« PreviousContinue »
RIGHT REV. REGINALD HEBER, D. D.
SECOND BISHOP OF CALCUTTA.
AMONG the distinguished men of the present age, the late Bishop HEBER, of Calcutta, deserves a high rank, as a most accomplished poet, as an acute, discriminating, pious, and learned divine; as a traveller possessing the talent of accurate observation and perseverance in a very high degree; but, especially, as a most disinterested and devoted Christian bishop and missionary, he has left behind him an imperishable memory.
REGINALD HEBER was the second son of the Rev. Reginald Heber, and was born on the 21st of April, 1783, at Malpas, in Cheshire, England, where his father then held a pastoral charge. His mother was Mary Allanson, daughter of the Rev. Dr. Allanson, of the same county. So that he
may be said to have been of Levitical descent: a circumstance which, probably, was not without influence upon his mind from a very early period. The earliest dawnings of his mind are said to have given promise of those christian graces, with which he was, through all the stages of his illustrious life, so richly endowed; and of those talents, which eventually gave him an eminent rank among the literary characters of the age. In his childhood, the eagerness with which he read the Bible, and the accuracy with which he treasured up large portions of it in his memory, were such as to excite observation; and this first application of his powers undoubtedly laid the foundation of that masterly knowledge of the Scriptures, which he subsequently attained; and to the perfecting of which, almost all his reading was made, directly or indirectly, to contribute. His literary education was commenced at the grammar school of Whitchurch, pursued under Dr. Bristowe, a teacher near London, and was completed at Brazen-nose college, Oxford, where he was entered in 1800. "At the university," said his early friend, Sir Charles Grey, at the time of his decease Chief
justice of Calcutta, "he was, beyond all question or comparison, the most distinguished student of his time. The name of Reginald Heber was in every mouth; his society was courted by young and old; he lived in an atmosphere of favour, admiration, and regard, from which I have never known any one but himself, who would not have derived, and for life, an unsalutary influence."
The next year he gained the chancellor's prize at the university, by his Latin verse, "Carmen Seculare." In 1803, when but little more than nineteen years of age, occurred one of those happy coincidences which occasionally make the paths of duty and of pleasure the way to enduring fame; a prize subject, for English verse, was that year assigned, which awaked" all that was within him," -Palestine. Upon this theme he wrote, and with signal success. It was recited, as usual, in the theatre, with much diffidence on the part of the author, to a greatly admiring audience, among whom was his aged father, whose feelings were so overcome by the applause bestowed upon his son, that, immediately after the recitation, he mounted The poem
his horse, and returned to his home.
produced a great sensation. It procured the prize, was set to music, and brought to its author public and universal praise. The knowledge it displays of Scripture and of the Holy Land, its copious and flowing language, its beautifully diversified figures, and the exact discrimination, accurate conception, and pure taste which it displays throughout, have given it a deservedly high rank among the literature of the age. It has been said by an English critic, that this is almost the only university poem that has maintained its honours unimpaired, and entitled itself, after the lapse of years, to be considered the property of the nation. In 1805, Mr. Heber obtained a third prize for an English essay, On the Sense of Honour.
Shortly after this, he left England in company with Mr. John Thornton, to make the tour of the eastern parts of Europe. The war, at that time prevailing between England and France, excluded English travellers from a large portion of the continent. Mr. Heber and his friend were, therefore, only able to visit some parts of Germany, Russia, and the Crimea. He made a copious journal of his travels; but as he did not think