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Berkeley, George, 1684-1753

Bishop of Cloyne; born in Kilcrin, Kilkenny, Ireland, March 12, 1684; was educated at Trinity College, Dublin; became a Fellow there; and at an early age wrote on scientific subjects. Between 1710 and 1713 his two famous works appeared, in which he denies the existence of matter, and argues that it is not without the mind, but within it, and that that which is called matter is only an impression produced by divine power on the mind by the invariable laws of nature. On a tour in France he visited the French philosopher Malebranche, who became so excited by a discussion with Berkeley on the non-existence of matter that, being ill at the time, he died a few days afterwards. Miss Vanhomrigh (Swift's “Vanessa” ) bequeathed to Berkeley $20,000: and in 1728 his income was increased $5,500 a year by being made Dean of Derry. Berkeley conceived a plan for establishing a college in the Bermudas for the instruction of pastors for the colonial churches and missionaries for the Indians. He resigned his offices to become rector of the projected college at a salary of $500 a year. The House of Commons authorized the appropriation of a portion of the money to be obtained from the sale of lands in St. Kitt's (St. Christopher's), which had been ceded to England for the establishment of the institution. With these assurances Berkeley went to Newport, R. I. (1729), bought a farm and built a house, intending to invest the college funds, when received, in American lands, and then to make arrangements for a supply of pupils. He had just married, and brought his bride with him. The scheme for the college failed for lack of government co-operation after the death of the King, who favored it. In 1734 Berkeley was made Bishop of Cloyne, which place he held for almost twenty years. He gave to Yale College his estate in Rhode Island, known as “White Hall,” and also 880 volumes for its library. He died in Oxford, Jan. 14, 1753. Pope ascribed to him “every virtue under the sun.” It was in view of the establishment of the college that he wrote his famous lines On the Prospect of planting Arts and learning in America, in which occur these often-quoted lines, [333]

Westward the course of empire takes its way;
The first four acts already past,
A fifth shall close the drama with the day;
Time's noblest offspring is the last.

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