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G. Cowie and Co. Poultry; W. Baynes and Son, Paternoster Row; J. Dowding,
THE AUTHOR'S LIFE.
Although no circumstance connected with the history of an illustrious individual can be considered as wholly uninteresting, it must, however, be admitted that, in point of utility, prominent features only are really worthy of being recorded. The biographer, in the present case, is provided with materials of the most unexceptionable kind, and has little else to do than carefully and succinctly relate a series of transactions, which have been already more copiously described'
The historian informs us, that he was born at Putney, in the county of Surrey, on the 27th of April, 1737. Edward, his grandfather, was first a commissioner of customs, and next a director of the South Sea Company: in the latter capacity he had the misfortune to lose the principal part of his property, and no inconsi<Wable portion of his reputation; though his grandsorrBias taken some pains to exculpate him from the heavy charges brought against that body. By his skill and credit he succeeded in retrieving his fortune; but to his son (who also was named Edward) he left only a small share of the estate, owing to a matrimonial connexion, which had excited his disapprobation. Edward was twice a member of parliament, and signalized himself by a determined opposition to Sir Robert Walpole. He married Judith Porten, the daughter of a respectable merchant of London: by her he had six sons and a daughter, all of whom died in early life, except the subject of our memoir. The excessive weakness of his constitution rendered it doubtful whether he would ever attain the age of manhood; and his father, that the patronymic name of Edward might be preserved in the family, repeated it at the baptism of every successive son. To his aunt, Mrs.
* The Author's Memoirs of Himself, 4to. edit. VOL. I. b
Catharine Porten, our author acknowledges himself to have been greatly indebted for her tender care of his helpless infancy; and he would have those express the same obligation, who have rejoiced that his life was preserved. As soon as the use of speech had prepared his mind for the admission of knowledge, he was instructed in the common branches of education, writing, reading, and arithmetic ; and, after this previous instruction at home, and at a day-school at Putney, he was committed, at the age of seven, to the care of Mr. John Kirkby,* who, during eighteen months, performed the office of domestic tutor; an unfortunate man, for whom the pupil entertained feelings of respect and gratitude. Under his tuition were acquired the rudiments of English and Latin. Kirkby having, on one occasion, forgotten to mention king George in his prayer, the zealous loyalty of old Gibbon dismissed him, after some reluctance, with a decent reward. Edward was then sent to Kingston-upon-Thames, to a school containing about seventy boys, kept by Dr. Wooddeson. Sickness frequently interrupted his studies; and, at the expiration of two years, his mother died: this misfortune occasioned his return to the parental roof, where he was again placed under the care of his aunt, who now devoted the same attention to the improvement of his mind, which she had formerly applied to the strengthening of his constitution. • "I feel (he remarks) a melancholy pleasure in repeating my obligations to that excellent woman—the true mother of my mind, as well as of my health. Pain and languor were often soothed by the voice of instruction and amusement; and to her kind lessons I ascribe my early and invincible love of reading, which I would not exchange for the treasures of India. I should perhaps be astonished were it possible to ascertain the date at which a favourite tale was engraved, by frequent repetition, in my memory: the Cavern of the Winds, the Palace of Felicity, and the fatal moment, at the end of three months or centuries, when prince Adolphus is overtaken by Time, who had worn out so many pair of wings in the pursuit. Before I left Kingston school, I was well acquainted with Pope's Homer, and the Arabian Nights' Entertainments; two books which
* Author of two small volumes: The Life of Automathes, Loud. 1745; and an English and Latin Grammar, Lond. 1746.