Trimmer, Sarah

, a very ingenious lady, and a zealous promoter of religious education, was the daughter of Joshua and Sarah Kirby, and was born at Ipswich, Jan. 6, 1741. Her father, known in the literary world as the author of Taylor’s “Method of Perspective made easy,” and “The Perspective of Architecture,” was a man of an | excellent understanding, and of great piety and so high was his reputation for knowledge of divinity, and so exemplary his moral conduct, that, as an exception to their general rule, which admitted no layman, he was chosen member of a clerical club in the town in which he resided. Under the care of such a parent it may be supposed she was early instructed in those principles of Christianity, upon which her future life and labours were formed. She was educated in English and French, and other customary accomplishments, at a boarding-school near Ipswich; but at the age of fourteen she left Ipswich, with her father and mother, to settle in London, where Mr. Kirby had the honour of teaching perspective to the present king, then prince of Wales, and afterwards to her majesty.

Miss Kirby, being removed from the companions of her childhood, passed her time during her residence in London in the society of people more advanced in life, and some of thtfm persons of eminence in the literary world. Among these may be numbered, Dr. Johnson, Dr. Gregory Sharpe, Mr. Gainsborough, Mr. Hogarth, &c. By Dr. Johnson she was favoured with particular notice. The circumstance which first attracted his attention, was a literary dispute at the house of sir Joshua Reynolds, respecting a passage in the “Paradise Lost,” which could not be decided. Mr. Kirby, who, as well as his daughter, was present, inquired if she had not the book in her pocket, it being a great fatourite of hers, and he probably knowing that it then made a part of her daily studies. The book was accordingly produced, and opened at the disputed part. Dr. Johnson was so struck with a girl of that age making this work her pocket companion, and likewise with the modesty of her behaviour upon the occasion, that he invited her the next day to his house, presented her with a copy of his “Rambler,” and afterwards treated her with great consideration.

As the society in which she lived whilst in London was of rather too grave a cast for so young a person, she naturally had recourse to her favourite employment for recreation, and spent much time in reading. In this pursuit she was directed by her father, and from his conversation and instruction her mind acquired a thirst after knowledge, and was gradually opened and enlarged. Drawing was another occupation of her leisure hours: to this, however, she applied rather in compliance with the wishes of her | father, than to gratify any inclination she felt tqr it. At his desire ^e went occasionally, under the care of a female friend, wit other young people, to the society for promoting Artv and once obtained a prize for the second-best drawing. Two or three miniatures, copies from larger pictures, are remaining of her painting, which, though not in the first style, are sufficiently good to show, that in this art she might have excelled, had her taste prompted her to pursue it. The knowledge of drawing, which she had acquired while young, became very useful to her when she was a mother, as it enabled her to amuse her children when in their infancy, and likewise to direct them afterwards in the exercise of their talents in that way.

About 1759, Mr. Kirby removed to Kew, upon being appointed clerk of the works in that palace, and there his daughter became acquainted with Mr. Trimmer, and at the age of twenty-one, she was united to him, with the approbation of the friends on both sides. Mr. Trimmer was a man of an agreeable person, pleasing manners, and exemplary virtues; and was about two years older than herself. In the course of their union, she had twelve children, six sons and six daughters. From the time of her marriage t?ll she became an author, she was almost constantly occupied with domestic duties; devoting herself to the nursing and educating of her children. She used to say, that as soon as she became a mother, her thoughts were turned so entirely to the subject of education, that she scarcely read a book upon any other topic, and believed she almost wearied her friends by making it so frequently the subject of conversation. Having experienced the greatest success in her plan of educating her own family, she naturally wished to extend that blessing to others, and this probably first induced her to become an author. Soon after the publication of Mrs. Barbauld’s “Easy Lessons for Children,” about 1780, Mrs. Trimmer was very much urged by a friend to write something of the same kind, from an opinion that she would be successful in that style of composition. Encouraged by this opinion, she began her “Easy Introduction to the knowledge of Nature,” which was soon completed, printed, became very popular, and still keeps its place in schools and private families. The design of it was to open the minds of children to a variety of information, to induce them to make observations on the works of nature, and to lead them up to the universal parent, the | creator of this world and of all things in it. This was followed by a very valuable series of publications, some of the higher order, which met with the cordial approbation of that part of the public who considered religion as the only basis of morality. Into the notions of a lax education, independent of the history and truths of revelation, whether imported from the French or German writers, or the production of some of our own authors, misled by the vanity of being thought philosophers, Mrs. Trimmer could not for a moment enter; and therefore in some of her later publications, endeavoured with great zeal to stop that torrent of infidelity which at one time threatened to sweep away every vestige of Christianity. She was also an early supporter and promoter of Sunday-schools, and at one time had a long conference with her majesty, who wished to be made acquainted with the history, nature, and probable utility of those schools. But the fame she derived from her meritorious writings was not confined to schools. She had the happiness of hearing that her books were approved by many of our ablest divines, and that some of them were admitted on the list of publications dispersed by the Society for promoting Christian knowledge. One of her best performances was rendered very necessary by the circumstances of the times. It was a periodical work, which she continued for some years, under the title of “The Guardian of Education.” She was led to this by observing the mischief that had crept into various publications for the use of children, which occasioned her much alarm, and she feared, if something were not done to open the eyes of the public to this growing evil, the minds of youth would be poisoned, and irreparable injury be sustained. There was indeed just cause for alarm, when it was known that the two principal marts for insidious publications of this kind, were under the management of men who had only avarice to prompt them, and were notorious for their avowed contempt for religion.

This estimable woman died suddenly, in the sixty-ninth year of her age, Dec. 15, 1810. As she was sitting in her study, in the chair in which she was accustomed to write, she bowed her head upon her bosom, and expired. Her children, who were accustomed to see her occasionally take repose in this manner, could scarcely persuade themselves that she was not sunk in sleep: and it was not till after some time that they could be made to believe that it | was the sleep of death. Her remains were deposited at the family vault at Ealing. She had survived her husband some years.

The following, we believe, is a correct list of her various publications, although we are not certain if in strict chronological order. 1. “A little Spelling-book for young Children;” 2. “Easy Lessons; a Sequel to the above;” 3. “LXIV Prints taken from the Old Testament; with a Description, in a Set of easy Lessons;” 4. “LXIV Prints from the New Testament, and Description;” 5. “LXIV Prints of Roman History, with Description;” 6. “LXIV Prints of English History, with Description;” 7. “A Comment on Dr. Watts’s Divine Songs for Children;” 8. “An easy Introduction to the Knowledge of Nature, and Reading the Holy Scriptures;” 9. “An Abridgment of Scripture History; consisting of Lessons from the Old Testament;” 10. “An Abridgment of the New Testament consisting of Lessons composed chiefly from the Gospels;” 11. “A Scripture Catechism; containing an Explanation of the above Lessons in the Style of Familiar Conversation,” in 2 vols. The four last articles were written originally for children in the lower classes of life; but they have been adopted into many schools and families, for the instruction of those of superior condition. 12. “An Attempt to familiarise the Catechism of the Church of England;” 13. “An Explanation of the Office of Baptism, and of the Order of Confirmation in the Common Prayer-book;” 14. The same, with “Questions for the Use of Teachers” 15. “A Companion to the Book of Common Prayer containing a Practical Comment on the Liturgy, Epistles, and Gospels.” This work, though principally intended for young persons, has proved satisfactory to persons of maturer years. 16. The same in 2 vols. with “Questions for the Use of Teachers;” 17. “Sacred History, selected from the Scriptures, with Annotations and Reflections.” This work is executed upon a peculiar plan, and was composed with a view of exciting in young minds an early taste for divine subjects, and of furnishing persons of maturer years, who have not leisure for the works of more voluminous commentators, with assistance in the study of the Scriptures. The historical events are collected from the various books of which the Sacred Volume is composed, and arranged in a regular series; many passages of the Prophetic writings, and of the Psalms, are interwoven with the respective parts | of the history to which they relate; and the whole illustrated by annotations and reflections, founded on the best authorities. 18. “Fabulous Histories; designed to teach the proper Treatment of Animals;” 19. “The Guardian of Education;” in 5 vols. 20. “Sermons for Familyreading, abridged from the works of eminent divines;” 21. “The Family Magazine,” 3 vols. 12ino. Her character, her train of study and occupations, and her sentiments on many interesting topics, are amply illustrated in a work published since her death, and to Wi; we are indebted for the above particulars, entitled “fe ie Account of the Life and Writings of Mrs. Trimmer, with Original Letters, and Meditations and Prayers, selected from her Journal,” 2 vols. 1814. 1


Life as above.