White, Joseph

, an eminent Oriental scholar, canon of Christ Church, Regius professor of Hebrew, and Laudian professor of Arabic in the university of Oxford, was born in 1746, of parents in low circumstances in Gloucester, where his father was a journeyman-weaver, and brought up his son to the same business. Being however a sensible man, he gave him what little learning was in his power at one of the charity-schools at Gloucester. This excited a thirst for greater acquisitions in the young man, who employed all the time he could spare in the study of such books as fell in his way. His attainments at length attracted the notice of a neighbouring gentleman of fortune, who sent him to the university of Oxford, where he was entered of Wadham college. He took the degree of M. A. Feb. 19, 1773; and about that time engaged in the study of the Oriental languages, to which he was induced by the particular recommendation of Dr. Moore, afterwards archbishop of Canterbury. He had before acquired a tolerable share of Hebrew learning, by which his progress in the other Oriental languages was greatly facilitated. In 1775, he was appointed archbishop Laud’s professor of Arabic; on entering upon which office he pronounced a masterly oration, which was soon afterwards printed with the title of f ‘ De Utilitate Ling. Arab, in Studiis Theologicis, Oratio habita Oxoniis in Schola Linguarum, vii Id. Aprilis, 1775,“4to. He was at this time fellow of his college, being elected in 1774. In 1778, Mr. White printed the Syriac Philoxenian version of the Four Gospels (the ms. of which Dr. Gloster Ridley had given to New college), entitled, <c Sacrorum Evangeliorum Versio Syriaca Philoxeniana, ex Codd. Mss. Ridleianis in Bibl. Coll. Nov. Oxon. repositis, nunc primum edita, cum Interpretatione et Annotationibus Josephi White,” &c. 2 vols. 4to. On November 15, 1778, he preached a very ingenious and elegant sermon before the university, which was soon afterwards printed, under the title of “A revisal of the English translation of the Old Testament recommended. To which is added, some | account of an antient Syriac translation of great part of Origen’s Hexaplar edition of the LXX. lately discovered in the Ambrosian Library at Milan,” 4to. About this time he was appointed one of the preachers at Whitehall chapel. In 1779, he took the degree of bachelor of divinity; and in the same year published “A Letter to the bishop of London, suggesting a plan for a new edition of the LXX; to which are added, Specimens of some inedited versions made from the Greek, and a Sketch of a Chart of Greek Mss.” In 1780, Mr. White published, “A Specimen of the Civil and Military Institutes of Tjmour, or Tamerlane; a work written originally by that celebrated Conqueror in the Magul language, and since translated into Persian. Now first rendered from the Persian into English, from a ms. in the possession of William Hunter, M.D.; with other Pieces,” 4to. The whole of this work appeared in 1783, translated into English by major Davy, with Preface, Indexes, Geographical Notes, &c. by Mr. White, in one volume, 4to. In Easter term, 1783, he was appointed to preach the Bampton lecture for the following year. As soon as he was nominated, he sketched out the plan; and finding assistance necessary to the completion of it in such a manner as he wished, called to his aid Mr. Samuel Baclcork and Dr. Parr. Although his own share of these labours was sufficient to entitle him to the celebrity which they procured him, he bad afterwards to lament that he had not acknowledged his obligations to those elegant scholars, in a preface to the volume, when it was published. As soon as the lectures were delivered, the applause with which they were received was general throughout the university. They were printed the same year, and met with universal approbation. A second edition appeared in 1785; to which the author added a sermon, which he had recently preached before the university, on the necessity of propagating Christianity in the East Indies. Mr. White’s reputation was now established, and he was considered as one of the ablest vindicators of the Christian doctrines which modern times had witnessed. Lord Thnrlow, then lord chancellor, without any solicitation, gave him a prebend in the cathedral of Gloucester, which at once placed him in easy and independent circumstances. In 1787 he took his degree of D. D. and was looked up to with the greatest respect in the university, as one of its chief ornaments. In the year 1788, the death of Mr.Badcock was made the | pretence for an attack on Dr. White’s character both as an author and a man, by the late Dr. R. B. Gabriel, who published a pamphlet, entitled, “Facts relating to the Rev. Dr. White’s Bampton Lectures.” By this it appears that there was found among the papers of the deceased Mr. Badcock, a promissory note for 500l. from Dr. White for literary aid; the payment of which was demanded, but refused by him on the ground that it was illegal in the first instance, as not having the words “value received,’ 7 and, secondly, it was for service to be rendered in the History of Egypt, which the doctor and Mr. Badcock had projected. The friends of the deceased, however, were of a different opinion; and the doctor consented to liquidate the debt. This he informs us he did,” partly because he apprehended that his persisting to refuse the payment of it might tend to the disclosure of the assistance which Mr. Badcock had given him in the Bampton Lectures; and partly, because he was informed that the note, by Mr. Badcock’s death, became a part of his assets, and, as such, could legally be demanded.“But whoever reads Dr. White’s” Statement of Literary Obligations“must be convinced that he was under no obligation to have paid this money, and that his opponents availed themselves of his simplicity and the alarm which they excited for his literary character. Gabriel, however, a man neither of literary talents or character, was at the head of an envious junto who were determined to injure Dr.White if they could; and notwithstanding his payment of the money, printed all Mr, Badcock’s letters in the above pamphlet, in order, as he said, to vindicate the character of the deceased, as well as his own, both of which he ridiculously pretended had been assailed on this occasion. In consequence of this publication, Dr. White printedA Statement of his Literary Obligations to the Rev. Mr. Samuel Badcock, and the Rev. Samuel Parr, LL.D,“By this it appeared, that, though Mr. Badcock’s share in the Lectures was considerable, yet that it was not in that proportion which had been maliciously represented, the plan of the whole, and the execution of the greatest part, being Dr. White’s, and Dr. Parr’s being principally literal corrections. This statement gave sufficient satisfaction to the literary world at large. But the malice of his enemy was not yet satiated, as may appear by the following correspondence, which having been circulated chiefly at Oxford, may be here recorded as an additional defence of Dr. White. | A printed paper, entitled ‘Minutes of what passed at three interviews which lately took place between Dr. White and Dr. Gabriel in London and in Bath,’ and signed

R. B. Gabriel.

W. Falconer.

having been lately circulated in the University, I think it necessary to submit the following letters to the perusal of my friends. J. White. Wadh. Coll. Feb. 24, 1790.

“To the Rev. Mr. Stafford Smith,*


Mr. Stafford Smith was a fellow of C. C. C. Oxon, and married Bishop Warburton’s widow.

Prior Park, Bath. “Dear Sir, Oxford, Feb. 12, 1790. “In a pamphlet now in circulation at Oxford, signed by Dr. Gabriel and Dr. Falconer, I am astonished to read the following passages:

‘The following extraordinary circumstance must not be omitted:

‘The same morning the Rev. Stafford Smith, of Prior park, came to Dr. Gabriel’s, and desired to see Dr. White, who retired with him and Dr. Gabriel into his study. Dr. Gabriel soon returned, and desired Mr. Ph. Smyth, Dr. White’s friend, to go into his study, to bear witness to a charge made against Dr. White by Mr. Stafford Smith, to which Dr. Gabriel did not chuse to bear witness alone; Mr. Ph. Smyth accordingly went. They soon returned into the parlour, where Dr. Falconer was, and Mr. S. Smith accompanied them where Mr. S. Smith pressed Dr. White on the subject of a letter written by Dr. White to Mr. Badcock, in which Mr. S. Smith’s name was introduced; and purporting that Mr. S. Smith had written to Dr. White to compose a sermon for him, for which Mr. S. Smith insisted on making Dr. White a compliment of a 10l. note. This letter expressed a wish, that as Dr. White had not leisure fo write the sermon himself, being so busy with Abdollatif, Mr. Badcock would be so obliging as to send him some thoughts on the subject, and that Mr. Badcock would do him the honour of accepting the 10l. note, said to be offered by Mr. Smith; who then in Dr. White’s presence, and in the presence of Mr. Ph. Smyth, Dr. Falconer, and Dr. Gabriel, asserted the whole of the letter, so far as his name was concerned in it, to be an Absolute Falsehood! In answer to which Dr. White immediately said, “I beg pardon before you, Gentlemen, of Mr. Stafford Smith;—I am willing to make any | apology to him. I acknowledge the letter to be of my handwriting, and thai it is entirely void of truth and destitute of foundation; and he repeatedly said, I confess with shame that the whole is a direct falsehood, and I take shame to myself upon it.

‘Dr. White requested of Dr. Gabriel that this letter might not be published, but Dr. Gabriel would give no promise. Dr. White then desired that Mr. S. Smith’s name might be omitted, if he should publish the letter. Dr. Gabriel replied that he would make no promise whatever; that Mr. $. Smith was a friend of his; and Dr. Gabriel addressed himself particularly to Mr. S. Smith, when he said that Mr. S. Smith need entertain no fears from his conduct;—that it was not his intention to publish it, unless he should be pressed, and find it necessary. Mr. S. Smith then took leave, but not without expressing great satisfaction that he liad embraced, by Dr. Gabriel’s advice, so favourable an opportunity of vindicating himself from the indirect charge which Dr. White had brought against him, and of detecting the falsity of it; and Mr. S. Smith expressed his thanks to Dr. Gabriel for the friendly part Dr. G. had acted with respect to him in this extraordinary transaction!’

“The inference which every body must draw from these passages is, that you never did receive the sermon in question, and that I wantonly and wickedly made use of your name in order to procure it from Mr. Badcock for some other purpose. As you well know that 1 really sent you the aermon, I trust that 1 shall find in your candour a refuge from a misrepresentation at once so unexpected and so fatal. I trust that you will readily and explicitly acknowledge that you really asked and received the sermon from me; and that the apology I made to you, and which I shall ever be willing to repeat, related solely to the unjustifiable discovery of your name to Mr. Badcock, to the account I gave him of your application to me for the sermon, and of the sum which I said you had offered me.

“The fairness and moderation with which you heard my apology at Dr. Gabriel’s confirm me in the hope that you will instantly, and by return of post, afford me an opportunity of vindicating my conduct so far as it admits of vindication; and that I shall not be compelled to produce other evidence, which, though equally convincing, it would much distress me to use. This you will readily believe, when you recollect how anxiously I contended at Dr. | Gabriel’s, and contended I thought successfully, for the observance of the most inviolable secrecy with respect to your name. That Dr. Gabriel and Dr. Falconer should thus have made use of it distresses me not less on your account than on my own.

“The urgency of the case must plead my excuse for reqaesting once more an immediate and explicit answer.

I am, dear Sir, yours faithfully, J. White.”

“To the Rev. Professor White, Wadham College, Oxford.

“Dear Sir,

Prior Park, Feb. 15th, 1790.

I was as much astonished and disgusted too as you could be on reading the rhapsody, abounding with spleen, and ridiculously circumstantial, which seems by your letter, received late last night, to have given you so much concern. The author of it has treated you ill, by relating disingenuously the transaction you refer to, and me by making so flippant a use of my name, not only without my consent, but against my earnest desire, as well as his own positive promise. When the doughty Doctor asked me, somewhat abruptly, in the Concert Room, whether I had ever paid Professor White 10l. for writing a sermon for me, I expressed my surprise at the question, and in part denied the fact, acquainting him at the same time with the true state of the case, as well as I could recollect it, which I will now repeat for your satisfaction. You was with me at this place when I received a note from a friend at Bath urging me to preach a sermon on a public occasion then so near at hand that I expressed some doubt whether I should have time to be properly prepared for it. You immediately made ( me ah offer of assistance, which I readily accepted', andt would accept such an offer again and again under similar circumstances. The assistance came to me by post, and though it consisted of only a few trite pages, and proved of little use to me, yet it was more in quantity than I happened to want, and the promise of it afforded you sufficient ground for saying that you stood engaged to furnish me with a sermon. In regard to the 10l. your candid and unequivocal acknowledgment of that mysterious and very culpable falsehood was considered by me as a reasonable atonement for it; and I know not what right any one else had to concern himself about the matter. The interposition of a third person was malicious and pragmatical. You thought yourself indebted to me for some little services I had rendered you, which you have always spoke of with a sensibility that | did you honour and you probably meant in this instance, the only one that ever occurred, to make me some compensation for it.

“When I had related the particulars of the case to Dr. G. in the Concert Room, he, with more rancour than discretion or humanity, urged the necessity of my meeting you at his house the next day, and requiring an apology for what you had written to your supposed friend on this subject. I at first objected to this proposal, and endeavoured to convince Dr. G. that as the affair in question was so trifling in itself, and had nothing to do with the charges he had brought against you, it was most prudent and most generous to let it drop. This remonstrance, however, and some others, appearing to have no weight with him, I considered that if I should persist in declining to confront you, the matter would not rest there, but might be represented to my disadvantage, and that I might by an interview prevent its being a town-talk, and likewise soften Dr. G’s unprovoked and wanton acrimony: all which I attempted when I received your apology, with what you call fairness and moderation. I now declare that the apology, and the manner in which it was offered, was handsome and liberal on your part; that it ‘referred solely to your having made an unwarrantable discovery of my name to Mr. Badcock— to the account you gave him of my application to you for the sermon—and of the sum which you said I had offered you.’

“And now, Sir, while you are battling it on one side, and your Adversary on the other, I am the only person perhaps who has been confessedly abused on both sides. On this footing (any other might be impertinent) I presume to advise that you will take no further notice of what has been said against you than to shew the world how little you deserve it, by publishing another volume of sermons with all convenient dispatch. Sed vereor ne improbè dicam— for—Who shall decide when Doctors disagree?’

I am, Sir, your friend and humble servant,

M. S. Smith.

“Though I cannot forbear to resent the having been dragged into public notice by means of a controversy which has so manifestly a mischievous tendency in every view of it, yet you are at liberty to make any use of this letter (written in haste to gratify your excessive impatience) which may serve to expose malevolence and justify your conduct.” | About the same year, 1790, in which these transactions occurred, the professor vacated his fellowship by marriage, and accepted of a college living, the rectory of Melton, in Suffolk, on which he resided during a considerable part of the year. In 1800, appeared his “Diatessaron, sive integra historia Domini nostri Jesu Christi, Grsece,” &c. 8vo. This was founded on the “Harmony” of archbishop Newcome, and is elegantly printed on a type cast originally under the direction of the professor. In 1801, he published his “Ægyptiaca or Observations on certain. Antiquities of Egypt. In two parts I. The History of Pompey’s Pillar elucidated. 2. Abdollatif’s Account of the Antiquities of Egypt> written in Arabic, A. D. 1206. Translated into English, and illustrated with Notes.” 4to. This is perhaps, as to research and learning, the most profound of his works on the subject of antiquity.

Dr. White’s next publication was an edition of the Greek Testament, “Novum Testamentum, Greece. Lectiones variantes, Griesbachii judicio, iis quas Textus receptus exhibet, anteponendas vel eequiparandas, adjecit Josephus White,” &c. 2 vols. cr. 8vo, 18O8. This edition is particularly valuable for the ready and intelligible view it affords, first, of all the texts which in Griesbach’s opinion ought either certainly or probably to be removed from the received text; secondly, of those various readings which the same editor judged either preferable or equal to those of the received text; thirdly, of those additions which, ou the authority of manuscripts Griesbach considers as fit to be admitted into the text. From this Dr. White observes that it may be seen at once by every one how very little, after all the labours of learned men, and the collation of so many manuscripts, is liable to just objection in the received text. As a kind of sequel, and printed in the same form, he published in 1811, “C risers Griesbachianse in. Novum Testamentum Synopsis,” partly with a view to familiarize the results of Griesbach’s laborious work, by removing from them the obscurity of abbreviations, but principally, as he says himself, to demonstrate, by a short and easy proof, how safe and pure the text of the New Testament is, in the received editions, in all things that affect our faith or duty, and how few alterations it either requires or will admit, on any sound principles of criticism.

This was the last of Dr. White’s publications. His constitution had now suffered much by a paralytic attack, | which interrupted his studies, although he continued at intervals his favourite researches. He died at his canonry residence at Christchurch, May 22, 1814. From the number of works Dr. White published, and the assiduity with which he cultivated most branches of learning, particularly Oriental languages and antiquities, it may be thought improbable that there was a considerable portion of indolence in his habit. Yet this certainly was the case, and, in the opinion of his friends, must account for his needing assistance in the composition of his Bampton Lectures. Even in the composition of a single sermon, he was glad to accept of aid, if ife was wanted at a time when he felt a repugnance to study. In his private character, he united a degree of roughness with great simplicity of manners; few men were ever more deficient in what is called knowledge of the world. Yet he was friendly, liberal, and of great integrity. He owed all he had to his talents and fame, and however grateful he might be for favours, he never knew or practised the arts of solicitation. To his parents, after he attained promotion, he was a most dutiful son, and it is yet remembered at Gloucester, with what eagerness he left his dignified friends on the day he was installed prebendary, to embrace his aged father, who stood looking on among the crowd. 1


Gent. Mag. vol. LXXXIV. British Critic, &e.