Samuel Parr

Biography of Samuel Parr

Samuel Parr (26 January 1747 – 6 March 1825), was an English schoolmaster, writer, minister and Doctor of Law. He was known in his time for political writing, and (flatteringly) as "the Whig Johnson", though his reputation has lasted less well that Samuel Johnson's, and the resemblances were at a superficial level, Parr being no prose stylist, even if he was an influential literary figure.

Parr was born at Harrow on the Hill to Samuel Parr, a surgeon, and his wife Ann. Samuel was a determined and educated man who taught his only son Latin grammar at the age of four. At Easter 1752 Parr was sent to Harrow School as a free scholar and when he left in the spring 1761, he began to assist his father in his medical practice. His father tried to direct Samuel towards a medical career. Stubbornly, Parr repeatedly turned down offers to extend his medical knowledge. In early November 1762, Parr's mother died. Less than a year later, his father married again, this time to Margaret Coxe, much to the displeasure of his son, who was sixteen at the time.

Samuel was eventually allowed to swap medicine for divinity. To this end, Parr entered the University of Cambridge, perhaps as a sizar as his stepmother had suggested or perhaps not. In 1765 he was admitted to Emmanuel College, Cambridge, where, as he wrote later, his "tutors were eminently able, and to me uniformly kind". On 23 January 1766, only a few months into his 14 month stay at Cambridge, Parr's father died at the age of 54. Even with financial support from Harrow, money now became a problem, and Parr, unable to continue his studies without going into debt, was forced to leave Cambridge. Because of Cambridge's rules regarding bachelorships in divinity, he could claim one after ten years practising and would not have to be a member of the university to do so.

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