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of the present times. By the author of Deism Revealed.” To his first volume is prefixed a preface addressed to the clergy of the church of England, and to his second another addressed to the citizens of London. The corrupt and dangerous opinions that were then beginning to prevail he makes, in his first preface, his apology for publishing his controversial discourses. In his second, he expresses his gratitude to the citizens of London for their civilities to him, during the time he lived among them; and mentions, as I collect from his preface, that partly at the request of some of these, and partly to animate men, if possible, with some religious warmth, in this winter of Christianity, he offers his practical discourses to the public. To the preface of each volume he signs his name.
In these Discourses there is abundance of good sense and original thought. He is no servile copier of others, but draws his arguments from Scripture and his own understanding, his picture of human motives and actions from a close observation of mankind. He read few sermons, he said, that those he wrote might, if possible, be bis own; and I believe but very few can be more justly than his styled the real property of their respective authors. Of these sermons I could quote many passages striking and sublime, produced at once by his own fertile capacity. For he took too little care in his compositions, and depended mostly on his genius, whence chiefly, arose all his faults. Hence the great inequality in his sermons: some of which are composed in a pure and elegant style, and others in one coarse and obscure. Yet there is scarce one of them that does not prove him to be a man of parts. It must also be observed, that they are all animated with a warm and genuine piety, and an ardent desire for the salvation of men's souls, which will be esteemed by a devout Christian an excellence sufficient to make amends for their defects.
These sermons were remarkable for their orthodoxy; some of them indeed were written on purpose to
the Trinity and atonement; which he told us, gave offence to the reviewers, who were very sharp in their remarks on him, and called him an orthodox bully. They quoted him he said, very unfairly, for they took a piece of a sentence in one part, and another piece in another, and then patching
them up together, said, “ this is nonsense.” He then made an observation on reviewers, which it is not, I think, prudent to mention.
He told me, that soon after his Discourses were published, some one came into the present marquis of L-'s chambers at Oxford, where he was then a student, and saw Skelton's Discourses before him, which caused him to ask why he troubled himself with reading sermons, as he knew he was careless about any religion? He said, he happened to look into a sermon entitled the “ Cunning Man," which engaged his attention a little, as the author was describing his father. Mr. Skelton said, he did not at that time know bis father, who was a remarkably cunning man, and kept his son closely pinched at the university, which made him suppose that the character in the sermon alluded to him.
About two years after he came to Pettigo, Robert Plunket removed to a farm a mile distant from the village, whither Mr. Skelton accompanied him, and lodged with him two or three years more, until he and his family went to America to a brother, who had made a fortune on that continent. I was shewn in the garden a seat in a tree adjoining a murmuring brook, where Mr. Skelton used to read. He then took lodgings with one Carshore, a low farmer in the village of Pettigo. His situation here was even more inconvenient than at Plunket's. He had indeed wretched lodgings. The floor of the room was not only earthen, but also so uneven, that he was forced to get a table with two long and two short feet to fit it. He also found it necessary to buy a pair of tweezers, to pick the dirt out of the keal, which they served up to his dinner.
Some gentlemen who came to see him there, went out and killed a few woodcocks, which they desired the people of the house to roast for their dinner with the train in them, as is usual. A short time after, when he had company to dine with him, they served up to them a turkeycock roasted with the entrails in it, which they imagined to be the most fashionable way. At length, he was obliged to send. Carshore's daughter to Dr. Madden’s, to get a little knowledge of cookery, which she stood much in need of.
Carshore had two sons, William and Thomas. William was born nearly blind; and in a few years after entirely lost his sight by the measles. However, Mr. Skelton perceiving him to be a young man of extraordinary understanding, and surprisingly acquainted with the Scriptures, employed him to go through the parish during the winter, to instruct his people in religion, and in the summer he examined them himself, to know what benefit they had derived from his instruction. The most of the time I was at Pettigo I spent in his company, and found him to be one of the most rational and agreeable men I ever saw. The Methodists strove to bring him over to their opinions; for they always wish to deal with persons that have some natural defect, that the interposition of the Spirit may be more apparent; but he had too much good sense to become a convert to their notions.
His brother was by nature disabled in his limbs; he was reel-footed, as they call it; which signifies, that his feet were bent under him; in consequence of which he was unable to earn his bread by labour. Mr. Skelton, through pity, taught him to read and write, and also made him shave a wig-block in his room every day, giving him some curious directions, that he might thus learn to shave human faces, and earn his bread by it. He also sent him to Monaghan to learn the wig-making trade, and afterward to Armagh to learn to sing psalms; upon which occasions he defrayed all his expenses. He and his brother at present serve between them the office of clerk in the church of Pettigo.
When he lodged at Carshore's, he became extremely fond of flowers, and used to send twenty miles off to get a curious one. These were planted in Carshore's garden; every scarce flower having a paper affixed to it with its
Those who are at a loss for company often seek for amusement from things inanimate. He used in cold weather to go through Pettigo with a straw rope about him, to keep his large coat on; being never very fond of finery; nor indeed was it requisite in that remote part of our island.
The course of my narrative leads me to one of the most conspicuous periods of his life. In 1757, a remarkable dearth prevailed in Ireland ; the effects of which were felt most severely in the rough and barren lands of Pettigo.
Mr. Skelton went out into the country to discover the real state of his poor, and travelled from cottage to cottage over mountains, rocks, and heath. He was then a witness to many scenes of sorrow, to which the gay world were insensible, and which could be felt only by a soul so sympathetic as his. In one cabin he found the people eating boiled prushia* by itself for their breakfast, and tasted this sorry food which seemed nauseous to him. Next morning he gave orders to have prushia gathered and boiled for his own breakfast, that he might live on the same sort of food with the poor. He eat this for one or two days; but at last his stomach turning against it, he set off immediately for Ballyshannon to buy oatmeal for them, and brought thence with all speed as much as appeased the hunger of some of them. He also gave money to one Hanna to go through the parish, and distribute it among those who were in great distress. By this supply, some of the poor who were so weak with hunger that they could not rise out of their beds, in eight days grew so strong as to be able to get up.
When he bad thus afforded them present relief, he went to Ballyhayes in the county of Cavan, and brought thence oatmeal which he could buy at a cheaper rate. He then set out through the country to see what subsistence the indigent people had in their wretched hovels, and used to look into the crocks and chests in which they kept their meal, and count their number of children, that he might be a better judge of their necessities. To some he gave one peck, to others more, according to their wants, and to those who could afford to pay a little he allowed meal at about half value. He thus, like his great Master, went about doing good.
One day, when he was travelling in this manner through the country, he came to a lonely cottage in the mountains, where he found a poor woman lying in child-bed with a number of children about her. All she had, in her weak helpless condition, to keep herself and her children alive, was blood and sorrel boiled up together. The blood, her husband, who was a herdsman, took from the cattle of others under his care, for he had none of his own. This was a usual sort of food in that country, in times of scarcity;
* A weed with a yellow flower that grows iu corn-felds, YOL, I.
for they bled the cows for that purpose, and thus the same cow often afforded both milk and blood. Mr. Skelton tasted the odd mixture, the only cordial the poor woman had to strengthen her in her feeble state. His tender heart being touched at the sight, he went home immediately, and sent her a hundred of meal, a pound of brown sugar, and a bottle of brandy. He then visited her every second day in her cot among the mountains, bestowing on her such comforts as seemed requisite, until she recovered.
At that time, he and Jonas Good, the strong man, regulated Pettigo market on a Monday, standing among the meal-sacks, each of them with a huge club in his hand. They were obliged, when the carriers were bringing the meal to Pettigo, to guard it with their clubs, as the people of the adjacent parishes strove to take it by force, in which they sometimes succeeded, hunger making them desperate.
When he had procured some meal to supply the immediate wants of the necessitous, he sent off to Drogheda for flax, and having it carried to Pettigo, bestowed in greater or less quantities, according to the number of people in a family that could spin. The yarn thus made was sold every market-day, and the money it produced placed in his hands, as also the earnings of the men, in return for the meal and flax he gave them for the succeeding week; but these far exceeded in value the pittance the women could earn by spinning, or the men by labour. He thus made them contribute their industry to their own support. On those who were unable to work he bestowed meal sufficient for their subsistence; and with the money produced by the earnings of the people, and what he could collect himself, he bought more meal and flax, and thus daily strove to preserve them.
For some time he was tolerably successful; but at last his money was nearly all spent, and yet he knew the dearth must continue many weeks more, before the new crop would relieve the poor. He was then very apprehensive, lest, after keeping them alive so long, he should see them at last dying of hunger. This forced him to an expedient extremely afllicting to a scholar excluded, as he was, from all civilized society. He resolved to sell his books, the companions of his solitude, and relieve his indigent pa