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LIX. Character of the Rev. WILLIAM BENWELL, of Trinity
College, Oxford.


Jan. 6, 1797.

I MUCH wonder that no one of the numerous friends of the late lamented Mr. Benwell has paid a greater tribute of respect to his memory than what appeared in your Obituary. A character so truly amiable and excellent deserves to be displayed in the brightest colours; nor is it with any idea of doing justice to his merits that I trouble you with this account of him; but in the hope of drawing from some more able pen a fuller and more perfect delineation of his genius and virtues.

Mr. Benwell was brought up under the care of the Rev. Dr. Valpy, at Reading, who still conducts his school with so much credit to himself, and such advantage to his numerous scholars. He entered at Trinity college, Oxford, in the beginning of the year 1783, and soon distinguished himself as an excellent classical scholar, particularly for his Latin compositions both in prose and verse. These attainments. led him to aspire to the public honours of the University, and his efforts were crowned with success; first, by gaining the Under-graduate's prize in 1785 for Latin hexameters on "The Siege and Pillage of Rome by Alaric ;" and then the Bachelor's, in the year 1787, by a very elegant essay on "The Superiority of the Moderns over the Ancients in Art and Science." Henceforward he was looked up to as one of the ornaments of the University; and, besides his literary accomplishments, he was equally esteemed and admired by his friends for an amiable sweetness and modesty of disposition, for modesty of judgment, and an exquisite purity of general taste.

Soon after taking his degree of A.B. he was ordained deacon by the present Bishop of Hereford,† then Bishop of Oxford; and (there being yet no fellowship vacant for him on the foundation of his college,) he retired to the curacy of Sunning, in Berkshire. Here the same unassuming modesty of manners, and purity of character, gained him the love and esteem of his parish, and the general respect of the neighbourhood. But it is in his behaviour to

[* P. 424 of this volume. E.1

[+ Dr. Butler.]

the poor that. his admirable character most shone forth, His kind and patient attention to their wants and infirmities, his assiduity in instructing and catechising the children, together with his zeal in visiting the sick, and administering to them the comforts of religion, shewed his own strong sense of clerical duty, and marked him as a most conscientious and exemplary clergyman. His own sincere piety too gave weight to his instructions, which failed not to turn many to righteousness, and left an impression, which, I dare say, is not yet effaced from the minds of his poor friends (as he used to call them) in that extensive parish.

In the year 1790, Mr. B. succeeded to a fellowship of Trinity college; and on his return to Oxford, he engaged in the tuition of pupils, and undertook the care of a new edition of the Memorabilia of Xenophon. In this work, from the multiplicity of his other engagements, his progress 'was much slower than the lovers of Greek literature could have wished; and, we believe, only about two-thirds of it were finished at the time of his death. But, from the specimens which the writer of this memoir has seen, there is a display of accuracy of verbal criticism and text-emendation, which rank him among the foremost of editors of the Classics. He also took upon himself the trouble of giving an entirely new Latin translation, which, for elegance of 'Latinity, is not inferior to any that ever accompanied a Greek author, that of the Cyropædia of Hutchinson not 'excepted.

In the spring of the last year Mr. B. was instituted to the living of Chilton, in Suffolk, on the presentation of Mr. Wyndham, the Secretary at War. This enabled him to accomplish his union with a most sensible and amiable woman, to whom he had been long attached with the purest love, and who was deserving of a man of such virtue and merit. Their marriage took place in June; and in September a fever, which he caught in his humane attention to a poor sick family at Milton, deprived the world of his valuable life, and left his widow inconsolable for so sudden a deprivation of all her hopes. The life of man is often called a breath-a vapour! And when we consider the circum1 stances of this happy union, there seems such a dash of all human hopes and prospects, as fully confirms the idea of the frail and perishable tenure of our moral state. But "the virtuous soonest die;" and this good man is called away to receive those rewards which are laid up for spirits so pure and heavenly.

To review his general character:-As a scholar, Mr.

Benwell was of the first rank, distinguished as a classic and philologist, and of no less refined taste and skill in antiquarian research. He has indeed completed no work that may carry his name down to posterity; yet there are many scattered compositions known to his friends (some of which, Mr. Urban, adorn your pages), marked with evident traits of genius and ability. His style, both in his Latin and English compositions, was chaste, easy, and correct, formed in the school of Cicero and Addison, or perhaps more nearly resembling the elegant simplicity of his favourite Xenophon. His critical taste was eminently just and pure; nor was it confined to literary productions, but equally extended to paintings, prints, and every work of elegant art. His discourses for the pulpit were written and delivered in a strain of piety and sincerity, well adapted to move the affections of his poorer hearers, to whom he used more particularly to address himself; and both in manner and matter his preaching strongly called to mind the pious and amiable zeal of the good Bishop Wilson. With a mind thus highly improved and well-directed, had it pleased Divine Providence to have granted him a longer term of years, he would no doubt have produced some work that would have enriched the stores of learning, or promoted the cause of virtue and religion.

In stature Mr. Benwell was about the middle size, slender, and genteel in person, of mild and gentle deportment and manners, which, with the soft expression of his eyes and countenance, contributed to render him universally be


His loss to his friends is irreparable, and by none of them is he more sincerely lamented than by the writer of this imperfect account. He knew Mr. Benwell soon after his entrance at the University, and always esteemed his friendship and acquaintance as one of the happiest circumstances of his life. This tribute of affection, therefore, he has wished to pay to the memory of him, as a man of the most pure and virtuous character, of refined genius and taste, and of the strictest disposition and manners.

1797, Jan.

S. E. K.

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LX. Biographical Anecdotes of WILLIAM CURTIS, the Botanist.

Aug. 4.

MR. URBAN, A FEW years ago the botanical world received a grievous loss in the death of the honest and amiable Mr. Aiton, of Kew. It was not, however, wholly irreparable; our eyes were all turned to his excellent son, in whose skill, diligence, and activity, his majesty has found a faithful and affectionate


But now we have to lament another great luminary in the botanical science, who has been taken from us (so was God's will!) at an early age. I allude to the death of Mr. William Curtis, author of the Flora Londinensis, Botanical Magazine, &c. whose name appeared in your incomparable Obituary of the last month. Where shall we find his equal in botanical taste and accuracy! His works will place him high in the esteem of all those who know how to appreciate such talents, so truly capable of giving that correct and easy discrimination which subjects of natural history so peculiarly demand.

The history which I am about to give of him is taken from some memoirs drawn up by himself. To these I am enabled to add several particulars from the long and intimate knowledge which I had of his disposition and abilities.

Mr. Curtis was the eldest son of Mr. John Curtis, of Alton, in Hampshire, a tanner. He was born in the year 1746. When about eight years of age, he was placed under the care of Mr. Vindin, who at that time kept a very respectable school about a mile from that town. Mr. Curtis remained at this seminary under Mr. Vindin, and his successor, Mr. Docker, till about the age of fourteen, when, to his great regret (for he had now begun to relish and to know the value of classical acquisitions) he was taken away, and bound apprentice to his grandfather, an apothecary at Alton.

It was during this period that Mr. Curtis was led to his first studies in botany. The house contiguous to that in which Mr. Curtis lived was the Crown Inn. The ostler, Mr. John Lagg, a sober steady man, was a person of uncommonly strong sense, and, though an unlettered man, with the assistance of Gerard's and Parkinson's unwieldy volumes, had gained so complete a knowledge of plants, that not one could be brought to him which he could not name without

hesitation. This struck Mr. Curtis's young mind most forcibly, and brought into action those powers which have made him so famous. In a very short time, his indefatigable zeal had made him practically acquainted with most of the wild plants of his neighbourhood, especially those which related to medicine.

But this first practical acquaintance with plants had been gained under the direction of the laborious and obscure system of the old school. The Linnæan system began Row to be much talked of. Mr. Curtis happened to meet with Berkenhout's Botanical Lexicon; and this was almost the only book on the theory of botany which he had been able to procure during his residence at Alton. His apprenticeship there now drawing to a conclusion, bis friends thought it necessary that he should be settled in London.

He first lived with Mr. Geo. Vaux, surgeon, in Pudding lane, and afterwards with Mr. Thomas Taiwin, apothecary, of Gracechurch-street, to whose business he succeeded. Dur ing the period of his residing with these gentlemen, Mr. Curtis attended St. Thomas's hospital, and the anatomical lectures there given by Mr. Else, as well as the lectures of Dr. George Fordyce, senior physician to that hospital. Dr. Fordyce, convinced of the necessity of botanical knowledge to medical students, was in the practice of accom, panying his pupils into the fields and meadows near town, chiefly for the purpose of instructing them in the principles of the science of botany. On these occasions, Mr. Curtis frequently had the honour of assisting the doctor in demonstrating the plants which occurred; frequently the task of demonstration was confided wholly to Mr. Curtis, These instructions were gratuitous, and, no doubt, gave him that confidence of superiority which justly led him to the idea of imparting knowledge by the various modes of lec ture and publication, which he afterwards so successfully pursued.*

Mr. Curtis with great judgment had connected the study of entomology with that of botany; and accordingly, about the year 1771, published his instructions for collecting and preserving insects; and, in the year 1772, a translation of

Mr. Curtis for some time gave public lectures in botany, taking his pupils with him into the fields and woods in the neighbourhood of London. Nothing could be more pleasant than these excursions. At dinner-time, the plants collected in the walk were produced and demonstrated; but the de monstration was enlivened with all that fund of natural humour which was always uppermost in Mr. Curtis's disposition.

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