Hollis, Thomas

, esq. of Corscombe in Dorsetshire; a gentleman whose “Memoirs.” have been printed in two splendid volumes, 4to, 1780, with a considerable number of plates by Bartolozzi, Basire, and other engravers of eminence, and an admirable profile of himself in the frontispiece, was born in London, April 14, 1720; and sent to school, first at Newport in Shropshire, and afterwards at St. Alban’s. At 14, he was sent to Amsterdam, to learn the Dutch and French languages, writing, and accompts; stayed there about fifteen months, and then returned to his father, with whom he continued till his death in 1735. To give him a liberal education, suitable to the ample fortune he was to inherit, his guardian put him under the tuition of professor Ward, whose picture Mr. Hollis presented to the British Museum; and, in honour of his father and guardian, he caused to be inscribed round a valuable diamond ring, Mnemosynon patris tutorisque. He professed himself a dissenter; and from Dr. Foster and others of that persuasion, imbibed that ardent love of liberty, and freedom of sentiment, which strongly marked his character. In Feb. 1739-40, he took chambers in Lincoln’s-Inn, and was admitted a law-student; but does not appear ever to have applied to the law, as a profession. He resided there till July 1748, when he set out on his travels for the first time; and passed through Holland, Austrian and French Flanders, part of France, Switzerland, Savoy, and part of Italy, returning through Provence, Britanny, &c. to Paris. His fellow-traveller was Thomas Brand, esq. of the Hyde in Essex, who was his particular friend, and afterwards his heir. His second tour commenced in July 16, 1750; and extended through Holland to Embden, Bremen, Hamburg, the principal cities on the north and east side of Germany, the rest of Italy, Sicily, and Malta, Lorrain, &c. The journals of both his tours are said to be preserved in manuscript.

On his return home, he attempted to get into | parliarnent; but, not being able to effect this without some small appearance of bribery, he turned his thoughts entirely to other objects. He began a collection of books and medals; “for the purpose,” it is said, “of illustrating and upholding liberty, preserving the memory of its champions, rendering tyranny and its abettors odious, extending art and science, and keeping alive the honour due to their patrons and protectors.” Among his benefactions to foreign libraries, none is more remarkable than that of two large collections of valuable books to the public library of Berne; which were presented anonymously as by “an Englishman, a lover of liberty, his country, and its excellent constitution, as restored at the happy Revolution.Switzerland, Geneva, Venice, Leyden, Sweden, Russia, &c. shared his favours. His benefactions to Harvard-college commenced in 1758, and were continued to the amount of 1400l. His liberality to individuals, as well as to public societies, are amply detailed in the “Memoirs” abovementioned. In Aug. 1770, he carried into execution a plan, which he had formed five years before, of retiring into Dorsetshire; and there, in a field near his residence at Corscombe, dropped down and died of an apoplexy, on New-year’s-day, 1774. The character of this singular person was given, some time before, in one of the public prints, in the following, somewhat extravagant terms. “Thomas Hollis is a man possessed of a large fortune: above half of which he devotes to charities, to the encouragement of genius, and to the support and defence of liberty. His studious hours are devoted to the search of noble authors, hidden by the rust of time; and to do their virtues justice, by brightening their actions for the review of the public. Wherever he meets the man of letters, he is sure to assist him: and, were I to describe in paint this illustrious citizen of the world, I would depict him leading by the hands Genius and distressed Virtue to the temple of Resvard.

If Mr. Hollis had any relations, his private affections were not as eminent as his public spirit, for he left the whole of his fortune to his friend T. Brand, esq. who, on that account, took the name of Hollis, and was as violent a 2ealot for liberty as his patron, although less pure in his practice. In 1764, Mr. HolSis sent to Sidney-college, Cambridge, where Cromwell was educated, an original portrait of him by Cooper; and, a fire happening at his | lodgings in Bed ford -street, in 1761, he calmly walked out, taking an original picture of Milton only in his hand. A new edition of “Toland’s Life of Milton” was published under his direction, in 1761; and, in 1763, he gave a’n accurate edition of “Algernon Sydney’s Discourses on Government,” on which the pains and expence he bestowed are almost incredible. He meditated also an edition of Andrew Marvell; but did not complete it. In order to preserve the memory of those patriotic heroes whom he most admired, he called many of the farms and fields in his estate at Corscombe by their names; and, in the middle of one of these fields, not far from his house, he ordered his corpse to be deposited in a grave ten feet deep, and the field to be immediately ploughed over, that no trace of his burial place might remain. His religious principles have been suspected, as he joined no denomination of Christians. Another of his singularities was, to observe his nominal birth-day always, without any regard to the change of style. He never took it amiss that he was charged with singularities; he owned that he affected them: “the idea of singularity,” says he, “by way of shield, I try by all means to hold out,” and in this way got rid of those who would otherwise break in upon his time, customs, and way of living. Mr. Brand Hollis, his heir, died in Sept. 1804, and bequeathed his estates in, Dorsetshire and Essex to his friend Dr. Disney. This Brand Hollis did not exactly inherit the independent principles of his benefactor; for whereas Mr. Hollis would not accept of a seat in parliament, for fear of being led into corrupt practices, Mr. Brand had no scruple to apply his fortune to acquire a seat for Hindon, and was convicted of the most scandalous bribery, and imprisoned in the King’s Bench. It is not unuseful t know of what stuff clamorous patriots are made. 1


Memoirs as above. —Gent. Mag. LXXIV. Dr. Disney has lately printed, but not published, a Memoir of Mr. Brand Hollis.