his library to the dean and chapter of Westminster, except such books as they already had. His manuscripts, with the books not left to Westminster, and the copy-right of all his works, except the Longinus sold to Mr. Tonson, he gave to his chaplain, the rev. John Derby. Besides some legacies to individuals, and some to various public charities, he left a noble bequest of five thousand pounds Old South Sea Annuities, towards the better support of the twenty widows of clergymen, who are maintained in the college of Bromley, the funds of which had become too seamy for that kind of genteel provision intended by the founder, bishop Warner. Bishop Pearce’s benefaction raised the widow’s pensions to 30l. per ann. and the chaplain’s salary to 60l. His heir, William Pearce, esq. who died in 1782, left a reversionary legacy of 12,Ooo/. for the purpose of building ten houses for clergymen’s widows, in addition to bishop Warner’s college, and endowing them. This legacy falling in a few years ago, the houses were completed in 1802.

The diligence of bishop Pearce’s early studies, says his biographer, appeared by its effects; he was first known to the public by philological learning, which he continued to cultivate in his advanced age. Cicero “De Oratore” was published by him, when he was bachelor of arts, and Cicero “De Omciis, when he was dean of Wiucheste | in 1745. The edition of Cicero undertaken by Olivet, produced a correspondence between him and Dr. Pearce, in which Olivet expresses, in terms of great respect, his esteem, of his learning, and his confidence in his criticism. But Dr. Pearce did not confine his attention to the learned languages: he was particularly studious of Milton’s poetry, and when Dr. Bentley published his imaginary emendations of the” Paradise Lost,“wrote in opposition to them a full vindication of the established text. This was published in 1733, 8vo, under the title of Review of the Text of Paradise Lost,” and is now become very scarce; but many, both of the conjectures and refutations, are preserved in bishop Newton’s edition.

In his domestic life he was quiet and placid, not difficult to be pleased, nor inclined to harass his attendants or inferiors, by peevishness or caprice. This calmness of mind appeared in his whole manner and deportment. His stature was tall, his appearance venerable, and his countenance expressive of benevolence.

In his parochial cure he was punctually diligent, and very seldom omitted to preach; but his sermons had not all the effect which he desired, for his voice was low and feeble, and could not reach the whole of a numerous congregation. Those whom it did reach were both pleased and edified with, the good sense and sound doctrine which he never failed to deliver. When advanced to the honours of episcopacy, he did not consider himself as placed in a state that allowed him any remission from the labours of his ministry. He was not hindered by the distance of Bangor from annually resorting to that diocese (one year only excepted), and discharging his episcopal duties there, tp 1753; after which, having suffered greatly from the fatigue of his last journey, he was advised by his physician and friend, Dr. Heberden, and prevailed upon, not to attempt another. When he accepted the bishopric of Bangor, he established in himself a resolution of conferring Welsh preferments or benefices only on Welshmen; and to this resolution he adhered, in defiance of influence or importunity. He twice gave away the deanry, and bestowed many benefices, but always chose for his patronage the natives of the country, whatever might be the murmurs of his relations, or the disappointment of his chaplains. The diocese of Rochester conjoined, as had been for some time usual, with tjie deanry of Westminster, afforded him a | course of duty more commodious. He divided his timd between his public offices, and his solitary studies. He preached at Bromley or Ealing, and by many years labour in the explication of the New Testament, produced the “Commentary,” &c. which was offered to the public after his decease. It was bequeathed to the care of the rev. John Derby, his lordship’s chaplain, who published it in 1777, in 2 vols. 4to, underthe title of “A Commentary, with notes, on the Four Evangelists and the Acts of the Apostles, together with a new translation of St. Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthians, with a paraphrase and notes. To which are added other Theological pieces.” Prefixed is an elegant dedication to the king, in the name of the editor, but from the pen of Dr. Johnson; and a life written by the bishop himself, and connected in a regular narrative by paragraphs, evidently by Dr. Johnson’s pen. This life is highly interesting, and contains many curious particulars which we have been obliged to omit.

Dr. Pearce published in his life-time nine occasional sermons, a discourse against self-murder, which is now in the list of tracts distributed by the Society for promoting Christian knowledge; and soon after the publication of his “Commentary,” his editor gave the public a collee-r tion of the bishop’s “Sermons on various subjects,” 4 vols, 8vo. Besides what 'have been already specified, our author published in 1720, a pamphlet entitled “An Account of Trinity college, Cambridge;” and in 1722, “A Letter to the Clergy of the Church of England,” on occasion of the bishop of Rochester’s commitment to the Tower. He had also a short controversy with Dr. Middleton, against whom he published “Two Letters,” and fully convicted that writer of disingenuousness in quotation. His editor, Mr. Derby, who had married his neice, did not long suryive his benefactor, dying Oct. 8, 1778, only five days after the date of his dedication of the bishop’s “Sermons.1


Life as above.