Heathcote, Ralph

, an ingenious English divine, and miscellaneous writer, descended of an ancient Derbyshire family, whose property was injured during the civil wars, was born Dec. 16, 1721, at Barrow upon Soar, in Leicestershire. His father was then curate of that place, but afterwards had the vicarage of Sileby in that county, and the rectory of Morton in Derbyshire. He died in 1765. His mother was a daughter of Simon Ockley, Arabic professor at Cambridge. He passed the first fourteen years at home with his father, who taught him Greek and Latin, but in April 1736, sent him to the public school of Chesterfield, where he continued five years under the rev. William Burrow, a learned man, and a very skilful teacher. In April 1741 r he was admitted sizar of Jesus college, Cambridge, and in Jan. 1745, took his degree of A. B. and soon after entered intered into holy orders. In March 1748 he undertook the cure of St. Margaret’s, Leicester, and the year after waspresented to the small vicarage of Barkby, in the | neighbourhood, which, with his curacy (worth 50l. yearly) he says made him “well to live.” In July 1748, he took his master’s degree, and at the same time withdrew his name from college, having in view a marriage with miss Margaret Mompesson, a Nottinghamshire la;iy of good family, which tie accomplished in August 1750, and whose fortune, in his estimation, made him independent. This lady died April 12, 1790.

In 1746 he published, at Cambridge, a small Latin work entitled “Historia Astronomic, sive de ortu et progrt ssu astronomic,” 8vo, a juvenile, but ingenious performance, and which seems to have made up for some little want of mathematical fame when he took his master’s degree. On this last occasion he distinguished himself most in the classics, and appears to have little disposition to mathematical and physical attainments. In 1752, while the Middietonian controversy on the Miraculous power, &c. was still raging, although Dr. Middleton himself was dead, he published two pieces, one entitled “Cursory animadversions upon the Controversy in general;” the other, “Remarks upon a Charge by Dr. Chapman.” Iii 1753 he published “A Letter to the rev. Thomas Fothergill, A. M. fellow of Queen’s college, Oxford, relating to his Sermon preached before that university, Jan. 30, 1753, upon the reasonableness and uses of commemorating king Charles’s Martyrdom,” which Mr. Heathcote endeavoured to show was neither reasonable nor useful.

These were published without his name, but his pamphlets on the Middietonian controversy attracted the notice of Dr. War-burton, who discovered the author, and sending him his compliments, offered him the place of assistant preacher at Lincoln’s Inn, with the stipend of half a guinea for each sermon. This was little, but he accepted it, as affording him an opportunity of living in London, and cultivating learned society. He accordingly removed to town in June 1753, and became one of a club of literati who met once a week, as he says, “to talk learnedly for three or four hours.” The members were Drs. Jortin, Birch, and Maty, Mr. Welstein, Mr. De Missy, and one or two more.

On the appearance of lord Bolingbroke’s works, he published in 1755, “A Sketch of lord Bollngbroke’s philosophy,” the object of which was to vindicate the moral attributes of the Deity. In the latter end of the same year, | came out, “The use of Reason asserted in matters of Religion, in answer to a Sermon preached by Dr Patten at Oxford, July 13, 1755,” whom he act used of being a Hutchinsonian; and, the year after, a Defence of this against Dr. Patten, who had replied. Dr. Home also, a friend to Dr. Patten, animadverted on Mr. Ht athcote’s pamphlet: but it seems not to have been long before all their sentiments concurred; at least, the Hutchinsonians could not blame Mr. Heathcote more than he blamed himself. “When,” says he, “the heat of controversy was over, I could not look into them (the pamphlets) myself, without disgust and pain. The spleen of Middleton, and the petulancy of Warburton, had too much infected me.” This candid acknowledgment, however, seems to justify Mr. Jones’s language in his life of bishop Home. “A Mr. Heathcote, a very intemperate and unmanly writer, published a pamphlet against Dr. Patten, laying himself open, both in the matter and the manner of it, to the criticisms of Dr. Patten, who will appear to have been greatly his superior as a scholar and a divine, to any candid reader who shall review that controversy. Dr. Patten could not with any propriety be said to have written on the Hutchinsonian plan; but Mr. Heathcote found it convenient to charge him with it, &c.” Warburton, too, who had complimented Mr. Heathcote to his face, speaks of him in a letter to Dr. Hurd (in 1757) as one whose “matter is rational, but superficial and thin spread.” He adds, “he will prove as great a scribbler as Comber. They are both sensible, and both have reading. The difference is, that the one has so much vivacity as to make him ridiculous; the other so little as to be unentertaining. Comber’s excessive vanity may be matched by H.‘s pride; which I think is a much worse quality.” In this censure the reader may perceive somewhat that will recoil upon the writer, but Heathcote, we see, lived to acknowledge what was amiss, which Warburton did not.

In 1763-4-5, Mr. Heathcote preached the Boy lean lectures, twenty-four in number, at St. James’s, Westminster, by the appointment of the trustees, archbishop Seeker and the duke of Devonshire. He published, however, only two of them, in 1763; on the “Being of a God,” which soon passed into a second edition. In 1765, on the death of his father, he succeeded to the vicarage of Sileby, and in 1766 was presented to the rectory of Sawtry-All-Saints, in Huntingdonshire 5 and in 1768 to a prebend in the | collegiate church of Southwell. “These,” he says, “in so short a compass, may look pompous; but their clear annual income, when curates were paid, and all expences deducted, did uot amount to more than 150l.” In 1771 he published “The Ireuarch, or Justice of the Peace’s Manna!,” a performance which, witii some singularities of opinion, was accounted both sensible and seasonable. He was now in the commission of the peace. A second edition of this work appeared in 1774, with a long dedication, to lord Mansfield, with a view to oppose the invectives levelled against that illustrious character in a time of political turbulence; and in 1781 he published a third edition, to which he gave his name.

In the summer of 1785 he left London, and resided for the remainder of his life principally at Southwell, of which., church he became, in 1788, vicar-general. He died May 28, 1795. He left a son, Ralph Heathcote, esq. his majesty’s minister plenipotentiary to the elector of Cologne, and to the landgrave of Hesse-Cassel, who died in Germany in 1801.

To the preceding list of Dr. Heathcote’s works, we may add that, at the request of Mr. Whiston, he wrote the life of Dr. Thomas Burnet, the learned master of the Charterhouse, prefixed to the edition of his works printed in 175y and in 1761, on the recommendation of Dr. Jortin, was engaged as one of the writers in the ftrst edition of this Dictionary, and contributed also some articles for the second, printed in 1784. In 1767 he published “A Letter to the hon. Horace Walpole, concerning the dispute between Mr. Hume and Mr, Rousseau,” 12mo, which in some of the Reviews wu*> supposed to be by Mr. Walpole himself. He also published an te Assize Sermon,*’ and a pamphlet called “Memoirs of the late contested election for the county of Leicester,1775. His “Irenarch,” and the dedication and notes, he scattered up and down, but without alteration, in a miscellaneous work, published in 1786, entitled “Sylva, or the Wood;' 1 an entertaining collection of anecdotes, &c. which was reprinted in 1783; and in 1789, he had begun anothervolume of miscellanies, including some of his separate pieces, and memoirs of himself, of which last we have availed ourselves in the preceding sketch, from Mr. Nichols’s” Literary Anecdotes." 1


Nichols’s Bowyer.—Cent. Mag. LXV. LXVI. LXXI.—Jones’s Life of Bp. Home, first edit. p. 45.—Warburon’s Letters to Hurd, 4to, p. 167.