Douglas, John

, the late learned bishop of Salisbury, was born in Scotland, in 1721, the son of Mr. Archibald Douglas, a merchant of Fittenween, in Fifeshire. | His grandfather (who was a younger brother of the family of Douglas of Tulliquilly, one of the oldest branches of the house of Douglas now in existence), was an eminent clergyman of the episcopal church of Scotland, and the immediate successor of bishop Burnet in the living of Salten, in East Lothian, from which preferment he was ejected at the revolution, when presbyterianism was established in Scotland. The subject of this memoir was educated for some years at the school of Dunbar, but in 1736 was entered a commoner of St. Mary hall, Oxford, where he remained till 1738, and then removed to Baliolcollege, on being elected an exhibitioner on bishop Warner’s foundation. In 1741 he took his bachelor’s degree; and in 1742, in order to acquire a facility of speaking French, he went abroad, and remained for some time at Montreal, in Picardy, and afterwards at Ghent, in Flanders. On his return to college, in 1743, he took his master’s degree, and having been ordained deacon, in 1744, he was appointed to officiate as chaplain to the third regiment of foot-guards, which he joined when serving with the combined army in Flanders. During the time he tilled this situation, he employed himself chiefly in the study of modern languages. He was not an inactive spectator of the battle of Fontenoy, April 29, 1745, on which occasion he was employed in carrying orders from general Campbell to the English who guarded the village in which he and the other generals were stationed.

When a detachment of the army was ordered home to suppress the rebellion in Scotland, he returned to England in Sept. 1745, and having no longer any connexion with the guards, went back to Baliol college, where he was elected one of the exhibitioners on the more lucrative foundation of Mr. Snell. In 1747 he was ordained priest, and became curate of Tilehurst, near Reading; and afterwards of Dunstevv, in Oxfordshire, where he was residing, when, at the recommendation of Dr. Charles Stuart, and lady Allen, a particular friend of his mother, he was selected by lord Bath as a tutor to accompany his son, lord Pulteney, on his travels. Of the tour which he then made, there exists a manuscript in Mr. Douglas’s hand-writing. It relates principally, if not exclusively, to the governments and political relations of the several countries through which he passed. In October 1749, he returned to England, and took possession of the free chapel of Eaton | Constantine, and the donative of Uppington, in Shropshire, on the presentation of lord Bath. Here he commenced his literary career, by his able defence of Milton. Early in 1747, William Lander, a Scotch schoolmaster, made a most flagitious attempt to subvert the reputation of Milton, by shewing that he was a mere copier or translator of the works of others, and that he was indebted to some modern Latin poets for the plan, arrangement, &c. of his Paradise Lost. Many persons of considerable literary talents gave credit to the tale of Lander, among whom was the celebrated Dr. Johnson. Mr. Douglas, however, examined the merits of the case, considered most accurately the evidence adduced by Lander, and soon found that the whole was a most gross fabrication. He published in 1750 a defence of Milton against Lander, entitled, “Milton vindicated from the Charge of Plagiarism,” &c. which appeared in the form of a letter addressed to the earl of Bath. Having justified the poet, he proceeded to charge the accuser with the most gross and manifest forgery, which he substantiated to the entire satisfaction of the public. The detection was indeed so clear and manifest, that the criminal acknowledged his guilt, in a letter dictated by Dr. Johnson, who abhorred the imposition he had practised.

In the same year (1750) he was presented by lord Bath to the vicarage of High Ercal, in Shropshire, and vacated Eaton Constantine. He only occasionally resided on his livings, and at the desire of lord Bath, took a house in a street contiguous to Bath-house, London, where he passed the winter months. In the summer he generally accompanied lord Bath in his excursions to Tunbridge, Cheltenham, Shrewsbury, and Bath, and in his visits to the duke of Cleveland, lord Lyttelton, &c. In Sept. 1752, he married miss Dorothy Pershouse, sister of Richard Pershouse, of Reynolds-hall, near Walsall, in Staffordshire; and within three months became a widower. In the spring of 1754, he published “The Criterion, or Miracles examined, &c.” in the form of a letter to an anonymous correspondent, since known to have been Dr. Adam Smith, with whom he probably became acquainted at Baliol-college, where Smith studied for some time. This was designed as a refutation of the specious objections of Hume and others to the reality of the miracles recorded in the New Testament. Hume had maintained that there was as good evidence for the miracles said to have taken place | among the ancient heathens, and in later times, in the church of Rome, as there was for those recorded by the evangelists, and said to have been performed by the power of Christ. Mr. Douglas, who had shewn himself an acute judge of the value of evidence, pointed out the distinction between the pretended and true miracles, to the honour of the Christian religion. Dr. Leland, in his “View of Deisiical Writers,” has made very honourable mention of this work.

In 1755, he wrote a pamphlet entitled “An Apology for the Clergy,” against the Hutchinsonians; and shortly after, another pamphlet, entitled “The Destruction of the French foretold by Ezekiel,” against the same, being an ironical defence of them aq;ainst the attack made on them in the former pamphlet, which, however, was not greatly wanted, as the Hutchinsonians had at that time the more serious aid of Mr. (afterwards Dr.) George Home, bishop of Norwich, who could himself, had he thought it necessary, wield the weapon of irony with good effect. In 1756, Mr. Douglas published his first pamphlet against Archibald Bower, the purpose of which, as well as of what followed against the same doubtful character (see Bower), was to shew that his History of the popes could not be depended upon, and that the author had shewn himself capable of much misrepresentation and falsehood, which he had indulged to secure the patronage of the protestants in this country. In the autumn of the same year, Mr. Douglas published “A serious Defence of the Administration,” being an ironical justification of their introducing foreign troops to defend this country. In 1757 he published “Bower and Tillemont compared;” shortly afterwards, “A full Confutation of Bower’s Three Defences;” and in the spring of 1758, “The complete and final Detection of Bower.

In the Easter term of this year he took his doctor’s degree, and was presented by lord Bath to the perpetual curacy of Kenley, in Shropshire. In 1759, he published “The Conduct of a late noble commander candidly considered,” as good a defence as the case would admit, of lord George Sackville. It was suggested solely by the attack so unfairly made on him by Ruff head, before it could possibly be known whether he deserved censure. No person was privy to Dr. Douglas’s being the author of this Defence, except his bookseller, Andrew Millar, to whom he made a present of the copy. In the same mouth | he wrote and published, “A Letter to two great men on the approach of peace,” a pamphlet which excited great attention, and was generally attributed to lord Bath. In 1760 he wrote the preface to the translation of Hooke’s “Negociations in Scotland.” He was this year appointed one of his majesty’s chaplains. In 1761 he published his “Seasonable Hints from an honest man,” as an exposition of lord Bath’s sentiments. In November 1762, he was, through the interest of lord Bath, made canon of Windsor. In December of that year, on the day on which the preliminaries of peace were to be taken into consideration in parliament, he wrote a paper called “The Sentiments of a Frenchman,” which was printed on a sheet, pasted on the walls in every part of London, and distributed among the members of parliament, as they entered the house.

In 1763 he superintended the publication of “Henry Earl of Clarendon’s Diary and Letters,” and wrote the preface which is prefixed to these papers. In June of this year, he accompanied lord Bath to Spa, where he became acquainted with the hereditary prince of Brunswick (the late duke), from whom he received marked and particular attention, and with whom he was afterwards in correspondence. It is known that within a few years there existed a series of letters written by him during his stay at Spa, and also a book containing copies of all the letters which he had written to, and received from, the prince of Brunswick, on the state of parties, and the characters of their leaders in this country, and on the policy and effect of its continental connexions; but as these have not been found among his papers, there is reason to apprehend, that they may have been destroyed, in consideration of some of the persons being still alive, whose characters, conduct, and principles, were the topics of that correspondence.

In 1764, his steady patron, lord Bath, died, and bequeathed to him his library; but general Pulteney wishing that it should not be removed from Bath-house, he relinquished his claim, and accepted 1000l. in lieu of it. General Pulteney, at his death, left it to Dr. Douglas again, and he again gave it up to the late sir William Pulteney, for the same sum. It has been erroneously stated that the valuable library, of which Dr. Douglas was possessed, had been derived from this source, whereas it was entirely collected by himself; and the Bath library, after the death of sir William Pulteney, was lately sold by auction. | In 1764 he exchanged his livings in Shropshire for that of St. Austin and St. Faith, in Watling-street, London. In April 1765 he married miss Elizabeth Rooke, daughter of Henry Brudenell Rooke, esq. During this and the preceding year,*


In 1767 he appears to have been suspected of writing a pamphlet entitled “Observations on the Spanish papers,” and as Mr. Wilkes had informed him of this suspicion, Dr. Douglas wrote a letter to that gentleman, begging that he would stop the progress of a report likely to be so injurious to him. This, and Mr. Wilkes’s answer, appeared in the papers of the day.

as well as in 1768, he wrote several political papers, which were printed in the Public Advertiser; and all the letters which appeared in that paper, in 1770 and 1771, under the signatures of Tacitus and Manlius, were written by him. In 1773, he assisted sir John Dalrymple in the arrangement of his Mss. In 1776 he was removed from the chapter of Windsor to that of St. Paul’s. During this and the subsequent year he was employed in preparing captain Cook’s Journal for publication, which he undertook at the urgent request of lord Sandwich, then first lord of the admiralty. In 1777, he assisted lord Hardwicke, in arranging and publishing his “Miscellaneous Papers,” which came out in the following year. In 1778 he was elected a member of the royal and antiquary societies. In 1781 he was again applied to by lord Sandwich, to reduce into a shape fit for publication, the Journal of capt. Cook’s third and last voyage to which he supplied the very able introduction, and thenotes. In 1781 he was chosen president of Sion-college for the year, and preached the Latin sermon before that body.

In 1786 he was elected one of the vice-presidents of the Society of Antiquaries, and framed their address on the king’s recovery, 1789, both to his majesty and the queen. In March 1787 he was elected one of the trustees of the British Museum, and in September of the same year, was appointed bishop of Carlisle. In 1788 he succeeded to the deanery of Windsor, for which he vacated his residentiaryship of St. Paul’s. In 1789 he preached before the house of lords, and of course published, the sermon on the anniversary of king Charles’s martyrdom. In June 1791, he was translated to the see of Salisbury. In 1793 he preached, which is also published, the anniversary sermon before the society for propagating the Gospel. Having been often and very urgently requested, by many of his | literary friends, to publish a new edition of the “Criterion,” which had been many years out of print, he undertook to revise that excellent work. He had a long time before collected materials for a new and enlarged edition; but unfortunately they had been either mislaid or lost; or, more probably, destroyed, by mistake, with some other manuscripts. This circumstance, and his very advanced ago, sufficiently accounts for his not having attempted to alter materially the original work. In this statement, all the avowed publications of the bishop are enumerated, but he was concerned in many others, in which he was never supposed to have had any part, and in some of no trifling celebrity, whose nominal and reputed authors he permitted to retain and enjoy exclusively all that credit of which he could have justly laid claim to no inconsiderable share. During a great part of his life, he was in correspondence with some of the most eminent literary and political characters of the age. Few could have read more, if indeed any one so much as, with such habits of incessant application as those in which he persevered, almost to the last hour of his long protracted life, he must necessarily have read. In the strictest sense of the expression, he never let one minute pass unimproved; for he never deemed any space of time too short to be employed in reading; nor was he ever seen by any of his family, when not in company with strangers, without having a book or a pen in his hand. He retained his faculties to the last, and without any specific complaint, died on Monday, May 18, 1807, without a struggle,in the arms of his son, to whom, the public are indebted for the principal part of the preceding memoir. Bishop Douglas was interred on Monday the 25th in a vault in St. George’s chapel, Windsor.

This learned prelate enjoyed a very high share of reputation during a very long life. He was, if not one of the most profound, one of the most general scholars in the kingdom, and the range of his information was most extensive. Nor was he more an enlightened scholar, than a warm friend to men of learning and genius; in private life, he was amiable, communicative, and interesting in his conversation and correspondence. As a divine, if he took no distinguished part in the controversies of the times, he evinced by his “Criterion,” his detection of Lauder, and his controversy with Bower, what a formidable antagonist he could have proved, and what an unanswerable assertor | of truth. His character likewise stood high for fidelity and a conscientious discharge of the public duties of his station., and when not employed in the pulpit, for always countenancing public worship by his presence. His punctuality in this last respect is still remembered by the congregations of St. Faith’s and St. Paul’s. In a word, as his talents recommended him in early life to patronage, so he soon demonstrated that he wanted only to be better known to be thought deserving of the highest preferments. 1


Gent. Mag. vol. LXXVII.