Badcock, Samuel

, an English divine, and critical and polemical writer of considerable eminence, was the son of a butcher at South Moulton, in Devonshire, where he was born, Feb. 23, 1747. His relations and friends being dissenters, he was designed by them for the ministerial function and after receiving the first rudiments of his education under his maternal uncle, Mr. Blake, a dissenting minister at South Moulton, he was sent to the dissenting academy at St. Mary Ottery, in the same county. The doctrines taught in this academy were those of the old Nonconformists or Puritans, and for a considerable time, Mr. Badcock adhered to them with sincerity. His proficiency in other respects was such, in the opinion of | his tutors, that at the age of nineteen, he received a call to be the pastor of a dissenting congregation at Winborne in Dorsetshire, from which he was invited to the same office, soon after, at Barnstaple in Devonshire where his’ income was more considerable, and which place was more agreeable to him as it was but a few miles from his native town. The date of his removal here is said to be in 1769, and he continued to be the pastor of this congregation for nine or ten years.

The cause of his removal from Barnstaple has been variously represented. On the one hand, it is said that a notorious indiscretion had excited the resentment of his hearers, but that he amply vindicated his character in this instance, although he could not prevent the consequences of their displeasure. On the other hand, it appears that a change in his religious opinions interrupted the union which must necessarily subsist between a pastor and his flock in dissenting congregations, where the former depends entirely for his maintenance on the good will and affection of the latter. It is certain that after he had been three or four years settled at Barnstaple, he met with some of Dr. Priestley’s Socinian productions, with which he was so captivated as to pay a visit to the Doctor, at Calne, in Wiltshire, and commenced a correspondence with him, from which it is evident that he had discarded the opinions, not only of his Calvinistic tutors, but those which are accounted orthodox by the generality of Christians.

On his quitting Barnstaple, he removed to South Moulton, where he had a congregation willing enough to receive his doctrines as he pleased to dispense them, but too few to be able to provide for him many of the comforts of life. In this retirement, his mind, ever active, and well stored with miscellaneous literature, turned its views to some employment in the learned world. During the progress of the London Review, which terminated in 1730, he occasionally corresponded with the editor, Dr. Kciirick and contended with that sceptic, a man of no mean talents, on different points of Christianity. He occasionally also wrote some articles in that Review, which are yet distinguishable by their spirit and intelligence. He was before this period an occasional correspondent in the Westminster Magazine, where, in 1774, he wrote "An essay on modern Education: Anecdotes of Mr. John Wesley, with, | two of his original letters A Shandean letter A scription of a desperate case The Presbyterian Parson’s Soliloquy The Expostulation An improved copy, occasioned by a most horrid murder: An essay on Infidelity Extracts of a letter sent by a clergyman to his friend, after having met with ill treatment from Lord (a real letter on his own case) A clerical character, aimed at a free-thinking Lecturer, who made some noise at that time. These, it must be confessed, are trifles, but discover much vivacity of imagination, and a turn for poetry which might have been cultivated with advantage.

We find Mr. Badcock afterwards frequently corresponding with the Gentleman’s Magazine the London Magazine, where for some time he had a regular engagement the General Evening Post and St. James’s Chronicle. But the gjreat scene of his literary warfare, was in the Monthly Review, in which he appears to have criticized many works of considerable note, and in a manner which attracted the attention of the public to a journal, (already the highest in general estimation) in no common degree, lu 1780, when a controversy arose respecting materialism, Mr. Badcock published “A slight sketch of the controversy between Dr. Priestley and his opponents,” and from this time he became the decided antagonist of the doctor in all those opinions upon which they formerly corresponded, and appeared to agree. The influence of Mr. Badcock’s education seems to have returned with increased force, and although he did not revert to some of the principles of his early days, and in no respect resumed the garb or the behaviour of a Puritan, he certainly became a zealous contender for the Trinitarian system, in opposition to Socinianism in all its modifications. This was particularly displayed in his review of Dr. Priestley’s “History of the Corruption of Christianity,” in 1783, and 1784, and the controversy to which that work gave rise between Dr. Priestley, and Dr. Horsley, then archdeacon of St. Alban’s, and successively bishop of Rochester and St. Asaph. He, had before this, however, interested the public attention by the review of Mr. Madan’s “Thejyphthora,” and displayed a force of genius, skill of argument, and depth of learning, which that author found irresistible. No work apparently of eminence, and calculated for popularity, perhaps ever was so completely driven into oblivion by the efforts of a periodical | reviewer. Nor was Mr. Badcock’s triumph less complete over the believers in Chatterton’s imposture, although it must be owned that in this last controversy he had able coadjutors.

While at Barnstaple, Mr. Badcock became acquainted with a daughter of Mr. Samuel Wesley, master of Tiverton-school, and elder brother of the celebrated John Wesley from her he received a considerable quantity of papers, consisting chiefly of letters and pieces of poetry. Some of these he published entire, as already mentioned, in the Westminster Magazine for 1774, and from the whole, with some oral communications, he drew up that account of the family which was published in N. XX. of the “Bibliotheca Topographica Britannica.” The whole of these letters and papers fell afterwards into Dr. Priestley’s hands, who published them upon Mr. Wesley’s death.' Dr. Whitehead, the biographer of Wesley, seems ­to think there is some mystery in this transaction, which he confesses he was not able to clear up.

Among his other literary labours, Mr. Badcock frequently gave assistance to authors who were about to publish, but had diffidence in their own abilities. One instance of this kind occasioned a temporary controversy a few years ago. When professor White of Oxford was appointed Bampton lecturer, he formed the plan of a course of lectures, which induced him to apply to Mr. Badcock, with whose talents he had become acquainted, for some assistance his application was accordingly effectual, and Mr. Badcock, to whom the subjects to be treated were familiar, contributed very considerably to the first, third, fourth, seventh, and eighth lectures, and supplied many of the ndtes. There was certainly nothing in this, but what one man of learning may owe to another, without detracting much from his own character. But Dr. White unfortunately neglected to make the usual complimentary acknowledgements of assistance, in his preface and upon Mr. Badcock’s death, the late Dr. Gabriel of Bath published a pamphlet tending to prove that Mr. Badcock’s contributions were so large as to leave Dr. White the reputation only of having preached and published these very popular lectures. Dr. White, however, answered this charge in such a manner as to vindicate his literary fame from the attempts made to diminish it.

We are now come to an uera in Mr. Badcock’s life which may appear very remarkable, his quitting his dissenting | connexions, and embracing the doctrines and discipline of the established church. This brought much undeserved obloquy on his character, for there appears no reason to doubt his sincerity in reverting to principles most of which had been inculcated in his youth, and of which he had already become the zealous champion when he could have no motive but the love of truth, and no expectations but the perishing fame of a polemic. In Sept. 1786, he thus writes to a friend “I have resigned my function as dis<­senting minister. It was long long a most grievous op^­pression. I have boldly shook it off, and I will run the risk of the displeasure of my relations, and defy the con^ tumacy of my enemies. I have not absolutely determined on my future plan. Whatever it may be, I hope to secure the protection of Providence, by preserving the integrity of my own mind.

It has been supposed that his acquaintance with the bishop of Exeter, Dr. Ross, and the most respectable clergymen of his diocese, might have led him to examme the foundation of dissent audit might have appeared to him, as it has to very many of sound judgment and acknowledged abilities, that this foundation was groundless. He was led to conform by no promise, and, at best, by very distant views of advancement. It is, indeed, impossible to read the heart of man but, if it can be read by an intimate acquaintance, his conformity was sincere. But whatever were his views, or the views of those who wished to see him among the defenders of the established church, they were disappointed by a premature death, In the spring of 1787, he was ordained deacon by bishop Ross, and, by a very distinguished compliment, received priest’s orders the following week. The title upon which he was ordained was the curacy of Broad Clyst, near Exeter, and he afterwards preached, as assistant to Dr. Gabriel, in the Octagon chapel, Bath. He was much afflicted with head-aches, which frequently interrupted his public services. In May, 1788, he was attacked by an illness which proved fatal on the 19th of that month, while on a visit to his friend sir John Chichester, bart. in Queen- street, May-Fair.

Some time before his death, he was requested to arrange the papers which Mr. Chappie had collected for his improved edition of Risdon’s “Survey of Devon.” After this was done, he was earnestly urged, from these | materials, with additional assistance, such as influence or fortune could bestow, to write the history anew. For this undertaking he had many qualifications, if his health could have been preserved. When at Bath, he preached a chanty sermon, which was afterwards printed, but not published. In his person, Mr. Badcock was short, but well made, active, lively, and agreeable his eyes were peculiarly vivacious, and his whole countenance indicated strong intellectual powers, far above the general run of mankind, and a disposition replete with sensibility, tenderness, and generosity. This short sketch of his life has been taken from very copious materials, published in the Gentleman’s Magazine* vol. LVIII, p. 595, 69.1, 780, 781, 868; LIX, p. 571, 713, 776, 871, 877; and the reader may form a judgment of his critical talents by perusing the following articles in the Monthly Review, in addition to what have been already mentioned Sherlock’s Letters; David Williams’ s Lectures; Steevens’s Shakspeare, edit. 1780; Malone’s Supplement; Milne’s Sermons; Mac-NicoFs Remarks on Dr. Johnson History of Moravianism Jacob Behmen’s Life; Mainwaring’s Sermons; Von Troil’s Letters on Iceland Milles’s edition of Rowley’s poems Nichols’s Life of Hogarth, and Bowyer’s Miscellaneous Tracts, 1785. His first review was of Ruhnkenius’s edition of Homer’s Hymn to Ceres, which he sent anonymously to the Editor. 1

1 Gent. Mag. ubi supra.