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All things must be fulfilled which were written in the Psalms concerning me.
David, Samuel, and the prophets-that they without us should not be made perfect.
FREDERICK WESTLEY AND A. H. DAVIS.
FROM HIS LIVES OF THE MOST EMINENT ENGLISH POETS.
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 Yealden.
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. Pinhorn, a clergyman, master of the free-school of Southampton, to whom the gratitude of his scholar afterwards inscribed a Latin ode.
His proficiency at school was so conspicuous, that a subscription was proposed for his support at the university; but he declared his resolution to take 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 companions 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 hints in his Miscellanies, a maker of verses from fifteen to fifty, and in his youth he 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 a very little distance from excellence.
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 happiness, indulged to few parents, of living to see his son eminent for literature and venerable for piety.
He was then entertained by Sir John Hartopp five years, as domestic tutor to his son; and in that time particularly devoted himself to the study of the Holy Scriptures; and being chosen assistant to Dr. Chauncey, preached the first time on the birthday that completed his twentyfourth year; probably considering that as the day of a second nativity, by which he entered on a new period of existence.