Arthur Collier.

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RTHUR Collier, author of
the very remarkable Me-
taphysical Piece, entitled
Clavis Universalis, was de-
scended of a respectable family, originally
from Bristol, which settled in Wiltshire
early in the seventeenth century. An
autobiographical sketch of the earlier
part of his life,^ has been preserved, from
which it appears that his education com-
menced at the schools of Chitterne and
Salisbury, and was completed at the
University of Oxford. From his youth

* See P. xxiii. inf.


upwards, although of a very deUcate con-
stitution, he was an industrious and
successful student in Metaphysics and
Theology — his great object being, as he
has himself expressed it, " so to read as
to fit him for Holy Orders/' He was
ordained by the Bishop of Salisbury in
1705, and immediatelv entered to the
cure of Langford Magna, a parish of
which the Advowson had belonged to his
family for a century, and of which his
immediate ancestors had been rectors for
several generations. For the first five
years of his ministry Collier also served
the cures of Broad Chalk and Bower
Chalk; upon resigning which, in 1711,
he undertook the cure of Bishop's Cleer
during 1712 and 1713. In 1714 he was
appointed to Baverstock, and in 1721 to
Compton Chamberlain ; and he continued
in the pastoral superintendence of these
two parishes, in conjunction with that
of Langford Magna, till his death.


Collier appears to have commenced his
clerical career, with very exalted notions
of the importance of the duties he was
about to undertake. The following striking
estimate of the functions of a clergyman,
is extracted from one of his note books: —
" He is dedicated to the service of God
and the Church. He wears the habit of
a mourner and an intercessor. He must
be separated from the concerns and cares
of this world. He must be dedicated to
the study and meditation of divine mat-
ters. His conversation must be a pattern
and a sermon to others. He offers up
prayers to God as the mouth of the
people. He must pray and intercede
for them in private as in public. He
must distribute to them the bread of Hfe,
and the word, and sacraments. He must
attend upon them not only in public,
but from house to house. He is to
watch for their souls, to keep them from
sin and error. He must visit the sick.


and prepare them for the life to come
He must endeavour to raise his own re-
putation and that of his function. He
must convince his people that he has a
true design to save their souls. His
course of life must combine public func-
tion and secret labours. He will for
these be more severely accounted with
than any others. He must not only ab-
stain from evils, but from the appearance
of them. His friend and his garden
ought to be his chief diversion — his study
and his parish his chief employments.
He must employ great part of his time
in sin-searching and error. He must
have a lively sense and impression of
divine matters. He takes upon him a
trust for which an account must be given.
He must endeavour to act above man,
more Uke the angels. He is a fellow-
w^orker with God, an ambassador of
Christ. He is a savour of life unto life,
of death unto death."


The period of Collier's marriage is un-
known. His wife was Margaret, daughter
of Nicholas Johnson, Esq., and niece of
Sir Stephen Fox, paymaster of the army.
By this lady he had a family, the expense
of which, combined probably with w^ant
of due attention to worldly affairs, ulti-
mately involved him in pecuniary embar-
rassments. In 1716, we find him applying
to the Bishop of Salisbury for permission
to leave his parsonage at Langford, which
he describes as " too handsome and conve-
nient for his income," and to reside for a
few years in Sarum. " I speak, my Lord,"
he says in a very affecting letter to the
Bishop, " with confusion of face, and with
great reluctance, that this is the only
feasible method which occurs to me of
extricating myself from the difficulties I
am in at present." Collier has left evi-
dence, in a letter to Lady Fox, that his
request was complied with; but his change
of residence does not seem to have had


the desired effect of relieving his embar-
rassments. On the contrary, he was at
last driven to dispose of the Advowson of
Langford Magna, to which he had suc-
ceeded as an estate of inheritance, for the
inadequate price of sixteen hundred
guineas ; a sum scarcely sufficient to pay
his debts at the time of the sale.

Collier died in 1732 at the age of
fifty, and was buried in his own parish
church of Langford Magna. No account
remains of his last moments, or of the
disease to which he fell a sacrifice. He
was survived by his wife, two sons, and
two daughters. " His eldest son Arthur,
who is described, in Coote's Lives of the
Civilians^ as an ingenious, but unsteady
and eccentric man, practised as an Advo-
cate at the Commons, where he died in
1777. The other entered the army, and
rose to the rank of a Colonel. Of the
daughters, one was the authoress of a
clever work called the Art of Ingeni-


ously Tormenting, and the remaining
child derives some little celebrity from
having accompanied Fielding in his in-
teresting Voyage to Lisbon,''^

These slight notices have been gleaned
from an unpublished Memoir of the Life
and Writings of ColUer, by Mr Benson,
the learned Eecorder of Salisbury, which,
with distinguished liberality, he trans-
mitted to a friend in Edinburgh, author-
izing: him to communicate it to the
Editor, for the use of the present publi-
cation. This Memoir has been compiled
from the most authentic sources, and
contains some valuable information re-
garding the merits of Collier as a Theo-
logian and Metaphysician ; with ample
details of the various controversies in
which he distinguished himself in these
characters. It was intended to accom-
pany a new edition of Collier's Philoso-
phical Writings ; and although the pub-

' Mr Benson's MS.


lication has been for the present delayed,
it is to be hoped that it may one day be
given to the world.

Collier left a large collection of Ma-
nuscripts, the remains of which are now
in the possession of Mr Benson. They
were found in the garret of an ancient
residence in the Close of Salisbury, to
which Mr Benson's father, the Keverend
Edmund Benson, succeeded in 1796,
under the settlements of William Ben-
son Earle, Esq., a direct descendant,
by the mother's side, of a sister of Col-
lier, who married a clergyman of the
name of Sympson. The authenticity of
the Manuscripts is undoubted ; and it is
only to be regretted, as Mr Benson re-
marks, " that but a small portion of what
once existed remains. Indeed, for many
years prior to 1806, they were so conve-
niently placed for the housemaid, who
lighted an adjoining bedroom fire, that
it is not easy to estimate how many of
them have been consumed. The au-


thor's Commentary on the Greek Bible
seems to have been her favourite, for of
that only a few sheets have been spared."
Mr Benson gives a catalogue of the
existing Manuscripts, extending, accord-
ing to their dates, from 1703, nearly to
the period of Collier's death. They are,
with few exceptions, on Metaphysical
and Theological subjects, and consist,
chiefly, of extracts from, or notes on, the
different works which formed the subject
of his studies. There are, however, a few
essays of a didactic character, indicating
great vigour of intellect ; and a collection
of controversial letters, of which a small
selection, comprehending those relating
to the Clavis Universalis, will be found
' in the Appendix.

The Autobiographical Sketch already
referred to, which, from its title — eis ayton
KAi HEPi ATTOY — ucvcr was intended for publi-
cation, has been subjoined to this Notice;
and though but the brief chronicle of the
early life of a recluse student, it will not


be read without interest. There are
some Memoranda of the latter period
of Collier's life, amongst the manuscripts,
which Mr Benson does not consider
sufficiently important to be printed.
They consist only of short notices of the
churches he served — the clerical duties
he performed — and the visits he paid and
received ; whilst the days he spent stu-
diously are merely marked with the
word " study."

Besides the Clavis Universalis, the
following works are known to have been
published by Collier :

1. Christian Principles of Obedience.

A Sermon on Komans xiii. 1.
1713. 8vo.

2. Sermon on Komans i. 17. 1716. 8vo.

3. A Specimen of True Philosophy, in

a Discourse on Genesis, the first


chapter, and the first verse. Sa-
rum. 1730. 12mo.

4. Logology, or a Treatise on the
Logos or Word of God, in seven
Sermons on John i. 1, 2, 3, 14 ; to
which is added, an Appendix on
the subject. Lond. 173^. 12mo.

It would exceed the limits, and be
foreign to the purpose of this Notice, to
attempt any account of Collier's Theolo-
gical writings and opinions. The late
Dr Parr, shortly before his death, ap-
pears to have prepared for publication a
volume of Metaphysical Tracts, contain-
ing the Clavis Universalis, and the Sped-
men of True Philosophy, with observations
on Collier's peculiar reUgious opinions.
Dr Parr did not Uve to carry his design
fully into execution ; but his own copy,
as prepared for the press, was purchased
at the sale of his library by Mr Swanston,
by whom it was communicated to Mr


Benson, whose Memoir contains the ob-
servations of that very learned divine on
CoUier's Theology.

The general course of Collier's reading,
as indicated by his manuscripts, shows a
very early turn for Metaphysical studies.
Des Cartes, Malebranche, and Norris
were his favourite authors ; and Mr Ben-
son conjectures, with great probability,
that his intimacy with the latter, who
was rector of the neighbouring parish of
Bemerton, contributed to foster his natu-
ral taste for abstract speculation. It was
about the year 17(33, when he had little
more than attained to manhood, that he
appears to have adopted the celebrated
doctrine as to the non-existence of the
Material World. His earUest written
speculations on this subject are extant
in three manuscript tracts, the first of
which is dated as far back as 1708, and
bears this title : " Sketch of a Metaphy-
sical Essay on the Subject of the Visible
World being without us or not'' The


others are dated in 1712; the one en-
titled — " Notes of a Treatise 07i Sub-
stance and Accident ; or Frinciples of
Philosophy, being a Treatise on Substance
and Accideiit : " the other — " Clavis Phi-
losophica ; being a Metaphysical Essay
against the being or possibility of an
Eocternal Worlds These were the first
sketches of the work which, in a more
matured form, he gave to the world in
1713, under the title of Clavis Univer-
salis, or a New Inquiry after Truth ; —
a work which, whatever may be thought
of its conclusions, ever must be regarded
as a remarkable specimen of metaphy-
sical acuteness, and of logical reasoning.
A few copies of this very rare Tract are
now reprinted for the gratification of the
curious in Metaphysical Science. It is
favourably, but shortly noticed by Dr
Eeid ; and more largely, and with higher
commendation, by Mr Dugald Stewart,
who does not hesitate to class it with the
celebrated treatise of Berkeley on the



same subject. " The Clavis Universalis,''
says he, " when compared with the writ-
ings of Berkeley himself, yields to them
less in force of argument, than in compo-
sition and variety of illustration."^

It is somewhat remarkable that Collier
should not mention Berkeley's Theory of
Vision or \h^ Principles of Human Know^
ledge — the former pubUshed in 1709, and
the latter in 1710. That he was not unac-
quainted with these works is evident from
his letters to Mr Low* in March, 1714,
and to Dr Clarke in February, 1715/
But in making this observation, it is
fair to state, that his manuscript sketches,
above mentioned, make it certain that he
had arrived at his conclusions on the sub-
ject of the Material World prior to the
publications of Berkeley, and consequent-
ly without borrowing from them. Collier

• Disseriaiion on Hie History of Metaphysical Science, p. 168,

• A grammarian and critic now little known, except as the
author of a System of Mnemonics.

• Appendix, Nos, I., III.


announces on his titlepage, in the lan-
guage of Malebranche, the principle with
which he starts as dm Enquirer after Truth
. — Vulgi assensus et approbatio, circa mate-
riant difficilem, est certum argumentum
falsitatis istius opinionis cui assentitur.
His pubhcation, he tells us, was the
result of " a ten years' pause and deli-
beration ; " and was presented to the
public, as he farther observes, with no-
thing more to recommend it than " dry
reason and metaphysical demonstration."
Its merits have long been acknowledged
on the Continent, in consequence of the
German translation of Professor Eschen-
bach, published at Eostock in 1756 ; and
although but little known in his own
country, it may safely be represented,
after the commendations of Keid and
Stewart, as well entitling its author to a
distinguished place amongst her Meta-
physical Philosophers.



;N the 19th day of August, a.d.
1682, 1 was born in the Parson-^
age house at Steeple Langford,
of pious and honest parents ; my father,
Mr Arthur Collier, the third successive
Eector of that parish in the same family ;
my mother, Mrs Ann Collier, the daugh-
ter of Thomas and Joan Currey, Gents,
in the county of Somerset. I was born
in great weakness, and my mother, with-
out providing any other, undertook to
nurse me herself, I being the fifth child
she had, all at that time alive. On the
8th of September following, I was bap-
tized in the same parish church, Mr Pen-
ruddock of Compton, and Mr William
Ellesdon, my grandfather, being my God-


fathers, my Lady Hyde my Godmother ;
by whom, after they had performed the
usual duties for me, I was again commit-
ted to the care of my parents, my mother
taking to breed me up herself. I remain-
ed in the same house till I was seven years
old and a half, at which time I was sent
out to board at school with Mr Delacourt
of Chitterne. My mother had before
taught me to read very well, and a little
Latin, but by Mr Delacourt I was farther
instructed in it, so far as Ovid De T7ns-

Then at the end of two years and a
quarter, I was removed to Salisbury School,
under the care of Mr E. Hardwick as to
my education, and of Mrs G. St Earb as to
my board. Then I was entered in the
lowest form in Corderius' Colloquies.
After I was got one form higher, there
were four of the same form removed into
that immediately above, and it was a
great trouble to me that I was not one of


them. In this school I remained, and
went through several of the Classic Au-
thors ; but when I was at the higher end
of the third form, and lately begun to
learn Greek, I was, with four more, remo-
ved into the second form, being that next
above us, which was no small joy to me.
There I lived with as much satisfaction
and content as any body, sometimes cor-
rected for idleness and negligence rather
than immorality, till, at the end of six
years and a quarter, Mrs St Barb giving
down housekeeping, I, with Mr E. S., my
kinsman, who (of six or seven were now
the only two boarders remaining with our
former mistress) were removed to the
boarding school near the Close Gate,
which was then kept by Mr G. M. Thi-
ther we came at St Michael's day, 1697.
I passed the winter very pleasantly, till
at the Christmas following my father died
of a diabetes in the fifty-fifth year of his
age. I had just before dreamed I was
married, and my kinsman, who lay with


me on that very night before I was sent
for home to see mv father before he died,
dreamed that I had drunk a large dose of
some corrupted blood which had the day
before been taken from one of the house ;
and indeed so it came to pass, for this
matter was the occasion of giving me very
deep draughts of sorrow, and the effects
of it I shall feel I believe as long as I live.
My father being dead (he died on the
10th day of December) and buried, I left
a very mournful family, and returned to
school. The trouble which my mother
met with in settling the Parsonage to
be secure, occasioned by the Bishop of
Sarum's severity in rejecting Mr Hard-
wick and Mr Stephens, though both pre-
sented lawfully to it by my mother, is such
as we shall never forget, and I doubt not
the loss of it so great we shall not reco-
ver. But at last, about the Whitsuntide
following, the Parsonage was settled, with
good^security, upon Mr F. Eyre, second
son to Judge Samuel Eyre. The Michael-


mas following, I left the school, said my
valedictum, and came home, where I staid
till the 28th of October, at which time I
set forth with my brother for Oxford. He
hadbefore been one yearand three months
at Pembroke College, but then (being in
the country) he was, at the instance of
Mr E. Strong and Mr Hardwick, to leave
that College, arid both of us to be entered
at BalUoll College ; and entered we were
on the 22d day of October, 1698, under
the tutorage of Mr E. Strong. Here I
continued till the Easter following, and
then we were both sent for into the coun-
try. Accordingly we went. While we
were there, I began to learn to play upon
the vioUn of Mr Hall of Sarum, till about
the middle of June I went again to Ox-
ford to leave BaUioU College and go to
Wadham College, in order to stand for
a Scholarship there.

1699. Accordingly, I removed from
BallioU College in June, and entered at


Wadham College, where, on the 29th day
of that month (being St Peter's day), I
stood the election for scholars, more out
of form than any hope of succeeding, it
being usual in that college for none
(hardly) to be chosen the first time of
their standing. Here I continued pretty
constant at prayers, and the exercises of
the College all that winter, and till the
next election, which was on the same day

1700. At which time I stood again,
but there being but one place void for
about nine candidates, my endeavour
proved without success, and so forthwith
I went into the country, where I re-
mained till November 5, of the same
year. I returned to Oxford, and passed
that winter there.

1701. In the Whitsuntide week I took
a jaunt into Buckinghamshire with Mr
J. B., a fellow Collegiate. We resided at


Marsh, which was then the Warden of
Wadham's Parsonage, and where my
companion's father had an estate ; from
whence we went about the country to
Bicester, &c., and at length returned to
Oxford. The election drawing on, I
(upon some consideration) resolved not
to stand ; and, while I was thus think-
ing, I received a little letter from my
mother, wherein she gave me orders to
the same effect, and, withall, to come
into the country as soon as possible. Ac-
cordingly, when I had stayed to keep the
term, I went down, and then I stayed a
whole year, till the act-term following.
That winter I idled away for the most
part in following my gun ; but towards
spring I laid it aside, and began to

1702. Till at the act-term I returned
to Oxford and kept the term, but omit-
ted to do juraments, then in expectation
of returning the March following ; but


then going down again into the country,
I found it impracticable for me to come
up at March, so I set to my study that
winter, and, about Christmas, prepared
my lectures for my Batch elor's degree.
On the 13th January, I returned to Ox-
ford, read my lectures, took my Batche-
lor's degree, determined publicly, and,
having gone through all the orders and
expense of it, stayed there till April,
and some part in Easter term,

1703. And went down for good into
the country, having no expectation to
return to reside in Oxford. From that
time I applied myself with industry to
my study, aiming still so to read as to
fit myself for holy orders, which I then
fully intended, by God's assistance, to
undertake. That summer we continued
in my mother's house, at which time Mr
Eyre, having the presentation of Tred-
dington in Worcestershire, was obliged
to quit Langford, and then the presen-


tation of it was given to Mr E, Hard-
wick, which was not granted him by the
Bishop before that winter passed ; and,
in the spring, Mr Eyre went from the
Parsonage- house, whither he removed
the 20th of March,

1704. And being settled there, I con-
tinued at my study. On the 11th day
of April, about midnight, I was seized
violently ill, till, in two or three days, by
my mother's care, I pretty well recover-
ed (D. G.) ; and also, on the 11th day of
November (on the 20th W. S. H. was taken
ill, and died 2d of December), having
a great cold, with a violent cough, I was
taken, immediately after dinner, with
coughing, which forced up what I had
eat, and the cough continuing, stoped
my breath, and had hke to have choaked
me ; but, by the providence of God, I
escaped (D. G.). That winter passed ;

1705. And after having made some
sermons, preparatory for orders, I went


to Sarum, 30th of May, and applied my-
self to the Bishop for ordination, which,
after examination, he conferred on me
the Sunday following, with three others,
and one priest. Being thus admitted
Deacon, I preached the next Sunday in
the parish church of Langford, and so
continued in making sermons and preach-
ing, with other studies, till August 5,
when I preached for Mr G. P., who had
then the curacy of Broad Chalk. He
removing from thence, I was appointed
by the Bishop to supply that place till

March, at which time Mr A n, the

Vicar of it, was to reside on, or resign it.
Then I went to board with Mr Shaw of
Fivefield while I served the three Chur-
ches of Broad Chalk, Bower Chalk, and
Alvidiston for the space of seven weeks ;
and March then coming on, 1 expected
to return home ; but so it pleased God
that the people, being content with my
ministry, agreed to go to the Bishop and
request him that I might be continued
among them, which they accordingly did


(the persons that went were Mr E.
Good, Mr Ch. Good, Mr J. Combe for
me, and Farmer Penny of Fivefield for
Mr Shaw) ; and the Bishop declaring
that his only aim was to please the people,
granted their request.

1706. From thenceforth I applied my-
self to the discharge of my duty in the
Cure of those two parishes. Broad Chalk
and Bower Chalk, and having only these
two to care for, my business was the
easier. I still continued with Mr Shaw,
only advancing his pay from twelve to
fifteen pounds per annum. There I
continued till May, when he and I hap-
pening unaccountably to disagree, he
gave me warning to leave his house in a
week or a month ; and, for some reasons,
I thought not fit to go till my year was
up, which it was at Michaelmas.

And then I removed to Mr E. Good's
house at Bower Chalk, Mr Shaw having


made me an offer to stay with him till
Ladyday, or to come back to him if
things were not agreeable ; but I chose
to go thither, and being settled, I passed
that winter not uncomfortably, only till
March, when Mr G.'s youngest son, R.,
having been bit once by a mad dog, and
after by a mad cat, died about five weeks
after he was last bitten, and was buried
March 24 ; but there I continued till
the end of the month.

1707. And, on the 1st of April, I re-
moved to my own Vic. -house at Broad
Chalk, where, taking a man-servant, I
began to keep my own house, and live
a little more at my liberty. In May fol-
lowing, I went with my brother to Mis-
terton to see my mother, whither she
and four daughters removed from Lang-
ford in November before.

Having returned, I followed the busi-
ness of my parish, and had at this time
a dispute with Mr E. Good about paying


three rates towards the discharge of his
law with Mr . I considering that

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Online LibraryArthur CollierClavis universalis, or a new enquiry after truth → online text (page 1 of 11)