Adam Clarke

Clarke, Adam, Rev., LL.D., biblical commentator, was born at Magherafelt in 1760. From early youth he discovered a deeply religious temperament, and thirst for knowledge. He was apprenticed to a branch of the linen business; but his father and mother being Methodists, and the theological bent of the boy's mind becoming known to some of the ministers who visited at their house, he was admitted to a school founded by Wesley at Kingswood, near Bristol. There he devoted himself unreservedly to preparing himself for the ministry. He studied Hebrew and a course of Oriental languages beyond the ordinary curriculum of the school. In 1782 he was ordained by Wesley, and for twenty years he laboured principally in the provinces, residing in London or upon a small estate acquired by him in Lancashire. His preaching attracted immense numbers, and he daily gained influence and reputation. In 1802 he published a Bibliographical Dictionary in 6 vols. This work increased his already great reputation; he was admitted a member of the Royal Society of Antiquaries, the Royal Irish Academy, and other learned bodies.

The University of St. Andrews conferred upon him the degrees of M.A. and LL.D. His writings are considered to have materially helped to remove the contempt theretofore attached to the name of Methodist. By the Commissioners of Public Records he was induced to edit Rymer's Faedera, for which he was ill fitted, and which brought him little credit. To one great work he devoted the best energies of his life — The Holy Bible, with a Commentary and Critical Notes. The first volume appeared in 1810; the eighth and last in 1826. Bickersteth says: "There is much valuable matter in it. Light is sometimes thrown on difficult passages; but he is too fond of innovations and justifying generally condemned characters, and has both eccentric and exceptionable passages." He has been charged with parading the oriental learning which he is understood to have possessed; but his excellence of character is unquestioned. "He was in every sense of the word a good man, and his life presents an instructive lesson of rewards and honours attending useful labours, and consistent, virtuous action."40] He was the author of several other works besides those mentioned. In 1831 Dr. Clarke established several schools in his native province of Ulster. He accumulated a valuable library, including many MSS. and a small museum of curiosities. He died of cholera, during a passing visit to Bayswater, 26th August 1832, aged about 72. He is described as five feet nine inches high, of a large frame, his limbs straight and well-proportioned, and his person unbowed to the last hour of his life. "His personal habits were those of unintermitted industry, unencumbered by busy haste, and directed by the exactest order."


81. Clarke, Rev. Adam, Life: Rev. J. B. B. Clarke. 3 vols. London, 1833.

16. Authors, Dictionary of British and American: S. Austin Allibone. 3 vols. Philadelphia, 1859-'71.

40. Biographical Division of English Cyclopaedia, with Supplement: Charles Knight, 7 vols. London, 1856-'72.