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A LESSON TO THE BRITISH LION. To Matthew Arnold hark,
With both ears all avidity; That Matthew - a man of markSays, "Cultivate Lucidity."
"Civil Courage" the Germans lack;
Is a certain want of "Lucidity."
In "Morality" France most fails
The defect that England ails
Must be owned to be "Lucidity."
In devoted intrepidity;
The Puseyite phalanx glows
With a most intense calidity;
But what would have snuffed it out
Roast beef is excellent meat,
But it doesn't produce Lucidity.
From The Quarterly Review. HENRY ERSKINE AND HIS TIMES.*
THE Erskines, Henry and Thomas, who made the name famous, will be ad mitted on all hands to have been an extraordinary pair of brothers, and those who knew them best would have been puzzled to declare which was the more richly gifted of the two. The younger, Thomas, was haply superior in eloquence: the elder, Henry, was certainly pre-eminent in learning and wit. In 1806, Thomas, the undisputed leader of the English bar, was elevated to the peerage and the woolsack. About the same time, Henry, after filling a corresponding position at the Scotch bar, was made lord advocate, and attended a levée at St. James's where he was questioned as to his professional gains by George III. "Not so rich as Tom, eh? not so rich as Tom?" Majesty," was the reply, "will please to remember that my brother has been playing at the guinea table and I at the shilling one." The reply would be equally apposite should it be asked, why is he less known to fame. He was restricted to a narrower field of action, to a more confined arena. Lofty and well-founded as were and are the pretensions of the northern Athens, the scene of his forensic and social triumphs, it was a provincial capital at best; and the fame it conferred, independently of durable works in literature or science, was, local and transitory, speedily to become traditional. There is no collected edition or report of Henry Erskine's speeches, no authentic record of his sayings or doings, and the once vivid impressions of his contemporaries survive only in the memories of the suc ceeding generation, a generation that knew him not.
Under these circumstances the highest credit is due to Colonel Fergusson for the conception and execution of the work before us, in which he has not only placed
• The Honorable Henry Erskine, Lord Advocate for Scotland, with Notices of certain of his Kinsfolk and of his Time. Compiled from Family Papers and other sources of information. By Lieut.Colonel Alex. Fergusson, late of the Staff of Her Majesty's Indian Army. Edinburgh and London.
the celebrity of his hero on a solid basis, but has lighted up anew the times in which he flourished and supplied a variety of curious incidental traits of the Erskine family, their connections, and their race. Fortunately he had a large store of materials to draw upon, in the shape of notes left by the late Lord Buchan (Henry Erskine's son), who kept constantly in view the probability that a complete memoir of his father, to which he felt unequal, would some time or other be produced.
Lord Erskine was fond of alluding to his ancestors, and once, on a trial relating to a patent for a knee-buckle, he held it up to the jury, exclaiming, "How would my ancestors have admired this specimen of ingenuity! Mingay, who was opposed to him, replied: "Gentlemen, you heard to-day of my learned friend's ancestors and of their probable astonishment at his knee-buckle. But, gentlemen, I can assure you that their astonishment would have been equally great at his breeches." The hit told, but in point of fact Erskine's ancestors, being Lowlanders, were not unacquainted with breeches. The name is derived from the barony of Erskine in Renfrewshire, where they were settled as far back as tradition or history can read. The earldom of Mar, the origin of which (according to Lord Hailes) is lost in the mists of antiquity, was one of their hereditary dignities, and the father of the subject of this biography was the tenth Earl of Buchan.
Referring to their intermarriages with royal or illustrious houses at home and abroad-with the Bourbons and Stewarts, the Viscontis, Della Scalas, Dorias, Lenoxes, Fairfaxes, and Stairs learned professor, quoted by Colonel Fergusson, remarks that "if there be any faith to be placed in the theory of the inheritance of mental qualities, especially through the female line, we should expect to see here, following this scheme of descent, true genius or great eccentricity — perhaps both." The professor's expectation or inference will be found in strict accordance with the facts, for whilst the two most distinguished brothers were giving ample proofs of genius, the eldest, the eleventh earl of Buchan, also a man
of mark, was attracting his full share of educated under a tutor named Buchanan. public attention by eccentricity. He was They were affectionately attached to each expatiating to the Duchess of Gordon on other, and continued so through life, notthe abilities of his family, when she cut withstanding an incident handed down on him short with: "My lord, I have always unimpeachable authority. On one occaheard that the wit came by the mother's sion a violent squabble having occurred side and was settled on the younger chil-between Lord Cardross and the two dren." The tenth earl, the father, was a younger ones, he called out, "When I commonplace man, but the mother was a am Earl of Buchan, I will turn you both woman of powerful intellect which had out of this house." On which Thomas been cultivated to a high degree of excel- answered, "That you shall not, for I will lence. She had studied mathematics un-kill you first," and threw a heavy slate at der Colin Maclaurin, the friend of Sir him. Luckily the slate missed its mark. Isaac Newton. "To such accomplish- Some time in 1760 the family removed ments were added an elegant taste, with to St. Andrews, with a view to the more brilliant imagination, almost genius, and advanced education of the sons at the (above all) an eminent and earnest piety." university. Here as in Edinburgh, as The three sons of this lady were born Colonel Fergusson takes care to state for respectively: David Henry (Lord Car- the honor of the house, Lady Buchan bedross in his father's lifetime and after-came the centre of a pleasant and cultiwards Earl of Buchan) in 1742; Henry, vated circle, whom she was able to enterNovember 1st, 1746; Thomas, January tain according to the frugal habits of the Ioth, 1749. The fortunes of the family period and the locality, where hospitality were by no means in a flourishing state, was not expected to extend beyond a “ dish and the first virtue which this estimable of tea." But the homely character of the lady was called on to practise was econ-ordinary domestic fare may be inferred omy. But Lord Campbell (in his "Life from what is related of the housekeeper of Lord Erskine ") has clearly been guilty who in setting a dainty dish upon the of exaggeration, with the view to contrast, table was wont to call out, "Noo, boys, when he represents the trio as born in an ye're no to tak' ony o' yon; I've just elevated flat at the head of Gray's Close brought it up for lo'e o' my lord." A verse in Edinburgh, and reared principally on in the youthful effusions entitled "Threadoatmeal. Colonel Fergusson, indignantly paper Rhymes " of the future lord chanrepudiating the notion of degrading im cellor, ran thus: pecuniosity, asserts that the house (still to be seen) was one of some pretension, although the family may not have occupied the whole of it, and asks whether it be necessary to assert that oatmeal porridge is no sign of poverty in Scotland? "Had the biographer_forgotten, during his long residence in England, the many virtues of that food? What better combination, or more likely to breed up a dean of faculty, or lord advocate? There is deep wisdom, for those who can receive it, in the myth which tells how Mimung, the great Sword of the North, attained its unparalleled sharpness from being tempered with milk and oatmeal."
The three lads were brought up to gether, and we find them in early boyhood at the country house of Uphall, where "in a small room over the stables" they were
Papa is going to London,
And what will we get then, oh! But sautless kail, and an old cow's tail, And half the leg of a hen, oh! Lord Buchan (the father) had a theory that the mortification of the flesh was good for the mind, and that to be made to put up with the disagreeable was a salutary discipline for young people. The boys, like Lord Macaulay,* had a strong dislike to veal; so veal was ordered every day for their dinner for some weeks. As soon as he was old enough to attend the university courses, Henry joined the humanity and mathematical classes, and studied natural history under Professor Wilkie, the author of the once celebrated