Kippis, Andrew

, an eminent dissenting divine and biographer, was born at Nottingham, March 28, 1725. His father, Mr. Robert Kippis, a silk- hosier at that town, was maternally descended from clergymen who were ejected for nonconformity, the principles of which were naturally conveyed to their posterity. His father dying when he was about five years of age, he was removed to his grandfather at Sleaford in Lincolnshire, where his talents and application during his grammatical education attracted the peculiar notice of Mr. Merrivaie, pastor of a congregation of dissenters in that town; and his views being, in consequence of his advice, directed to the profession of a dissenting minister, he was placed, at the age of sixteen, in the academy at Northampton, under the care of Dr. Doddridge. Here he prosecuted his studies with such diligence and improvement, and conducted himself with such exemplary propriety, as to conciliate the affectionate esteem and attachment of his tutor; and having completed his course, he was settled as minister of a dissenting congregation at Boston, in Lincolnshire, in September! 746. From Boston he removed to Dorking in Surrey, in 1750; and in 1753, he succeeded Dr. Hughes as pastor to the congregation in Prince’s-street, Westminster, which was his last charge. In the same year he married miss Elizabeth Bott, the daughter of a merchant at Boston, in whom he found a sensible, prudent, sprightly, and cheerful companion, and by whose attentions his mind was relieved from all family concerns; so that he was left at full leisure to prosecute the various duties which his numerous engagements devolved upon him. His settlement with the society in Westminster laid the foundation of that celebrity which he afterwards acquired, and of that extensive usefulness which distinguished his future life. Among his other public services among the dissenters, he was soon introduced into a connection with the presbyterian-fund, to the prosperity of which he was afterwards very ardently devoted and in June 1762, he became a member of Dr. Williams’s s trust, an appointment which afforded him an additional opportunity of being eminently and extensively useful in a variety | of respects. His connection with the general body of Protestant dissenting ministers, belonging to the cities of London and Westminster, and with many charitable institutions belonging to the dissenters, gave him frequent occasion to exercise his talents to their advantage.

His literary abilities and attainments were acknowledged by all who knew him. It was, therefore, natural to imagine, that when a favourable opportunity offered, he would be employed in the department of public education. Accordingly, on the death of Dr. Jennings in 1763, one of the tutors of the academy supported in London by the funds of William Coward, esq. he was appointed classical and philological tutor to that institution. In 1767, he received the degree of doctor in divinity from the university of Edinburgh; an honour, in the unsolicited grant of which the principal and professors very cordially concurred. In March 1778, he was elected a fellow of the society of antiquaries; and in June 1779, a fellow of the royal society. He was a member of the council of the former society from 1782 to 1784, and of that of the latter from 1786 to 1787. In both these societies he was a regular attendant and useful member.

Having, in 1784, quitted his connection with Mr. Coward’s academy, which, upon the resignation of the two other tutors, was discontinued, he cordially concurred with a body of dissenters, in 1786, in establishing a newinstitution in the neighbourhood of London, with a view of educating ministers and young gentlemen intended for civil life. Dr. Kippis was very assiduous and active in his endeavours to accomplish this design, from which great effects were expected; and though his other engagements rendered it very inconvenient for him to accept any official connection with it, he at length, though not without reluctance, acquiesced in the appointment to be one of the tutors of this new institution; but the distance of his residence from Hackney, where the college was fixed, and some other circumstances, induced him in a few years to withdraw from it, and, not long after, it was dissolved.

Dr. Kippis continued to prosecute his other useful labours without intermission; and till within a fortnight of his death, his friends had no reason to imagine that they were so near their close. In the course of the summer, a few weeks before his death, he took a long journey on public business, and returned, as his fellow-travellers | apprehended, with recruited spirits and established health; and they were equally surprised and grieved when they heard that he was confined to his bed with a fever, which baffled the skill of the most eminent physicians, and was hastily advancing to the fatal crisis. His disorder was of such a nature, that he found himself both disinclined and unable to make any exertion, or to converse much even with his most constant attendants. There is reason, however, to believe, that in a very early stage of his disorder he was not without apprehensions of its terminating in his dissolution. The last public service he performed was on the 20th of September, 1795 and on Thursday evening, the 8th of October, he expired, in the seventy- first year of his age.

As an author, Dr. Kippis commenced his career in early life, as many other young men have done, by-contributing to the magazines of the time, particularly the Gentleman’s Magazine. He afterwards became a more constant writer in the Monthly Review. His articles were chiefly historical and theological, with occasional strictures on works of general erudition. He also furnished a periodical publication, called the “Library,” of which he was the editor, with several valuable papers. He laid the foundation of the “New Annual Register.” “The History of Ancient Literature,” and the “Review of modern Books,” were, at its first commencement, written by him, and continued to the year 1784 inclusive. He was also the author of the “Review of the Transactions of the present Reign,” prefixed to the Register for 170; and of the “History of Knowledge, Learning, and Taste, in Great Britain,” prefixed to the succeeding volumes, to the year 1794 inclusive. During the application of the dissenting ministers to parliament, for the enlargement of the Act of Toleration, in 1772, to which he devoted much of his time and attention, he published a pamphlet, vindicating that measure, as to the matter, manner, and time of it, entitled, “A Vindication of the Protestant Dissenting Ministers, with regard to their late Application to Parliament,” 8vo.

Soon after his admission into the Royal Society, he published a pamphlet, entitled “Observations on the late Contests in the Royal Society,1784, 8vo, with a view of allaying the animosities that subsisted in that body, which produced a good effect. His intimate connection with sir | John Pringle, bart. who was formerly president of the royal society, led Dr. Kippis, after his decease, to republish his “Six Discourses, delivered at the assignment of sir Godfrey Copley’s medal,” to which he has prefixed a valuable life of the author, 1783, 8vo. At the close of the American war he published a political pamphlet, formed from materials which were communicated to him by persons in office, and designed to justify the peace, which was entitled “Considerations on the Provisional Treaty with America, and the Preliminary Articles of Peace with France and Spain.” He also published several single discourses, which were delivered on particular occasions; some of which are reprinted in his volume of sermons, 1794. His sentiments as a divine were originally Calvinistic, but approached in his latter days to those of the modern Socinians, or Unitarians as they affect to be called. To these works we may also add his account of the “Life and Voyages of captain Cook,1788, 4to his new edition of “Dr. Doddridge’s Lectures,” with a great number of additional references; his life of Doddridge, prefixed to a new edition of his Exposition of the New Testament, 1792; his “Life of Dr. Lardner,” prefixed to the complete collection of his works, in 11 vols. 8vo, 1788; “An Address delivered at the Interment of Richard Price, D. D. F. R. S. &c.1791 and an “Ordination Charge,1788, 8vo. He also assisted in selecting and preparing “A Collection of Hymns and Psalms, for public and private Worship,1795, 8vo and 12mo, which is used in some places of worship among the dissenters. But the work to which Dr. Kippis devoted his principal attention, for many of the last years of his life, was the “Biographia Britannica.” “His indefatigable industry in collecting materials for it, his access to the best sources of information, his knowledge of men and books, his judgment in selecting and marking every circumstance that could serve to distinguish talents and character, and the habit which he had acquired‘, by long practice, of appreciating the value of different works, qualified him in a very high degree, for conducting this elaborate performance.” He did not, however, live to carry on this edition of the “Biographia” farther than to about a third part of the sixth volume, which was destroyed in the fire at Mr. Nichols’s premises.

Notwithstanding those qualifications for this great undertaking just mentioned by his biographer, and for which | we are as much disposed to give him credit as the most zealous of his admirers, we have often taken occasion, as our readers may perceive, to differ from him in his estimate of many eminent characters. Whether from timidity, or a false notion of liberality of sentiment, Dr. Kippis was accustomed to yield too much to the influence of connexion and of private friendship; to give the pen out of his own hand, and to suffer the relatives or interested admirers of certain persons to write lives according to their own views, in which opinions were advanced that we are certain could not have his sincere concurrence. Nor do we discern that judgment in the coriduct of this work for which he has been so highly praised, and for want of which, had he lived to so distant a period, it must necessarily have been protracted to an immense extent, if written upon the same plan. Instead of re-writing, or methodizing those lives which were injudiciously or incorrectly given in the first edition of the “Biographia,” his practice was to give the article verbatim as it stood in that edition, and then to make his additions and corrections; thus giving the whole the air of a tedious controversy between himself and the preceding editors. Many of his additions, likewise, were of that redundant nature, that no reasonable prospect could be entertained of the termination of the work. Indexes to volumes of sermons, with the texts, extracts of opinions from magazines and reviews (many of which he had himself written in these journals), and from every author that had incidentally mentioned the object of his narrative, threatened, what in fact took place, that this work, with all the assistance he had, was little more than begun after the lapse of twenty years from his advancing age became more irksome as he proceeded and at last was left in a state which forbids all hope of completion upon his plan. Had it, however, been entrusted to him at an earlier period of life and vigour, we are persuaded that his many qualifications for the undertaking would have been exerted in such a manner as to obviate some, at least, of these objections, which we notice with reluctance in the case of a man whom we knew personally and highly respected. We can cordially, therefore, as far as respects his personal character, acquiesce with his affectionate biographer, who states that “his mild and gentle temper, his polished manners, his easy and graceful address, and a variety of external accomplishments, prepossessed those | who first saw him in his favour, and could not fail to conciliate esteem and attachment on a more intimate acquaintance. These qualities contributed very much to recommend him to persons in the higher ranks of life, to several of whom he had occasional access; and qualified him, in a very eminent degree, for the situation in which he exercised his ministerial office. But he was no less condescending, courteous, and affable to his inferiors, than to those who occupied superior stations. Dr. Kippis had nothing of that austerity and reserve, of that haughtiness and superciliousness, of that parade and self-importance, and ostentatious affectation of dignity, which forbid access, and which mar the freedom and the pleasure of all the social intercourses of life.

He had been accustomed from his youth to early rising; and he thus secured to himself a certain portion of time, during which he was not liable to be interrupted by any foreign avocations. This habit was no less conducive to his health than to the discharge of his various literary and professional obligations. The natural powers of his mind were cultivated with an assiduity and perseverance of application, in which he had few superiors, and not many equals. They had been habituated through life to regular and constant exercise, and had acquired strength and vigour from, use. He was never hurried and distracted by the variety of his literary pursuits; and though he had many engagements which required his attention, and which diverted his mind from the objects of study to which he was devoted, he never seemed to want time. Every kind of business was referred to its proper season. By a judicious arrangement of his studies as well as of his other occupations, the number and variety of which he never ostentatiously displayed, and by the punctuality of his attention to every kind of business in which he was employed, he avoided confusion; he retained on all occasions the possession of himself; and he found leisure for reading and writing, and for all his literary avocations, without encroaching on that time which he appropriated to his professional duties and social connexions.

Perhaps few persons ever read so much, and with such advantage to themselves and others, as Dr. Kippis. He informed the present writer, that he once read, for three years, at the rate of sixteen hours a day; and one of the works which he read entirely through was the “General | Dictionary,” in ten volumes folio. This, he added, laid the foundation of his taste and skill in biographical composition.

The studies in which Dr. Kippis principally excelled, were those of the classics, the belles-lettres, and history; beside those which were immediately connected with his profession. He had diligently studied the history of his own country, and the principles of the British constitution. To these he was zealously attached, and these he ably defended. Yet, as a protestant dissenter, he did not entirely escape the suspicion, in which almost the whole body of protestant dissenters was involved, of being disaffected to the constitution, although in his case it was unjust. He was, indeed, a warm advocate of civil and religious liberty; and he lamented, in common with some of the best and wisest of men, the existence of certain acknowledged abuses; but he was no friend to that wild theory and indiscriminate innovation, which then threatened the desolation of Europe; and while he wished for a reformation of abuses in a peaceable, legal, and constitutional way, it was still his opinion, that the British constitution, with all its defects (and what contrivance of human wisdom can be perfect?), was admirably calculated to preserve rational liberty, and to continue productive of national ’prosperity. With these sentiments, when he apprehended that certain political societies, with which he had long associated, were going too far, he withdrew his name; but he never abandoned the principles upon which his first connection with them was founded. 1

1 Dr. Res’s Funeral Sermon for Dr. Kippis. and his Cyclopædia, -—Gent. Mag. LXV.LXV I. and LXXI.