Burgh, James

, a moral and political writer, was born at Madderty, in Perthshire, Scotland, in the latter end of the year 1714. His father was minister of that parish, and his mother was aunt to the celebrated historian Dr. Robertson. His grammatical education he received at the school of the place which gave him birth, where he discovered such a quickness and facility in imbibing


Prot. Dissenters’ Magazine, vol. VI. Bogue’s Hist, of the Dissenters, vol. II. Henry’s Funeral Sermon for Burgess. -Swift’s Works, see Index. Tatlcr, with Annotations, vol. II, and IV.

| literary instruction, that his master used to say, that his scholar would soon acquire all the knowledge that it was in his power to communicate. In due time young Burgh was removed to the University of St. Andrew’s, with a view of becoming a clergyman in the church of Scotland; but he did not continue long at the college, on account of a bad state of health, which induced him to lay aside the thoughts of the clerical profession, and enter into trade, in the linen, way; which he was enabled to do with the greater prospect of advantage, as he had lately obtained a handsome fortune by the death of his eldest brother. In business, however, he was not at all successful; for, by giving injudicious credit, he was soon deprived of his property. Not long after this misfortune, he came to London, where his first employment was to correct the press for the celebrated Mr. Bowyer; and at his leisure hours he made indexes. After being engaged about a year in this way, during which, he became acquainted with some friends who were highly serviceable to him in his future plans of life, he removed to Great Marlow, in Buckinghamshire, as an assistant at the free grammar-school of that town; and whilst he continued in this situation, the school is said to have been considerably increased. During his residence at Marlow, he met with only one gentleman who was suited to his own turn of mind. With that gentleman, who was a man of piety, and of extensive reading in divinity, though no classicai scholar, he contracted a particular friendship. At Marlow it was that Mr. Burgh first commenced author, by writing a pamphlet, entitled Britain’s Remembrancer," and which was published, if we mistake not, a little after the beginning of the rebellion, in 1745. This tract contained an enumeration of the national blessings and deliverances which Great Britain had received; with pathetic exhortations to a right improvement of them, by a suitable course of piety and virtue. It appeared without Mr. Burgh’s name, as was the case with his works in general, and was so much read and applauded by persons of a religious temper, that it went through five editions in little more than two years, was reprinted in Scotland, Ireland, and America, and again in London 1766. Mr. Barker, at that time one of the most eminent ministers among the protestant dissenters in London, spoke highly of it, in a sermon preaghed at Salters’-hall and publicly thanked | the unknown author, for so seasonable and useful a performance.

Mr. Burgh being of a sociable disposition, and not meeting, at Marlow, with company which was suited to his liberal taste, he quitted that place, and engaged himself as art assistant to Mr. Kenross at Enfield. Here he remained only one year; for, at the end of that term, Mr. Kenross very generously told him, that he ought no longer to lose his time, by continuing in the capacity of an assistant; that it would be adviseable for him to open a boardingschool for himself; and that, if he stood in need of it, he would assist him with money for that purpose. Accordingly, in 1747, Mr. Burgh commenced master of an academy at Stoke Newington, in Middlesex; and in that year he wrote “Thoughts on Education.” The next production of his pen was “An hymn to the Creator of the world,” to which was added in prose, “An Idea of the Creator, from his works.A second edition, in 8vo, was printed in 1750. After Mr. Burgh had continued at Stoke Newington three years, his house not being large enough to contain the number of scholars that were offered to him, he removed to a more commodious one at Newingtongreen, where, for nineteen years, he carried on his school with great reputation and success. Few masters, we believe, ever existed, who have been animated with a more ardent solicitude for forming the morals as well as the understandings of their scholars. In 1751, Mr. Burgh married Mrs. Harding, a widow lady, and a woman of excellent sense and character, who zealously concurred with him in promoting all his laudable and useful undertakings. In the same year, at the request of Dr. Stephen Hales, and Dr. Hayter, bishop of Norwich, he published a small piece, in 12mo, entitled “A Warning to Dram Drinkers.” Our author’s next publication was his great work, entitled “The Dignity of Human Nature; or, a brief account of the certain and established means for attaining the true end of our existence.” This treatise appeared in 1754, in one volume quarto, and has since been reprinted in two volumes octavo. It is divided into four books, in which the author treats distinctly concerning prudence, knowledge, virtue, and revealed religion; and makes a great number of important observations under each of these heads. In 1762 Mr. Burgh published, in octavo, “The | Art of Speaking;” consisting, first, of an essay, in which are given rules for expressing properly the principal passions and humours that occur in reading, or in public elocution; and secondly, of lessons taken from the ancients and moderns, exhibiting a variety of matter for practice. The essay is chiefly compiled from Cicero, Quintilian, and other rhetorical writers. In the lessons, the emphatical words are printed in Italics, and marginal notes are added to shew the various passions, in the several examples, a they change from one to another. It is evident, from an inspection of this work, that it must have cost our author no small degree of labour. It has gone through three editions, and was much used as a school-book. The late sir Francis Blake Delaval, who had studied the subject of elocution, and who had distinguished himself in the private acting of several plays in conjunction with some other persons of fashion, had so high an opinion of Mr. Burgh’s performance, that he solicited on that account an interview with him. Our author’s next appearance in the literary world was in 1766, in the publication of the first volume, in 12mo, of “Crito, or Essays on various subjects.” To this volume is prefixed a dedication, not destitute of humour, “To the right rev. father (of three years old) his royal highness Frederic bishop of Osnaburgh.” The essays are three in number: the first is of a political nature; the second is on the difficulty and importance of education, and contains many pertinent remarks, tending to shewthat Mons. Rousseau’s proposals on this head are improper, ineffectual, or impracticable; and the third is upon the origin of evil. In this essay Mr. Burgh has collected together and arranged, though with but little regard to order, the sentiments of many writers, both ancient and modern, on the subject, and endeavoured to shew the inconsistency of their reasonings. His own opinion is, that the natural and moral evil which prevails in the world, is the effect of the hostility of powerful, malignant, spiritual beings; and that Christianity is the deliverance of the human species from this peculiar and adventitious distress, as an enslaved nation is by a patriotic hero delivered from tyranny. In 1767 came out the second volume of “Crito,” with a long dedication (which is replete with shrewd and satirical observations, chiefly of a political kind) to the good people of Britain of the twentieth century. The rest of the volume contains another “Essay on the Origin of Evil,” and | the rationale of Christianity, and a postscript, consisting of farther explanations of the subjects before considered, and of detached remarks on various matters. If our author has not succeeded in removing the difficulties which relate to the introduction of evil into the world, and to the ceconomy of the gospel, it may be urged in his favour, that he is in the same case with many other ingenious philosophers and divines.

Mr. Burgh having, for many years, led a very laborious life, and having acquired also a competem, though not a large fortune (for his mind was always far raised above pecuniary views), he determined to retire trona business. In embracing this resolution, it was by no means his intention to be unemployed. What he had particularly in contemplation was, to complete his “Political Disquisitions,” for which he had, during ten years, been collecting suitable materials. Upon quitting his school at Newrngton-greenj which was in 1771, he settled in a house at Colebrooke-row, Islington, where he continued till his decease. He had not been long in his new situation before he became convinced (of what was only suspected before) that he had a stone in his bladder. Witn this dreadful malady he was deeply afflicted the four latter years of his life; and for the two last of these years his pain was exquisite. Nevertheless, to the astonishment of all who were witnesses of the misery he endured, he went on with his “Political Disquisitions.” The two first volumes were published in 1774, and the third volume in 1775. Their title is, “Political Disquisitions: or, an enquiry into public errors, defects, and abuses. Illustrated by, and established upon, facts and remarks extracted from a variety of authors ancient and modern. Calculated to draw the timely attention of government and people to a due consideration of the necessity and the means of reforming those errors, defects, and abuses; of restoring the constitution, and saving the state.” The first volume relates to government in general, and to parliament in particular; the second treats of places and pensions, the taxation of the colonies, and the army; and the third considers manners. It was our author’s intention to have extended his Disquisitions to some other subjects, if he had not been prevented by the violence of his disease, the tortures of which he bore with uncommon patience and resignation, and from which he was happily released, on the 26th of | August, 1775, in the sixty-first year of his age. Besides the publications already mentioned, and a variety of manuscripts which he left behind him, he wrote, in 1753 and 1754, some letters in the General Evening Post, called “The Free Enquirer;” and in 1770, a number of papers entitled “The Constitutionalist,” in the Gazetteer; which were intended to recommend annual parliaments, adequate representation, and a place bill. About the same time he also published another periodical paper in the Gazetteer, under the title of “The Colonist’s Advocate;” which was written against the measures of government with respect to the colonies. He printed likewise for the sole use of his pupils, “Directions, prudential, moral, religious, and scientific;” which were pirated by a bookseller, and sold under the title of “Youth’s friendly Monitor.

With regard to Mr. Burgh’s character, he was a man of great piety, integrity, and benevolence. He had a warmth of heart which engaged him to enter ardently into the prosecution of any valuable design; and his temper was communicative and chearful. Whilst his health permitted it, he had great pleasure in attending a weekly society of some friends to knowledge, virtue, and liberty, among whom were several persons of no small note in the philosophical and literary world. He had once the honour of being introduced to his present majesty, when prince of Wales, and to the late princess dowager of Wales, from whom he met with a most gracious reception, and with whom he had much discourse on the subject of education, and other important topics. In his compositions, our author paid greater regard to strength than elegance; and he despised, perhaps unjustly, that nice attention to arrangement of language which some writers think desirable; and which is indeed desirable, when thereby the force and vigour of style are not obstructed. Mr. Burgh’s widow died in 1788. 1

1 Biog. Brit, with some corrections and additions from Nichols’s Bowyer.