Hunt, Thomas

, a learned Hebraist, and Regius professor of Hebrew, Oxford, was horn in 1696, but where or of what parents we have not been able to learn, or indeed to recover any particulars of his early life. He was educated at Hart-hall, Oxford, where he proceeded M. A. in Oct. 26, 1721, and was one of the first four senior fellows or tutors, when the society was made a body corporate and politic under the name of Hertford college; and he took his degree of B. D. in 1743, and that of D. D. in 1744. His first literary publication, which indicates the bent of his studies, was “A Fragment of Hippolytus, taken out of two Arabic Mss. in the Bodleian library,” printed in the fourth volume of “Parker’s Bibliotheca Bibiica,1728, 4to. In 1738* he was elected Laudian professor of Arabic, which he retained the whole of his life, and was succeeded by the late Dr. Joseph White. In the following year he delivered in the schools, a Latin speech “De antiquitate, elegantia, utilitate, Linguae Arabicae,” published the same year; and another “De usu Dialectorum Orientalium, ac praecipue Arabicae, in Hebraico codice interpretando,” which was published in 1748. In 1746 he issued proposals for printing “Abdollatiphi Historias Ægypti compendium,” with a full account of that work, which, however, he never published. The subscribers were recompensed by receiving in lieu of it his posthumous “Observations on the Book of Proverbs,” edited by Dr. Kennicott after his death.

In 1747, Dr. Hunt was appointed regius professor of Hebrew, and consequently canon of the sixth stall in Christ church. He had in 1740 been elected a fellow of the royal society, and was also a fellow of that of antiquaries. In 1757, as we have noticed in the life of bishop Hooper, he published the works of that prelate, in the preface to which he represents himself as “one who had received many obligations from his lordship, was acquainted with his family, and had been formerly intrusted by him with the care of publishing one of his learned works,” viz. “De Benedictione patriarchs Jacobi, conjecturae,” Oxon. 1728, 4to, | by the preface to which it appears that bishop Hooper was one of his early patrons. Of this only 100 copies were printed as presents to friends, but it is included in the bishop’s works.

Dr. Hunt’s epistolary correspondence both at home and abroad, was considerable. Some of his letters are to be found in “Doddridge’s Letters,” published by Stedman. He frequently mentions his “Ægyptian History,” and his “attendance on Abdollatiph,” as engrossing much of his time. He also highly praises Dr. Doddridge’s “Rise and Progress of Religion,” and his “Life of colonel Gardiner.” In 1759 Dr. Kennicott dedicated his second volume on the “State of the printed Hebrew text of the Old Testament” to his much respected friend Dr. Hunt, to v.hom he stood “indebted for his knowledge of the very elements of the Hebrew language.” Anquetil du Perron, the French orientalist, having made some unhandsome reflections on Dr. Hunt, the celebrated sir William Jones, then a student at Oxford, repelled these by a shrewd pamphlet, published in 1771, entiled “Lettre a monsieur A[nquetil du P(erron) dans laquelle est compris l’examen de sa traduction des livres attribues a Zoroastre.

Among Dr. Hunt’s intimate friends was Dr. Gregory Sharpe, who sought his acquaintance and highly prized it, and their correspondence was frequent and affectionate. Dr. Hunt not only promoted Dr. Sharpe’s election into the royal society, but was a liberal and able assistant to him in his literary undertakings. When, however, Dr. Sharpe published his edition of Dr. Hyde’s Dissertations in 1767, no notice was taken of these obligations; and the reason assigned is Dr. Hunt’s having declined a very unreasonable request made by Dr. Sharpe, to translate into Latin a long English detail of introductory matter. Such treatment Dr. Hunt is said to have mentioned “to his friends, with as much resentment as his genuine good-nature would permit.” This very learned scholar, who had long been afflicted with the gravel, died Oct. 31, 1774, aged seventyeight, and was buried in the north aile joining to the body of the cathedral of Christ-church, with an inscription expressing only his name, offices, and time of his death. His library was sold the following year by honest Daniel Prince of Oxford. In that same year Dr. Kennicott pub.­lished a valuable posthumous work of his friend, entitled “Observations on several passages in the Book of Proverbs, | with two Sermons. By Thomas Hunt,” &c. 4to. A considerable part of this work was printed before his death; and the only reason given why he himself did not finish it, was, that he was remarkably timorous, and distrustful of his own judgment; and that, in his declining years, he grew more and more fearful of the severity of public criticism, for which he certainly had little cause, had this been his only publication. His character, as an Orientalist, had been fully established by his former works; and he justly retained it to the close of his life, leaving the learned world only to regret that he did not engage in some gra-id and critical work, or that he did not complete an edition of Job which he bad long intended. 1


Gent. Mag. LXXI. Doddridge’s Letters. Nichols’s Bowyer. ms correspondence with Dr. Shape, in the possession of the Editor.