Adam Clarke.

An account of the religious and literary life of Adam Clarke ... written by one who was intimately acquainted with him from boyhood to the sixtieth year of his age online

. (page 1 of 91)
Online LibraryAdam ClarkeAn account of the religious and literary life of Adam Clarke ... written by one who was intimately acquainted with him from boyhood to the sixtieth year of his age → online text (page 1 of 91)
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( D3= See rfte Preface.)




There are some circumstances respecting the succeed-
ing Memoirs which require explanation, and others which
need statement.

" If these Memoirs were written by the late Dr. Clarke,
how happens it that they speak in the third person, and
appear as though composed by an intimate friend?'' —
The third person was assumed in order to obviate an un-
pleasant appearance of egotism which Autobiography
must always assume, more or less offensive, according to
the skill of the Narrator. In this, Dr. Clarke did but
follow the example of other great names, and availed
himself of a disguise, previously made known to the
Readers, that the mere Individual might not be per-
petually obtruding himself upon their notice : the atten-
tion being fixed upon the passing events and described
feelings, the Author temporarily forgotten, the judgment
may be thus formed, not from the bias of Dr. Clarke's felt


presence, but from the facts as recorded in the Narrative : —
a mask which gives courage but conceals no feature.

Various members of his family, as well as some of his
most intimate friends, frequently and urgently pressed
Dr. Clarke to publish, or prepare for publication, a Memoir
of himself; stating that this would be the only effectual
mode of preventing false or weak productions being
palmed upon the world as faithful Memoirs. To all
representations, however, he remained deaf, till one day
a friend came and told him, " he had received sure infor
mation of a Life of him being even then in preparation ,
that all his Conversations had been taken down, all his
Letters treasured up, all his Observations noted, with the
view of being embodied when the anticipated event should
take place to call them into public being ; that little dis-
cretion would be used in selecting ; since, the object being
gain, all would be published which would sell; and that
even were some conscience shown, still there was no
judgment to direct ; but indiscreet zeal, or the hope of
* ungodly gains,' would slay his fame in the house of his
friend."* Dr. Clarke felt the force of such observations,

* It is not one of the least remarkable facts connected with the life of
Dr. Clarke, that the individual here alluded to died before the Doctor ;
and was visited by him and his youngest son during a long and tedious
illness. There is a farther notice of this affair in the following Letter
to his eldest son.

Liverpool, June 15, 1819.
My Dear John,

Some time ago, you wrote requesting me to set about writing the
history of my Life; this is a task which, while I have contemplated,


and the next morning when he came down to breakfast,
he said to his friend, " I have been up long before day

I have feared to attempt ; but I have thought more of the subject, since
you wrote; and have lately been obliged to think deeply on it too, in
consequence of receiving credible information, that my Life is ready
for the greedy eye of the public, so soon as my heart shall be cold !

I came here yesterday evening, and in a private conversation with

my friend Mr. , he most solemnly begged, and charged me to begin

the work, because he knew some hackneyed, and hunger-bitten scri-
veners were ready to praise me to death, and to murder me in verse so
soon as I ceased to exist among men ; and I was led to believe that
all the conversations, and anecdotes relative to myself and family for
several years past, have been carefully taken down, and as carefully
preserved. Mr. Comer took up the same subject, and most earnestly
begged me instantly to begin, and defer it no longer. Well, what can
I do 1 the Commentary is still hanging on my hands. True, I am
free from the Records, which gives me a measure of leisure, and saves
me from much anxiety, laying all these considerations together, with
the seviel calcanda via, and Mr. Comer being in good earnest, and
having provided and laid on his study table ruled paper for the pur-
pose, I sat down yesterday and made a trial ! * * * * And thus have
I brought myself on in my journey through life, to the ninth year ot
my age: and unless death stop me, I shall not stop in it till this be
finished. I have written it in the third person as to the subject, and in
the first person as to the narrator. This form may be altered if neces-
sary. I recollect, when Mr. Thorsby wrote his own life, the pronoun
/occurred so often in it, that the printer was obliged to borrow Ts from
his brother printers, as his Ts had run out. Your father has never
been in the habit of speaking much of himself; he has never boasted,
nor pretended great things ; and it would ill become him, when about
to pass the great deep, to occupy his time, or that of his Readers, with
unreal history, or unceremonious, and, generally speaking, unwelcome
pronouns. Now, suggest to me, my dear John, any thing that strikes
you — any thing I should not forget, or any thing on which I should
lay particular stress, &c. &c.

July 3. I go on but slowly with the Life ; and yet I get on. A
few pages more might terminate what may be called my initial and
religious history, and here I might leave it, for all the purposes of
illustrating either God's providence or His grace. My literary life,
as it may be called, is another thing ; and belongs more to the world,
than to the Church of God ; and I question if ever I shall attempt it.


and have written several quarto sheets of my very close
and small writing" as a commencement of the history of
my early life." This he continued, at various short
intervals, till be brought it down to a period beyond which
no inducement or solicitation could persuade him to pro-
ceed " My early life," [much in this manner he would
speak,] " no one can know ; nor can any one describe my
feelings and God's dealings with my soul, some of which
are the most important circumstances in my life, and are
of most consequence to the religious world : — these I have
now secured, and placed in their proper light : — what
therefore others could neither have known nor described
so truly as I, are here prevented from being lost : — my
public life many have known, and it is before the world ;
if it be of importance, there will be found some who will
transmit its events to posterity; and being passed before
the eyes of all men, should there be misrepresentations,
there will necessarily be plenty who can correct them : —
at any rate, I have done what I feel to be the most import-
ant part ; for the rest, there are ample materials ; and, as
the living will, in all probability, write of the dead, let
my survivors do their part. — Nothing shall ever induce
me to write the history of that portion of my life when I
began to acquire fame, and great and learned men saw fit
to dignify with their acquaintance, and to bestow honours
and distinctions on, a Methodist Preacher." In this reso-
lution he never for a moment wavered, and hence there
was no more of his Life written by himself than what is
contained in the present volume.


When Dr. Clarke was told of the above intention to
publish after his death all that he had either written or
spoken in the confidence of private friendship, or in the
familiar intercourse of occasional conversations, he was
very indignant, expressing his abhorrence of such " pre-
meditated treachery," as a man's coming into a family to
act the part of a spy, — to record mutilated opinions, hand
down disjointed conversations, and to proclaim as the re-
sult of deliberate judgment what might have been either
a hasty expression of feeling, or a merely casual or unim-
portant remark :-^-" In conversation or correspondence I
never either spoke or wrote for the public ; friendly inter-
course was my sole object in the one case, and in the
other relaxation from severe thought; after I have been
writing and studying from five in the morning till half-
past seven at night, it is hardly likely that I should come
into the parlour with a disposition or preparation to shine. —
I write because it is necessary, and I talk because I am
cheerful and happy." The strong feeling of Dr. Clarke
on this point is thus recorded, that the Public may not
hereafter be deluded upon the subject, as if he had au-
thorized any to take down any of his conversation on any
occasion : — he had too much respect for the good sense
and regard of mankind ever to come before them with
inconsideration ; and was the last man in the world ever
to be himself a party consenting to the wounding of his
hard-earned fame by the publication of unprepared docu'
ments. Such conduct he always considered as treacherous
in a friend, disgraceful to a man, and shameful to a Chris-


tian. His opinion of the publishing Letters, because they
were written by a certain individual, he has himself ex-
pressed in the following pages. (See page 200.)

The Editor of this volume has had very little trouble
in the performance of his office ; for the Manuscript was
left in so complete a state by Dr. Clarke, that few things
needed any alteration. No addition of any kind has been
made, not even the insertion of any thing which the Au-
thor himself had formerly written, but had not himself
introduced: this was judged necessary, that Dr. Clarke
might not be rendered accountable for what another had
chosen to insert : for this reason some Letters are referred
to the end which might otherwise have been included and
wrought into the body of the Work.

It may be expedient to add a few words concerning the
remaining portion of this Work, which has been written
by "A Member of the Family." For this part Dr. Clarke
supplied all the materials ; he gave up his Journals, his
Common-place Book, his private papers, and wrote many of
the accounts contained in it with his own hand ; and after
the whole was digested into a Narrative, up to the year
1830, he looked over it and placed his signature to each
sheet as a testimony that the alleged facts were true,
leaving the Author of course accountable for the manner
of their expression, as well as for the mode of their com-
bination. Any farther particulars which may be necessary
will be mentioned in the Preface to the succeeding volume.


It is highly probable that many, on the perusal of this
Work, may be inclined to exclaim, " We have heard strange
things to-day;" and others may be excited to purer faith
and greater diligence in the ways of godliness. To the
latter, may the Author of all good grant an assurance to
their faith, and strength and continuance to their work-
ing : while to the former, may their hesitancy be overcome,
that they may walk in a like path, and the "strange
things" be converted into the experienced feelings of
their own hearts, and the enjoyed blessings in their own


Frome, November, 1832



It is to be regretted that few persons who have arrived
at any degree of eminence or fame, have written Memorials
of themselves, at least such as have embraced their private
as well as their 'public life. By themselves or contempora-
ries their public transactions have been in general amply
recorded, with the apparent motives which led them to their
particular lines of action, and the objects they aimed at by
thus acting: but how they became capable of acting such
parts ; how their minds acquired that impulse which gave
them this dkection ; what part an especial Providence, pa-
rental influence, accident, or singular occurrence, and edu-
cation, had, in forming the man, producing those habits
which constitute his manners, and prepared him for his
future lot in life, we are rarely told. And without this, we
neither can trace the dispensations of Providence, nor the
operations of those mental energies by which such effects
have been produced. Hence the main benefit of biography
is lost, — emulation leading to imitation has no scope. We
cannot folio w the man because we do not see his previous
footsteps : he bursts generally on our sight, like a meteor,
and we are dazzled with the view: to us he is inimitable


because he is enrobed with all his distinguishing- perfec-
tions and eminence before we are introduced to his acquain-
tance. Were it otherwise, we should probably see that
those who have reached the highest degrees of elevation
beyond those who were born in the same circumstances
and line of life, were not indebted so much to anything
extraordinary in themselves, as to a well-timed and sedu-
lous use of their own powers, and such advantages as their
circumstances afforded; and that what occurs to others, as
mere accidents, were by them seized and pressed into their
own service, and shewed them the necessity of attentive
observation, that neither occurrence nor moment, should
pass by unnoticed or unimproved.

We may rest satisfied that, effects, which evidently have
nothing in them supernatural, spring from natural causes:
that the whole is an orderly procession, and appears asto-
nishing to us, only because we do not see that concatena-
tion of circumstances which, by a steady operation, produ-
ced the result.

Few men can be said to have inimitable excellencies :
let us watch them in their progress from infancy to man-
hood, and we shall soon be convinced that what they attain-
ed was the necessary consequence of the line they pursued,
and the means they used. But these things are not known,
because we have not the history of their lives in any conse-
cutive order : that of their infancy, Avhen life ordinarily gets
its direction and colouring, is generally suppressed by them-


selves or narrators ; possibly, because it is deemed insig-
nificant; or because men who have risen out of the lower
or middle classes of life, to literary or civil distinction,
are unwilling to tell their small beginnings ; and thus,
through false shame, what would really redound to their
honour, explain apparent mysteries in the Providence which
conducted the affairs of their lives, and would render those
lives truly and endlessly useful, by shewing that they
were perfectly imitable, is lost to mankind. I say nothing
of those things wmich may not be improperly termed bio-
graphical romances, — lives which were never lived, and
virtues which were never practised.

To exhibit a man through every period of his life, who
has obtained some distinction as well in the republic of
letters as in religious society ; and how he acquired this
distinction, is the principal design of the following sheets:
and the reason for doing this, is threefold: — 1. To mani-
fest the goodness of God to those who trust in Him ; and
how He causes all things to work together for the good
of such persons ; that He may have the praise of His own
grace : and, 2dly, To prevent the publication of improper
accounts, the only object of which is to raise unholy gains,
by impositions on the public. 3dly. To shew to young
men, who have not had those advantages which arise from
elevated birth and a liberal education, how such defects
may be supplied by persevering industry, and the redemp-
tion of time. Young Ministers, especially, may learn
from these Memoirs a useful lesson. They see what has


been done towards mental improvement, in circumstances
generally worse than their own, and that a defect in ta-
lents frequently arises from a defect in self cultivation :
and that there is much less room for excuse than is ge-
nerally supposed : in short, that no quarter should be
shewn to those who lohile away time, and permit a sort of
religious gossipping to engender in them the disgraceful
nabits of indolence or sloth. It is hoped, and not unreason-
ably, that they will see from a perusal of this work, that
the divine Providence is never parsimonious in affording
all necessary advantages, and if duly improved, neither
they, nor the people to w r hom they minister, will have
much cause to complain of a deficiency of gifts through
inadequate supplies of Providence, or inefficient influence
from grace. Those who consider such cases as that here
exhibited without profit, must have an incurable hebitudi*
of disposition, with which it would be in vain to contend,
us they have reconciled themselves to its indulgence, and
thus have become " such as cannot teach, and will not




The great human family speedily divided into branches . . 37
The surname of Clarke originated from the office of clerk . 38
The knowledge of letters not common in ancient times in Eng-
land • .38

Withred, king of Kent, A. D. 700, signed a charter of. Liberties

with the sign of the Cross, because he could not write 39
Henry the First, the only one of his family that could write . 3D
Boldon Book contains a Survey of the Bishoprick of Durham,

in 1183 ... ...... 39

Adam, the Clerk, mentioned as tenant in it . . 39

V arious instances of surnames in that and Domesday, de-
rived from offices and employments, . . . .39

Different kinds of names among the Romans .... 40

Difference between the prtenomen, namen, and cognomen . 40
lngenui among the Romans, the same as gentleman among

the English





Family of Clarke originally English

Went over to Ireland in the seventeenth century, and settled

in the county of Antrim 41

Matrimonial connexions 41

Hugh Stuart Boyd, allied to the family of Clarke by mar-
riage, and still holds some of the estates . . .42
Short pedigree of the Clarke family .... (note) 42
Anecdote of William Clarke, great- great- grand father of Adam

Clarke (note) 42

John Clarke, the great-grandfather, has 19 children, — 18 sons

and 1 daughter (note) 42

Horseman Clarke died of hydrophobia in consequence of being

spattered with the foam of a mad dog . . (note) 43
The Clarke family lost their estates, in consequence of the ab-
sence of a material witness in a trial at law (note) 43
John Clarke, father of Adam, takes his degree of M. A. at

Edinburgh and Glasgow 44

Enters as Sizer in Trinity College, Dublin, being intended

for the church ........ 44

His prospects in the church blighted by a premature mar-
riage .......... 45

Licensed as a public parish schoolmaster .... 45

Marries Miss Hannah Mac Lean, descended from the Mac

Leans of Mull . . * 45

Feud between the Mac Leans and Mac Donalds . . 45

Mr. John Clarke embarks for America, with the promise of a

professorship in one of the new Universities there . 4G



Is prevented from sailing by his father . . . . 40

Gets into difficulties in consequence of breaking up his es-
tablishment ......... 47

Settles in an obscure village in the county of Derry, called

Moybeg 47

Ad^m, his second son, born 47

No register of the time of his birth preserved ... 47
Tracy Clarke, the eldest son, licensed by the Consistorial Court

of Derry, as a parish schoolmaster .... 48

Bound apprentice to a surgeon • . 48

Goes to Dublin, and studies anatomy under Dr. Cleghorne,

of Trinity College 48

Sails in a slave ship to Guinea and the West Indies . . 48

His journal destroyed by the captain of the ship . . 48
Various instances of cruelty witnessed by him during his

voyage ......... 49

Is disgusted with the horrid nature of the traffic ; abandons

it, and establishes himself as a surgeon, near Liverpool, 50

Adam Clarke very hardy in his infancy ..... 51

His uncle, the Rev. J. Mac Lean, remarkable for his

strength ......... 52

One of his aunts very diminutive . . . .52

The district remarkable for having produced tall strong men 52
Adam gets well through the small pox by naturally adopting the

cool regimen . . . . . ... .53

His early religious impressions and conversations with a

school-fellow ........ 54

Anecdote of Dr. Barnard 55

Adam has a horror of becoming fat 55

Has his fortune told by a spae-man 55

Is a very inapt scholar . . . . . . .56

Prediction of a neighbouring schoolmaster concerning him 56

Unfitness of many public teachers for their employment . . 57

Adam abandons his Latin grammar in despair 58

Is severely reproved by the master, and taunted by his

school-fellows ........ 58

His intellect becomes suddenly enlightened, and he advances

in his learning rapidly ...... 58

Reflections upon this sudden revolution ... 59

Advice to schoolmasters ........ 59

Adam never makes any great progress in arithmetic . . 60

Depressed state of the family ....... 60

The prices of various branches of education in Ireland at the

latter end of the 18th century ..... 60

Mr. John Clarke cultivates his farm according to the rules laid

down by Virgil in his Georgies ..... 61

Adam and his brother alternately work in the farm, and instruct

each other ......... 61

Read the Eclogues and Georgies of Virgil in the midst of

scenes similar to those described in that work . . 62
Fragments of a Satire written by Adam on one of his school-
fellows 62

Scholia on ditto ......... 64

The love of reading in Adam and his brother becomes intense 64

They lay by their half-pence and pence to buy books . 61



Evening prayer taught by her to her children

Morning prayer and Doxology .....

Her manner of spending the Sabbath with her family
Religious education of the family .....
Mode of practising sacred music in the North of Ireland .

Various instances from sacred and profane history of the
antiquity of this mode of singing

Not in use among the Irish Roman Catholics
An account of the Caoinian or Irish howl
A. C. learns dancing

Its evil effects upon him ....

His protest against this branch of education
Various projects for A. C.'s settlement in life

Has a very narrow escape for his life in consequence of a
fall from his horse ......

A. C. has another narrow escape from death by drowning

Conversation with Dr. Letsom on the subject

Sensations while untler water, and on coming to life .
A remarkable anecdote of an attempted robbery and murder
Unfortunate accident by an incautious use of fire-arms


She impresses on her family a great reverence for the Bible 74


A catalogue of their books
Works of imagination useful to young minds .... 66

Adam reads the Pilgrim's Progress 66

His reflections as a child upon the conduct of Christian in

the dungeon 66

More mature reflections ....... 67

Becomes an enthusiastic admirer of the Trojan hero, Hec-
tor, from hearing his father recite portions of the Iliad 67
Is induced to attempt to obtain a knowledge of occult philo-
sophy 68

Forms an acquaintance with a company of travelling tinkers,

who profess to be adepts in magic .... 68
Is deterred from pursuing his magical studies, by reading
an answer to a question on that subject in the (i Athe-
nian Oracle" 69

From the reports spread in the neighbourhood of his super-
natural powers, marauders are deterred from robbing
his father's premises ....... 69

Receives the first taste for Oriental literature by reading the

Arabian Nights' Entertainments 70

Derives great benefit from reading the adventures of Robin

son Crusoe and iEsop's Fables 71

Manner in which the peasants of the North of Ireland spend

their winters' evenings ...... 71

Strong impression made upon the memory of the hearer by the

relation of the Gaelic stories ..... 71

Baptism of Fion ma cool, or Fingal, by St. Patrick . . .72
Manners of the Irish peasantry ...... 72

Adam's Mother, a Presbyterian of the old puritanic school . 73

Online LibraryAdam ClarkeAn account of the religious and literary life of Adam Clarke ... written by one who was intimately acquainted with him from boyhood to the sixtieth year of his age → online text (page 1 of 91)