Richard Evelyn

John Evelyn , a very learned English writer, was born in 1620, and died in 1706. He published several works, all of which are valuable. His treatises upon Natural History are greatly valued. He kept a diary, which has been published, and which contains much that is interesting. Of one of his children, who died early, he gives us the following account:

"After six fits of ague, died, in the year 1658, my son Richard, five years and three days old, but, at that tender age, a prodigy of wit and understanding; for beauty of body, a very angel; for endowment of mind, of incredible and rare hopes. To give only a little taste of some of them, and thereby glory to God:

"At two years and a half old, he could perfectly read any of the English, Latin, French, or Gothic letters, pronouncing the three first languages exactly. He had, before the fifth year, not only skill to read most written hands, but to decline all the nouns, conjugate the verbs regular and most of the irregular; learned Pericles through; got by heart almost the entire vocabulary of Latin and French primitives and words, could make congruous syntax, turn English into Latin, and vice versa, construe and prove what he read, and did the government and use of relative verbs, substantives, ellipses, and many figures and tropes, and made a considerable progress in Comenius's Janua; began himself to write legibly, and had a strong passion for Greek.

"The number of verses he could recite was enormous; and when seeing a Plautus in one's hand, he asked what book it was, and being told it was comedy and too difficult for him, he wept for sorrow. Strange was his apt and ingenious application of fables and morals, for he had read Æsop. He had a wonderful disposition to mathematics, having by heart divers propositions of Euclid, that were read to him in play, and he would make lines and demonstrate them.

"As to his piety, astonishing were his applications of Scripture upon occasion, and his sense of God: he had learned all his catechism early, and understood the historical part of the Bible and Testament to a wonder—how Christ came to mankind; and how, comprehending these necessaries himself, his godfathers were discharged of their promise. These and like illuminations, far exceeding his age and experience, considering the prettiness of his address and behavior cannot but leave impressions in me at the memory of him. When one told him how many days a Quaker had fasted, he replied, that was no wonder, for Christ had said 'man should not live by bread alone, but by the word of God.'

"He would, of himself, select the most pathetic Psalms, and chapters out of Job, to read to his maid during his sickness, telling her, when she pitied him, that all God's children must suffer affliction. He declaimed against the vanities of the world, before he had seen any. Often he would desire those who came to see him, to pray by him, and a year before he fell sick, to kneel and pray with him, alone in some corner. How thankfully would he receive admonition! how soon be reconciled! how indifferent, yet continually cheerful! He would give grave advice to his brother John, bear with his impertinences, and say he was but a child.

"If he heard of, or saw any new thing, he was unquiet till he was told how it was made; he brought to us all such difficulties as he found in books, to be expounded. He had learned by heart divers sentences in Greek and Latin, which on occasions he would produce even to wonder. He was all life, all prettiness, far from morose, sullen, or childish in anything he said or did. The last time he had been at church, which was at Greenwich, I asked him, according to custom, what he remembered of the sermon. 'Two good things, father,' said he, 'bonum gratiæ, and bonum gloriæ;" the excellence of grace, and the excellence of glory,—with a just account of what the preacher said.

"The day before he died, he called to me, and, in a more serious manner than usual, told me, that for all I loved him so dearly, I should give my house, land, and all my fine things to his brother Jack,—he should have none of them; and next morning, when he found himself ill, and I persuaded him to keep his hands in bed, he demanded whether he might pray to God with his hands unjoined; and a little after, whilst in great agony, whether he should not offend God by using his holy name so often by calling for ease.

"What shall I say of his frequent pathetical ejaculations uttered of himself: 'Sweet Jesus, save me, deliver me, pardon my sins, let thine angels receive me!' So early knowledge, so much piety and perfection! But thus God, having dressed up a saint fit for himself, would no longer permit him with us, unworthy of the future fruits of this incomparable, hopeful blossom. Such a child I never saw! for such a child I bless God, in whose bosom he is! May I and mine become as this little child, which now follows the child Jesus, that lamb of God, in a white robe, whithersoever he goes! Even so, Lord Jesus, let thy will be done. Thou gavest him to us, thou hast taken him from us; blessed be the name of the Lord! That I had anything acceptable to thee was from thy grace alone, since from me he had nothing but sin; but that thou hast pardoned, blessed be my God forever! Amen."