Page images


OAME JENYNS was the only son of Sir Roger Jenyns, of Bottesham in Cambridge, at which place he was born about 1705. His mother's name was Palmer, of the family of Sir Charles Palmer. After a common school education, he was entered a fellow-commoner of St. John's College; but left the University, as was formerly the usual practice with gentlemen of fortune, without taking any degree.



He early displayed his poetical talents. In 1729 he published "The Art of Dancing ;" and, in 1735, wrote his poetical "Epistle to Lord Lovelace." This was followed by several others, which he collected into a volume in 1752. On the publication of Hawkins Browne's Latin poem on the "Immortality of the Soul," in 1752, Mr. Jenyns made a translation of it into English, which was published in 1758, in Dodsley's Collection of Poems. The Free Enquiry into the Nature and Origin of Evil" appeared in 1757 and to this succeeded several other performances both in prose and verse, either in defiance of government, or levelled at some persons in opposition to the measures of administration. In 1776 his celebrated work, intituled "A View of the Internal Evidence of the Christian Religion,' was published; a performance which has been commended in terms of the highest praise by some, whilst it has been spoken of in the slightest manner by others. At the close of this volume he made a very explicit declaration of his belief in the doctrine of the Christian religion. Speaking of his work he says, "Should it ever have the honour to be admitted into such good com" pany, they will immediately, I know, determine that it must be the work "of some enthusiast or methodist, some beggar, or some madman. 1 shall "therefore beg leave to assure them, that the author is very far removed. "from all these characters; that he once perhaps believed as little as themselves; but having some leisure, and more curiosity, he employed them. both in resolving a question, which seemed to him of some importance-"Whether Christianity was really an imposture, founded on an absurd, in"credible, and obsolete fable, as many suppose it? or whether it is what it

"" pretends

pretends to be, a Revelation, communicated to mankind by the interpo"sition of some Supernatural Power? On a candid enquiry, he soon found "that the first was an absolute impossibility; and that its pretensions to the "latter were founded on the most solid grounds. In the further pursuits "of his examination, he perceived at every step new lights arising, and some "of the brightest from parts of it the most obscure, but productive of the "clearest proofs, because equally beyond the power of human artifice to "invent, and human reason to 'discover. These arguments, which have "convinced him of the divine origin of this religion, he has here put toge"ther in as clear and concise a manner as he was able, thinking they might "have the same effect upon others; and being of opinion, that, if there tr were a few more true Christians in the world, it would be beneficial to "themselves, and by no means detrimental to the public."

In 1782 he published "Disquisitions on several Subjects;" which produced answers both grave and comic, from different hands, and with diffe rent degrees of merit. He continued writing almost till the close of his life; and he had the felicity to preserve his faculties unimpaired, and his spirits undiminished, to his latest period.

He was introduced into the senate under the patronage of Sir Robert, Walpole, and was elected, first, for the county of Cambridge in the year 1741. He represented it again in the parliament of 1747. In that of 1754) he was member for Dunwich in Suffolk; and in 1761 took his seat for the town of Cambridge, which place he continued to represent so long as he remained in parliament.

In 1755 he was appointed one of the lords of trade and plantations, a post which he held during every change of administration, until it was abolished in the year 1780. He was in general an adherent of the minister for the time being; and was a useful, active, and diligent member of the House of Commons, though he shared, as he admitted in one of his poems, no gift of tongue.

He had been twice married: first to Miss Soame, to whom his father had been guardian; and afterwards to the lady whom he left his widow. He died the 18th of December, 1787, at his house in Tilney-street: and on his death-bed, says a late writer, he reviewed his life, and with a visible gleam of joy he gloried in the belief that his little book on Christianity had been useful. He spoke of his death as one prepared to die. He did not shrink. from it as an evil, nor as a punishment; but met it with decent firmness, as his original destiny, the kind release from what was worse, the kinder summons to all that is better.

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]
« PreviousContinue »