Leland, Thomas

, a learned uivine and translator, the son of a citizen of Dublin, was born in that city in 1722. The first rudiments of classical education he received at the seuool kept by the celebrated Dr. Sheridan, whose talents and success in forming excellent scholars, were then well known. In 17^7 he entered a pensioner in Trinity college; and in 1741 was elected a scholar commenced bachelor of arts in 1742, and was a candidate for a fellowship in 1745, in which he failed at this time, but succeeded the following year by the unanimous voice of the electors, On bein^ thus placed in a state of independence, he did not resign himself to ease and indolence, but was conspicuous for the same ardent love of knowledge which appeared in the commencement of his studies, and was predominant throughout his whole life. In 1748 he entered into holy orders, and from a deep sense of the importance of his profession, drew up a discourse “On the helps and impediments to the acquisition of knowledge in religious and moral subjects,” wtiich was much admired at that time, but no copy is now to be found In 1754, in conjunction with Dr. John Stokes, he published, at the desire of the university, an edition of the “Orations of Demosthenes,” with a Latin version and notes, which we do not find mentioned by any of our classical bibliographers, except Harwood, who says it is in 2 vols. 12mo. In 1760 Dr. Leiand published the first volume of his English “Translation of Demosthenes,” 4to, with notes critical and historical; the second volume of which appeared in 1761, and the third in 1770. This raised his reputation very high as a classical | scholar and critic, and public expectation was farther gratified in 1758 by his “History of the Life and Reign of Philip king of Macedon, the father of Alexander,” 2 vols. 4to. His attention to the orations of Demosthenes and Æschmes, and to Grecian politics, eminently qualified him for treating the life of Philip with copiousness and accuracy. After this he proceeded with translations of Æschines, and the other orations of Demosthenes. In 1762, he is supposed to have written, although he never formally avowed it, the ingenious historical romance of “Longsword, earl or Salisbury.

In 1763, he was appointed by the board of senior fellows of Trinity college, professor of oratory. His course of study, and the labour he had bestowed on his translations, had furnished turn with a perspicuous and energetic style, which he displayed both in the professor’s chair and in the pulpit, being the most admired preacher of his time in Dublin; nor was he less esteemed for his talents as a controversial writer, of which he now afforded a specimen. Bishop Warburton having noticed in his “Doctrine of Grace,” the argument used by infidel writers against the divine inspiration of the New Testament, from its want of purity, elegance, &c. opposed this opinion by some of his own which appeared equally untenable; namely, 1. That the evangelists and apostles, writing in a language, the knowledge of which had been miraculously infused, could be masters of the words only, and not of the idioms; and therefore must write barbarously. 2. That eloquence was not any real quality; but something merely fantastical and arbitrary, an accidental abuse of human speech. 3. That it had no end but to deceive by the appearance of vehement inward persuasion, and to pervert the judgment by inflaming the passions; and that being a deviation from, the principles of logic and metaphysics, it was frequently vicious. Dr. Leland quickly perceived the danger of these positions, and in 1764 published “A Dissertation on the principles of human Eloquence; with particular regard to the style and composition of the New Testament; in which the observations on this subject by the lord bishop of Gloucester, in his discourse on the Doctrine of Grace, are distinctly considered; being the substance of several lectures read in the oratory school of Trinity college, Dublin,” 4to. In this he refuted Warburton’s positions in a candid and liberal manner, but was attempted to be answered by Dr. | Hurd (without his name), in a manner grossly illiberal and unmanly, from which Dr. Hurd could derive no other advantage than that of flattering Warburton; and from the manner in which he notices his controversial tracts (See Hurd, vol. Xvhl p. 342) in the latter part of his life, it would appear that he was himself of this opinion. Dr. Leland published a reply to Dr. Hurd, in which, by still preserving the dignity of the literary character, he gained, in manners as well as argument, a complete victory over his antagonist.

In 1765, through the suggestion of Dr. Leland, the university of Dublin bestowed on Dr. Johnson their highest honour, by creating him doctor of laws, a favour which he acknowledged in a letter to Dr. Leland, which may be seen in the last edition of Boswell’s Life. In 1768, Dr. Leland was appointed chaplain to lord Townsend, lord lieutenant of Ireland and his friends entertained hopes that his merits would have raised him to the episcopal bench but he obtained only in that year the prebend of Rathmichael, in the cathedral church of St. Patrick, Dublin, united with the vicarage of Bray, both of small value, but tenable with his fellowship. In 1773, appeared his “History of Ireland, from the invasion of Henry II. with a preliminary discourse on the ancient state of that kingdom,” 3 vols. 4to. The merit of this work has been disputed by critics. It may be pronounced, however, an elegant sketch of Irish history, and calculated for common use; but he appears to have taken no pains to consult original materials, and therefore has brought very little accession to our knowledge of Irish affairs.

Dr. Lclund’s other publications in his life-time were only a few occasional sermons, of greater merit as to manner and matter than the three volumes of sermons printed after his death, which have the disadvantage of not being prepared for the press. He died in 1785. His fame rests on his “Life of Philip,” his “Demosthenes,” and his “Dissertation upon Eloquence.” The “Life of Philip,” says an eminent living scholar, “contains many curious researches into the principles of government established among the leading states of Greece; many sagacious remarks on their intestine discords; many exact descriptions of their most celebrated characters; together with an extensive and correct view of those subtle intrigues, and those ambitious projects, by which Philip, at a favourable crisis. | gradually obtained an unexampled and fatal mastery over the Grecian republics. In the translation ofDemosthenes,“Leland unites the man of taste and the man of learning; and shews himself to have possessed, not only a competent knowledge of the Greek language, but that clearness in his own conceptions, and that animation in his feelings, which enabled him to catch the real meaning, and to preserve the genuine spirit of the most perfect orator that Athens ever produced. Through the” Dissertation upon Eloquence,“and the” Defence“of it, we see great accuracy of erudition; great perspicuity and strength of style; and above all, a stoutness of judgment, which, in traversing the open and spacious walks of literature, disdained to be led captive.1

1 Life prefixed to his “Sermons.” Europ. Mag. for August 1799. Nichols’s Bowycr. Warburton’s Letters to Hurd. Eoiwdl’t Life of Johuson,