Purver, Antony

, one of the religious society called Quakers, was born at Up-Husborn, Hants, about the year 1702. When he was about ten years of age, he was put to school to learn to read and write, and to be instructed in the rudiments of arithmetic. During the time allotted for these acquisitions, he gave proof of extraordinary genius; and being prevented for about six weeks, by nary genius and being prevented for about six weeks, by illness, from attending the school, he still applied himself to his learning, and on his return to the school had got so far in arithmetic, as to be able to explain the square and cube roots to his master; who himself was ignorant of them. His memory at this time appears to have been uncommonly vigorous, for he is said not only to have asserted that he could commit to memory in twelve hours, as many of the longest chapters in the Bible, but to have attempted it with success. Another account says, quoting it from Purver’s own mouth, that he so delighted in reading the Scriptures, as to commit six chapters to memory in one hour.

He was apprenticed to a shoemaker, who, like the master of George Fox, mentioned in this work, employed his apprentice in keeping sheep. This gave our young student leisure for reading; and he occupied it in the indis-. | criminate perusal of such books as came into his hands but the Scriptures had the preference in his mind. Among other books which came’in his way, was one written by Samuel Fisher, a Quaker, entitled “Rusticus ad Academicos,” in which some inaccuracies in the translation of the Bible being pointed out, Purver determined to examine for himself; and, with the assistance of a Jew, soon acquired a knowledge of the Hebrew language. About the 20th year of his age he kept a school in his native country; but afterwards, for the sake of more easily acquiring the means of prosecuting his studies, he came to London, where he probably resided when he published, in 1727, a book called “The Youth’s Delight.” The same year he returned to his native place, and a second time opened a school there; but previous to this, in London, he had embraced the principles, and adopted the profession of the Quakers. He is said to have been convinced of the truth of their tenets at a meeting held at the Bull and Mouth in Aldersgate-street; whether by means of the preaching of any of their ministers, we are not informed; but on the day month ensuing, he himself appeared as a minister among them, at the same meeting*house. On his second settling at Husborn, he began to translate the books of the Old Testament and applied himself also to the study of medicine and botany but, believing it his duty to travel in his ministerial function, he again quitted his school and his native place; not, however, probably, until after he had resided there some years; for his course was to London, Essex, and through several counties to Bristol; near which city, at Hambrook, he was in the latter part of 1738. At this place he took up his abode, at the house of one Josiah Butcher, a maltster, whose son he instructed in the classics, and there he translated some of the minor prophets, having before completed the book of Esther, and Solomon’s Song. Here he became acquainted with Rachael Cotterel, who, with a sister, kept a boardingschool for girls, at Frenchay, Gloucestershire; and whom, in 1738, he married, and soon after himself opened a boarding-school for boys at Frenchay. During his residence in Gloucestershire, (which was not at Frenchay all the time) he attempted to publish his translation of the Old Testament in numbers at Bristol; but he did not meet with sufficient encouragement; and only two or three numbers were published. | In 1758, he removed to Andover, in Hampshire; and here, in 1764, he completed his translation of all the books of the Old and New Testament, a work which has not often been accomplished before by -the labour of a single individual. It consists of two volumes, folio, published in 1764, at the price of four guineas. It appears, that this work was originally intended to be printed in occasional numbers; for, in 1746, the late Dr. Fothergill wrote a letter to the Gentleman’s Magazine, in which he strongly recommended the author of a work then under publication, which was to be continued in numbers if it should meet with encouragement. This was a translation of the Scriptures, under the title of “Opus in sacra Biblia elaboratum.” Purver is not named, but that he was intended is known by private testimony. After speaking in high terms of his learning, Dr. Fothergill says, “As to his personal character, he is a man of great simplicity of manners, regular conduct, and a modest reserve; he is steadily attentive to truth, hates falsehood, and has an unconquerable aversion to vice; and to crown the portrait, he is not only greatly benevolent to mankind, but has a lively sense of the divine attributes, and a profound reverence of, and submission to the Supreme Being.” The mode of publication in numbers was probably unsuccessful, and soon dropped; yet he went on with his translation, which he completed, after the labour of thirty years. He was still unable to publish it, nor could he find a bookseller who would run the hazard of assisting him. At length his friend Dr. Fothergill generously interfered gave him a thousand pounds for the copy, and published it at his own expence. Purver afterwards revised the whole, and made considerable alterations and corrections for a second edition, which has not yet appeared but the ms. remains in the hands of his grandson. Purver appears, in this great work, a strenuous advocate for the antiquity, and even the divine authority, of the Hebrew vowel points. He is also a warm assertor of the purity and integrity of the Hebrew text, and treats those who hold the contrary opinion with great contempt; particularly Dr. Kennicott, of whom, and his publication on the state of the Hebrew text, he never speaks but with the greatest asperity. He has taken very considerable pains with the scriptural chronology, and furnishes his reader with a variety of chronological tables. He prefers the Hebrew chronology in all cases, to the | Samaritan and Greek, and has throughout endeavoured to connect sacred and profane history. His version is very literal, but does not always prove the judgment or good taste of the author. Thus, he says, that “The Spirit of God hovered a top of the waters” and instead of the majestic simplicity and unaffected grandeur of “Let there be light, and there was light,” he gives us, “Let there be light, which, there was accordingly” Thus his translation, though a prodigious work for an individual, will rather be used for occasional consultation than regular perusal; and though it may afford many useful hints, will not supply the place of the established translation.

It is to be recollected, that Purver was a Quaker; and, believing, as he did, in their leading principle of immediate revelation, it was likely that his mind should be turned to look for such assistance, on places to which he found his own knowledge inadequate. He is said, accordingly, when he came to passages which were difficult to adapt to the context, not unfrequently to retire into a room alone, and there to wait for light upon the passage in question and on these occasions he so far neglected the care of his body, as sometimes to sit alone two or three days and nights.

He lived to about the age of seventy-five, his decease being in 1777, at Andover, where, in the burial-ground of the religious society with which he had professed, his remains were interred. His widow survived him; but a son and a daughter died before their parents. Hannah, the daughter, had been married to Isaac Bell, of London, by whom she had a son, named John Purver Bell, who was brought up by his grandfather. 1


Preceding edition of this Dict. from private communication.