Edwards, Bryan

, the very able and accurate historian of the West Indies, was born May 21, 1743, at Westbury in Wiltshire. His father inherited a small paternal estate in the neighbourhood, of about 100l. per annum, which proving insufficient for the maintenance of a large family, he undertook to deal in corn and malt, in which he had but little success. He died in 1756, leaving a widow and six children in distressed circumstances. Mrs. Edwards, however, had two opulent brothers in the West Indies, one of them a wise and worthy man, of a liberal mind, and princely fortune. This was Zachary Bayly, of the island of Jamaica, who took the family under his protection; and as the subject of this article was the eldest, directed that he should be well educated. He had been placed before by his father at the school of a dissenting minister in Bristol, waere he learned writing, arithmetic, and English grammar. His master, whose name was Foot, had an excellent method of making the boys write letters to him on different subjects, such as the beauty and dignity of truth, the obligation of a religious life, the benefits of good | education, the mischiefs of idleness, &c. previously stating to them the chief arguments to be used; and insisting on correctness in orthography and grammar. In this employment Mr. Edwards sometimes excelled the other boys, and on Such occasions, his master never failed to praise him very liberally before them all 1; and would frequently transmit his letters to his father and mother. This excited in his mind a spirit of emulation, and gave him the first taste for correct and elegant composition, in which Mr. Edwards, it must be confessed, attained considerable facility. All this time, however, he informs us that he attained but very little learning, and when his uncle took him under his protection, his agent in Bristol considered him as neglected by Mr. Foot, and immediately removed him to a French boarding-school in the same city, where he soon obtained the French language, and having access to a circulating library, acquired a passion for books, which afterwards became the solace of his life.

In 1759, a younger, and the only brother of his good uncle, came to England, and settling in London, took him to reside with him, in a high and elegant style of life. He was a representative in parliament for Abingdon, and afterward for his native town. This gentleman, in the latter end of the same year, sent him to Jamaica; which proved the happiest and most fortunate change in his life, as his uncle, to the most enlarged and enlightened mind, added the sweetest temper, and the most generous disposition. His tenderness toward Mr. Edwards was excessive, and he in return regarded him with more than filial affection and veneration. Observing his passion for books, and thinking favourably of his capacity, his uncle engaged a clergyman, a Mr. Teale, to reside in his family, chiefly to supply by his instructions Mr. Edwards’s deficiency in the learned languages. Mr. Teale had been master of a free grammar school, and beside being a most accomplished scholar, possessed an exquisite taste for poetry, of which the reader will be convinced by referring to the Gentleman’s Magazine for August 1771, the beautiful copy of verses, there first published, called “The Compliment of the Day,” being of his composition. Mr. Edwards, however, according to his own account, did not make any great progress in the languages under his tuition. He acquired “small Latin, and less Greek;” and never found it easy to read the Roman poets in their own language. Not having | been grounded in the Latin grammar at an early period of life, he found the study of it insupportably disgusting, after he had acquired a taste for the beauties of fine writing. Poetry, however, was their chief amusement; for Mr. Teale, as well as himself, preferred the charms of Dryden and Pope, to the dull drudgery of poring over syntax and prosody. They preferred belles lettres; and laughed away many an hour over the plays of Moliere, and wrote verses on local and temporary subjects, which thev sometimes published in the Colonial newspapers. Yet the Latin classics were not altogether neglected; Mr. Teale delighted to point out to his pupil the beauties of Horace, and would frequently impose on him the task of translating an ode into English verse, which, with his assistance in construing the words, he sometimes accomplished.

In course of time, Mr. Edwards, who succeeded his uncle, and, in 1773, was left heir to the great property of a Mr. Hume of Jamaica, became an opulent merchant, returned to England, and in 1796 took his seat in parliament for the borough of Grampound, which he represented until his death, which happened at his house, Polygon, near Southampton, July 15, 1800. His first publication was a pamphlet, entitled “Thoughts on the Proceedings of Government respecting the Trade of the West India islands with the United States of America,1784. This was followed by a “Speech delivered by him at a free conference between the council and assembly at Jamaica, held on the 25th of November 1789, on the subject of Mr. Wilberforce’s propositions in the house of commons, concerning the Slave Trade.” But his most distinguished performance is his “History, civil and commercial, of the British Colonies in the West Indies,1793, 2 vols. 4to, a work of very superior merit, and of the highest authority, particularly in the commercial part. To a new edition of this work, published in 1801, 3 vols. 8vo, and including his “History of St. Domingo,” is prefixed a short memoir of his early life, written by himself. In 1796 Mr. Edwards published “The proceedings of the governor and assembly of Jamaica, in regard to the Maroon Negroes,” 8vo. In all these works Mr. Edwards’s style is easy and elegant, and many of his remarks highly valuable as the result of long experience and observation. 1

1 Life written by himself. —Gent, Mag. 1800.