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W A T T S.
Born at Southampton-Educated among the Independents-Becomes Tutor to the Son of Slr
John Hartopp-Is received into Sir Thomas Abney's Family–Popularity of his preaching His Work on “The Improvement of tbe Mind'-Death and Burial at Bunhill Fields in London.
The Poems of Dr. Watts were by my recommendation inserted in the late Collection ; the readers of which are to impute to me whatever pleasure or weariness they may find in the perusal of Blackmore, Watts, Pomfret, and Yalden.'
Isaac Watts was born July 17, 1674, at Southampton, where his father, of the same name, kept a boarding-school for young gentlemen, though common report makes him a shoemaker.' He appears, from the narrative of Dr. Gibbons, to have been neither indigent nor illiterate.
Isaac, the eldest of nine children, was given to books from his infancy; and began, we are told, to learn Latin when he was four years old, I suppose at home. He was afterwards taught Latin, Greek, and Hebrew by Mr. Pinhorne, a clergyman, master of the free-school at Southampton, to whom the gratitude of his scholar afterwards inscribed a Latin ode.
1 Johnson was willing to have said still more about Watts :
TO MR. W. SHARP.
Bolt Court, July 7, 1777. Sir,—To the collection of English poets I have recommended the volume of Dr. Watts to be added : his name bas long been held by me In veneration, and I would not willingly be reduced to tell of him only that he was born and died. Yet of his life I know very little, and therefore must pass him in a manner very unworthy of his character, unless some of his friends will favour me with the necessary information. Many of them must be known to you ; and by your influence perhaps I may obtain some instruction. My plan does not exact much; but I wish to distinguish Watts, a man who never wrote but for a good purpose. Be pleased to do for me what you can.
I am, Sir, ac,
SAX. JOHNSON. (Boswell by Croker, ed. 1847, p. 686.) , Common report is here ir: error,
His proficiency at school was so conspicuous that a subscription was proposed for his support at the university; but he declared his resolution of taking his lot with the Dissenters.' Such he was as every Christian Church would rejoice to have adopted.
He therefore repaired in 1690 to an academy taught by Mr. Rowe, where he had for his companious and fellow-students Mr. Hughes the poet, and Dr. Horte, afterwards Archbishop of Tuam. Some Latin Essays, supposed to have been written as exercises at this academy, show a degree of knowledge, both philosophical and theological, such as very few attain by a much longer course of study.
He was, as he hiots in his Miscellanies,' a maker of verses from fifteen to fifty, and in his youth be appears to have paid attention to Latin poetry.
His verses to his brother, in the glyconic measure, written when he was seventeen, are remarkably easy and elegant. Some of his other odes are deformed by the Pindaric folly then prevailing and are written with such neglect of all metrical rules as is without example among the ancients ; but his diction, though perhaps not always exactly pure, has such copiousness and splendour as shows that he was but at a very little distance from excel lence.
His method of study was to impress the contents of his books upon his memory by abridging them, and by interleaving them to amplify one system with supplements from another.
With the congregation of his tutor, Mr. Rowe, who were, I believe, Independents, he communicated in his nineteenth year.
At the age of twenty he left the academy, and spent two years in study and devotion at the house of his father, who treated him with great tenderness; and had the bappiness, indulged to few parents, of living to see his son eminent for literature and venerable for piety.'
• His father was a non-conformist, and in the reign of Charles II. was imprisoned for Dosconformity, and on his release was, as his son records, “ forced to leave his family, and live privately in London for two years."-MILNER: Life of Watts, 8vo. 1834, p. 60.
• Mr. Thomas Rowe died in August, 1705 (Milner, p. 89).
• He was "admitted to Mr. T. Rowe's church" in Dec. 1693, as he states himself in some brief notes of his life, printed in Milner, p. 137. Mr. Rowe died in Aug. 1705.
7 His father died 10th Feb. 1786-7.