This celebrated historian, the son of a gentleman who for some time rep resented the borough of Petersfield in parliament, was born at Putney, on the 27th of April, 1737. After having received the elements of instruction at a day school, and under a private tutor, he was, in 1746, sent to an academy at Kingston-upon-Thames; and from thence, in 1748, to Westminster, where he entered the school, and resided in a boarding-house kept by his aunt. His delicate health soon occasioned his removal from West minster school, though he subsequently attempted to renew his attendance there, after having passed some time at Bath and Winchester, by the ad vice of his physicians. In his fifteenth year, he was placed under the care of the Rev. Mr. Philip Francis, the translator of Horace: and, on the 3d of April, 1752, he was matriculated as a gentleman commoner of Magdalen College, Oxford. Here, according to his own account, t he spent fourteen months, the most unprofitable of his whole life,' and appears to have been conspicuous only for his dissipation and extravagance. Such a mode of passing his time he attributes less to his own inclination, than to the negligence of his tutors, whom he charges with recommending no plan of study for his use, and prescribing no exercises for his inspection. t I was not,' he says, devoid of capacity or application;' and insinuates that he might have arrived at academical distinction, t in the discipline of a well-constituted university, under the guidance of skillful and vigilant professors.'
His departure from Oxford was hastened by his adoption of the catholic faith, his conversion to which he attributed to a perusal of Bossuet's Exposition of the Catholic Doctrine, and the History of the Protestant Variations. At a future period he observes To my present feelings, it seems incredible that I should ever believe that I believed in transubstantiation. But my conqueror oppressed me with the sacramental words, "this is my body;" and dashed against each other the figurative half-meanings of the protest ant sects. Every objection was resolved into omnipotence; and, after repeating, at St. Mary's, the Athanasian creed, I humbly acquiesced in the mystery of the real presence.' On his arrival in London, he introduced himself to a priest, renounced the protestant, and was admitted a member of the Romish church, in June, 1753. His father was highly indignant at his religious conversion, and sent him, in consequence, to Lausanne in Switzerland, where he resided in the house with Mr. Pavillard, and 'spent nearly five years with pleasure and profit.' His tutor, who was a Calvinistic minister, spared no effort to convince him that he had come to an erroneous conclusion concerning the catholic doctrine; and his exertions, aided by the mature reflections of his pupil, were at length successful. The various articles of the Romish creed,' says our author, disappeared like a dream; and, after a full conviction, on Christmas day, 1754, I received the sacrament in the church of Lausanne.' During his stay in this city, he made rapid and profitable progress in his studies; and, besides opening a correspondence with the chief literati of the continent, he acquired a knowledge of French and Italian, and perfected his acquaintance with the Greek and Latin languages.
Previous to his leaving Lausanne, he formed an attachment to a Mademoiselle Curchod, the commencement and termination of which, in his own words, is too interesting to be omitted. I saw,' he says, and loved. I found her learned, without pedantry; lively in conversation; pure in sentiment; elegant in manners. She permitted me to make her two or three visits in her father's house. I passed some happy days there in the mountains of Burgundy, and her parents honorably encouraged the connexion. In a calm retirement, the gay vanity of youth no longer fluttered in her bosom. She listened to the voice of truth and passion, and I might presume to hope I had made some impression on a virtuous heart. At Crassy and Lausanne, I indulged my dream of felicity; but, on my return to England, I soon discovered that my father would not hear to this strange alliance. After a painful struggle, I yielded to my fate. I sighed as a lover; I obeyed as a son: my wound was insensibly healed by time, absence, and the habits of a new life. My cure was accelerated by a faithful report of the tranquillity and cheerfulness of the lady herself; and my love subsided into friendship and esteem. A rich banker of Paris, a citizen of Geneva, had the good fortune and good sense to discover and possess this inestimable treasure; and, in the capital of taste and luxury, she resisted the temptation of wealth, as she had sustained the hardships of indigence. The genius of her husband has exalted him to the most conspicuous station in Europe; and Mademoiselle Curchod is now the wife of M. Necker.'