Recollections of Ferguson
A lonely muse!
She sings of reptiles yet in song unknown.
I returned to the vessel with a
heavy heart; and it was nearly three months from this time, ere I again
set foot in Edinburgh. Alas! for my unfortunate friend! He was now an
inmate of the asylum, and on the verge of dissolution. I was thrown, by
accident, shortly after my arrival at this time, into the company of one
of his boon companions. I had gone into a tavern with a brother sailora
shrewd, honest skipper, from the north country and, finding the place
occupied by half a dozen young fellows, who were growing noisy over their
liquor, I would have immediately gone out again, had I not caught, in the
passing; a few words regarding my friend. And so, drawing to a side-table,
I sat down.
"Believe me," said one of
the topers, a dissolute-looking young man, "its all over with Bob
Fergusonall over and I knew it from the moment he grew religious. Had old
Brown tried to convert me, I would have broken his face." -
"What Brown?" inquired one
of his companions.
"Is that all you know?"
rejoined the other. "Why, John Brown of Haddington, the Seceder. Bob was
at Haddington last year, at the election; and, one morning, when in the
horrors, after holding a rum night of it, who should he meet in the
churchyard but old John Brown?he writes, you know, a big book on the
Bible. Well, he lectured Bob at a pretty rate, about election and the
call, I suppose; and the poor fellow has been mad ever since. Your health,
Jamie. For my own part, Im a free will man, and detest all cant and
"And what has come of
Ferguson now?" asked one of the others.
"Oh, mad, sir, mad,"
rejoined the toper"reading the Bible all day, and cooped up in the asylum
yonder. Twas I who brought him to it.But, lads, the glass has been
standing for the last half-hour.Twas I and Jack Robinson who brought him
to it, as I say. He was getting wild; and so we got a sedan for him, and
trumped up a story of an invitation for tea from a lady, and he came with
us as quietly as a lamb. But, if you could have heard the shriek he gave
when the chair stopped, and he saw where we had brought him! I never heard
anything half so horribleit rung in my ears for a week after; and then,
how the mad people in the upper rooms howled and gibbered in reply, till
the very roof echoed! People say he is getting better; but, when I last
saw him, he was as religious as ever, and spoke so much about heaven that
it was uncomfortable to hear him. Great loss to his friends, after all the
expense they have been at with his education."
"You seem to have been
intimate with Mr Ferguson," I said.
"Oh, intimate with Bob!" he
rejoined; "we were hand and glove, man. I have sat with him, in Lucky
Middlemasss, almost every evening, for two years; and I have given him
hints for some of the best things in his book. Twas I who tumbled down
the cage in the meadows, and began breaking the lamps
Ye who oft finish care in Lethes
Who love to swear, and roar, and keep it up,
List to a brothers voice, whose sole delight
Is sleep all day, and riot all the night.
Theres spirit for you! But
Bob was never sound at bottom; and I have told him so. Bob I have said,
Bob, youre but a hypocrite after all, manwithout half the spunk you
pretend to. Why dont you take a pattern by me, who fear nothing and
believe only the agreeable? But, poor fellow, he had weak nerves, and a
church-going propensity, that did him no good; and you see the effects.
Twas all nonsense, Tom, of his throwing the squib into the Glassite
meeting-house. Between you and I, that was a cut far beyond him in his
best days, poet as he was. Twas I who did it, man, and never was there a
cleaner row in auld Reekie."
puppy!" said my comrade, the sailor, as we left the room. "Your poor
friend must be ill, indeed, if he be but half as insane as his quondam
companion. But he cannot; there is no madness like that of the heart. What
could have induced a man of genius to associate with a thing so thoroughly
"The same misery, Miller,"
I said, "that brings a man acquainted with strange bedfellows."
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