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Memoirs of the Rev. Samuel Parr
Ch. VII. 1771-1776

Ch. I. 1747-1752
Ch. II. 1752-1761
Ch. III. 1761-1765
Ch. IV. 1765-1766
Ch. V. 1767-1771
Ch. VI. 1771
‣ Ch. VII. 1771-1776
Ch. VIII. 1771-1776
Ch. IX. 1776-1777
Ch. X. 1779-1786
Ch. XI. 1779-1786
Ch. XII. 1779-1786
Ch. XIII. 1780-1782
Ch. XIV. 1786-1789
Ch. XV. 1786-1790
Ch. XVI. 1776-1790
Ch. XVII. 1787
Ch. XVIII. 1789
Ch. XIX. 1790-1792
Ch. XX. 1791-1792
Ch. XXI. 1791-1796
Ch. XXII. 1794-1795
Ch. XXIII. 1794
Ch. XXIV. 1794-1800
Ch. XXV. 1794-1800
Ch. XXVI. 1800-1803
Ch. XXVII. 1801-1803
Ch. XXVIII. 1800-1807
Vol. II Contents
Ch I. 1800-1807
Ch II. 1807-1810
Ch III. 1809
Ch IV. 1809-1812
Ch V. 1810-1813
Ch VI. 1811-1815
Ch VII. 1812-1815
Ch VIII. 1816-1820
Ch IX. 1816-1820
Ch X. 1816-1820
Ch XI. 1816-1820
Ch XII. 1816-1820
Ch XIII. 1816-1820
Ch XIV. 1819
Ch XV. 1820-1821
Ch XVI. 1816-1820
Ch XVII. 1820-1824
Ch XVIII. 1820-1824
Ch XIX. 1820-1824
Ch XX. 1820-1825
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Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
Produced by CATH
A. D. 1771-1776.
Plan of studies in Stanmore School—The Greek language—importance of it—The Greek authors read—Manner of explaining them—Greek versification—Writing Greek—Greek plays acted—The Latin language—Authors read—Some defects in the public schools noticed—Exercises of the memory—Study of English—Composition.

Instead of offering, as he could have wished, a full and detailed account of the system of education adopted in Stanmore School, the writer is obliged to content himself with tracing its mere outlines, which, however, he trusts, will be found sufficient to convey some just idea of it to his readers.1 On a subject so important as education, in its higher branches, the opinions of a man so eminently distinguished as Dr. Parr, for his learning, his sagacity, and his judgment, confirmed, as they after-

1 The writer is most happy in being able to state, that the account contained in this and the following chapter, has been submitted to the perusal and the correction of one of the few surviving Stanmore scholars, Dr. Monro, an eminent physician, formerly of London, now of Bushey, near Watford, who is pleased to express his general opinion in the following words: “I am afraid I have done very little in contributing useful information respecting the subject of your inquiries. But, indeed, upon reading over your outline of the general plan of education, it seems to me as nearly the truth as it can be.” The few, but valuable, communications with which Dr. Monro has favoured the writer, will be found inserted in some of the following pages.

wards were, by his long experience, may reasonably excite curiosity, and may fairly demand attention.

Superintended as it was by one of the first Grecians of the age, it might easily be supposed that in Stanmore School the study of Greek would form a leading object. Indeed, in every system of learned and liberal education, the study of that language is justly entitled to hold the first and principal place; and though the study itself must be confined chiefly to the literary and the superior orders of society, yet the beneficial influence of it is extended indirectly from them to all the more enlightened classes of the community. In the works of the ancient Greeks, every one knows, are presented the finest and most perfect models of composition in all its various kinds, historical, philosophical, rhetorical, and poetical. As long, therefore, as these works are known and read, and admired by the scholars and the writers of the age; so long the principles of pure and correct taste, and of sound critical judgment, cannot fail to be diffused extensively, and established permanently.

But it is not for the excellencies of composition alone that the literary productions of Greece have obtained, through so many successive ages, universal admiration. In the same writings, the noblest and most generous sentiments of conjugal, parental, filial, social affection, and the most elevated maxims of virtuous, dignified, public-spirited conduct are inculcated, with all the force of which argument is capable, and all the eloquence to which language can aspire. The wise precepts of
philosophy, delivered in strains not unworthy to be listened to even by a disciple of the Christian school, are also recommended by the most beautiful and engaging examples which the history of a high-minded people could present, or which the powerful imagination of lofty genius could create. It is surely impossible that such works can be read without producing the happiest effects upon the minds, the manners, and the morals of those who read them; and it may be fairly said that, from these persons, the same happy effects are communicated in no inconsiderable degree to all who peruse their writings, or participate in any way, of their knowledge and of their improvement.

If, besides, we take into the account the two sacred volumes, the one containing the original of the Christian, and the other a faithful though not literal translation of the Jewish Scriptures, it is evident that the interests of religion are closely connected with the knowledge of the language in which those important volumes are written. The study of Greek is, therefore, absolutely necessary to form the learned and accomplished divine; and it must be added, that, besides the general advantage of high cultivation of mind, the same study offers some peculiar advantages, which it were easy to point out, important in no small degree to those intended for the superior, or even the subordinate stations, in the two remaining professions of law and medicine.1 These few remarks contain

1 See Knox on Liberal Education, Vol. i. p. 104. 108.—“He was a sound scholar, an elegant writer, and a truly Christian divine. S. P.”—Bibl. Parr. p. 581.

the substance of many conversations which
Dr. Parr has held, with the writer and with others, when expatiating, as he often did with delight, upon the utility and importance of his own favourite language.

Among the Grecian writers, the highest place was assigned, in Stanmore School, to the orators and poets, and especially to the dramatic poets. The teaching of the Greek plays, Dr. Parr always called “the most difficult and the most honourable of school business:” and there were certain seasons peculiarly and almost exclusively devoted to it. “For three or four weeks,” says Dr. Monro,1 “before the usual holydays, Dr. Parr was accustomed to make the boys of the upper school read the Greek plays for seven or eight hours together; and he sometimes kept them so employed till near eleven o’clock at night.” The orators, too, obtained an almost equal share of close and careful attention.

On these subjects, always so delightful to the young and ardent mind, nothing could be more able and efficient than the manner in which the learned preceptor delivered his instructions. Be-

1 The writer has already acknowledged his great obligation to Dr. Monro, for his valuable communications on the subject of these memoirs. It is of this eminent physician that Dr. Parr expresses his high opinion in his sermon, preached on a great public occasion in the metropolis. “Pardon me, my hearers, if, speaking on this subject, I give vent to my feelings, and pay a just tribute of praise to the learning, wisdom, integrity, and humanity of that excellent person, who was once my scholar, and is now the physician of your Hospital for the Insane.” Spital Serm. p. 17.

sides the Grecian and Roman authorities’ brought in illustration, he was accustomed to adduce passages from modern writers, principally English, and to point out, in his own masterly way, their characteristic or comparative excellencies. So eloquent and impressive were these recitations, and the remarks which accompanied them, that “it was hardly possible,” says
Mr. Maurice, “even for the most stupid boy not to be struck and aroused.”—“I have known,” continues he, “youth of sensibility affected even to tears; and I believe none who heard them ever forgot them.”1 On these occasions, the notes which Dr. Parr delivered, whether explanatory or illustrative, “were written down,” says Dr. Monro,2 “by the pupils, either at the time, or from recollection afterwards.”—“I had a large collection of them,” he adds, “which I gave to Mr. Beloe many years ago.”

The Rev. William Beloe, the person just mentioned, was another of Dr. Parr’s pupils, who, though unfavourable in his general representation of his early friend and tutor, has rendered due homage to many of his great qualities, and who thus speaks: “His taste was exquisite, acute, accurate,

1Parr’s memory,” says one of his pupils, “from nature and from application was very capacious. In reading a Greek or Latin author, a stream of illustration issued from him. When we were up at Virgil with him, he thundered out, ore rotundo, all the passages which the poet had borrowed, and whilst he borrowed, adorned, from Homer and Apollonius the Herodian.”—Parriana. New Month. Mag. Nov. 1826.

2 Mem. part 1. p. 64.

3 In his written communications to the writer.

elegant: and this he seemed to communicate and inspire. It was really delightful to hear him read; and I do not think that this accomplishment, which is never sufficiently cultivated, can possibly be carried to a higher degree of perfection than it was by him.”—“He possessed also,” continues Mr. Beloe, “extraordinary powers of eloquence; and his easy flow of words could only be equalled by his nervous, appropriate, and happy disposition of them.”

The gratefulness of this praise is, however, lessened by the disparaging words which follow: “He was proud of this talent; and somewhat ostentatious in the display of it.” But this little instance of spite—for such it is, though disguised under the apparent moderation and the acknowledged truth, in some degree, of the reflection—is nothing in comparison with the many unjust and shameless aspersions aimed at Dr. Parr’s character, scattered about in various parts of the work which formed his last literary labour.1 Let it, however, be known to the reader, that, on account of some real or supposed grievance in early schoolboy days, from that time to the latest moment of his life, Mr. Beloe secretly cherished strong feelings of resentment against one whose friendship he openly courted; and whose favours, on many important occasions, he eagerly solicited and accepted. On this unpleasing subject, a word or two, and only a word or two, will be said by the writer hereafter. At present a more agreeable theme occupies his thoughts and his pen.

1 Beloe’s Sexagenarian, vol. i. p. 24.


With the study of the orators and the tragic and other poets, was united that of the historians and the philosophers of Greece. In perusing the former, the aids of chronological and geographical science were diligently employed, so far as necessary to illustrate the more important facts; and, in studying the latter, the interest of the young scholar was greatly increased, and his understanding greatly assisted, by an elaborate comparison instituted between the different systems taught in the different schools of Greece; accompanied with a clear and luminous exposition of the theories adopted by the more enlightened philosophers of modern times.1

Much importance was attached by the learned preceptor to the study of Greek versification, in which he was himself eminently skilled; and earnest and persevering were his efforts to teach its laws and to explain its intricacies to his pupils. But the desired success was not in all, perhaps not in many cases obtained. So extreme was sometimes the distaste for this difficult study, that it was not to be overcome; and even some of Dr. Parr’s most intelligent pupils have complained that too much of their time was consumed “in learning to unravel the complicated perplexities of Greek metre; which, after all, they very imperfectly understood.”2

But with far greater and more general success,

1 Maurice’s Mem. part 1. p. 104.

2 Beloe’s Sexagenarian, vol. i. p. 19. Maurice’s Mem. part I. p. 57. 64.

the practice of Greek composition, both in prose and verse, was introduced and enforced. It is a practice which has prevailed of late years more than formerly, in most of our private as well as public seminaries; and in the prosecution of a learned education, no employment can be more reasonable or beneficial. For though composition in Greek is not so often called for as in Latin, by the occasions which arise even among men of letters, yet, as a powerful instrument for acquiring or perfecting the knowledge of Greek itself, it cannot be too strongly recommended. No language can be well understood which is not written as well as read; and if that of Greece be important at all, it surely becomes of consequence that the most effectual means of acquiring it should be adopted and pursued. No professor of Latin would think of teaching that language without the aid of composition, at least in the form of what are called exercises; and why the same advantage should be denied to the professor of Greek, it is not easy to say.

As a proof of the high state of Grecian literature in Stanmore School, it deserves to be related that one of the most admired tragedies of Sophocles, the Œdipus Tyrannus, was acted with applause before a large body of the assembled literati; among whom were, Sir William Jones, Mr. Bennet Langton, Mr. Lytton, and many other of the most distinguished scholars. The choruses were omitted; but the dialogues were recited by the several performers with a propriety, a fluency, and a force, which reflected equal honour on the
preceptor and the pupils. The scenes were furnished by
Mr. Foote, and the dresses by Mr. Garrick.1 Dr. Monro mentions, that he himself was one of the deputation sent, on that occasion, to Mr. Garrick; that he and his associates found him at Drury Lane, engaged in rehearsing the part of Don Felix, in the comedy of “The Wonder;” and that they were received by him with the greatest kindness and attention. Some articles of Grecian costume were prepared, under the direction of the learned master, by his own family. The Œdipus was acted in 1775; and it was followed, the next year, by the Trachinians of the same tragedian. To these two representations belong the merit of being the first attempts of the kind in England.

But, in Ireland, long before this time, a Greek play, it appears, had been acted by the pupils of that profound scholar and eminent schoolmaster, Dr. Sheridan; distinguished as the friend of the celebrated Dr. Swift; and still more so as the grandfather of the no less celebrated Richard Brinsley Sheridan. It was in conversation with Sir William Jones, on the subject of that extraordinary representation, that the idea of a similar attempt first suggested itself to Dr. Parr,2 who was also aware, that the plan, as an excellent method for the improvement of young scholars, is

1 Europ. Mag. Aug. 1809, Maurice’s Mem. part I. p. 64.

2 See his letter to Mr. Moore given in the “Life of Sheridan,” vol. i. p. 9.

recommended by so great an authority as
Milton.1 After due deliberation, supported by the opinion of his illustrious friend, in defiance of all the ridicule or reproach which so novel or bold an attempt might possibly provoke, the plan was finally approved and adopted. Some invidious reflections were in fact thrown out upon the occasion, and Dr. Parr was induced to write some Greek Iambics, for the purpose of vindicating himself from the charge of affectation or singularity.2

He was so well satisfied, indeed, with the result of his own experiment, that he fully intended, if he had continued longer at Stanmore, to establish in his school the annual custom of representing a Greek play. He often spoke with pleasure of the good effect which it produced; and as often expressed a wish that his example had been followed in other seminaries. By the vigorous exertion of mind called forth in accomplishing so high and arduous a task, he found that his pupils more easily conquered the difficulties of which young scholars usually complain when they first engage in reading and investigating the ancient tragic wri-

1 “When all these employments are well conquered, then will the choice histories, heroic poems, and Attic tragedies, of stateliest and most regal argument, with all the famous political orations, offer themselves; which, if they were some of them got by memory, and solemnly pronounced with right accent and grace, as might be taught, would endue them with the spirit and vigour of Demosthenes or Cicero, Euripides or Sophocles.” A small Tractate on Education.

2 In his letter to Mr. Moore before referred to, Dr. Parr regrets that these are lost. By the diligent inquiries of his executors however they have since been found.

ters. An important object is gained, as he observed, by compelling that exact attention to Greek phraseology and Greek metre, which becomes so urgently necessary, in preparing for the public recitation of a Greek author. The long, previous, careful study of the drama itself, without which the youthful performer could not hope to appear with honour, or to escape from shame, would of course introduce into his mind clear and correct views of its plan, its incidents, and its characters; whilst the actual representation, aided by the influence of dress, scenery, and company, could not fail to excite a livelier perception, and to produce a deeper impression of all those excellencies, which so eminently belong to the, three great tragedians of ancient times, and most of all to Sophocles. The memory, too, must be in a high degree improved, by that severe exercise of it which would on such occasions be demanded.

But though the literature of Greece took the lead, especially among the higher classes of Stanmore School; yet, at the same time, that of its great and successful imitators, the Romans, received all the attention to which it is so justly entitled. Pre-eminent above the rest, in the judgment of Dr. Parr, were the writings of the all-accomplished Cicero; of whom it has been said, that “for arts and eloquence he has eclipsed the fame of Greece,” and that “by explaining all the parts of its philosophy to the Romans, in their own language, he superseded in some measure the use of the Greek language and the Greek lectures at Rome.”1 Large

1 Middleton’s Life of Cicero, vol. i. Pref. p. 23.

selections, therefore, from his works, and other selections, more or less extensive, from the works of the most distinguished Latin poets and historians, were constantly read in the school; and the numerous instances of beauty or sublimity in the style or sentiments, as they occurred, were noticed and pointed out, with that keenness of perception, that accuracy of taste, and that ardour of feeling, which the learned teacher, in so high a degree, possessed.1

In remarking upon the plans pursued in some of our celebrated public seminaries, one considerable defect, which Dr. Parr often mentioned, was, that sufficient portions of Latin prose, especially in Cicero and Cæsar, were not read; and another, that sufficient time was not devoted to the composition of prose in that language. These defects in the systems of other schools, no doubt, he was careful to remedy in his own; whilst he gladly adopted from them whatever he found worthy of approbation. Indeed, it would be great injustice not to add, that if he sometimes noticed errors, where errors he thought he saw, at the same time, he ever acknowledged, with generous pleasure, the merits of other teachers; and commended, with no niggardly praise, the well-devised plans of other schools.

Dr. Parr was a strenuous advocate for the practice of committing to memory large portions of Greek and Latin verses; and applauded, in this as well as in other respects, the plan of Winchester School, where that practice has been long

1 Europ. Mag. Aug. 1809.

established, and carried to a great extent. It was his opinion, that by repeating passages, though not previously understood, a boy is incited by his own curiosity to explore, and is generally enabled by his own efforts to discover their meaning: that what is thus learnt by voluntary exertion, is learnt with more effect, and fixed with deeper impression on the memory; and that, by these means, the youthful mind gradually accumulates, in rich variety and abundance, stores of pleasing imagery, and sublime or beautiful expression.1

Alluding to these exercises of the memory, Dr. Monro mentions2 as an instance, that when he was first placed in the fifth form, he was ordered to get by heart as a holyday task—and no slight task!—the third Olynthiac of Demosthenes—which he accomplished. He mentions further, as an established regulation of the school, that the first business of the morning appointed for the upper classes, was a repetition of the lesson said the evening before; and this entirely from memory—which must have often required an exertion of its powers equal to their full extent. In some cases, the repetition-lesson was fairly and faithfully performed; but in many, he confesses, the task was accomplished by the aid of sly glances on the open book, which the master held in his hands. Not unfrequently the artifice remained undiscovered; but sometimes, by the sudden closing of the book, it was detected, and then—woe to the delinquent!

1 Europ. Mag. Aug. 1809.

2 In his written communications to the writer.


Devoted to the study of the noble languages of antiquity, most of our great seminaries in England were formerly exposed to the just reproach of neglecting, and even despising, the language and the literature of their own country. For some considerable time, indeed, after the revival of letters, all the genius and taste and erudition which then existed, were to be found only in the volumes of the ancients; and most of the valuable works which subsequently appeared, were composed not in the vernacular language, but in the Latin—the universal language, as it was long regarded, of learning. Under such circumstances, it is easy to account for, and in some measure to excuse, the contempt, which the scholars of that age usually poured upon their native tongue, and the entire exclusion of it from the prevailing system of education.

But when, in process of time, the use of Latin gave way to that of the living language of the country, even in the works of the learned, and when English literature itself became, from the number and the excellence of its writers, a just and important object of attention; still to contend, under these altered circumstances, that the study of English forms no proper or necessary part of the education of Englishmen, is surely an absurdity which may well excite surprise. Yet so slow often is the progress of the plainest truths, and so strong the force of the grossest prejudices, that some ages elapsed before even that absurdity was generally perceived and acknowledged.

Among the first to discover, and to hold forth to public view, the strange error of excluding the ver-
nacular language from the systems of public or private education, was the very learned prelate,
Bishop Lowth; who not only opposed to it the strength of his reasoning and the weight of his authority, but also provided for it the practical means of correction, by publishing his excellent “Introduction to English Grammar,” which first appeared in 1765. This is, indeed, an admirable work; possessing the rare merit of being at once philosophical and popular: a book, which the accomplished scholar peruses and admires, and which the youthful learner reads and understands. Almost, it may be said, from the date of that publication, and greatly in consequence of it, the study of the English language has assumed the place, to which it is entitled in every wise and well-considered plan of English education.

It might easily be supposed that Dr. Parr, scarcely less eminent as an English scholar and an English writer than as a man of classical learning, would not be slow to approve and to adopt so necessary and so important an amendment in the present system of education; and accordingly, it appears that much attention was devoted in Stanmore School to the cultivation of the English language, by the study of its grammar and the perusal of its best writers, and especially by the frequent composition of English themes. For these last, questions proposed or approved by the tutor, were given on topics principally of history, either ancient or modern; of ethics, and sometimes even of theology; and before he dismissed the young writers to their task, in the course of an address of some length, in
which all his own wonderful powers of speaking were displayed, he placed before them, in clear view and in full detail, the whole subject, on which they were required to think and to write.

“When he gave the upper boys a subject for a theme,” says Mr. Beloe,1 “he would descant upon the subject, in all its ramifications, for the best part of an hour, in a most amusing as well as instructive manner.”—“Even his common discourse,” says Dr. Monro, “always struck my youthful mind as possessing true and genuine eloquence; but when he gave out a thesis for an essay to his pupils, and expatiated upon it for their direction and assistance—in explaining the clear and comprehensive views which he took of every subject—his eloquence was indeed powerful and impressive.” Flowing in a rapid stream, his language, as Dr. Monro describes it, was rich, various, copious, always energetic, and often splendid; bearing along with it, like a golden tide, the delighted and enraptured minds of his youthful audience. He was so exact in the choice, so correct in the application of his words; his sentences were so nicely constructed and highly polished, that no written composition could appear more finished. “In short, on such occasions,” says Dr. Monro, “he seemed to be a perfect master of oratory.”

The exercises, for which the youths of the upper classes were thus admirably prepared, usually occupied some of the leisure hours of every day, and especially of holydays; and the obligation to per-

1 Sexagenarian, vol. i. p. 24.

form them was rigorously enforced.1 In the case of the younger boys written translations might sometimes be prescribed, but original composition was not required. For no one ever exposed and ridiculed more pointedly than
Dr. Parr, the absurdity of demanding invention from those, by whom the materials for invention could not as yet have been collected.2

In this manner, by the exertions of the tutor and the spirit of emulation in the pupils, a taste for English composition was excited with great effect, especially among the higher classes; and pleasing specimens of poetry, as well as prose, were produced, some of which have been published.3 It was no little encouragement to the lovers of English poetry—shrinking back as they often did from the dry mechanism of Greek and Latin versification—to be released, as they occasionally were, from the task of composing hexameters and pentameters, on condition of producing a good copy of English verses. But the attempt was hazardous; because failure, in any considerable degree, was always followed by disgrace and punishment—punishment from the master, and, what to the generous mind is still harder to bear, disgrace among the scholars.4

1 Maurice’s Mem. part 1. p. 105.

2 Europ. Mag. Aug. 1809.

3 Among others may be mentioned, “The School-boy,” a poem by Mr. Maurice, which was praised even by Dr. Johnson; and “Translations from the Chorusses and Speeches of the Greek Tragedians,” by the same.

4 Beloe’s Sexag. vol. i. p. 21. Maurice’s Mem. part 1. p. 57. and 65.