Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 32.djvu/244

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

within four miles. Various regulations (see Overton, pp. 228–32) show Law's desire that the children should be brought up in church principles, and pay due respect to their superiors.

Law rose at five for devotion and study; the household assembled for prayers at nine; dinner was at twelve in summer and at one in winter, and was followed by devotion. At tea-time Law joined the family, eating only a few raisins, and talking cheerfully, without sitting down. After tea the servants read a chapter of the Bible, which Law explained. He then took a brisk walk in the fields, and after another meal, again followed by prayers, he retired to his room, took one pipe and a glass of water, and went to bed at nine. They attended the church services on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays; saw a few friends, and occasionally took an airing, Mrs. Hutcheson in her 'coach,' Law and Miss Gibbon riding on horseback. Law, in order to begin the day by an act of charity, distributed the milk of four cows to his poor neighbours. He tasted the soup which was daily prepared for the poor, and his only displays of irritability were on occasions of its being not well enough made. He loved music, and maintained that every one could be taught to sing well enough for devotional purposes. He was fond of dumb animals, and liked to free birds from their cages. He was a lover of children, and has devoted much space in his writings to advice upon their education. He had a small room for a study, which Canon Overton describes (p. 242) as part of 'a most commodious bedroom,' and altogether a 'most convenient little snuggery.' He had a large library, chiefly of theological books, and was an untiring student in several languages. The hearthstone of his room was worn away in two places by the rubbing of his chilly feet.

Law's study overlooked a courtyard, and the appearance of a beggar caused him immediately to descend. The excessive charity of the family naturally attracted beggars of all kinds. The rector, a Mr. Piemont, denounced this indiscriminate charity from the pulpit, and a paper was presented by 'many considerable inhabitants of the town' to the justices of the peace, complaining that Law and his family were one 'occasion of the miserable poverty of the parish.' In an indignant letter dated 21 Feb. 1753, and signed by the three offenders, they declare that they will continue their practice, and threaten an immediate removal. As they remained, the beggars were presumably too strong for the 'considerable inhabitants.'

Law continued his literary activity at King's Cliffe. In the first year of his residence he attacked Dr. Trapp, whose argument against being 'righteous overmuch' was aimed at the methodists and other 'enthusiasts' (in the then accepted sense), and naturally roused Law, who saw more danger in the opposite direction. In 1757 he attacked Warburton, whose whole point of view was totally uncongenial, and who could safely speak of his mystical antagonist with coarse contempt (see Doctrine of Grace). Warburton is again attacked in his 'Appeal to the Clergy.' In 1756 Wesley had published a letter to Law condemning his mysticism. Law made no reply, but in a 'Dialogue between a Methodist and Churchman,' written hastily and in old age, defended the church principles against Wesley's disciple, John Berridge [q.v.]. Law had friends among the neighbouring gentry, and could be sociable and agreeable in company. He received numerous letters from persons interested in his teaching or moved in conscience by his books, and replied in letters of spiritual advice. His correspondence, his writing, and his charities and schools, doubtless kept him fully employed. His later friends were not men of mark, and his life was secluded. He retained his 'piercing eye' and intellectual and bodily vigour to the last. He caught a chill at the annual audit of the school account, when the trustees were always entertained at his house. He died, after a fortnight's illness, on 9 April 1761. He wrote a letter the day before his death making no allusion to his illness, and died almost in the act of singing 'the Angels' Hymn.' He was buried at King's Cliffe. An epitaph was composed by two friends, and a tomb erected by Miss Gibbon. In a will executed just before his death he left five shillings to his nephew, and all the rest of his property to Miss Gibbon. A codicil directed that she should distribute the whole among the descendants of his late brother George.

Law never allowed his portrait to be taken. He is described by Tighe, who visited Kings Cliffe for information, as rather over the middle height, stoutly made, but not fat, with a round face, grey eyes, ruddy complexion, and a pleasant expression. His manners were unaffected, though with a certain gravity of appearance, induced by a 'clerical hat with loops let down, a black coat, and grey wig.' Mrs. Hutcheson died in January 1781, aged 91; and Miss Gibbon in June 1790, aged 86.

Law's remarkable force of mind placed him in opposition to the prevailing tendencies of his time, and his writings have therefore failed to receive due recognition, with the exception of the 'Serious Call.' He had a