Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. III. Seventeenth Century
Critical Introduction by A. I. Fitzroy
Bishop Richard Cumberland (16311718)
[Richard Cumberland, Bishop of Peterborough, was born in London in 1632. He was educated at St. Pauls School and Magdalene College, Cambridge. He distinguished himself considerably at College. He left the University to become Rector of Brampton, Northamptonshire, whence he was transferred to Stamford. William and Mary rewarded his fidelity to the Protestant cause at the Revolution by appointing him, much to his own surprise, to the Bishopric of Peterborough. He died in 1718 in his eighty-seventh year.]
BISHOP CUMBERLAND is best known by his Essay towards the recovery of the Jewish Measures and Weights, comprehending their Monies, by help of Ancient Standards, compared with ours of England. This little treatise is not without some historic interest even at this day, and shows considerable ingenuity and reasoning ability.
He published also a translation of Sanchoniathos Phnician history, from Eusebius, together with Eratosthenes continuation, with many historical and chronological remarks, so runs the title-page, proving them to contain a series of Phnician and Egyptian chronology, from the first Man to the first Olympiad, agreeable to the Scripture accounts.
After his death, as a sort of sequel to the above, was published a collection of tracts by his lordship entitled Origines Gentium Antiquissimæ; or, Attempts for Discovering the Times of the First Planting of Nations.
The bishop wrote an excessively bad style, alike in Latin and in English. He is often quite unintelligible and always dull. Long, involved sentences, and tedious, almost irrelevant, digressions, mar his pages. That he was a man of deep learning, careful judgment, and acute reasoning power is evident enough, but that he either could not or would not put his doubtless valuable matter into an attractive form, is also only too painfully evident.
There is neither humour, poetry, nor any embellishment in his writings. Clumsy, long-winded disquisitions on themes that have years ago lost any interest they may ever have had, constantly recur as we turn over page after page of his treatises.
To serve as a warning that, however valuable the matter, badness of manner will inevitably damn a book in the eyes of posterity is the only lasting good poor old Bishop Cumberland can claim to have accomplished.