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MEMOIRS

OF

DR. JOSEPH PRIESTLEY.

[WRITTEN BY HIMSELF.)

HAVING thought it right to leave behind me some account of my friends and benefactors, it is in a manner necessary that I also give some account of myself; and as the like has been done by many persons, and for reasons which posterity has approved, I make no further apology for following their example. If my writings in general have been useful to my contemporaries, I hope that this account of myself will not be without its use to those who may come after me, and especially in promoting virtue and piety, which, I hope I may say, it has been my care to practise myself, as it has been my buseness to inculcate them

upon

others.

My father, Jonas Priestley, was the youngest son of Joseph Priestley, a maker and dresser of woollen cloth. His first wifc, my mother, was the only child of Joseph Swift, a farmer at Shafton, a village about six miles south-east of Wakefield. By this wife he had six children, four sons and two daughters. I, the oldest, was born on the thirteenth of March, old style, 1733, at Fieldhead, about six miles south-west of Leeds, in Yorkshire. My mother dying in 1740, my father married again in 1745, and by his second wife had three daughters.

My mother having children so fast, I was very soon committed to the care of her father, and with him I continued with little interruption till my mother's death.

It is but little that I can recollect of my mother. I remember, however, that she was careful to teach me the Assembly's Catechism, and to give me the best instructions the little time that I was at home. Once in particular, when I was playing with a pin, she asked me where I got it; and on telling her that I found it at my uncle's, who lived very near to my father, and where I had been playing with my cousins, she made me carry it back again; no doubt to impress my mind, as it could not sail to do, with a clear idea of the distinction of

property, and of the importance of attending to it. She died in the hard winter of 1739, not long after being delivered of my youngest brother; and having dreamed a little before her death that she was in a delightful place, which she particularly described, and imagined to be heaven, the last words which she spake, as my aunt informed me, were “ let me go to that fine place.”

On the death of my mother I was taken home, my brothers taking my place, and was sent to school in the neighbourhood. But being without a mother, and my father incumbered with a large family, a sister of my father's, in the year 1742, relieved him of all care of me, by taking me entirely to herself, and considering me as her child, having none of her own. From this time she was truly a parent to me, till her death in 1764.

My aunt was married to a Mr. Keighley, a man who had distinguished himself for his zeal for religion and for his public spirit. He was also a man of considerable property, and dying soon after I went to them, left the greatest part of his fortune to my aunt for life, and much of it at her disposal after her death.

By this truly pious and excellent woman, who knew no other use of wealth, or of talents of

any kind, than to do good, and who never spared herself for this purpose, I was sent to several schools in the neighbourhood, especially to a large free school, under the care of a clergyman, Mr. Hague, under whom, at the

age

of twelve or thirteen, I first began to make any progress in the Latin tongue, and acquired the elements of Greek. But about the saine time that I began to learn Greek at this public school, I learned Hebrew on holidays of the dissenting minister of the place, Mr. Kirkby; and upon the removal of Mr. Hague from the free school, Mr. Kirkby opening a school of his own, 'I was wholly under his care. With this instruction, I had acquired a pretty good knowledge of the learned languages at the age of sixteen. But from this time, Mr. Kirkby's increasing infirmities obliged him to relinquish his school, and beginning to be of a weakly consumptive habit, so that it was not thought advisable to send me to any other place of education, I was left to conduct my

studies as well I could till I went to the academy at Daventry, in the year 1752.

From the time I discovered any fondness for books, my aunt entertained hopes of my being a minister, and I readily entered into her views.

ill health obliged me to turn my thoughts another way, and, with a view to

as

But my

trade, I learned the modern languages, French; Italian, and High Dutch, without a master; and in the first and last of them I translated and wrote letters, for an uncle of mine who was a merchant, and who intended to put me into a couting-house in Lisbon. A house was actually engaged to receive me there, and every thing was nearly ready for my undertaking the voyage. But getting better health, my former destination for the ministry was resumed, and I was sent to Daventry, to study under Mr. Ashworth, afterwards Dr. Ashworth.

Looking back, as I often do, upon this period of my life, I see the greatest reason to be thankful to God for the pious care of my parents and friends, in giving me religious instruction. My mother was a woman of exemplary piety, and my father also had a strong sense of religion, praying with his family morning and evening, and crefully teaching his children and servants the Assembly's Catechism, which was all the system of which he had any knowledge. In the latter part of his life, he became very fond of Mr. Whitfield's writings, and other works of a similar kind, having been brought up in the principles of Calvinism, and adopting them, but without ever giving much attention to matters of speculation, and entertaining no bigotted

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