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Chap. II. Five methods of improving, described
Chap. IV. Of reading and books, with directions
Chap. V. The judgment of books, both approba-
Chap. IX. Of conversation and profiting by it,
Chap. XI. Of Socratical disputation, by question
REV. DR. ISAAC WATTS.
DR. Isaac Watts was born at Southampton, July 17, 1674. His father was the master of a boarding-school in that town, of very considerable reputation. He was a sufferer for non-conformity, in the time of Charles II. and when at one time in prison, his wife, it is said, was seen sitting on a stone near the prison door, suckling her son Isaac.
This son was a remarkable instance of early attention to books; he began to learn Latin at the age of four, probably at home, and was afterwards taught Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, by the Rev. John Pinhorne, master of the free-school at Southampton,rector of All Saints in the same place, prebendary of Leckford, and vicar of Eling in the New Forest. The proficiency he made at this school induced some persons of property to raise a sum sufficient to maintain him at one of the universities; but his determination was soon fixed to remain among the dissenters, with whom his ancestors had long been connected. In 1690, he went to an academy superintended by the Rev. Thomas Rowe, where he had for his companions, Hughes the poet, and Horte, afterwards archbishop of Tuam;
Mr. Samuel Say, afterwards an eminent preacher among the dissenters, and other persons of literary eminence. It is well-known that Dr. Watts strove to wean Hughes from his attachment to the stage. In 1693, he joined the congregation which was under the care of Mr. Rowe, as a communicant.
His application at this academy was very intense, and perhaps few young men have laid in a larger stock of various knowledge. The late Dr. Gibbons was in possession of a large volume in his hand-writing, containing twenty-two Latin dissertations upon curious and important subjects, which were evidently written when at this academy; and, says Dr. Johnson, 'shew a degree of knowledge, both philosophical and theological, such as very few attain by a much longer course of study. His leisure hours seem to have been very early occupied in poetical efforts, and particularly when, after leaving the academy in his twentieth year, he went to reside with his father at Southampton, and spent two years in reading, meditation, and prayer, to fit himself for the work of the ministry.
At the end of this time, he was invited by Sir John Hartopp to reside in his family at Stoke Newington, near London, as tutor to his son. Here he remained about four or five years; and on his birth-day, 1698, preached his first sermon, and was chosen assistant to Dr. Chauncy, minister of the congregation at Marklane. About three years after, he was appointed to succeed Dr. Chauncy; but had scarce entered on this charge, when he was so interrupted by illness, as to render an assistant necessary; and, after an interval
of health, he was again seized by a fever, which left a weakness that never wholly abated, and in a great measure checked the usefulness of his public labours.
While in this afflicting situation, he was received into the house of Sir Thomas Abney, of Newington, Knight and Alderman of London, where he was entertained with the utmost tenderness, friendship, and liberality, for the space of thirty-six years. Sir Thomas died about eight years after Dr. Watts became an inmate in his family, but he continued with Lady Ab. ney and her daughters to the end of his life. Lady Abney died about a year after him; and the last of the family, Mrs. Elizabeth Abney, in 1782.
'A coalition like this,' says Dr. Johnson, a state in which the notions of patronage and dependence were overpowered by the perception of reciprocal benefits, deserves a particular memorial; and I will not withhold from the reader Dr. Gibbons's representation, to which regard is to be paid as to the narrative of one who writes what he knows, and what is known likewise to multitudes besides.'
The passage thus elegantly alluded to is as follows: Our next observations shall be made upon that remarkably kind providence which brought the Doctor into Sir Thomas Abney's family, and continued him there till his death, a period of no less than thirtysix years. In the midst of his several labours for the glory of God and good of his generation, he is seized with a most violent and threatening fever, which leaves him oppressed with great weakness, and puts a stop at least to his public services for some years.