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and long-forgotten "Epigoniad," which | said Johnson, "Lord Chatham might David Hume found "full of sublimity and think it an advantageous thing for him to genius." One of the professor's many make him a vintner, and get him all the singularities was his absence of mind. Portugal trade; but he would have deMeeting a former pupil in the streets, he meaned himself strangely had he accepted said: "I was sorry, my dear boy, to hear of such a situation: sir, had he gone 'secyou have had the fever in your family; retary, while his inferior was ambassador, was it you, or your brother, who died of he would have been a traitor to his rank it?" "It was me, sir," was the reply. and family!" This is one of the many "Ah, dear me, I thought so! very sorry instances in which Johnson was led astray for it very sorry for it." This matches by his reverence for rank and fondness Rogers's friend, Maltby, who, on Rogers for argument. telling him that he had just met a former acquaintance who exclaimed in joyful surprise, "Al, Rogers, is that you?". quietly asked, "And was it?"
The old earl died at Bath in 1767, and a minute account of the funeral is given by Whitefield, his spiritual guide. It was as members of the Methodist congrega
The family migrated to Bath towards tion headed by Selina, Countess of Huntthe end of 1763, and on the 10th of Octo-ingdon, and to be in constant communion ber in that year, Walpole writes to Chute: with that pious lady and her sect, that "There was (at the Rooms) a Scotch the Buchans had left Scotland for Bath. Countess of Buchan carrying a pure, rosy, Henry had no serious call, and it was vulgar face to heaven, and who asked probably for that reason that, whilst at Miss Rich if that was not the author of Glasgow University, he was allowed to the Poets.' I believe she meant me and spend his vacations at the house of the the Noble Authors."" Henry was left Erskines of Cardross. Here he was well at Edinburgh, whence he went to the cared for by the mistress of the establishUniversity of Glasgow. Thomas was sent ment, a character in her way, who was to sea as a midshipman, and his letters proud of her charge, and in after years, from abroad, written in his sixteenth year, when he became famous, delighted to are equally remarkable for the liveliness recall traits of his boyhood. After exand correctness of the style. Lord Chat-pressing her admiration of his bright ham had been the intimate friend and smile and happy temper, she would add: college companion (at Utrecht) of Lord" But, dear-sakes! he was a desperate Buchan (the father), and in October, 1766, he writes to Lord Shelburne to recommend Lord Cardross for the appointment of secretary to the Spanish embassy under Sir James Gray. The appointment was made and duly gazetted, when an unexpected difficulty arose. Lord Cardross refused to serve in a subordinate capacity to a minister of low birth and inferior rank Sir James's father, if we may believe Walpole, having been first a boxkeeper and then a footman to James II. A discussion (reported by Boswell) arose after dinner at Sir Alexander Macdonald's whether the young lord was justified in The rapid rise of the younger brother his refusal. Dr. Johnson said that "per- belongs to the romance of the English haps in point of interest he did wrong, Bar, and (as related by himself) was a but in point of dignity he did well." Sir romance in more senses than one, for the Alexander insisted that he was wrong, story of the sixty retainers that were and said that Mr. Pitt intended it as an pressed upon him as he left the court advantageous thing for him. "Why, sir," after his speech for Captain Baillie, is
laddie for losing his pocket-hankies." Of his subsequent career at the University of Edinburgh we are only told that, amongst other subjects, he took up civil law, rhetoric, and moral philosophy under Professors Wallace, Hugh Blair, and Adam Ferguson. Whilst studying for the law, he was a sedulous attendant at the Forum Debating Society, and he wrote some pieces of poetry, one of which, "The Nettle and the Sensitive Plant," arrived at the dignity of print. He was admitted a member of the Faculty of Advocates in 1768.
apocryphal on the face of it. It is also irreconcilable with another story, that the year following he hurried to his friend Reynolds with a banknote for 1,000l., his fee for the defence of Admiral Keppel, and flourished it in the air, exclaiming, "Voilà the nonsuit of cow-beef!" Nothing of this kind is recorded of Henry Erskine, who rose steadily to the highest rank in the profession without the stimulant of poverty or any extraordinary occurrence of good luck. "I believe," writes "when my father began his law career in Edinburgh, reluctantly - for he wished to go into the English Church he was in great danger of leading a very idle life. He had inherited, as his share of his father's property, 200l. a year; his musical gifts were unusual - he was, indeed, 'no crowder on an untuned fiddle;' his manners in the highest degree polished and captivating; his good-nature and high spirits made him the most delightful of companions; and he was one of the handsomest men in Scotland." Edinburgh, he continues, was at that time full of attraction to a young man: most of the Scotch nobility spent the winter there, and Sydney Smith could not have said of the people then, as he said afterwards, that they were 'a pack of cards without honors." If Sydney Smith could not resist a joke at the aspect of his Scotch friends, he was always ready to do justice to their sterling qualities. When," he exclaims, "shall I see Scotland again? Never shall I forget the happy days passed there, amidst odious smells, barbarous sounds, bad suppers, excellent hearts, and most enlightened and cultivated understandings."
If the humorous divine had known Edinburgh society when Henry Erskine first played a leading part in it, he would have found worse drawbacks to its agreeability than odious smells, barbarous sounds, or bad suppers. It was lamentably wanting in refinement: the best (or worst) of its conviviality was to be found in taverns; and the highest compliment to a fair lady, the most devoted act of gallantry, was to get drunk in toasting her.
per-room, where one proposes a toast to the lady of his choice and empties his glass. Another names another lady and does the same. The first repeats the ceremony with another glass. The second responds to the challenge; and so they go on, as in a German drinking duel, till one drops senseless on the floor. Their example is followed by the rest of the party, who pair off for the purpose. This custom was called "saving the ladies," why, does not appear; although some of them were said to take pride in the prowess of their champions, as if warmth of heart was proved by hardness of head. One of the earliest of Henry Erskine's essays in rhyme is a copy of verses, printed in the Edinburgh Weekly Magazine of May, 1771, on the St. Cecilia Catch Club, by whom the practice was carried to excess. The manuscript copy in the Advocates' Library is headed in his handwriting: "Wrote on purpose to be spoken at the end of the play bespoke by that Club in the character of a lady who had just received her ticket from the gentleman who sav'd her. In this elegant Society every lady is saved to whose health a certain quantity of hot punch is drunk. Such as have no such feat performed for their sake are damn'd. Wrote at Edinr. 1770." After alluding to the old-fashioned practice of wooing, he continues:
Close] is neither elegant nor commodious. The dancing-room [in the old Assembly The door is so disposed, that a stream of air rushes through it into the room, and as the footmen are allowed to stand with their flambeaux in the entry, before the entertainment is half over, the room is filled with smoak, almost to suffocation. There are two tea or card rooms, but no supper-room. When balls are given in the assembly room, and after them supper, nothing can be more awkward or incommodious to the company than the want of At present, upon these occasions, the table is distinct apartments for supper and dancing. covered in the dancing-room before the company meets. Additional tables are set out, where room is made for them by the dancing Chairs are to be brought in, and
The scene is the Canongate, by which Susannah, Countess of Eglintoun, and her seven lovely daughters, are returning from a ball in the Assembly Rooms in sedan chairs by the light of flaming torches, each attended by a cavalier with his hat in one hand and his drawn sword in the other. The procession over, and the farewell bows and courtesies formally exchanged, the gentlemen retire to the sup-being over.
waiters are pouring in with dishes, while the company are standing all the while in the floor. To engage a lady to dance was called "lifting" her, which was a serious matter at a time when the engagement was for the whole evening, there being no change of partners; and it is told in proof of Henry Erskine's kindness of heart that he was wont to come to the rescue of any neglected maiden, with the tickets without which a couple could not take their places in a set, and the oranges equally prescribed by custom for the refreshment of his partner after the dance.
Mr. Erskine, who shone among the dancers -a circumstance that was afterwards "cast up to him"-used to relate several little anecdotes regarding this etiquette of oranges. One country youth, he remembered, who was more at home with the compounding of certain festive beverages at midnight than with the routine of the ball-room, yet wishing to do by his partner everything that was right, thus addressed the young lady at the close of a dance: "Miss, wud ye tak' a leemon?" It frequently happened that a young lady suddenly called upon to dance would hand over to another, whose fate it was to "sit out," the refreshment upon which she had been engaged, with a caution against an undue consumption of the fruit. In the fourth year (1772) after he was admitted an advocate, he was married to Christian Fullerton, of an old and honorable family, heiress presumptive through her mother to the property of Newhall, in Fife. His suit was pressed in verse and prose, and, judging from the quantity of rhyme expended in it, must have been unusually long and sufficiently beset with obstacles to illustrate the Shakspearian adage that the course of true love never did run smooth. Forty pages of the MS. volume containing his poetical pieces, are filled with love elegies, written in 1770, addressed to Amanda: in the first of which he complains that the narrowness of his fortune obliges him to conceal his passion. Then come "To Amanda in Sickness," "On leaving Amanda in the Spring," and so on. They are somewhat wanting in ease, grace, and fancy; deficiencies for which Colonel Fergusson accounts by their earnestness and truth: and there is certainly high authority for declaring that poets succeed better in fiction than in truth.* According to their son, "she was exceedingly clever; her
"The Congratulation," addressed by Waller to Charles II. on the Restoration, was inferior in poetical merit to his Panegyric" on Cromwell. When the king told the poet of the inferiority, he replied: "Poets, sire, succeed better in fiction than in truth."
intuitive sagacity in seeing into people's characters hardly ever failed." She proved notable wife. Not content with having an excellent although what is called a the entire management of the domestic trouble him with questions concerning arrangements, she would occasionally them when the enquiry was, to say the least of it, inopportune; as when she roused him from a fit of meditation or much-needed nap with, Harry, lovey,
your white waistcoat?" (if it could be called house) in one of the The newly married couple set up house lofty tenements in the neighborhood of the High Court; and here, "in the very centre of the fashionable world," they dispensed hospitality to a large circle of friends and relatives. At this period altake a dish of tea at four o'clock-the most the only special invitation was to dinner hour being three. Etiquette required that the tea should be tasted with the teaspoon, and that the hostess should ask if it was "agreeable." The teaspoons were numbered to ensure each guest getting his or her own at the second cup. This species of reception, remarks Colonel Fergusson, is said to have been as popular with gentlemen as with the ladies. This is hardly reconcilable with the convivial habits of the period, when the festive meal was the supper, and the chosen scene of rollicking enjoyment the tavern. The picture (in 66 Guy Mannering") of Counsellor Pleydell at High Jinks was notoriously drawn from the life. ministers and elders of the Church were as prone to strong potations as the lawyers and the lairds. The most important ecclesiastical affairs were discussed at supper, and Dr. Alexander Carlyle distinctly lays down that, till long after the middle of the century, no clergyman. could hope for success unless his head was hard enough to bear him scatheless. through the "convivialities" of society.*
It was highly to Henry Erskine's credit, therefore, that he never indulged in any description of excess, and if occasionally he passed an evening with the famous topers and humorists of the period, or became a member of their clubs, he was acting on the same principle as Pepys, who, by way of apology for keeping company with Killigrew and the like, sets down in his diary: "Loose company, but worth a man's being in for once know the nature of it, and the manner of
"Autobiography." He was called "Jupiter" Carlyle from his resemblance to the Jupiter Tonans in the Pantheon.
their talk and lives." Thus Erskine lived that the General Assembly of the Church on intimate terms, without catching the became a theatre for young lawyers, infection, with his kinsman the Earl of elected as elders, to display their eloKellie, who was as famous for loose living quence, and he mentions several who afas for his musical talents and his songs. terwards rose to eminence as having first The earl was giving an amusing account attracted attention on this singularly of a sermon which he heard in a church chosen arena. Far from being exclusively in Italy, where the priest was expatiating clerical, the subjects were frequently of a on the miracle of St. Anthony's preach- nature to afford an almost unlimited scope ing with such unction during a sea voyage to oratory; as, for example, when Home's that the fishes held their heads out of the" Douglas" raised the question whether water to listen to him. "I can well be- it was befitting a minister to compose and lieve the miracle," remarked Erskine, publish a stage play, or even to be pres"when your Lordship was at church, there ent at the representation of one. The was at least one fish out of water." In a Assembly, after much animated debate, picture of the alleged miracle, the listen- passed a resolution forbidding the clergy ing lobsters were painted red, as if ready to countenance the theatre; but little or boiled for the occasion. When this was no attempt was made to enforce it, and objected to the painter, he replied that it in the year 1784, when Mrs. Siddons made simply made the miracle the greater. her first appearance in Edinburgh during the sitting of the Assembly, no important business could be fixed for the evenings on which she acted, when (as we learn from Dr. Carlyle) all the younger members, clergy and laity, took their stations in the theatre by three in the afternoon.
One of Lord Stowell's recollections of Dr. Johnson's visit to Edinburgh in 1773 was that the doctor was treated by the Scottish literati with a degree of deference bordering on pusillanimity, with the exception of Mr. Crosbie (an eminent advocate), whom he characterizes as an Conspicuous amongst these was Henry intrepid talker and the only man who Erskine, who had been elected an elder was disposed to stand up to the lexicogra- about the same time when he was admitpher.* Colonel Fergusson, whose nation- ted to the advocacy, and had taken all al pride seems to have been sorely wound-along an active share in their debates; ed by Johnson's habitual sarcasms on the finding them an excellent school for pubScotch, says that "the description of his lic speaking as well as an agreeable relax. treatment of the hospitable and long-suf- ation. Speaking of a leading elder to fering people of Edinburgh is enough to whom he was frequently opposed, he was make one's blood boil." Was it from wont to say that "running down Hill” fear or indignation that Erskine held was easy and pleasant work. He bealoof from the illustrious visitor, to whom longed to the section called the "Highhe was presented by Boswell at an acci- flyers," the prevalent accusation against dental meeting in the Parliament Close? whom was fanaticism. A popular caricaAfter an interchange of bows, Erskine ture, entitled "The Modern Hercules merely said, "Your servant, sir," and Destroying the Hydra Fanaticism," reppassed on; pausing a moment to slip a resents Dr. Carlyle brandishing a club shilling into Boswell's hand for (in an over the monster, whose heads include aside) the sight of his bear. Boswell ex-portraits of Dr. Dalzell of the Edinburgh presses the warmest gratitude to his wife for her reception of his redoubtable friend, and says that his conversation soon charmed her into a forgetfulness of his external appearance. Colonel Fergusson states that she was one of the most exasperated of the good citizens of Edinburgh, and said that she had often heard of a man leading about a bear, but never before of the man being led by the nose by the animal. Be this as it may, he was publicly kissed by the beautiful Countess of Eglintoun.
Speaking of 1752, Dr. Alexander Carlyle states that it was about this period
• Croker's Boswell. Royal oct. edition, p. 270.
University, Dr. John Erskine of the Greyfriars Church, Henry Erskine with finger upraised in a warning attitude, and one or two other leaders of that school. They retorted on the adverse section of the "Moderates" by the charge of scepti cism or indifference, and by alleging that their toleration was only for their own side. "When the powers of darkness roasted this Moderation, they let the spit stand still: one side was burnt to a coal, and the other was blood raw.' The strength of the rival parties was brought to a test when Erskine became a candidate for the vacant post of procurator to the Church, and was beaten by a narrow majority; the successful candidate being
William Robertson (the eldest son of the historian), who took the title of Lord Robertson on his promotion to the bench.
That Erskine's eventual success at the bar was in some measure owing to the distinction he acquired in the Assembly may be inferred from the fact that the earliest of his causes of which there is any record was a clerical one, the case of the Rev. James Lawson, who had been kept out of the ministry for six years by the Presbytery of Auchterarder on grounds which, according to a dissenting minority of the elders, would have equally justified the rejection of John the Baptist. The case came before the General Assembly in 1778 by petition, complaining of the rejection of a discourse he had delivered as part of his trials. Erskine appeared as counsel for the petitioner, "and after everything that human tongue could say had been urged in his favor and against him, the Assembly agreed to read the discourse to which exception had been taken, but this proposal was promptly checked by Erskine withdrawing the ap peal." No reason is given or suggested for this proceeding, and the inevitable conclusion is that he dreaded the effect the formal perusal of the discourse might have upon the interests of his client, who persevered notwithstanding in a succession of abortive efforts to become a licensed preacher till his name had grown into a byword.
| the bad taste, and the weakness of desir ing to prolong it for his own sake, it ceased the very instant that the reasoning was served."
Nevertheless," adds this fine observer and practised speaker, "notwithstanding the fascination it threw around him, he had better have been without the power. It established obstructing associations of cheerfulness whenever he appeared, in the public mind." By "obstructive associations of cheerfulness" must be meant the tendency to laugh, the expectation of being amused, which is inevitably if unin. tentionally provoked by a known wit, a practised joker, even when he wishes to be serious; and when the envied possessor of the power had "better be without it," is when he is addressing grave people who cannot disassociate vivacity and fancy from shallowness, and mistake dulness for depth.
The Temple late two brother sergeants saw
According to Colonel Fergusson, the Scotch bar, when Erskine began to take a lead in it, savored not a little of the unction of Donald Cargill or George Whitefield. "Further, the language of the courts at this time was little better than an imperfect dialect of English, with neither the strength and precision of the Although this is the first of Erskine's southern tongue, nor the quaint, graphic recorded cases, he must already have ac- power of the Scotch when spoken in its quired distinction at the bar. His quali- purity. It was the custom, also, at this ties were precisely of the character that time, for counsel to address the judges struck at once. He only required to be according to certain obsolete forms, and seen, heard, and known, to be appreci- in a whining tone, the exact cadence of ated. Lord Cockburn speaks of "his which was prescribed; and to have abated tall and rather slender figure, a face from which would have been an unpardon. sparkling with vivacity, a clear, sweet able liberty in the eyes of the lords of voice, and a general appearance of ele- Council and Session." We find it difficult gance, which gave him a striking and to reconcile this with what we know of the pleasing appearance." Lord Jeffrey says contemporaneous eloquence of the Genthat "he was distinguished not only eral Assembly, where many of the perby the peculiar brilliancy of his wit, formers were the same, and indications and the gracefulness, ease, and vivacity are not wanting that prior to the period in of his eloquence, but by the still rarer question the Scotch judges were occapower of keeping those seducing qualities sionally startled out of their sobriety by in perfect subordination to his judgment. rhetorical displays of an aspiring or even By their assistance he could not only melodramatic order. It would be difficult make the most repulsive subjects agree to imagine a more exciting scene in a able, but the most abstruse, easy and in-court of justice than that which (in or telligible. All his wit was argument, and about 1750) led to Wedderburn's (Lord each of his delightful illustrations a mate- Loughborough's) abandonment of the rial step in his reasoning.' Here again Scotch for the English bar. Lord Cockburn agrees: His playfulness Shortly after commencing practice at was always an argumentative instrument. the Scotch bar, he happened to be opHe reasoned in wit; and, untempted by posed to Mr. Lockhart, at that time a