Rundle, Thomas

, LL. D. an English divine, and bishop of Derry in Ireland, was born in the parish of Milton-Abbot, near Tavistock, in Devonshire, about 1686, of what family is not known. He was educated at the freeschool of Exeter, under the care of Mr. John Reynolds, uncle to the celebrated painter sir Joshua Reynolds. In 1702 he was removed to Exeter college, Oxford, and about this time his friend and fellow collegian, Joseph Taylor, esq. (father of Thomas Taylor, of Denbury, esq.) introduced him to Mr. Edward Talbot, of Oriel college, the second son of Dr. William Talbot, at that time bishop of Oxford. This event was of great importance in his future life, as it secured him the friendship and patronage of the Talbot family, to whom he owed all his promotion. Recommenced bachelor of civil laws in July 1710, and two years afterwards became acquainted with the celebrated Whiston, and was inclined to adopt his notions as to reviving what he called primitive Christianity. Mr. Whiston, who has given us many particulars respecting bishop Rundie in his “Memoirs of his own Life,” says that Mr. Rundie, before he entered into holy orders, became so disgusted at the corrupt state of the church, and at the tyranny of the ecclesiastical laws, that he sometimes declared against obeying them, even where they were in themselves not unlawful, which, adds Whiston, “was farther than 1 could go with him.” The truth seems to have been, as stated by bishop Rundle’s late biegrapher, that the singular character of Whiston, his profound erudition, and disinterested attachment to the doctrines of Arius, supported by an ostensible love of truth, were likely to attract the notice of young men who, in the ardour of free inquiry, did not immediately perceive the pernicious tendency of their new opinions.

Soon after Mr. Rundle’s acquaintance with bishop Talbot became an intimacy, he was ordained by him in 1718, and published a discourse on Acts x. 34, 35. In 1720 he was promoted by that prelate, on his removal to Salisbury, to the archdeaconry of Wilts; and upon the demise of Mr. Edward Talbot, in the same year, was constituted treasurer of the church of Sarum. These were the first | bounties of his munificent patron, who retained him from this time-as his domestic chaplain, and particularly delighted in his elegant manners and brilliant conversation. When bishop Talbot was translated to Durham, he continued Mr. Rundle of his household, and on Jan. 23, 1721, collated him to the first stall in that cathedral but on Nov. 12, in the following year, he was removed to the twelfth prebend He bad likewise the valuable mastership of Sherborne hospital, an appointment incompatible with the cure of souls, but which, it will appear from the foregoing list of preferments, he had never undertaken. If any period of his life afforded him more than ordinary satisfaction, it was this. He was esteemed, in a degree far beyond what is usually to be attained in friendships between persons of unequal rank, by the great and good family who patronised him. He had opportunities of gratifying his literary propensities, by frequent conversations with the first in almost every branch of science, and by the most select epistolary correspondences. He became particularly known at this time to the republic of letters by the liberal support he gave to Thomson, upon his publishing his “Winter,” whose acquaintance he instantly sought; and whom, having recommended to lord chancellor Talbot as a proper person to superintend his son’s education during the grand tour, Thomson found himself on his return rewarded by a lucrative appointment. On July 5, 1723, he had proceeded LL. D. as necessary to the dignities he enjoyed, and was associated with Dr. Seeker, afterwards archbishop of Canterbury, as resident chaplain at the palace at Durham.

When bishop Talbot died, in 1730, his son, the lord chancellor, particularly distinguished Dr. Rundle as his friend, and entertained him on the same terms as his father had done. The first effort, however, which his lordship made for his advancement was attended with very extraordinary consequences, and formed the basis of a controversy of considerable warmth, although not of long duration. In Dec. 1733, the see of Gloucester becoming vacant by the death of Dr. Sydall, the lord chancellor solicited that preferment for his friend Dr. Rundle, but was refused. Dr. Edmund Gibson, bishop of London, had at this time the greatest weight in ecclesiastical appointments, and had lon4 entertained doubts of the soundness of Dr. Rundle’s principles. This could not have arisen from his former intimacy with Whiston, and his forbearance of Chubb, | the professed foes of modern episcopacy, but is said to have proceeded from information given him by Mr. Venn, minister of St. Antholin’s, who reported an improper conversation held by Dr. Rundle in his presence, which Dr. Rundle afterwards declared he never had held, and that the obnoxious words must have been used by some other person in company. Dr. Gibson, however, peremptorily declared against the admission of a suspected deist to the sacred bench, and lord Talbot, we are told, after ably asserting the injustice of the charge, and detecting the sinister means that were made use of to support it, withdrew his petition with disdain.

All this could not be [known without exciting considerable interest in the public mind. In a few weeks a pamphlet appeared, entitled “Reasons alledged against Dr. Rundle’s promotion to the see of Gloucester,” &c. This was written by Dr. Sykes, and followed by several other pamphlets, of which Dr. Disney, in his “Life of Sykes,” has given a list of ten. Even Whiston vindicated his old friend in a very candid manner. Perhaps his best vindication is in a letter to Mr. Duncombe, originally published in “Hughes’ s Correspondence,” which Dr, Rundle wrote in the confidence of friendship, and in which he appears to use no disguise. As to Dr. Sykes’s pamphlets, they evidently are written more with a view to raise a clamour against Dr. Gibson, than to serve the interest of Dr. Run-? die. Dr. Gibson, in his causes for rejecting Dr. Rundle, might have been misinformed, and we trust he was so; but they who accuse him of excessive bigotry, would do well to recollect, that he was the promoter of Dr. Hoadly to the bishopric of Winchester.

The issue of this matter, however, was, that the bishop of London proposed Dr. Benson, the friend of Dr. Rundle, for the vacant see of Gloucester, and Dr, Rundle was soon after promoted to the. lucrative bishopric of Derry in Ireland, to which he was consecrated February 1734-5. The aspersions thrown on his character in England had by this time reached Ireland, and created great discontent at the appointment; but a residence of a few years, and repeated acts of public munificence and private generosity, gradually endeared him to the people of Ireland. He died at his palace in. Dublin April 14, 1743, scarcely sixty years of age. Having survived the nearer connections of his own family, he left his property, amounting to 20,000^, | principally to the hon. John Talbot, second son to the chancellor. His person is said to have been slender, and not inelegantly formed. As to his character as a man, he appears to have been distinguished by many virtues, and by some weaknesses. His biographer says, he was precipitate in forming friendships, and as ready to relinquish them; a character by no means amiable; but for which, perhaps, some excuse might be formed, if we were made acquainted with the nature of his friendships. Unsuspicious men often contract friendships which, upon a closer inspection, they find unworthy and untenable; and this may happen before years have accumulated experience, if not without blame, at least with some excuse; and perhaps Dr. Rundle did not always suffer himself to be deceived. His character as a divine, we see, once laboured under suspicion, and if we except his own declaration, it was principally vindicated by those who were not very friendly to the church. The attestations of Pope and Swift can add little to his reputation. There was nothing, however, in his public conduct subsequent to the clamour raised against him, which could be censured; and the last letter he appears to have written, a little before his death, to archdeacon S. breathes the language of genuine piety.

Of his works, we have nothing, except four occasional sermons, one of which we have mentioned; a second was preached in England, and the other two in Ireland, in 1734, 1735, and 1736. In 1790, appeared “Letters of the late Thomas Ilundle, LL. D,” &c. to Mrs. Barbara Sandys, of Miserden, in Gloucestershire, with introductory “Memoirs, by James Dallaway, M. A. of Trinity-college, Oxford,” 2 vols. 12mo. To these memoirs we are indebted for the facts In this sketch. The letters are entertaining, and display much kindness of disposition but are not otherwise of superior merit. 1

1 Metpoirs as above.