Wilcocks, Joseph

, a late amiable and ingenious writer, was the only son of Dr. Joseph Wilcocks, of whom we have the following particulars. He waa born in 1673, and was educated at Magdalen-college, Oxford, where he formed a lasting friendship with Mr. Boulter, afterwards primate of Ireland; Mr. Wilcocks was chosen a demy of his college at the same election with Boulter and Addison, and from the merit and learning of the elect, this was commonly called by Dr. Hough, president of the college, “the golden election.” He was ordained by bishop Sprat, and while a young man, went chaplain to the English factory at Lisbon; where, as in all the other scenes of his life, he acquired the public love and esteem, and was long remembered with grateful respect. While here, such was his sympathy and his courage, that although he had not then had the small-pox, yet when that dreadful malady broke out in the factory, he constantly attended the sick and dying. On his return to England, he was appointed chaplain to George I. and preceptor to his royal granddaughters, the children of George II. He also had a prebend of Westminster, and in 1721 was made bishop of Gloucester, the episcopal palace of which he repaired, which for a considerable time before had stood uninhabited; and thus he became the means of fixing the residence of future bishops in that see. In 1731 he was translated to the bishopric of Rochester, with which he held the deanry of Westminster. Seated in this little diocese, he declined | any higher promotion, even that of the archbishopric of York, frequently using the memorable expression t>f bishop Fisher, one of his predecessors, “Though this my wife be poor, I must not think of changing her for one more opulent.” The magnificence of the west-front of Westminster-abbey, during his being dean, is recorded as a splendid monument of his zeal for promoting public works, in suitable proportion to his station in life. He wouJd doubtless have been equally zealous in adorning and enlarging his cathedral at Rochester, had there been ground to hope for national assistance in that undertaking; but its episcopal revenues were very inadequate to the expence. He was constantly resident upon his diocese, and from the fatigue of his last Visitation there, he contracted the illness which terminated his life by a gradual decay, March 9, 1756, aged eighty-three. He was buried in a vault in Westminster-abbey, under the consistory court, which he had built the year before, by permission from the Chapter. His son erected a monument for him next to that of Dr. Pearce. He married Jane, the daughter of John Milner, esq. sometime his Britannic majesty’s consul at Lisbon, who died in her twenty-eighth year. By her he hd Joseph, the more immediate subject of the present article.

Mr. Joseph Wilcocks was born in Dean’s-yard, Westminster, Jan. 4, 1723, during the time his father was bishop of Gloucester, and a prebendary of Westminster. Jn 1736 he was admitted upon the foundation at Westminsterschool, whence he was elected to Christ-church, Oxford in 1740, and proceeded regularly to the degree of M. A. in 1747. He very early distinguished himself at college, and obtained the second of three prizes before the end of the year he entered, the first of them being gained by his friend and contemporary, Mr. Markham, afterwards archbishop of York.As his estate was considerable he chose no particular profession, but devoted his property to various acts of beneficence, and his time to study. He was particularly attentive to biblical learning, and to every thing that could promote the cause of piety. His humility and diffidence were carried rather to an extreme; and from the same excess in the sensibility of his conscientious feelings, he forebore to act as a magistrate, having for a short time undertaken it as a justice, in the county of Berks. Having in early life paid his addresses to a lady whom his | father deemed it imprudent for him to marry in point of circumstances, he submitted to parental authority, but continued unmarried ever after.

His mode of life, however, though exemplary in the highest degree, in point of conduct, is not one of those that furnish many or striking events; and we cannot better hold forth that example to the imitation of others, than in the following artless narrative of one of his old servants.

One of his very amiable qualities was to consider himself as a citizen of the world, and mankind in general as his brethren and friends; consequently, he endeavoured to do them all the good in his power. I think I may also safely say, the great rule of his life and conduct was to be a true disciple and follower of all the beneficent actions of our Saviour, and to interweave his examples into his daily exercise and practice. He used to rise early, and was a very great oeconomist of his time; labouring to keep a most exact account of all his domestic concerns, and every thing that belonged to his receipts and expenditure. Even his numerous gifts and charities, I believe,were daily committed to paper, and all looked over in the evening, and balanced, noting every error and deficiency; and if he did not perceive he had done one or more acts of charity and beneficence, he thought he had lost a dayl He was the most dutiful and affectionate son, the most kind nephew, cousin, or relation to all who stood in any degree of “kindred. To servants, workmen, and tenants, the most gentle and beneficent; and to his poor neighbours an affectionate father, paying for schooling for their children, and even erecting schools, which is, perhaps, too well known to require mentioning. When travelling, he would inquire at the inns, who was in sickness or necessity in the place, leaving money for their relief. He frequently released debtors from prison, and had great charity to beggars. He frequently sent medical assistance to the sick, and gave large sums to hospitals; when abroad, he gave large sums also to poor convents, and to the necessitous of all countries and religions. He was always ready to assist every increase or improvement of learning, witness the very large and laborious share he took in assisting the collation of the Hebrew text of the Bible, by opening many of the foreign libraries in Europe, through his interest and labour, and employing professors to collate at his own expence. His humanity to the brute creation was very great, and his | tenderness even to insects. He preserved a reverential respect for the place of his nativity, for the places where he had received his education, and for those who hail been companions of his youth; likewise fortne memory of those who had been in any way instrumental in forming his morals and perfecting his learning; and this was preserved even to their friends and posterity.

These, and many other acts of beneficence, both of a public and private nature, the latter always performed with the utmost delicacy, are specified at large in the very interesting memoirs prefixed to the last edition of his “Roman Conversations,” by Mr. Bickerstaff, the successor of Mr. Brown, the bookseller, to whom he bequeathed that edition, with an express provision, “to indemnify him from any loss which might be incurred by the expences of the first edition.” His classical taste, contracted by long reading, led him to Italy, and it appears to have been in the once “metropolis of the world,” that he laid the foundation of the “Roman Conversations,” his principal work, which may justly be recommended to the young, and indeed to readers in general. In it he separates the truth of Roman history from the errors which disfigure it, bestowing just praise on the real patriots of Rome, and equally just censure on those whose patriotism was only feigned; and distinguishing between the insidious arts of demagogues, and the integrity of true friends to the public. In nice investigations of character, he appears to be free from prejudice, attentive to truth, and often strikingly original in his remarks. The chief defect is a want of regard to style, and a prolixity of remark and digression, which perhaps will be more easily pardoned by the old than the young, fur whom the work was chiefly calculated; yet it is a work which cannot fail to be perused by every student of Roman history with the greatest advantage. It is calculated to excite religious and moral reflections on that history, and to adapt and direct the study of it to the, best and wisest purposes of a Christian education.

In the “Carmina Quadragesimalia” are many good verses written by Mr. Wilcocks, who also was the compiler of the “Sacred Exercises,” now in use at Westminsterschool. We are not informed of any other publication from his pen, except a little piece in the Philosophical Transactions, vol. liii. entitled “An Account of some subterraneous Apartments, with Etruscan Inscriptions and | paintings, discovered at Civita Turchino, in Italy.” These, we are told, were explored as here described, at the sole expence of our author.

Mr. Wilcocks died, of repeated attacks of the palsy, Dec. 23, 1791, at the close of his sixty-ninth year. He left behind him the “Roman Conversations” prepared for the press. They were composed by him, indeed, at an early period of his present majesty’s reign; but modest diffidence would not allow him to publish them in his lifetime, otherwise than by printing off a few copies, which he distributed among his intimate friends. With the hope, however, that the work might be more extensively useful, and particularly to younger minds, he gave directions that it should appear soon after his decease. Accordingly, in May 1792, the first volume was published; but, in consequence of a written injunction left by the worthy author, the second volume did not come out until a year after. In 1797, a new and much corrected edition was published by Mr. Bickerstaff, with memoirs of the author, to which we are indebted for the preceding sketch. Many particulars of Mr. Wilcocks’s life are evidently, although under some disguise, interwoven in his “Roman Conversations.1

1 Memoirs as above. Brit. Crit. vol. If. for 1793. Mantling and Bray’s Hist, of Surrey, vol. I.