Thirlby, Styan

, LL. D. a very ingenious and learned English critic, was the son of Mr. Thirlby, vicar of St. Margaret’s in Leicester, and born about 1692. He received his education first at the free-school of Leicester, under the rev. Mr. Kiiby, then head usher, from which school he was sent in three years to Jesus college, Cambridge, and shewed early in life great promise of excellence. From his mental abilities no small degree of future eminence was presaged: but the fond hopes of his friends were unfortunately defeated by a temper which was naturally indolent and quarrelsome, and by an unhappy addiction to drinking. Among his early productions of ingenuity was a Greek copy of verses on the queen of Sheba’s visit to Solomon. In 1710 he published “The university of Cambridge vindicated from the imputation of disloyalty it lies under on account of not addressing; as also from the malicious and foul aspersions of Dr. Bentley, late master of Trinity college, and of a certain officer and pretended reformer in. the said university,” Lond. 1710. This was followed in 1712 by “An answer to Mr. Whiston’s seventeen suspicions concerning Athanasius, in his Historical Preface *,” and by two other pamphlets on the same subject. He obtained a fellowship of his college by the express desire of Dr. Charles Ashton, who said“he had had the honour of studying with him when young;” though he afterwards spoke very contemptuously of him as the editor of “Justin Martyr,” which appeared in 1723, in folio; and the dedication to which has always been consid-‘M’ed as a masterly production, in style particularly. After Thirlby’s publication of Justin, Dr. Ashton, perhaps to shew him that he had not done all that might have been done, published, in one of the foreign journals, “Some


Written by one very young, and, he may add, at such broken hours as many necessary av ciMons and a very unsettled st^ue of heait’n would suffer him to bestow upon them.” Preface. It appears by another tract in this controversy, that Mr. Thirlby was then “about twenty years old.

| emendations of faulty passages,” which when Thirlby he said, slightingly, that “any man who would, might have made them, and a hundred more.” Thus far MI. Thirlby went on in the study of divinity; hut his versatility led him to try the round of the other learned professions. His next pursuit was physic, and for a while he was called “Doctor.” While he was a nominal physician, he lived some time with the duke of Chandos, as librarian, and is reported to have affected a perverse and indolent independence, so as capriciously to refuse his company when) it was desired. It may be supposed they were soon weary of each other.

Tbirlby then studied the civil law, in which he lectured while the late sir Edward Walpole was his pupil; but he was a careless tutor, scarcely ever reading lectures. The late learned Dr. Jortin, who was one of his pupils, was very early in life recommended by him to translate some of Eustathius’s notes for the use of “Pope’s Homer,” and complained “that Pope having accepted and approved his. performance, never testitied any curiosity or desire to see him.” The civil law displeasing him, he applied to common law, and had chambers taken for him in the Temple by his friend Andrew Reid, with a view of being entered of that society, and being called to the bar; but of this scheme he likewise grew weary. He came, however, to London, to the bouse of his friend sir Edward Walpole, who procured for him the office of a king’s waiter in the port of London, in May 1741, a sinecure place worth about \00l. per annum. While he was in sir Edward’s house he kept a miscellaneous book of memorables, containing whatever was said or done amiss by sir Edward or any part of his family. The remainder of his days were passed in private lodgings, where he lived in a very retired manner, seeing only a few friends, and indulging occasionally in excessive drinking, being sometimes in a state of intoxication for five or six weeks together; and, as is uual with such men, appeared to be so even when sober; and in his cups he was jealous and quarrelsome* An acquaintance who found him one day in the streets haranguing the crowd, and took him home by gentle violence, was afterwards highly esteemed by Thirlby for not relating the story. He contributed some notes to Theobald’s Shakspeare; and afterwards talked of an edition of his own. Dr. Jortin undertook. to read over that poet, with a view to mark the | passages where he had either imitated Greek and Latin writers, or at least had fallen into the same thoughts and expressions. Thirlby, however, dropped his design; but left a Shakspeare, with some abusive remarks on Warburton in the margin of the first volume, and a very few attempts at emendations, and those perhaps all in the first volume. In the other volumes he had only, with great diligence, counted the lines in every page. When this was told to Dr. Jortin, “I have known him,” said he, “amuse himself with still slighter employment: he would write down all the proper names that he could call into his memory.” His mind seems to have been tumultuous and desultory, and he was glad to catch any employment that might produce attention without aqxiety. The copy, such as it was, became the property of sir Edward Walpole, to whom he bequeathed all his books and papers, and who lent it to Dr. Johnson when he was preparing his valuable edition of “Shakspeare” for the press; accordingly the name of Thin by appears in it as a commentator. He died Dec. 19, 1753. One of Dr. Thirlby’s colloquial topics may be quoted, as in it he seems to have drawn his own character, with one of those excuses for which self-conceit is never at a loss. “Sometimes,” said he, “Nature sends into the world a man of powers superior to the rest, of quicker intuition, and wider comprehension; this man has all other men for his enemies, and would not be suffered to live his natural time, but that his excellencies are balanced by his failings. He that, by intellectual exaltation, thus towers above his contemporaries, is drunken, or lazy, or capricious; or, by some defect or other, is hindered from exerting his sovereignty of mind; he is thus kept upon the level, and thus preserved from the destruction which would be the natural consequence of universal hatred.

As the edition of “Justin Martyr” was the magnum opus of Dr. Thirlby, and he is a writer of whom little has ever hitherto been said, this article may be enlarged with, the opinions of some eminent scholars on that performance.

The learned Mr. Thiriby,” says Mr. Bowyer, “fellow of Jesus college, is publishing a new edition of ‘Justin Martyr’s two Apologies,’ and his ‘ Dialogue with Trypno the Jew.’ The Greek text will be printed exactly according to R, Stephens’s edition. The version is Langius’s, corrected in innumerable places. On the same page wi$h | the text and version are printed the notes and emendations of the editor, with select notes of all the former editors, and of Sraliger, Casaubon, Salma^us, Capellus, Valesius,­and other learned men. The most selected places have been collated with the ms. from which R. Stephens’s edition was taken, and the variations are inserted in their proper places. At the end are bishop Pearson’s notes from the margin of his book, and Dr. Davids notes upon the first * Apology;' both now first printed.

You are much mistaken,” says Dr. Ashton, in an unprinted letter to Dr. Moss, “in thinking Thirlby wants some money from you (though in truth he wants): you are only taken in to adorn his triumph by a letter of applause, though I think you may spare that too; for he is set forth in his coach, with great ostentation, to visit his patron. J have not had the patience to read all his dedication, but have seen enough to observe that it is stuffed with self-conceit, and an insolent contempt of others, Bentley especially, whom he again points out in p. 18*. He sticks not to fling scorn upon Justin himself, as a triflingwriter, beneath his dignity to consider, and so absurd a reasoner as only pessima litura can mend. 1 have read about sixty pages of his performance, and am really ashamed to find so much self-sufficiency, and insufficiency. I am almost provoked to turn critic myself, and let me tempt you to a little laughter, by promising to shew you some conceits upon Justin; which are under no name in Thirlby’s edition.

In a letter from Mr. Clarke to Mr. Bowyer, dated March 10, 1768, he says, “I think somebody has told me, that * Justin Martyr’s Apology‘ has been lately published from Dr. Ashton’s papers; by whom I know not. His ’ Hierpcles’ shews that Needham was not equal to that work: has this the same view with regard to Thirlby? That man was lost to the republic of letters very surprisingly j he went off, and returned no more.” 1


He treats Dr. Bentley in that page with the highest contempt, as he had done before in his preface. He treats Meric Casaubon and IsaacVossius in a manner not much different; and of the learned Dr. Grabe he speaks in his prefface as follows: “Grabius vir bonus, nee indoctus fuit, er in scriptis patrum apprime versatus, criticus non fuit, neque esse potuit, utpote Deque iugenio, neque judu-io, urque si verum dicerr licet doclrii.a satis ad earn rem mslructus.” How different is this from the character given him by that learned and truly good man Mr. Nelson, in his “Lite of bishop Bull,” p402.


Nichols’s Bowyer—and Poems, vol. VI. p. 114.