||It is said that Bishop Ridley received the rudiments of his education at Newcastle school; but, as he
was removed to college in 1518, it could not be Horsley's school that he attended, as it was not founded until
many years after that time.
The famous Colonel Lilburn says, in his "Innocency and Truth Justified," a small 4to. printed in 1645,
"I was brought up well nigh ten years together in the best schools in the north, namely at Aukland and
Newcastle, in both which places I was not one of the dronesset school boys there; and besides my knowledge
in the Latin tongue, I was a little entered into the Greek also. And at Newcastle, I did not only know,
but also was known of the principal men there."
John Scott,—Earl of Eldon—Viscount Encombe—Lord High Chancellor, and Speaker of the House of
Peers—a Lord of Trade and Plantations—Official Visitor of Oriel College, Oxford; and of Pembroke and
Catherine Halls, Cambridge—an Official Trustee of the British and Hunterian Museums—High Steward of
Oxford University, and a Governor of the Charter House—D. C. L.; F. R. S; and F. S. A.—was a distinguished scholar of the Grammar-school of Newcastle upon Tyne. It is difficult to give a sketch of an eminent living character, without being accused either of detraction or of flattery: yet every writer who undertakes to record facts, ought studiously to guard against those party feelings, which convert public men into
the objects of blind admiration, or of unmerited censure. It ought not always to be left to posterity to do
justice to illustrious men.
William Scott, a respectable coal-fitter and merchant (whose widow died July 13, 1800), occupied, at the birth
of John, his youngest son, a house at the head of Love Lane in Newcastle, while the commodious house near
the bottom of the lane, now used as warehouses by Mr. Pollard, was building for him. John, who is a twin,
was born June 4, 1751, and was baptized at All Saints' church on the 4th of the following July. His twin
sister died young. Mr. Scott's other children were, William and Barbara, twins, born October 18, 1745;
Henry, late a merchant in Newcastle, born November 2, 1748; Jane, who married the late Sir Thomas Burdon, knt. born May 22, 1750, died May 8, 1822. John, the subject of this memoir, after partaking of the pure
classical fountain at the head-school in Newcastle, was sent to Oxford, where his progress was so rapid that, on
July 11, 1767, he was elected fellow of University College, though he had not then completed the 16th year of
his age. In 1771, he wrote a prize-essay "on the Advantages and Disadvantages of Foreign Travel." His former master, Mr. Moises, having procured a copy of this production, entered his school with a delighted countenance, saying to the seniors of the school, "See! what John Scott has done." Having completed his education, he was entered a student of the Middle Temple in Hilary Term, 1772. Here he pursued his studies
with the most intense application, and, after the usual noviciate, was called to the bar in 1776. He principally devoted his attention to the practice of the Courts of Equity; but, from a natural timidity, shunned
appearing at the chancery bar as a pleader, and confined himself chiefly to the business of an equity draughtsman, in which he was reputed extremely able. Finding this pursuit equally injurious to his health and
advancement in life, he determined to quit the bar, and, it is said, went so far as to sell his chambers; but,
by the earnest intreaties of his friends, he consented to resume the practice of the profession, which he now
entered into with increased activity and determination. His exertions in court were crowned with success:
he soon acquired a very extensive practice, and great reputation as an able lawyer and excellent advocate.
The writer of Strictures on the Lives of eminent Lawyers, published in 1790, says, "His speaking is of that
subtle, correct, and deliberate kind, that has more the appearance of written, than of oral, eloquence. He
branches forth his arguments into different heads and divisions, and pursues the respective parts through all
their various ramifications with such methodical accuracy, that argument seems to rise out of argument, and
conclusion from conclusion, in the most regular and natural progression; so that those who are not acquainted
with his practice, would suspect that he had studied and prepared his speeches with the most diligent attention; while others who are better acquainted with the business of the courts, feel their admiration and surprise increased from the knowledge, that a man of his extensive business, so far from studying what he shall
say, can scarce find time to glance his eye over the numerous papers that come before him. He is also
particularly distinguished for his aptitude and ingenuity of reply. His systematic mind seems to methodise
with inconceivable rapidity the arguments of his opponents. In the short space of time between the pleadings of his adversary and his reply, every thing seems digested and disposed; and his mode of replication
seems planned in the nicest order. He will frequently take up the concluding argument of his opponent; or
at other times seize upon some observation which has fallen in the middle of the adverse speech. Here he
will begin his attack; and proceeding by his usual clear and deliberate method, pursue one regular chain of
reasoning, till he has confuted, or at least replied to, every proposition advanced against him."
Mr. Scott's abilities and urbanity of manners soon attracted the notice of Lord Chancellor Thurlow, who
honoured him with his countenance in a manner extremely unusual with him. He even offered him a mastership in chancery, which Mr. Scott politely declined, wisely trusting to his fortune and industry for the
attainment of still higher honours. Events proved this determination to be judicious. In a few years, he
had more briefs than any council at the bar; and, in 1783, he procured a patent of precedency, by which he
became entitled to all the honours of the silk gown, and ranked with the king's council. In the same year,
he was introduced into parliament, being returned, through the interest of Lord Weymouth, for the borough
of Weobly, in Herefordshire. On entering the house, he acted decidedly with the Pitt party; and, in the
debate on Mr. Fox's India Bill, placed himself in opposition to Mr. Lee, the attorney-general. As a parliamentary speaker, Mr. Scott's merit was considered inferior to his professional abilities as a pleader. There
was a want of that warmth and animation—that bold declamatory vehemence, that distinguish the senatorial
from the forensic orator. His speeches were always shrewd and clear—addressed to the understanding rather
than the fancy—impressive, but not sufficiently animated.
Mr. Scott's abilities and personal intimacy with Mr. Pitt ensured his promotion. On the 28th of June,
1788, he was appointed solicitor-general, and Mr. Archibald Macdonald was advanced to be attorney-general.
When these two were presented to the king, the attorney-general received the honour of knighthood. The
officer in waiting was then ordered to bring up Mr. Scott, who begged leave to decline; but the king, with
his usual shrewdness, replied, "Pho, pho! nonsense! I will serve them both alike." Thus Mr. Scott had
"greatness thrust upon him." Shortly after, his majesty's first illness occurred; and the country was, in consequence, much agitated upon the regency question. The bill introduced by the ministry on that occasion
was drawn by Sir John Scott; and the line of conduct they pursued is also attributed to him. On the 13th
of February, 1793, he was advanced to the office of attorney-general, which he held for six years. During
this period of alarm and agitation, it fell to his lot to prosecute a number of persons for libels. He was also
obliged to indict Messrs. Hardy, Horne Tooke, and other members of the Corresponding Societies. These
memorable state trials took place at the Old Bailey, in November, 1794, when Sir John Scott's statement
of the facts and doctrines on which the indictments were founded occupied nine hours in the delivery.
Though in the execution of this duty he evinced no undue harshness, yet it certainly was not calculated to
raise his popularity. On July 18, 1799, he was appointed Chief Justice of the Court of Common Pleas, on
the resignation of Sir James Eyre; and, at the same time, was elevated to the peerage, by the title of Baron
Eldon of Eldon in the county of Durham. Shortly after, the resignation of Lord Roslyn opened his way to
the custody of the great seal, which was committed to his care on the 14th of April, 1801. On this occasion,
it is related that his late majesty presented him with a watch and seal. The latter bore the figures of Justice and Religion. In giving directions to the engraver, his majesty said, "Let not Justice have any bandage
over her eyes, as she is usually painted;—Justice ought not to be blind, but should be able to see every
thing." When the watch was given to the chancellor, it was accompanied by this address:—"I hope, my
lord, that all your decisions will be given under the constant influence of Justice and Religion." The death
of Mr. Pitt, and the consequent change of administration, produced his lordship's resignation in February,
1806: but upon the return of Mr. Pitt's friends to power, he was again appointed chancellor; from which
time, down to the present day, he has continued in the uninterrupted exercise of the duties of that great
office. At the time of his present majesty's coronation, in July, 1821, Lord Eldon was advanced in the
peerage to the dignity of Earl of Eldon.
His lordship was married early in life, and long before his extraordinary talents had begun to display
themselves, to Elizabeth, daughter of Aubone Surtees, Esq. of Newcastle upon Tyne. It was a love match,
and highly displeasing to Mr. Surtees; not because the alliance was not sufficiently respectable, but because his son-in-law had acted imprudently by marrying before he had completed his studies at college,
and was thereby prevented from taking his degrees. The issue of Lord Eldon were four sons and two
daughters. John, the eldest son, was formerly M. P. for Boroughbridge: he married, August 22, 1804,
Henrietta Elizabeth, only daughter of Sir Matthew White Ridley, Bart, and died December 24, 1805,
leaving one son, born the same month in which his father died. Mr. John Scott's widow, on the 7th of July,
1811, married William Farrer, Esq. of Lincoln's Inn, now a master in chancery. William Henry John
Scott, Lord Eldon's second son, is a Commissioner of Bankrupts, M. P. and F. R. S. Elizabeth, his eldest
daughter, married, on the 27th of November, 1807, George Stanley Repton, Esq. youngest son of the late
Humphrey Repton, Esq. of Hare Street, in the county of Essex, and Abysham, in the county of Norfolk.
Frances, his youngest daughter, married the Rev. Mr. Banks. Edward William and Henry John died young.
A great outcry has been raised against the unreasonable delays and intolerable charges in the court of
Chancery, which evils are confidently attributed to the doubts, hesitations, and delays of the Lord Chancellor.
Without examining the question whether the court of Chancery be a wise, impartial, and necessary measure
of equity and justice, it must be admitted that the internal situation of the country has been, within the last
century, so essentially changed, as to increase legal business vastly beyond the means of doing it. The great
increase in the pecuniary responsibility of the Chancellor may be inferred from the amount of monies accumulated in the hands of the accountant-general of his court, which, in 1823, amounted to £38,938,369;
though, in 1750, the balance in court was only £1,665,160. This fact, it will be admitted, indicates a vast
(though not a proportionate) increase of business. Lord Hardwicke, in three years (viz. 1749, 1750, 1751),
pronounced 12,380 judgments; but Lord Eldon, in a corresponding period (viz. 1808, 1809, 1810), delivered
20,973 judgments. Besides, the subject of this memoir frequently decides important causes on motion, which
is cheap and convenient to the suitor, though it increases the individual labour of the judge: but Lords
Hardwicke and Thurlow reserved all serious questions to a hearing. In the other branches of the Chancery
court, business has increased in a proportionate degree. Lord Hardwicke, in 20 years, issued 14,000 commissions of bankruptcy; and Lord Eldon, in a corresponding period, 40,000 commissions. Lord Hardwicke,
in 11 years 11 months, made 1398 orders: Lord Eldon, in 11 years and 4 months, made 3168 orders. Lord
Hardwicke, in nine years, from 1738 to 1746 inclusive, made 410 orders of lunacy; but Lord Eldon, in nine
years, made 2372 similar orders. Added to this, the court of Chancery has recently been burthened by a
great increase of new business, in consequence of parliament causing the purchase-money of lands, taken
under the authority of local acts for canals, navigations, aqueducts, avenues to bridges, inclosures, docks,
railways, tram-roads, opening and paving streets, supplying towns with water and gas, and other speculations, to be paid into Chancery where the titles are doubtful, there to remain until the doubtful cases be
cleared. The Lord Chancellor must also preside in the appellate jurisdiction of the House of Lords. Now,
Lord Eldon has, in 20 years, determined 29 more controverted appeals and writs of error than Lords Hardwicke, Northington, and Camden all together decided in 34 years. Even Lord Thurlow, whose vigorous
decision has been justly applauded, in 14 years (viz. 1779 to 1792) disposed of only 196 cases; while Lord
Eldon, in 14 years (1809 to 1820), determined 453 cases—greatly above twice the number. It must likewise be recollected, that the Lord Chancellor is Speaker of the House of Lords, not merely in its legal, but
in its legislative and political capacity; and that the increased demand on his time, on the latter account,
must diminish the quantity which he can dedicate to his legal duties, either in Chancery or in the Lords.
There is no account of the number of hours their lordships sit; but some approximation to a fair comparison
between the parliamentary duties imposed upon Lord Hardwicke and Lord Eldon may be made from the
following statements:—In 1750, the lords sat 52 days, and passed 40 public and 33 private acts of parliament. In 1810, the house sat 94 days, and passed 119 public and 334 private acts. These facts, which are
stated by an able writer in the Quarterly Review, incontrovertibly prove the vast increase of business which
must be performed by the Lord Chancellor; for the assistance of a Vice-chancellor, or a Master of the Rolls,
can apply only to one branch of his business. It may therefore be fairly admitted, that Lord Chancellor
Eldon has exceeded in diligence of attention, and in rapidity of decision, the most diligent and the most
rapid of his predecessors; and it is a matter of just surprise how the time and strength of one man could
accomplish so much. The arrear in business must progressively increase with the population and wealth of
the country; but the safest and best mode of effectually remedying the evil has not yet been pointed out.
From the time of Lord Bacon to the present day, the delays and expense of the court of Chancery have
been constant and fertile sources of complaint. On the contrary, all causes are quickly decided in Turkey.
"But in free states," as Montesquieu remarks, "the trouble, expense, and delays of judicial proceedings, are
the price that every subject pays for his liberty; and, in all governments, the formalities of law increase in
proportion to the value which is set on the honour, the fortune, the liberty, and the life of the subject." No
doubt, the practice of the court of Chancery might be advantageously re-modelled; but certainly Lord Eldon
is not to be blamed for not legislating on the constitution of a court over which he judicially presides. Besides, the very structure of his mind, and the manner in which it has been disciplined and exercised, must
render him averse from recommending new and bold innovations in a court which Lords Bacon, Somers,
Thurlow, Ashburton, and other illustrious judges, never attempted to reform. No one will venture to deny
that the Chancellor does most conscientiously discharge his duty, which is, "to do right to all manner of
people, poor and rich, according to the laws and usages of this realm." Sir Samuel Romilly declared, in the
House of Commons, that, "There never presided in the court of Chancery a man of more deep and various
learning in his profession; and in anxiety to do justice, that court had never seen, he would not say the superior, but the equal of the Lord Chancellor. If he had a fault, it was an over-anxiety to do justice." Basil
Montague, Esq. another opposition gentleman, who has been at the Chancery bar four-and-twenty years,
when examined before the commissioners appointed to investigate the practices of this court, said, "I cannot
but think it most unjust to confound the court with the judge. There is a spirit of improvement now moving
upon this country, which ought not, as it appears to me, to be impeded by personality. Permanent defects
in a court may perhaps be generally traced to the constitution of the court: that is, not to the judge, but to
society. The real causes of these delays are, I conceive, because the business of the court has increased for
centuries, until it has become too extensive." And again, "I should be most unjust if I did not acknowledge
his (the Chancellor's) patience to hear, his charity to hope, and his anxiety to do justice to every suitor of the
court." Mr. Thomas Hamilton, being asked, "Has not the peculiar habit of the Chancellor for the examination of papers and affidavits, and other documents, in causes, in complicated causes, been the means of
bringing subjects before him, that the parties may have the benefit of that laborious examination?" replied,
"Certainly." Mr. Bell also says, "Every day convinces me of the arduous situation of a judge, and the
caution requisite where the property (I am not now speaking of criminal jurisdiction) of his fellow-subjects,
and especially of widows, orphans, and other unprotected persons, are at stake; and anxious, as he necessarily
must be, to obtain full information before he decides a case." These authorities are sufficient to shew the
folly of turning the habit of close and deliberate investigation into a matter of ridicule or complaint.
The Lord Chancellor lately received an address from the county of Ross, for "improving the forms under
which the laws are administrated in the Scottish courts of justice—the sequel of that unbounded labour and
powerful anxiety expended by him on the decision of cases in the supreme appellative jurisdiction." Even
the Edinburgh Reviewers confess that Lord Eldon is "a great and learned lawyer, who possesses a most
subtile and refined understanding, and unites with an extraordinary degree of penetration and sagacity, a
singular patience and circumspection."—"Of all," says the editor of Collin's Peerage "who in the long lapse
of ages have filled the sacred seat on which he now sits, none ever had purer lands, none ever had a conscientious desire of equity more ardent and incessant, than Lord Eldon. The amazing expanse of his views,
the inexpressible niceness of his discrimination, his unrelaxing anxiety to do justice in every individual case,
the kindness of his heart, and the ductility of his ideas, all insure that attention to every suitor which must
necessarily obtain the unbounded admiration and attachment of the virtuous and the wise." In personal
appearance, Lord Eldon is every thing that could be expected in a supreme judge: the dignity of manner
and aspect which sit so easily upon him, the deep thought which every line of his countenance betrays, the
furrowed brow, "the huge eye-brows, overhanging eyes that seem to regard more what is taking place within
than around them, the flexibility of muscle, joined with the sternness of the first Brutus, the fulness without
bloatedness, the deep marks of venerable age, all speak the man most calculated to fill the high office of a
judge." In private life, his lordship is distinguished by politeness and affability, unassuming amongst his
friends, and easy of access to strangers.
William Scott, Baron Stowell of Stowell; D. C. L.; F. R. S.; F. S. A.; Judge of the High Court of
Admiralty of England; Vicar-general to the Archbishop of Canterbury; Master of the Faculties; Chancellor of the Diocese of London; Commissary of the City and Diocese of London; a Lord of Trade and Plantations; and a Trustee of the British Museum; was the eldest son of William Scott, of Newcastle, hoastman.
He was born at his father's country house at Hebburn, on the south side of the Tyne, below Newcastle,
whither his mother had retired in consequence of the rebellion, and where he was baptized, on October 18,
1745, the day of his birth, with his twin sister, Barbara, by the Rev. Leonard Rumney, curate of Jarrow
and Heworth. He was first placed under the tuition of the Rev. H. Moises, at the Newcastle Grammarschool, and, after a few years, sent to Oxford. Here he soon obtained a considerable degree of reputation,
and, in October, 1761, received the Duke of Newcastle's medal, as being the best classical scholar of the year,
and was also unanimously chosen scholar of Corpus Christi College, for his great proficiency in classical learning.
On December 10, 1764, he was elected fellow of University College, and became college tutor. In this capacity, his younger brother, Lord Eldon, was confided to his care; and, like the learned and accomplished
Sir William Jones, his predecessor, he superintended the education of many gentlemen who have since attained considerable eminence in the world. In June, 1767, he took his degree of M. A. and, in due course
of time, obtained the degree of doctor of civil law, and became Camden Professor of History. The lectures
delivered by Dr. Scott in the latter capacity were greatly admired, and attracted a prodigious concourse of
students. Gibbon says, "My personal acquaintance with that gentleman (Sir William Scott) has inspired
me with a just esteem for his abilities and knowledge; and I am assured that his lectures on history would
compose, were they given to the public, a most valuable treatise."
Dr. Scott's views expanded with his fame; and, in 1779, he removed to London, to try the profession of
an advocate. The celebrity which had originated at the university followed him to the metropolis; and all
the preferments of civil law were soon laid in a manner at his feet. In the autumn of 1788, he obtained the
office of king's advocate-general, and, on September 3, received the honour of knighthood, shortly after which
was added the Chancellorship of the Diocese of London. It now became necessary that he should obtain a
seat in parliament; and accordingly, in 1790, he was returned as a representative for Downton in Wiltshire.
He was re-elected for the same place in 1796; but he soon after aspired to, and obtained the honour of representing the university of Oxford. In 1799, he was appointed Judge of the High Court of Admiralty, and
sworn a member of the Privy Council. Sir William Scott uniformly supported the measures of Mr. Pitt's
administration, and advocated the cause of the church, in which, indeed, he holds a high official situation.
He defended the convention with Russia in 1791; and, in 1797, opposed Serjeant Adair's bill in behalf of
the Quakers, as affecting the rights of property. When the "Adultery Bill" came before the House of
Commons, on May 30, 1800, he opposed it in a very elaborate speech. In 1803, he introduced a bill for the
encouragement of "stipendiary curates," by making a moderate improvement in their condition; and, about
the same time, he obtained the repeal of the Clergy Non-residence Bill. By this measure, an immense
number of informations against clergymen for non-residence were quashed. Sir William also proposed the
act for regulating the Admiralty Courts in the West Indies, and a salutary bill "for the encouragement of
seamen." In 1805, he spoke against Fox's celebrated motion relative to the Catholics of Ireland; and he
strenuously opposed "the American Intercouse Bill," introduced by the new administration, and for which
he afterwards received the thanks of the committee of ship-owners of the port of London. In the years 1810
and 1811, he warmly and eloquently defended the court of Admiralty from the charge of abuses, brought
against it by Lord Cochrane. His acuteness, learning, and powerful mode of reasoning, render him a valuable advocate of the Established Church. In 1812, he defended the inferior ecclesiastical courts; but, the
same year, brought in a bill to regulate those courts. In 1814, he introduced the Clergy Penalty Bill, which
invests bishops with increased powers over their non-resident clergy. In the following year, he opposed the
bill for exempting Dissenting chapels from parochial assessments; and every session, when the subject was
agitated, was a determined opponent of the Catholic claims. At the coronation of his present majesty, Sir
William Scott was raised to the peerage by the title of Baron Stowell. On receiving this merited honour,
the proctors of the courts over which his lordship presides presented him with a congratulatory address.
Lord Stowell has been twice married: first, to Miss Bagnall, daughter of John Bagnall, Esq. of Sunning
Hill, Berkshire, and by her (who died September 4, 1809) had issue a daughter, who married Colonel
Townsend, and one son, William; and, secondly, on April 10, 1813, to Louisa Catherine, widow of John
Marquis of Sligo, and daughter and co-heiress of Richard Earl Howe, K. B. The manner in which the last
marriage is said to have been brought about is rather singular. On December 16, 1812, the Marquis of
Sligo was tried at the Old Bailey, before Sir William Scott, the Admiralty judge, assisted by Lord Ellenborough and Baron Thompson, on the charge of having seduced some seamen from his majesty's ships in the
Mediterranean, to navigate his yacht to England. After a long trial, the marquis was found guilty, and, on
being brought up to receive judgment, received a most solemn and impressive rebuke from Sir William, and
was sentenced to pay a fine of £5000, and to be imprisoned in Newgate four months. Immediately after,
the marchioness waited upon Sir William, not to upbraid him with the severity of his sentence, but to thank
him for the affecting and fatherly admonitions he had given her son. The acquaintance thus commenced
terminated in marriage.
Lord Stowell presides on the bench with dignity. His language is clear, pure, and decisive; and his sentences evinces the most profound knowledge and the nicest discrimination. "It is not only in England, but
in all parts of Europe, and indeed throughout the whole civilized world, that the ability with which Sir W.
Scott has administered the maritime law of nations is known and admired. The judgments which he has
pronounced on some of the weightiest questions of this nature ever submitted to individual decision, are not
only master-pieces of judicial eloquence and wisdom, considered separately, but, taken together, they form a
code of unexampled consistency and perfection. By a singular coincidence of good fortune, at the period
when our maritime rights were most violently assailed with clamour and sophistry, and when it became essential to our existence as a nation, that those rights should be placed on the immoveable basis of reason and
truth, at that very period was our maritime tribunal occupied by a judge, who, of all men that ever filled
such a station, was the best qualified to perform so delicate and arduous a task. He captivated the taste by
the classical beauties of his style; and he subdued the judgment by the irresistible force of his arguments.
Such are the invaluable services which Sir William Scott has rendered to his country, for the last three and
twenty years, as Judge of the High Court of Admiralty. In the more limited, but in some respects not less
interesting sphere of the Ecclesiastical Court, where he has presided still longer, he has displayed equal penetration, equal richness of mind, and equal elegance of language. Before he was a lawyer, 'he was a scholar,
and a ripe and good one;' and upon this classical foundation, it is no wonder that he soon erected an admirable superstructure both of the history and philosophy of the law. Hence that clearness and comprehensiveness of legal principle, which have caused many of his judgments to be regarded as authorities, even in foreign
schools and tribunals; a striking instance of which occurred in the case of Dalrymple against Dalrymple,
where this learned judge explained the Scottish law relating to the points at issue so ably, that his judgment
was recommended as a text-book, by the professor of that law in the university of Edinburgh."
When attempts were made, early in 1816, to establish a branch custom-house at North Shields, Sir W.
Scott and the Lord Chancellor opposed the measure. When Prince Leopold was at Newcastle, August 14,
1819, Sir William was at the same time on a visit to his relative, the late Joseph Forster, Esq. mayor. Both
he and his illustrious brother have always shewn the utmost kindness to their old friends, and the warmest
attachment to their native town. The judgment Sir William delivered in the case of Thompson, a man of
colour, in 1824, afforded a brilliant instance of his usual perspicuity and feeling, and of the undiminished
powers of his capacious mind.
Cuthbert Collingwood, Baron Collingwood of Coldburne and Hethpole, co. Northumberland, Vice-admiral
of the Red, and Commander-in-chief of his Majesty's Fleet in the Mediterranean, was the eldest son of
Cuthbert Collingwood (died February 15, 1775), descended from the Collingwoods of East Ditchburn, by
Milcha (who died in April, 1788), daughter and co-heiress of Reginald Dobson, of Barwess, Esq. co. Westmoreland. Their other children were, 2. William, baptized October 11, 1749, a captain in the royal navy,
died unmarried in the West Indies: 3. John, of Chirton, (formerly deputy customer of the port of Newcastle) baptized June 1, 1750, who married, June 30, 1812, Miss Fenwick (now dead), daughter of Thomas
Fenwick, of Earsdon, Esq.: 4. Mary, baptized September 6, 1738, died in July, 1815: 5. Elizabeth, baptized August 7, 1739: 6. Dorothy, baptized February 11, 1740: 7. Elizabeth, baptized August 26, 1741:
8. Philadelphia, baptized December 30, 1762. John, the eldest, was born at Newcastle, on the 26th
of September, 1748, and baptized at St. Nicholas' church there, on the 24th of October following.
He was educated at the Free Grammar-school, under the care of the Rev. H. Moises; and he never
forgot what he there learned. In 1761, before he had completed the thirteenth year of his age, he
was entered into the naval service of his country, under the protection and patronage of his maternal uncle,
Captain (afterwards Admiral) Braithwaite, with whom he served for some years. He served as midshipman
in the Gibraltar in 1766, and, from 1767 to 1772, was master's mate in the Liverpool, when he was taken
into the Lenox, under Captain (afterwards Admiral) Roddam, by whom he was recommended to Viceadmiral Graves, and afterwards to Vice-admiral Sir Peter Parker. In 1774, he went to America in the
Preston, under the command of Vice-admiral Graves, and, in the following year, was promoted to the rank
of fourth lieutenant in the Somerset, after having served the long period of 14 years before his promotion.
This first step in advancement he owed to his conduct at the battle of Bunker Hill, where he commanded a
party of seamen sent to assist the army with what was necessary in the naval line of service. He returned
to England with Admiral Graves in 1776, and, in the same year, was sent to Jamaica in the Hornet sloop.
While on this station, he renewed his friendship with Lieutenant Nelson; and both these young heroes were
warmly patronized by their commander, Sir Peter Parker. On Nelson's promotion to be lieutenant in the
admiral's ship, Collingwood succeeded him as lieutenant in the Lowestoffe; and, what is singular, when the
former was advanced in 1778 from the Badger to the rank of post captain in the Hinchinbrooke, the latter
was made master and commander in the Badger; and again, upon his promotion to a larger ship, Captain
Collingwood was made post in the Hinchinbrooke.
In 1780, Captain Collingwood was employed in a perilous expedition to the Spanish Main, and, in December the same year, was appointed to the command of the Pelican of 24 guns, which was wrecked in a dreadful hurricane on the Morant Quay, August 1, 1781. He next commanded the Sampson of 64 guns, which
ship was paid off at the peace of 1783, when he was again sent to the West Indies, where he remained till
1786. While on this station, Captain Nelson observes, in a letter to his friend, Captain Lockyer, "This
station has not been unpleasant: had it not been for Collingwood, it would have been the most disagreeable
I ever saw." Upon his return to England, he visited his native place, where he remained till 1790, when,
on the dispute with Spain, he was appointed to the Mermaid of 32 guns. This vessel being soon after
paid off, he again returned to Newcastle, where he married, in St. Nicholas' church, June 16, 1791, Sarah
(who died September 17, 1819), eldest of the two daughters of John Erasmus Blackett, of Newcastle, Esq.
and alderman, by Sarah, daughter and co-heiress of Robert Roddam, Esq. of Hethpole, co. Northumberland;
by whom he had two daughters, 1. Sarah, born May 28, 1792, married, May 30, 1815, George Lewis Newham, Esq.; 2. Mary Patience, born August 16, 1793.
At the commencement of hostilities with France in 1793, Captain Collingwood was called to the command
of the Prince, Rear-admiral Bowyer's flag-ship, and afterwards removed with the admiral to the Barfleur, in
which he gloriously distinguished himself on June the First, 1794, though Lord Howe omitted all mention
of his name in the official despatches. On August 7, 1794, he obtained the command of the Hector, and
afterwards of the Excellent, in which ship he acquired fresh laurels in the brilliant victory off Cape St. Vincent's, on February 14, 1797. When approaching to join the squadron, Nelson exclaimed, "See, here comes
the Excellent, which is as good as two added to our number." And when describing an important crisis in
the engagement, he observed, "At this time, the Salvador del Mundo and San Isidro dropped astern, and
were fired into, in a masterly style, by the Excellent, Captain Collingwood, who compelled the San Isidro to
hoist English colours, and I thought the large ship also had struck; but Captain Collingwood, disdaining the
parade of taking possession of a vanquished enemy, most gallantly pushed up, with every sail set, to save his
old friend and messmate, who was, in appearance, in a critical state." This service Nelson acknowledged in
the following laconic note of thanks:—"Dear Collingwood!—a friend in need is a friend indeed." He continued in the Excellent, under the flag of Lord St. Vincent till January, 1799, when his ship was paid off.
On February 14, in the same year, he was raised to the rank of Rear-admiral of the White; on the 12th of
May following, hoisted his flag on board the Triumph, on the Channel station; and, in June, 1800, removed
his flag to the Barfleur. In 1801, he was promoted to the rank of Rear-admiral of the Red, and continued
in the service of blockading the enemy's ports to the end of this part of the war. When hostilities recommenced, Admiral Collingwood resumed his station off Brest, and, on April 23, 1804, was made Vice-admiral
of the Blue. Here he maintained the closest blockade, and shifted his flag from ship to ship so as never to
quit his station, for the purposes of victualling or repairs. In May, 1805, he was detached to the blockading
fleet at Ferrol and Cadiz. Here his naval talents were displayed to advantage. Left with only four ships
of the line, to keep in nearly four times the number, he so disposed of his little force as to delude the any
into the belief that it was only part of a fleet not in sight. In September, Lord Nelson joined him with
reinforcements, and Vice-admiral Collingwood was his second. When, on October 21, the combined fleet of
France and Spain was discovered off Cape Trafalgar, in a close and correct line of battle, formed like a crescent, it fell to Collingwood's let, in the Royal Sovereign, to lead his column into action, and first to break
through the enemies' line, which he executed so as to command the admiration of both fleets, and to draw
from Lord Nelson, who led the other column the enthusiastic expression, "Look at that noble fellow, Collingwood! Observe the style in which he carries his ship into action;" while the vice-admiral, with equal justice
to the spirit and valour of his friend, was enjoying the proud honour of his situation, and saying to those about
him, "What would Nelson give to be in our situation?" On the death of Lord Nelson, the command of the
conquering fleet and the completion of the victory devolved upon Vice-admiral Collingwood, who now, for the
last time, succeeded him, in an arduous moment and most difficult service. So decisive was the victory, that,
out of 33 French and Spanish ships of the line, only 10 escaped, in a most shattered condition. Immediately
after the action, Admiral Collingwood returned thanks to the officers, seamen, and marines of the fleet, with
whom he condoled for the loss of Lord Viscount Nelson, Duke of Bronte, the commander-in-chief. At the
same time, he announced his intention of appointing a day of general thanksgiving; but this was prevented
by a most tremendous gale of wind, which endangered the ships both of the conquerors and the vanquished.
By extraordinary exertions, four of the prizes were saved, and sent into Gibraltar; the rest being burnt,
wrecked, or sunk. This ardnous and dangerous task was executed, in the midst of the storm, with that skill
and intrepidity which distinguish British seamen. Admiral Collingwood, having completed the ruin of the
enemy's fleet, expresses himself thus:—"In clearing the captured ships of prisoners, I found so many
wounded men, that, to alleviate human misery as much as was in my power, I sent to the Marquis de Solano,
Governor-general of Andalusia, to offer him the wounded to the care of their country, on receipts being
given: a proposal which was received with the greatest thankfulness, not only by the governor, but the
whole country resounds with expressions of gratitude. Two French frigates were sent out to receive them,
with a proper officer to give receipts, bringing with them all the English who had been wrecked in several of
the ships, and an offer from the Marquis de Solano of the use of their hospitals for our wounded, pledging
the honour of Spain for their being carefully attended. I have ordered most of the Spanish prisoners to be
released; the officers on parole, the men for receipts given, and a condition that they do not serve in war, by
sea or land, until exchanged." This act of humanity excited the gratitude of the Spaniards, who sent presents of wine and fruit to the English fleet.
The victors received the thanks of both houses of parliament; and the admiral, by letters patent, was
created Baron Collingwood of Coldburne and Hethpole. He was also voted a pension of £2000, with continuance to his male heirs; but when it was discovered that he had but two daughters, the donation was
altered into a provision for Lady Collingwood of £1000 per annum, and £500 for each of their daughters.
Respecting his lordship's conduct at Trafalgar, Sir H. Taylor says, in a letter to W. Marsden, Esq. "His
majesty considers it very fortunate that the command (under circumstances so critical) should have devolved
on one of such consummate valour, judgment, and skill, as Admiral Collingwood has proved himself to be;
every part of whose conduct he considers as deserving of his entire approbation and admiration." Yet Mr.
Southey, in his life of Lord Nelson, has, with singular ignorance and rashness, attempted to arraign the conduct of the veteran Collingwood; but his groundless insinuations scarcely deserve notice.
Lord Collingwood, being confirmed in the command of the Mediterranean fleet, anxiously waited in hopes
of the French fleet coming out of Toulon. His last active service was directing the preparations which ended
in the destruction of two French ships of the line on their own coast. His declining strength had long called
for that repose which his unremitted exertions for a series of years so well merited; but government was unwilling to dispense with his abilities. On the night preceding his death, an officer came into his cabin, and
found him reclining on a sofa, and asked, "Shall we wear, my lord?"—"Wear!" said his lordship, "wear!—
they have worn and torn me." On the following day, March 7, 1810, he expired on board the Ville de Paris,
off Minorca. On opening the body, a stricture was found in the lower orifice of the stomach, which had
totally precluded the passage of any nourishment, as it would scarcely permit a bristle to pass. So persuaded
was he of his approaching end, that he ordered a quantity of lead on board at Minorca, for the purpose of
making a coffin for his conveyance home. His body was brought to England, and, on May 11, interred in
St. Paul's cathedral, with great funeral solemnities.
Lord Collingwood was so fearful of losing the opportunity of distinguishing himself, that he was almost
continually afloat. He never stept on shore during the last few years of his life, nor did he ever see his wife
or family after his elevation to the peerage. Still no man was more alive to domestic feelings: his heart rebounded with joy at a packet from his family; and, in a letter written but a few months before his death, he
says, "I wish much to see poor dear Lady Collingwood; but she knows my country wants my services, and
she is too good a woman to expect it." Conversing once with a friend on the battle of Trafalgar, he said
with energy, "Mr. H. could I but once more see them, I should die contented and happy." His lordship
was of middle stature, but extremely thin, and temperate in his general habits; ate always with an appetite,
drank moderately after dinner, but never indulged afterwards in spirits or in wine; while his personal attention to the lowest guest at his table was always universally observed. It was his general rule in tempestuous
weather, and upon any hostile emergency that occurred, to sleep upon his sofa in a flannel gown, taking off
only his epauletted coat. He often appeared upon deck without his hat, and his grey hair floating to the
wind, whilst torrents of rain poured down through the shrouds; and his eye, like the eagle's, on the watch.
Personal exposure, colds, rheumatism, ague, all —nothing seemed to him when his duty called.
Lord Collingwood's judgment was sound and firm, his mind acute and penetrating, his wit so very lively
that it led him constantly to pun; and though general punsters must be frequently insipid, he seldom failed
to produce the playful equivoque he wished. To his religious duties he constantly attended: his religion,
like himself, was without terror, pure without fanaticism, and gentle without levity. The Latin he had
learned at school he had never forgotten; and though he knew but sufficient French to maintain a general
correspondence on the coast and could scarcely manage Spanish at all, he was, notwithstanding, a good scholar, but a scholar of the old school. He was always perfectly dignified in his deportment, without that execrable pride which we often see assumed as a cloak to conceal the want of worth. A rich vein of native
worth within him, its assumption was unnecessary. Unprejudiced he was not: one prejudice he had, which
was singular, as his mind was liberal. He deemed it to be the bounden duty of every Englishman to hate a
Frenchman as his natural foe; and no man ever hated the national character, and the nation, more cordially
than he. As he sometimes expressed a respectful pity for the Spaniards, and as the love of his country was
the leading feature of his noble soul, this probably arose from a concealed opinion he entertained, "that universal dominion would be the fate of France."
His lordship was always calm, but decided. In the heat of an engagement he gave his orders as on
ordinary occasions. He was kind and attentive to his men, but strict with the officers, particularly with
young nobility. He could not bear to see promotion, unless arising from merit, and used to say, I like a
man to get in at the port-hole, and not at the cabin-window." His dress was plain and old-fashioned. A
small cocked hat; a square-cut blue coat, with tarnished epaulettes; blue waistcoat and small-clothes: with
boots guiltless of blacking, but occasionally greased—was his costume on state occasions. He attended to
the smallest minutia of the service, and constantly regulated the motions of his own ship, leaving his officers
scarcely any duties to perform. His economy was so unrelaxing, that he saved thousands to the revenue.
A vessel in his fleet having displayed new sails, he ordered the old ones to be brought to him for inspection;
and finding them in better condition than his own, he commanded the foresail to be hoisted in place of the
tattered one that was in use. His lordship then invited the captain of the gay vessel to dinner, and carelessly asked him what he thought of his foresail. "In fair condition, my lord," was the unwary answer.—
"If it be good enough for an admiral's ship," retorted his lordship, "I think it might have served a captain."
On another occasion, in the midst of an action, seeing that one of his masts was shivered, he ordered out the
boat; and being asked for what purpose, "To take that spar to the store-ship," was the reply. But indeed
on all occasions the desire of discharging his duty conscientiously seemed to be the ruling passion of his
A few months after his lordship's decease, the chamberlain of London, in compliance with the orders of
the common council, waited upon Lady Collingwood, and delivered to her the sword that had been voted to
his lordship. Her ladyship's feelings were so overpowered on the occasion, that she begged leave to return
her answer in writing, and which, when received, was ordered to be entered on the records of the court.
The Trinity-house of Newcastle also presented to his lordship a superb gold box. When Edward Collingwood, Esq. of Chirton, died in 1806, his possessions devolved on his cousin, Lord Collingwood, whose lady,
from that period to the death of his lordship, resided in Chirton Hall. It is now the property of his lordship's brother, John Collingwood, Esq.
Sir Robert Chambers, Judge of the Supreme Court of Judicature at Calcutta, was a native of Newcastle,
and a scholar at the Free Grammar-school. Robert Chambers, an attorney of good practice and character in
Newcastle, married a daughter of Mr. Metcalf, of the same place, tin-plate worker, by his wife, a niece of
Heselrigge of Swarland, (fn. 27) and by whom he had issue, 1. Robert, the subject of the present memoir. 2. Richard,
a banker, sheriff of Newcastle in 1786; elected alderman in place of the late James Rudman, Esq. May 30,
1795; mayor in 1795–6; resigned his alderman's gown October 20, 1797; afterwards iron-monger at
Bishopsgate Street, London, where he died in 1806, aged 68 years: his eldest son, Robert Joseph, married,
in 1805, the daughter of Nathaniel Polhill, Esq. of Howbury, Bedfordshire. 3. William, who is also dead: he
was an able man, and Interpreter of the Supreme Court in Bengal, over which his brother presided. Robert
was born in the year 1737, and was, for some time, under the tuition of the Rev. H. Moises. He then went
to Oxford, where he was soon distinguished for intense application and superior attainments. In July, 1754,
he was chosen exhibitioner of Lincoln College. He afterwards became fellow of University College, where
he was united with his old school-fellows, the Scotts, and with Mr. Plumer, the late Sir William Jones, and
other eminent men. In January, 1762, he was elected, by the university, Vinerian Professor of the Laws of
England; a public testimony to his abilities, of the strongest and most unequivocal nature. In 1766, the
Earl of Lichfield, then Chancellor of Oxford, gave him the appointment of Principal of New Inn-Hall;
which office, as it required no residence or attendance, he continued to hold through life. He was now advancing honourably in the practice of the law, and was employed in many remarkable causes, in which his
professional abilities were evinced. About the same period, and probably by the same means, he attracted
the notice and lasting friendship of the ablest men of the time, many of whose names have since been absorbed in well-earned titles of nobility, amongst whom were, the Earls Bathurst, Mansfield, Liverpool, and
Rosslyn, Lords Ashburton, Thurlow, Auckland, and Alvanley; to which list may be added the names of
Johnson, Burke, Goldsmith, Garrick, and others of that class, whose judgment of mankind was as accurate
as their own talents were conspicuous. At Oxford also he enjoyed the intimacy of Thurlow, afterwards bishop
of Durham: and his Vinerian Lectures were attended by many pupils, who have since done honour to the
profession of the law, or to other public situations. It is a strong proof that his knowledge and talents were
highly estimated at an early period, that in 1768 he was offered the appointment of attorney-general in Jamaica. This, however, from various considerations, he thought proper to decline. From this time he continued the career of his profession, and of his academical labours, till, in 1773, another situation of public trust
and honour was proposed to him, which he was more easily induced to accept. This was the appointment of
Second Judge in the Supreme Court of Judicature in Bengal, then first established; Mr. Impey, afterwards
Sir Elijah, being Chief Justice. On this occasion, the esteem and regard of the university of Oxford for
their Vinerian Professor was fully evinced: the convocation allowing three years for the chance of his return,
from ill health or any other cause; during which interval his office was held for him, and his lectures read
by a deputy. In India Mr. Chambers had a younger brother, Mr. William Chambers, well deserving of his
affection, and afterwards highly distinguished for his unrivalled knowledge of the Malabar language, and
other dialects of Hindostan; and the prospect of being re-united to this valuable relation certainly was not
forgotten among the attractions of this new offer. Immediately before his departure for the East Indies, Mr.
Chambers married Miss Wilton, the only daughter of the celebrated statuary of that name: and his mother,
Mrs. Chambers, a woman of uncommon virtues, talents, and accomplishments, undertook the voyage with
them, and continued an inmate in their family till her death, which happened in 1782. They sailed for
India in April, 1774; and, in 1780, he received the honour of knighthood, as an express act of royal approbation. Abstracting himself from political squabbles, he calmly and impartially administered justice without
fear or favour. He lost his eldest son in the Grosvenor East Indiaman in 1782, when on his passage to
England for education. On the resignation of Sir E. Impey in 1791, Sir Robert was advanced to the office
of Chief Justice; and, in 1797, he became President of the Asiatic Society. At length, after having remained in India 25 years, he also obtained permission to resign, and was succeeded by Sir John Anstruther.
He returned to England in 1799, to enjoy his well-deserved leisure, and the society of his remaining friends;
but his constitution, being delicate, had probably been supported by the warmth of India; and he manifestly
shrunk under the rigour of that northern climate, from which he had been so long removed. In the autumn
of 1802, his lungs were so much affected, that he was advised to winter in the milder air of France, and was
to have proceeded to the southern provinces; but the season was then too far advanced, and he remained at
Paris, where, after a partial recovery, he had an attack of a paralytic nature, and died May 9, 1803. The
body was brought to England by his widow, and, on the 23d of the same month, was interred in the Temple
church. Sir Robert had been a bencher of the Middle Temple, and his funeral was attended by a considerable number of that society, and a respectable selection of private friends.
Sir Robert Chambers had that love for books which naturally arises from a sound education, and early
habits of study. His collection, therefore, was considerable, and his knowledge proportionably extensive.
Even at the close of his life, of which so large a part had been engaged in the practice or administration of
the laws, he had not lost his academical accomplishments; and a Latin epitaph on his friend, Sir W. Jones,
inscribed by Flaxman on a monument erected at Oxford in 1803, may testify that the cares of the judge had
not obliterated the studies of the professor. His collection of Oriental books was particularly valuable, for—
........................"His vig'rous mind,
By learning strengthened and by taste refin'd,
Grasp'd all the wide extent of Eastern lore,
And trod the path that Jones had led before."
That his fortune, after so long continuance in office, was extremely moderate, must be considered as an
important topic of his praise, as it was occasioned by his strict integrity and extensive bounty. He received
no presents, and he gave abundant charities. On his resignation, therefore, he could not attempt to decline
the pension which parliament has now assigned to the judges of India, after a much less period of service.
An excellent portrait of Sir R. Chambers, in a groupe of his literary friends, Johnson, Burke, Goldsmith,
Beattie, Baretti, &c. was painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds for Mr. Thrale's study at Streatham; but a picture
by Mr. Home, painted at Calcutta a short time before his return, in which he is represented in his judge's
robes, preserves an animated and accurate likeness of this learned and upright judge.
The Rev. Dr. George Hall, late bishop of Dromore in Ireland, was a native of Northumberland, but educated at the Free Grammar-school in Newcastle, of which his brother, William Hall, M. A. was usher in
1766. At an early age, he removed to Ireland, and became assistant in the school of Dr. Darby of Loughgall,
near Dublin. He next entered himself a student in the college of Dublin. After having established, whilst an
under-graduate, his superiority over his contemporaries, both as a scientific and a classical scholar, he was una
nimously elected a fellow in 1777, when for the first time he appeared as a candidate. From that period,
during the three and twenty years he continued in college, his correct knowledge, and his exact fulfilment of
every academic duty, were eminently conspicuous. As a tutor, he was not more remarkable for the talents
and learning displayed in his lectures, than for the kindness and parental solicitude with which he watched
over the interests of his pupils, and the zeal he manifested for their improvement in literature, in morals,
and in religion. Nor was he less distinguished when, as a senior fellow, he came to have a share in the government of the college, whether official duty called his attention to minute detail, or the general interests
required the counsels of prudence, or the exertions of prompt activity. In the year 1800, he accepted a benefice in a remote part of the county of Tyrone, whence he was called to the provostship of the college in
1806. In this situation, his attention to every academic duty was yet more exemplary than when he had
acted in a subordinate station. Frequent in his attendance on the early prayers and lectures (beginning at
six o'clock, both in summer and winter), he shewed an example admirably calculated to excite a general
spirit of piety and diligence; and while no duty was too minute to escape his attention, enlarged plans of
improvement were formed and carried into effect under his superintendence. Ranking among the most
eminent scholars, both in polite literature and science, and deeply skilled in every branch of theological
learning, there was no department in the extensive range of academic instruction which he was not qualified
to direct; whilst the mildness of his temper, and the gentleness of his manners, softened the admonitions of
authority with the feelings of parental affection. Though thus active in the performance of academic duty,
Dr. Hall lived in habits of familiar intercourse with all who were distinguished for their station or their
rank. Acquainted with the principal languages of modern Europe, and conversant with the writings of
their most celebrated authors; possessing a correct and delicate taste for the fine arts, and an unaffected
vivacity of manners, he exhibited a rare instance of the union of severe science with elegant attainments, and
commanded, in turn, the respect, the esteem, and the affection, of those with whom he associated.
The Duke of Richmond, when Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, ever ready to afford unsolicited patronage to
merit, advanced Dr. Hall to the see of Dromore. He was consecrated on the 17th of November, 1811, and
died on the morning of the following Saturday, November 23, leaving to the world an affecting proof of the
frailty of that tenure by which earthly happiness and earthly honours are held. His death was occasioned
by a putrid sore throat, which originated in a cold caught during the ceremony of his consecration. His
parishioners in Tyrone received the intelligence of his death with general lamentations, and commemorated
his virtues in a monument, erected by universal consent in their church.
William Burdon, of Hartford, Esq. was born at Newcastle upon Tyne, on September 11, 1764. His
father, George Burdon, Esq. who possessed some landed property in Yorkshire, came to Newcastle about his
middle age, where he engaged in a variety of speculations, and became conductor of that great mining concern, designated the Grand Allies. His mother's name was Wharton; and through her he inherited considerable estates both in Durham and Northumberland. He was also, in the maternal line, related to the
Earls of Lansdown and Carlisle, the Duke of Richmond, and Lord Scarborough, and had claims on the
honours attached to the house of the late Duke of Wharton.
William Burdon received the rudiments of his education at the Free Grammar-school of his native town,
during the mastership of the Rev. H. Moises, of whom he always spoke in terms of respect and affection.
From this respectable seminary he passed to Emanuel College, Cambridge, in 1781, and was placed under
the tuition of Dr. Bennet, afterwards Bishop of Cloyne. This learned prelate, in a letter to George Ensor,
Esq. says, "Your friend, Mr. Burdon, was a favourite pupil of mine, when I was tutor of Emanuel College
in Cambridge. As a classical scholar, he was superior to any young man there; though we had several at
the time who have since distinguished themselves. The college did itself honour in unanimously electing
him fellow; though his political opinions, which he always manfully avowed, differed very much from those
of the society in general." His election to the fellowship took place in 1788, he having two years before
become Bachelor of Arts. Though reared in Tory principles, yet he very early assumed the right of judging
for himself, and of rejecting the creeds of all political parties. This determination appeared from the following thesis, which he chose for his act:—In Summo reipublicæ discrimine, iniquo principi resistere licet.
When Mr. Pitt offered himself as a candidate for the university of Cambridge, Mr. Burdon, singly of all his
brother fellows, refused to vote for the minister; which independent conduct Mr. Pitt had the bad taste
peevishly to resent. Mr. Burdon was designed for the church, as his parents had a well-grounded prospect
of procuring him very considerable preferments; but in reading the early history of Christianity, he came to
the conclusion that the present hierarchy of the Church of England was an unwarrantable innovation upon
the primitive system: he therefore refused to enter into priests' orders. This proved a matter of great grief
to his parents; but his resolution was immoveable, and he resigned his fellowship in 1796.
On leaving the university, Mr. Burdon formed a choice and extensive library; and having improved
his reason and taste by patient and various reading, a number of curious and valuable works proceeded from
his fertile pen. He composed with amazing rapidity, and could never be persuaded, on the score of prudence,
to modify his first frank and fervid expressions. His first publication was, "Three Letters, addressed to the
Bishop of Landaff: Cambridge, 1795." His next, "A Few Words of Plain Truth on the Subject of the
present Negotiation for Peace: Cambridge, 1797." In 1799, he published, at Newcastle, the first part of
"An Examination of the Merits and Tendency of the Pursuits of Literature;" and, in 1600, the second part.
There also proceeded, in 1797, from his well-stored mind, "A Vindication of Pope and Grattan from the
Attacks of an anonymous Defamer;" and, in the following year, "Thoughts on Politics, Morality, and Literature." In 1803, appeared his most important work, entitled, "Materials for Thinking." This work, in
15 years, passed through five editions—a succession, considering the nature of the work, seldom exceeded in
rapidity; and particularly as it was not cherished by influential booksellers, recommended by friendly reviewers, nor announced with the usual titular appendages, but simply by "William Burden." He likewise
published, in 1803, "Advice addressed to the Lower Ranks; and in 1804 appeared the "Life and Character
of Bonaparte," which created some sensation. In his former works he had repeatedly eulogized Napoleon;
yet, in the preface to the second edition of his life of that extraordinary man, he acknowledges himself "to
have been blinded by the splendid blaze of his success, his exploits, and his promises. But now that time
and the possession of power have unmasked him, and reflection has taken place of sudden surprise, I am no
longer an enthusiast in his praise, but view him as he deserves to be viewed by every lover of liberty and of
human nature," &c. This freedom to retract declarations which he considered erroneous, has been reputed
by some as vaccillating: but, on the contrary, he was distinguished for decision of character, though he could
not restrain his indignation at a man who had blasted the hopes of the friends of humanity. In this respect
he agreed with Carnot, and other eminent friends of liberty in France.
In 1809, Mr. Burdon published "Letters on the Affairs of Spain." In the following year appeared an
"Introduction to the History of the Revolution in Spain (from the Spanish of Estrada);" and also. "A
Constitution for the Spanish Nation (from the Spanish of Estrada)." He entered enthusiastically into the
cause of the Spanish Patriots, and studied their language so diligently, as to extort at the end of a few
months, the compliments of the reviewers on his knowledge of the Spanish. He translated many English
political tracts into Spanish, and printed them at his own expense, in order to enlighten the Patriots on
moral and political subjects. His house also was an asylum for many Spanish refugees; and he was intimately acquainted with twenty-three individuals of that nation, all of whom were men of talents and probity.
Mr. Burdon, in 1811, published a collection of "Letters to the Editor of the Tyne Mercury, on the Annual
Subscription to the Sons of the Clergy." He contended that it was indecorous for the clergy of the diocese
of Durham, who share among themselves nearly £200,000 annually, to solicit the public bounty. An injustewards,
dicious advocate appeared on behalf of the clergy, who replied to Mr. Burdon's strictures by unjust insinuations and accusations. But whatever might be the errors of his judgment, the purity and disinterestedness of
his motives were unquestionable. Few men ever made so many valuable and painful sacrifices to the
majesty of truth. His devotion in this respect appeared to his friends singularly romantic; but he valued
nothing so much as the approbation of his own conscience. In 1813, he published "Cobbett and the Reformers impartially examined." When Sir Francis Burdett was sent to the Tower, for a breach of the privilege of the House of Commons, Mr. Burdon, in a few days, wrote and published a pamphlet on the subject,
which displays all the acuteness and legal knowledge of a lawyer. The Monthly Reviewers, on remarking
the equity with which he states the question, says, for "though an ardent opponent of the privilege lately
exercised by the House of Commons,"—"his plain dealing will by some be deemed excessive; for he accuses
Mr. Hatsell and Sir Francis Burdett of mistating and misrepresenting the precedent established in Thorpe's
case," &c. Besides these works, Mr. Burdon contributed largely to the periodical and diurnal press. He
wrote many valuable papers on Architectural Antiquities, which subject he had studied with great attention.
In 1805, he published "Poetry for Children;" and he printed several children's books for the use of his own
family. These numerous and various productions shew that he spent his time neither idly nor uselessly.
In 1798, after Mr. Burdon had returned from the university to Newcastle, he married the daughter of Lieutenant-general Dickson, by Elizabeth, daughter of Alexander Collingwood, Esq. of Unthank, co. of Northumberland. By her (who died in 1806) he had five children, three of whom are living. After his marriage,
he removed to Morpeth, where he pursued his studies in almost uninterrupted retirement. Having, in
1807. built a handsome mansion-house on his maternal estate at Hartford, near Morpeth, he spent his summers there during the remainder of his life. The winter he passed in London, in the society of the most
distinguished literary characters; and occasionally visited Brighton in the spring. He seldom omitted Cambridge in his round, where he was always received with a respect and kindness by his old associates which a
difference of opinion never diminished. He married a second time in 1812, and by this marriage had two
children. His surviving issue consist of William Wharton, Henry Wharton, Hannah Wharton, and Eliza
Ann Burdon. He took great delight in the company of his children, whose education he carefully superintended.
Mr. Burdon's habits were retired. He was averse to general intercourse and worldly matters. Indeed,
he was no match for those skilled in deceit and cunning. He had originally indulged in flattering notions of
the "unlimited improvement of our nature," which he reluctantly renounced; but he never declined in
charity to the poor, or generosity to men of talents in distress. In some instances, he was peculiarly unfortunate in selecting the objects of his bounty. Conceiving a high opinion of the abilities and merits of a
young man named Hewson Clarke, author of "The Saunterer," he befriended and assisted him with his
usual warmth, superintended his studies, entered him at Cambridge, and maintained him at the university.
But this youth disgusted by his vanity all to whom he was introduced, became prodigal, incurred considerable
debts, sunk into the vilest debauchery, and frequently reviled his benefactor in "The Satirist." Yet, after
all, Mr. Burdon twice dragged him from a jail, and tried in vain to reclaim him. Another failure of a similar
kind is unique for romantic attachment on the one side, and hideous ingratitude on the other.
Mr. Burdon was middle-sized, and slender, yet well-knit and agile. A craniologist would have viewed
his head with delight. Though delicate, he was not sickly. When a boy, he was nursed with the most
anxious and ridiculous care. The winds of heaven were not suffered to visit him too roughly. The
barometer was consulted before he was permitted to go into the open air; and his clothing was regulated by
the thermometer. These motherly precautions rendered him exceedingly susceptible of cold, and consequently he was seldom well. At length, he took these matters into his own hands. He gradually dispensed
with certain unnecessary parts of his clothing; he took much exercise, and inured himself to every variety
of the climate. In a short time, he defied both cold and humidity, and at length could pump cold water on
his shirt, and then put it on with impunity. The writer has seen him mount his horse during the most terrific thunder storm, and, after riding one hour, his stated time, return dripping with wet, and sit thus in his
study during the rest of the evening. These eccentricities were considered as the aberrations of a disordered
mind, by those who were incapable of appreciating the intellectual heroism in which they were conceived and
executed. His mind always triumphed over the infirmities of his body. He composed the Life of Bonaparte
during a severe jaundice; yet it betrays no symptoms of the lassitude which attends that disease. For some
years a small swelling affected his thigh, but produced no inconvenience. In July, 1817, it increased in size,
became troublesome, and occasioned an intense and unremitting pain. Continuing to grow worse, he arose
from his bed, to which he had been confined, emaciated and in agony, to perform a journey from Hartford to
London. The first surgeons in the metropolis were successively employed; but all their efforts were ineffectual. The complaint being assuredly an ossification, amputation was determined upon. Mr. Burdon hailed
the decision. He bore the operation, which was skilfully performed, with Spartan fortitude: his pulse was
unvaried. The thigh was amputated close to the trunk of the body. Though the wound healed slowly, and
he was never free from pain, sanguine hopes were entertained of his recovery. In two months, he came
down stairs, took air in the carriage, and moved about near his residence in Welbeck Street; but, about the
middle of May, he gradually relapsed, and found great difficulty of breathing, attended with spasms. "They
say I may live—I say I must die," observed he to a friend. He did not wish to see his wife and children.
"Oh! no," he answered, "it would be too distressing." He expired on the 30th of May, 1818, in his 54th
year, possessing his intellects unimpaired to the close of his existence. Mr. Ensor concludes a memoir of
Mr. Burdon, prefixed to a new edition of the "Materials for Thinking," thus:—"Such was William Burdon: an attentive husband, a fond father, an absolute friend. Deeply versed in the Greek and Latin classics,
he spoke French fluently, and was largely acquainted with German, Spanish, and Italian literature. A politician without the taint of party—an instructor who practised what he inculcated—a philosopher who sought
truth, who employed his unadulterated reason in its pursuit, and fearlessly published the result of his enquiries. He was liberal, rational, resolute, and consistent,—for as he lived he died."
Amongst others educated at this school are, the Ridleys, Cooksons, Shadforths, Reeds, Claytons, Fenwicks,
Muntons, Forsters, Askews, Headlams, Blacketts of Wylam, &c. besides numerous individuals since distinguished in the various departments of active life.