Jones, Thomas

, an eminent and learned tutor of the university of Cambridge, was born at Beriew in Montgomeryshire, June 23, 1756. His education, till he entered on his twelfth year, was confined to the instruction of a common country school, first at Beriew, and afterwards in the neighbouring parish of Kerry. During the time that he frequented the latter school, the vicar of the parish, discovering in him those talents which he afterwards so eminently displayed, advised his mother (for he lost his father at an early age) to send him to the grammar-school at Shrewsbury, where he continued nearly seven years, and was inferior to none of his schoolfellows, either in attention to study or in regularity of conduct. In May 1774, he was admitted of St. John’s college, Cambridge, and came to reside there in October following. From that time the excellence of his genius became more particularly conspicuous. He had acquired, indeed, at school, a competent share of classical learning; but his mind was less adapted to Greek and Latin composition than to the investigation of philosophical truths. At the public examinations of St. John’s college he not only was always in the first class, but was without comparison the best mathematician of his year. His first summer vacation was devoted entirely to his favourite pursuit; and at that early period he became acquainted with mathematical works, which are seldom attempted before the third year of academical study. He remained at St. John’s college till after the public examination in June 1776, when, having no prospect of obtaining a fellowship, there being already a fellow of the diocese of St. Asaph in that college, and the statutes limiting the fellowships to one from each diocese, he removed to Trinity college. Here he took his bachelor’s degree in 1779, and his superiority was so decided, that no one ventured to contend with him. The honour of senior wrangler, as it is called in academical phrase, was conceded before the examination began, and the second place became the highest object of competition. If any thing was wanting to shew his superiority, it would be rendered sufficiently conspicuous by the circumstance, that he was tutor to the second wrangler, now the learned Dr. Herbert Marsh, professor of divinity at Cambridge, who acknowledged that for the honour which he then obtained, he was indebted to the instruction of his friend. | In the same year in which Mr. Jones took his bachelor’s degree he was appointed assistant tutor at Trinity college. In Oct. 1781 he was elected fellow, and in Oct. 1787, on the resignation of Mr. Cranke, he was appointed to the office of head tutor, which he held to the day of his death. In 1786 and 1787 he presided as moderator in the philosophical schools, where his acuteness and impartiality were equally conspicuous. It was about this time that he introduced a grace, by which fellow-commoners, who used to obtain the degree of bachelor of arts with little or no examination, were subjected to the same academical exercises as other under-graduates. During many years he continued to take an active part in the senate-house examinations; but for some years before his death confined himself to the duties of college- tutor. These, indeed, were sufficiently numerous to engage his whole attention and he displayed in them an ability which was rarely equalled, with an integrity which never was surpassed. Being perfect master of his subjects, he always placed them in the clearest point of view; and by his manner of treating them he made them interesting even to those who had otherwise no relish for mathematical inquiries. His lectures on astronomy attracted more than usual attention, since that branch of philosophy afforded the most ample scope for inculcating (what, indeed, he never neglected in other branches) his favourite doctrine of final causes; for arguing from the contrivance to the contriver, from the structure of the universe to the being and attributes of God. And this doctrine he enforced, not merely by explaining the harmony which results from the established Jaws of nature, but by shewing the confusion which would have arisen from the adoption of other laws. His lectures on the principles of fluxions were delivered with unusual clearness; and there was so much originality in them, that his pupils often expressed a wish that they might be printed. But such was his modesty, that though frequently urged, he never would consent; and when he signed his will a short time before his death, he made the most earnest request to Dr. Marsh, that none of his manuscripts should be printed. But it is a consolation to know, that his lectures in philosophy will not be buried in oblivion: all his writings on those subjects were delivered to his successor in the tuition, and, though less amply than by publication, will continue to benefit mankind. The only things he ever | published were “A Sermon on Duelling,” and “An Address to the Volunteers of Montgomeryshire.” The former was published as a warning to the young men of the university, soon after a fatal duel had taken place there. The latter, which he wrote with great animation (for he was a zealous advocate of the volunteer system) was calculated to rouse the volunteers to a vigorous defence of their country.

As the admissions under him as tutor were numerous beyond example, the labour and anxiety attendant on the discharge of his duties gradually impaired a constitution which was naturally feeble. During many years he suffered from an infirmity of the breast, and when he seemed to have recovered from this complaint, was attacked by another of more dangerous tendency, an internal ulcer, which after some variations in the symptoms, and some appearance of relief, proved fatal on July 18, 1807. Being at that time in London for advice, he was, at his own desire, interred in the burial-ground of Dulwich-college.

His academical character has been already described. As a companion he was highly convivial; he possessed a vein of humour peculiar to himself; and no one told a story with more effect. His manners were mild and unassuming, and his gentleness was equalled only by his firmness. As a friend he had no other limit to his kindness than his ability to serve. Indeed his whole life was a life of benevolence, and he wasted his strength in exerting himself for others. The benefits he conferred were frequently so great, and the persons who subsisted by his bounty were so numerous, that he was often distressed in the midst of affluence. And though he was head tutor of Trinity-college almost twenty years, with more pupils than any of his predecessors, he never acquired a sufficient capital to enable him to retire from office, and still continue his accustomed benevolence.

In theology and politics Mr. Jones appears to have held some sentiments, to which his biographer adverts with so much delicacy and caution, that we cannot guess at them; when he adds, however, that “his sentiments on various speculative points underwent a material alteration,” we may infer that such an alteration was for the better. “Of his practical theology,” says Dr. Marsh, “which remained always the same, the best description which can be given is the description of his latter end. He waited the approach of death with a dignified firmness, a placid | resignation, and an unaffected piety, which are rarely equalled. Even after his eyes w,ere grown dim and his speech began to faulter, he uttered with great fervency what he had frequently repeated during the course of his illness, that prayer in the * Visitation of the Sick,‘ * Sanctify, we beseech thee, this thy fatherly correction, that the sense of my weakness may add strength to my faith and seriousness to my repentance.’ On these last words he dwelt with peculiar emphasis. About the same time he said to his surrounding friends, as distinctly as the weakness of his voice would permit, * I am conscious, no doubt, of many failings; but I believe I have employed the abilities with which God has blessed me to the advantage of my fellowcreatures. I resign myself, then, with confidence into the hands of my Maker.' He shortly after expired, without a groan or struggle.1


Memoirs by Dr. sfc in the Atheneum, vol. III.