Bishop Hurd was quite lively as a young man, judging by his early letters from Cambridge, but as he advanced in his career he grew more serious. In November 1765 Thomas Gray remarked to their mutual friend, William Mason, that he had “grown pure and plump, just of the proper breadth for a celebrated Town-Preacher”. If he had seen what Hurd had done the previous March he might have modified this opinion.
Hurd had now been Rector of Thurcaston in Leicestershire for nearly ten years and since 1760 had been chaplain to his friend and mentor William Warburton, Bishop of Gloucester. One day in March 1765 a large parcel arrived at the Rectory, containing this book:
Hurd had been expecting this; it was a gift from Warburton, who was coming to stay shortly. In February he had added a PS to a letter: “I shall deliver the Illustrious Heads to Miller; nay, I had delivered them to him by the binder to send you. But he, by mistake, sent them back to me in Grosvenor Square”. Andrew Miller (1707-1768) was a bookseller and publisher in the Strand. He had published Fielding’s novel Tom Jones in 1749 and became Warburton’s publisher in 1755. The book, which was evidently not new, may have belonged to Ralph Allen, who was one of the subscribers:
Allen had died the previous year and Warburton, who had married his niece, was now the happy owner of Prior Park and a fine library, several of whose books he gave to Hurd, who purchased the remainder after Warburton’s death in 1779. Allen would have been particularly pleased to support the publication of this book, as one of the illustrious heads depicted was of his old friend Alexander Pope:
But Hurd’s reaction to this handsome gift was to write this verse on the flyleaf:
Warburton was a very sociable chap and used to make Hurd invite all his neighbours to dinner when he came to stay. Hurd liked peace and quiet. One must hope Warburton did not examine his present too closely when he arrived.
Chris Penney, Hurd LibrarianTweet