[from Memoirs of Bishop Hildesley]
THOMAS QUAYLE, Esq.
Rev. Dr. KELLY, Vicar of Ardleigh, in Essex.
Colchester Barracks, April 6, 1798.
It is with regret, my dear sir, I must say, that after talking my memory to the utmost, I am not able to retrieve any circumstances likely to be useful to your correspondent, Mr. Butler, in his proposed life of the late excellent Dr. Hildesley. My sincere veneration for his Lordships memory, and the obligations I owed him for his partiality and services to myself, would prompt me to afford any assistance in my power to such a work; independent of the respect, which I hope it is unnecessary to say, I shall ever be happy to shew to a request of yours.
Such trifiing incidents as have made a strong impression upon my own memory, I shall give ; though with no expectation that they will be useful, otherwise than as possibly furnishing hints to you, who were on terms of familiarity with his lordship. First, let me apologize for their being trivial ; next, for their relating principally to myself. No anecdotes but those answering both descriptions can be expected to dwell on the mind of a child : and, let me say, in one word, it was only from my age of eight to eleven that I knew his lordship.
From the see being occupied, in succession, by two such men as WILSON and HILDESLEY, you well recollect in what reverence the episcopal character was once held in our native island. I clearly remember my first introduction to his lordship. It was on a winters evening, at my fathers ; governour Woods family and a large party having dined there, in company with the bishop. I felt a kind of awe, when his lordship summoned me to his chair. He took one of my hands between both his ; retaining it there, as I stood rather side-ways to his chair, for about ten minutes ; looking earnestly, and questioning me the whole time. But, I have indelibly impressed on my memory his look of benignity, . and the renewed smile accompanying every question. Something I know occurred in that conversation, which gave his lordship pleasure, and which he afterwards often repeated : What it was I have totally forgotten, and have no hope of recovering for, alas, all those to whom it could he interesting are no more. Some days after, it was announced to me by my father, that I had been invited to Bishops-Court, and was to go thither as soon as it suited his lordship, and my schooling.
I was between nine and ten when this visit was paid. By the name of the room I occupied, tis presumed I was not the first visitor of the kind it had received. It was up a long narrow stone staircase, in that part of the house denominated the Tower, (engraved, I think, in" Kings Vale-Royal") and was called " The Students Room." The family was the most regular I ever entered. An hour, nay, indeed a minute, was fixed for every thing ; and the violating these, on the part of visitors, was unpleasant to his lordship. Even his hours of exercise were, I believe, fixed. I think I recollect his horse, and a poney for me, being at the door at a certain time every second day. I dont recollect his drawing out the chariot at any time while I was there. When riding, I remember the country people dropping on one knee, and asking his blessing ; which he gave in their tongue. In the mornings he assigned me tasks, principally in Ciceros letters, I think ; in Horace, and in the Greek Testament. He made me get by heart, and then declaim with proper emphasis and action, certain odes : in particular I recollect two ; " Integer vitae, &c. to the end, and part of "Justum et teracem." When visitors of any literary attainments dropped in, I was constantly called on to repeat an ode. The civil things which, in compliment to his lordship, were said on the occasion, appeared to give him more delight than I am sure they did me. Not. having much enjoyment of the applauses bestowed on my declamation, I remember well giving a guess, when a visitor called, whether he was one before whom it was likely I should be summoned to declaim. If it was, I made my escape instantly, while compliments were passing, and before the parlour door was shut.
Still, I must have been happy there : for, after six weeks residence, or more, though there was no play fellow for me, I do not recollect having a strong desire to return home. His lordship was never angry with me, that I know of, but twice ; though I think I remember instances of my deserving his reprehension frequently : once, for overstaying my time at morning-prayers in the parlour. Another time, he had given me the Life of Charles XII. to read by myself; with an injunction, that when I came to the passage narrating the Turks attack, and Charless desperate defence of his dwelling-house, I should let him know, and read the story aloud. I was, however, too much interested in the Narrative, and had fairly read out the book, before I thought of his lordships orders. Having been, throughout life, and even then, a belluo librorum, my frequent visits to the library were found inconvenient : his lordships orderly habits were broken in upon, by books thrown on the table, or improperly replaced. I was forbidden to go there; yet full I watched my opportunities. I well recollect, in one of these furtive visits, seeing on the library table a stitched, closely written manuscript, in his handwriting, incomplete, and apparently then going on ; intitled, " The Life of CHRIST." What became of this I never heard ; but of the fact I have the most correct remembrance 2.
His lordships letter, the original of which accompanies this 3, arrived after my return to my fathers. The List of Odes to which it refers is, perhaps, irrecoverably lost. Another gift of his lordshp's, which I confess I did not treasure up so carefully as Pines Horace, was a new crown-piece 4 he one day gave me, wrapped up in white paper ; on which was written " quaesitum meritis. The occasion, I recollect, of his making me the present was this : he gave me something to translate, or get by heart ; and, knowing my idleness, fixed a time for my coming to say it.
I came to him in less than half the time ; and, as he doubted it, soon convinced him I was perfect. When next he came from his library he presented me with the crown.
The circumstances attending his lordships last malady have been mentioned to me by Mrs. Hildesley. His future biographer, I think you told me, is a relative of Mr. Gibernes ; and therefore tis probable, he already has them, from Mrs. Hildesleys Letters to Mr. Giberne
I lament, sincerely, that what I have to say is so uninteresting. Of this I am well assured ; the more is recollected of his lordship, the more will it be to his honour. A few years ago I used to visit the part of Hertfordshire in which he had resided ; but, his memory there had, in a great measure, passed away. Even some Hitchin people with whom I have conversed, recollected little more than the name. The family is now, I believe, totally extinct.
You will, no doubt, recall to mind some anecdotes of his lordships farming ; his Kirk-Michael Charity Boys ; the Museum ; Thurots Bowsprit, &c. &c. Pray, dear sir, remember me respectfully to your most amiable wife, and the young gentleman. Pardon the hurry in which this is written ; and believe me, very truly yours,
1 No such performance can now be traced. EDIT.
2 Letter LXXIII. in this collection, p. 6i8.
3 This form was his lordships customary donation, as a reward. He kept many British crown-pieces by him for the purpose ; and other persons, valuable youths in his time, still remember with pleasure these substantial proofs of their diocesans flattering approbation. Sec page 64.
4 They are amply detailed in the Narrative given by the Rev. Philip Moore. See MEMOIRS, p55 &C.