Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Hartley, David (1705-1757)

HARTLEY, DAVID (1705–1757), philosopher, was baptised at Luddenden, Halifax, on 21 June 1705, although his son gives ths date of his birth as 30 Aug. 1705. His father, David Hartley, was entered as a servitor of Lincoln College, Oxford, on 1 April 1691, aged 17, where he was described as 'pauperis filius,' graduated B. A. 1695, and was incumbent successively of the chapels of Ludden den (1698-1705), Illingworth (1705-17), in the parish of Halifax, and of Armley, in the parish of Leeds, where he died in 1720. He married Evereld Wadsworth on 12 May 1702, by whom he had Elizabeth, baptised on 22 Feb. 1703-4, and David. His first wife was buried on 14 Sept. 1705, and he married Sarah Wilkinson on 25 May 1707, by whom he had at least four children. David is said (Watson, Halifax, p. 478) to have been brought up 'by one Mrs. Brooksbank.' He was sent to Bradford grammar school, where he made a lifelong friendship with a schoolfellow, John Lister of Shibden Hall, afterwards first master of Bury grammar school in Lancashire. On 21 April 1722 he was admitted as an 'ordinary sizar' of Jesus College, Cambridge. He graduated B.A. on 14 Jan. 1726, and was admitted fellow on 13 Nov. 1727. He took his M.A. degree on 17 Jan. 1729, and received college testimonials on 8 Oct. 1729. He was induced to give up his intention of taking orders by some scruples as to signing the articles, and became a physician, although he never took a medical degree. On 21 Feb. 1730 he received leave of absence from his college until the following Michaelmas; but his fellowship was vacated by marriage by 8 June following, on which day another election was made (information kindly given by the master of Jesus College). Hartley practised first, it is said, at Newark, and afterwards at Bury St. Edmunds. On 15 Nov. 1735 he tells his friend Lister that he has recently married again, and settled in London at Prince's Street, Leicester Fields. His second wife had a fortune of 6,500l., and every amiable quality. By his first wife he had a son David [q. v.], seven years old in September 1738 (Letter to Lister). During his residence in London he was frequently seen by John Byrom [q. v.] He became an ardent supporter of Byrom's shorthand, in which some of his later letters are written, and a friend of the inventor, although his want of sympathy with Byrom's religious mysticism and political toryism probably prevented a closer intimacy.

Hartley was a firm believer in Mrs. Stephens's medicine for the stone, a disease from which he was an early sufferer. He wrote two pamphlets in her defence in 1726, and helped to procure the grant of 5,000l. voted to her by parliament in June 1789 for the publication of her secret. In May 1742 he had cnme to Bath with his family for the benefit of his wife's health, and decided to settle there permanently at a 'pleasant house in the New Square' (Letters to Lister, 26 May and 2 Dec. 1742). Hartley remained at Bath, ind died there on 28 Aug. 1757. He left Hue by his second marriage.

In a letter of 17 May 1747 he says that his wife has 1,300l. a year by her father's will, and that his son by her will inherit 2,000l. a year, now in the hands of trustees. He is obliged to continue at his profession in order to provide for the son by his first wife, who has just gone to Oxford. Hartley appears to have been a man of singular simplicity and amiability of character. His son tells us that he visited poor and rich with equal sympathy, and consoled their minds while he comforted their bodies. He was of the middle size, well-proportioned, with regular features, an animated expression, and 'peculiarly neat' in person. He was an early riser and methodical in all his habits. He had a wide circle of acquaintance among men of letters and science. Among his friends were Bishops Butler, Law, and Warburton, and Dr. Jortin. He was a fellow of the Royal Society, and known to Dr. Hales, Smith, the master of Trinity College, and to Hooke, the historian. He studied mathematics at Cambridge under Sanderson, and was eager in promoting the sale of Sanderson's ' Algebra both before and after the death of the author. He was also much interested in music, poetry, and history.

Hartley had devoted his leisure to philosophical inquiry from an early period. Soon after 1730 he had heard that the Rev. Mr. Gay, a fellow of Sidney Sussex College, had asserted the 'possibility of deducing all our intellectual pleasures and pains from association.' Gay published his opinions in a preface to Law's translation of Archbishop King's 'Origin of Evil.' In 1735 Hartley told Lister that he had rid himself of every doubt as to the truth of religion. He afterwards pursued his theological studies, examining especially the chronology of the Bible, and reading the early fathers, though chiefly in translation. His correspondence shows a strong religious feeling, although he was a decided rationalist in principle. He tells Lister (12 Dec. 1730) that he has finished 'two small treatises about a year and a half ago,' called 'The Progress to Happiness deduced from reason,' and starting from the principle of association. In 1788 he had enlarged his plan, and contemplated an 'Introduction to the History of Man' in four parts. He sent rough drafts of the first two parts to Lister in that year, and afterwards replied to Lister's criticisms, defending his own doctrines of determinism and universal happiness, and condemning Butler's doctrine of resentment. He kept his papers by him, and ultimately published them in the beginning of 1749 as 'Observations on Man' in two parts. Hartley's chief aim, like that of most of his contemporaries, was ethical, and he discusses in a very interesting way the gradual development of pure benevolence from the simpler passions. He coincided with the materialists in so far as he explained all mental phenomena upon the hypothesis of 'vibratiuncles,' or minute nervous vibrations, but energetically denied that his opinions really involved materialism, and was a sincere and fervent Christian. Priestley, who corresponded with him just before his death, was an enthusiastic admirer, and published in 1775 an abridgment of his great work (2nd edit. in 1790), omitting the theory of vibrations as involving obscurity, though inclining to accept it as true. Hartley's influence upon later English ethical writers of the empirical school was very great, and he anticipated most of their arguments in regard to association, a principle to which he gave a width of application previously unknown. Coleridge, in his 'Religious Musings,' calls

      Hartley, of mortal kind
      Wisest, he first who marked the ideal tribes
      Down the fine fibers from the sentient brain
      Roll subtly surging.

The name of Hartley Coleridge testifies to the same early, though soon abandoned, enthusiasm. Hartley's book reflects his singularly amiable character.

His works are: 1. 'Some Reasons why the Practice of Inoculation ought to be introduced into the Town of Bury' (at present Bury St. Edmunds), 1733. 2. 'Ten cases of Persons who have taken Mrs. Stephens's Medicines. . .,' 1738. 3. 'A View of the present Evidence for and against Mrs. Stephens's Medicines' (mentions 155 cases, of which his own is the 123rd). 4. 'De Lithotriptico a Joanna Stephens nuper invento dissertatio epistolaris,' Leyden, 1741. To the second edition (Bath, 1746) are added a Latin epistle to Mead (published separately in 1751), and 'Conjecturte qusedam de sensu motu et idearum generatione,' published also in Parr's 'Metaphysical Tracts,' 1837. A second edition of the 'Observations on Man' appeared in 1791, with a portrait of the author and life by his son David, who is separately noticed.

[Correspondence with Lister, kindly communicated, with extracts from parish registers, by Mr. Lister of Shibden Hall, Halifax; Life by Son prefixed to 1791 edit, of 'Observations;' Watson's Hist, of Halifax (this is repeated in Monthly Review, iii. 106). In Monthly Review, liii. 380, liv. 45, lvi. 82, are contemporary criticisms of Priestley's edit.; Byrom's Diaries (Chetham Soc), vol. ii.; Ueberwog's Hist, of Philosophy (English translation), 1874, pp. 386-8; Rutt's Life of Priestley, i. 24, and frequent references; Notes and Queries, 6th ser. vii. 227.]

L. S.