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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume X. The Age of Johnson.

XV. Divines

§ 3. Smalridge

Much the same may be said of Atterbury’s friend George Smalridge, who succeeded him as dean of Christ Church. Smalridge was a less active Jacobite and a less vehement man, and died peaceably, though in disgrace, as bishop of Bristol. He

  • toasted the Pretender in the privacy of his rooms at Christ Church, but gave him no other support; recognising, no doubt, that anything but a Platonic affection was incompatible with the Church principles of non-resistance to established authority, of which he and Atterbury had been among the foremost champions.
  • Some of this quietude gives tone to his sermons, which Johnson praised for their elegant style; and Addison wrote in 1718 “he is to me the most candid and agreeable of all the bishops.” Dedicated to Caroline princess of Wales—who, as queen, had a striking talent for the discovery of clever clergymen—and produced in print for an extraordinarily large number of subscribers, the sermons are more remarkable for sound sense than for eloquence or argument. The English is pure and unaffected; Addison, perhaps, is the model; but his excellence is far from being attained. Smalridge was indignant when some one thought to flatter him by suggesting that he wrote A Tale of a Tub: a very moderate knowledge of his style should have convinced the most obtuse that he could not have written the Tale if he would. In truth, he is typical of his period. The theological writings of the day had none of the learning, or the attempt at it, which had marked the Caroline epoch; they had no charm of language, no eloquence or passion. The utmost they aimed at was lucidity, and, when this was achieved, we are left wondering whether what could be so expressed was worth expressing at all. Atterbury had stood alone against the benumbing influence of Tillotson.