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John Stuart Blackie
Chapter XIII. Lays, Lectures and Lyrics 1857 - 1860


THE minstrel flame, which had nearly flickered out in Athens,—fanned by airs from the western seas at Arran, by pine-scented breezes at Braemar,—blazed up again, and at the end of 1856 he completed a volume of original verse, called 'Lays and Legends of Ancient Greece,' and published by Messrs Blackwood & Sons. Although mainly concerned with the mythical and heroic stories of Greece, there were appended to these the "Braemar Ballads," inspired by a summer sojourn there. Marching alone down the glens and up the mountains, his faculties quickened by movement in the fresh and heather-sweetened air, he covered much ground in his wanderings. As he walked he sang and shouted his lays into shape, aided rather than diverted by the shifting scenes of nature in her solitudes, or of peasant life and industry. For the first time he was brought face to face with deserted homesteads, with ruined hamlets, with patches—once kindly and provident—merging into the surrounding waste, with the wilding bushes from which the vanished hands had gathered fruits in their season, with all those relics of humble life which touch us with a pathos far nearer tears than do the crumbling towers of feudalism. They filled him with sympathy, and sent him straight to the study of that struggle, age after age, between peasant and proprietor. With characteristic energy he mastered its annals in the past, and made acquaintance with that old agrarian feud which separated into hostile camps the Plebeians and Patricians of Rome. His thoughts were soon articulate both in verse and prose. The "Braernar Ballads" were added to the Greek Lays, and a letter was sent to the 'Times,' which was not only inserted in the columns of that influential journal, but endorsed and made conspicuous by a sympathetic leading article. Professor Blackie awoke to find himself the centre of a storm of letters more or less hostile from all parts of the kingdom. He bore the onset blithely as was his wont, and settled himself all the more firmly into his attitude of challenge. No war-horse ever welcomed the battle with a readier response.

As a poetic venture the Lays and Legends of Ancient Greece' were much criticised, and although they pleased the taste of those who liked their poetry fervid, it was not surprising that the finer critics of the time found fault with their torrent of troubled verbiage. For, in spite of their fervour, they are deficient in interest, rude iii construction, and suggest the schoolboy in expression. Their poet was not wholly a poet. He solaced himself with rhyme, but did not possess the great poetic gift which transmutes the very words of common life into gems that gleam and glow, by some subtle setting, by some immersion into fire which releases the pure gold from the dross. His genius selected on ethical, not on aesthetical, grounds. Whatsoever things were noble, manly, heroic, patriotic, devout—on these things he rhymed, and was a poet more by such selection than by rendering. When he told a straightforward story in simple words he approached poetic utterance, and the incident of the reveller Polemo convinced of righteousness by Xenocrates is almost on the plane of poetry. But a wayward use of language depreciates even this; for to apply in verse the same loose copiousness which makes unconsidered talk so worthless is to deform its structure and to paralyse its aim.

From this extravagance he was seldom able to refrain, so that just as seldom did he reach the level of strong and simple diction, commensurate with the thought, unvexed by bluster and unconfused by ineptitude.

After a visit to Oxford in June 1857, he and Mrs Blackie went to Bonn. They secured pleasant rooms which looked down on the Rhine, and reverted to the amenities of summer life in Germany with enjoyment. He made a short flight to Berlin to see his old friend and instructor Professor Gerhard, and described various new social experiences in a letter to Bonn.

I have been introduced to a vast array of notables. I took tea at Gerhard's one night with the three brothers Grimm, of whom Jacob is the most famous—a fine, quiet, intelligent old man with white hair, and with a certain plain rusticity of manner and homeliness of accent that agree admirably with the simple and honest tone of his mind. I have seen Lepsius, the great Egyptian scholar, an active, young-looking man not above forty; Boeckh, the patriarch of German Hellenists; Ritter the geographer, Ranke the historian, and many more. I have visited two of the principal gymnasia, and made acquaintance with the schoolmasters, or Professors as they are, and in respect of learning well deserve to be, called.

From Professor Gerhard he learned that his old Roman friend the Lutheran chaplain was settled near Halle, and he diverged from the direct route back to Bonn that he might spend a day with him. A halt at Eisenach and a short journey afterwards brought him to the valley of the Lahn, down which he walked, visiting Marburg on the way, and finding a steamer at Coblentz for Bonn.

Naturally the following winter witnessed a crop of letters and lectures on educational reform which had germinated at Berlin and Bonn. But early in 1858 appeared as well his book 'On Beauty,' published by Messrs Sutherland & Knox, and fulfilling the expectation which his treatment of the subject many years before, in the popular lecture given in Aberdeen, had roused amongst both friends and students. He took refuge in this book from the drudgery of his Homeric treatises and translation, these involving him in so vast a study of ponderous authorities as to occasion periods of sheer fatigue, which he turned to matters more disposable. He dedicated the volume to his old friends George Harvey, Robert Horn, and Dr John Brown, "in memory of pure pleasures and happy hours." A few sentences from the "beloved physician's" letter of thanks express the general appreciation amongst his friends

I am vain enough to feel very happy in having my name upon it, along with our other true friends. You said when I last saw you that this volume would not sell so well as the Poems: if it does not it is the public's own blame, but I will not believe it for two years to come. If I mistake not, there is more in the honest instincts, the broad sympathy, the genuine philosophy and cordial love of all that is lovable as expressed in these Discourses, to take and to hold, and to impress the great mass of thinking men and women, than in all else that our century has yet seen, not excepting my own great Ruskin. Many thanks for the book and the dedication, and for all the pleasure it has been to me to know and to love you. Ever affectionately, J. Brown.

If we take toll enough from this verdict to exclude its personal enthusiasm, we have still left an opinion from a very candid critic, which was echoed by many an authority on the subject. And if we turn to the book itself, we are astonished to find that the Professor's and not the Doctor's practical estimate proved to be correct.

Three lectures on Beauty, supplemented by an essay on "Plato's Doctrine of the Beautiful," form its contents. Its germ was his indignation against the views held by the old Earl of Aberdeen and by Lord Jeffrey and the Rev. Archibald Alison, according to whom there is no such thing as beauty pure and simple, our ideas having become crystallised into a doctrine of the beautiful from hereditary association. The Professor here inveighed against this opinion as a "Caledonian revival of old Attic sophistry." The lecture in Aberdeen had protested against this dreary heresy, but at that time his hold of the subject was not fully instructed. Since then his advanced class-work had called for a careful study of Platonic aesthetics, for which he not only revived his old cogitations, but made research into every expression of the beautiful in nature and in art. His cathedral tours, his reading, his travels on foot, his own intuitions educated into convictions, had conspired to inform and ripen the opinion to which he had spontaneously given utterance in the lecture.

For the sake of his students he connected with the study of Plato three lectures upon the doctrine of the beautiful, and these academical discourses, verified and revised, formed the bulk of his book 'On Beauty.' The vigour, purity, and lucidity of its style emphasise the care with which he used his notable gift of prose writing, as compared with the recklessness of his verse. His own estimate ranks it as "one of the most original books that I have written, as it was entirely thought out of my own head, and had in its genesis and growth nothing at all to do with that Platonism which I added to it as a sort of appendix."

About the middle of January 1858 he was in Glasgow, rousing the apathy of its merchant citizens on the question of schools and universities by a lecture in the Educational Institute —a lecture which received the justice of full report in the 'Herald,' instead of the usual unintelligent paragraph, which so often misrepresented in the newspapers the aim of his public utterances by reporting only their freakish interpolations. This lecture carried weight in the western capital, arousing interest and conquering local prejudice.

The spring and early summer were spent in England; Mrs Blackie accompanied her 'husband to London and shared his experiences. These included meetings with the Carlyles, with Leigh Hunt, Charles Kingsley, Dr Trench, and the Ernest Bunsens. Towards the end of May the Professor went to Cambridge, where he found the dons somewhat agitated by the approaching advent of the Royal Commission on University Reform, whose operations threatened to be drastic. "The reform will scarcely be so sweeping as they require," was his comment; "in this country all reforms generally get the fangs pulled out and the claws pared very carefully." His host was Professor Thompson at Trinity, but he called on

the famous Whewell, and was received with great politeness. I am to dine in hail as his guest to-day. He is a grand-looking man-tall, and yet admirably proportioned. He is one of the most vigorous and firmly knit men in England; drinks a bottle of port every day. He is a portentous encyclopedist, and is said to know everything under the sun even better than those who know it best. Quite a different man is Thompson—a modest confessor of ignorance when he does not know, but thoroughly and accurately real when he does know. He is certainly liberal in theological matters—which indeed seems to be the general undertone here. They seem to prefer keeping certain delicate matters atmosphered in a convenient mist. As things go at present, one can scarcely blame them. But there will come a volcanic outburst some day that will blow all their mists away in a style both grim and ludicrous, I fancy.

From Cambridge he walked to Huntingdon, "to pay worship at the shrine of Oliver Cromwell," and rejoined his wife in London early in June. Their stay was prolonged to the end of July, and he suffered from the heat of crowded halls and houses, so that on their return to Scotland they resorted to Moffat for recovery. Here hills and glens and Covenanting memories restored him, and he busied himself with an article on Bunsen—now made Baron and Freiherr von Bunsen, and living in retirement at a villa on the banks of the Neckar, opposite the castle of Heidelberg, where he used his leisure to issue a corrected text of the Bible, enriched with copious notes—an evening time of light after a day of faithful toil, The Hellenic Society attacked the "Agamemnon" Ęschylus during the winter, and amongst new members enrolled were Mr Nol Paton and the Rev. William Puisford, pastor of an Independent chapel in Edinburgh, whose courage and spirituality were leading a little congregation of faithful souls to new discoveries in the Christian life.

But the records of this winter are scanty. A growing acquaintance with Mr Robert Chambers and his family is conspicuous amongst them. One of the publisher's daughters, Janet Chambers, was a frequent visitor, and won the liveliest affection from both Professor and Mrs Blackie. Her memory has grown dim in the city, where once she reigned over the hearts of her friends. Aspiring after all things lovely and of good report, she taught in its slums the gospel of cleanliness, and achieved with the sweet influences of her smiles, her ardour, and her understanding, a success of initiative, now grown into organised endeavour, although the heirs of her labours have all but forgotten her name. A generation ago she died, and the radiance of her face, and her soul uplifted to God, passed into His presence.

Another friend had become important to the Blackies, Miss Frances Stoddart, the angler-poet's eldest sister, a woman of rare accomplishment, and of still rarer modesty, and for the few years which remained of her life the frequent partner of their summer travels. These two shared the plans made for June and July in 1859.

The four friends went to Ambleside for the first, and three of them to Grange in Borrowdale for the second, month. There Miss Chambers stayed till July 21, and inspired no fewer than four of the lyrics with which the Professor busied himself during the summer months. One of these followed her the day after she left. It is called "Janet" in the 'Lyrical Poems,' and drew from her the acknowledgment

It is very lovely, but too much for me; it makes me sad and humble. Thank you for the undeserved sentiments expressed in the poem; thank you for everything.

During their stay in Ambleside, amongst many new acquaintances, they met Miss Martineau, and spent an evening with her. She had reached a stage of increasing ill-health, however, and they saw her only once. They were busied with Robertson of Brighton's sermons, and had for engrossing interest Garibaldi and his golden ventures. Sydney Dobell wrote to the Professor in June:-

Can you think of Garibaldi's corps without a sympathy that is almost compassion? They stir me to the depths with that kind of unspeakable pity with which one looks upon more than mortal happiness. Think of those young thousands,—many enough for hope, few enough for glory, —confident toward God and man in a cause utterly noble, lifted by that confidence into unknown powers and a brotherhood almost religious in the equality of hero with hero, marching—June underfoot and overhead—through the ringing of falling chains and the light of a people's •eyes, while the fondest and loveliest of the land are waiting to reward them if they live, or nurse them if they fall, and mothers bless and children pray, and old men envy, and Italy in the stature of her new freedom— at every step more imperial as she goes—leads them from victory to victory across the intoxicating summer of this Present to the hazy golden Future of a boyish patriot's dream. What kind of climax will be possible on this earth to men who have begun life's drama with such a first act?

Several letters from Dr George Finlay show the constancy of the Professor's correspondence with his friend in Athens, and their tenor tells us how fully they entered into each other's interests. Thus one received at Ambleside starts with an entertaining parable :-

Lollianos is the name I have given to a well-preserved bust which now adorns the end of the corridor in my house. Lollianos was professor and Strategos, then the high office in the municipality of Athens. During his mayoralty he did everything in his power to alleviate the suffering caused by a famine. But before the corn arrived the Athenians began to stone him. Pancratias, the Cynic, saved him by asking the enraged populace, "Whether they did not know when they elected Lollianos that his trade was to make phrases and not bread?" I quote this from Greece under the Romans, to warn you that you may starve with university reform unless you continue to waste your time on the little boys.

In August the Blackies returned to Edinburgh, and the Professor plunged once more into the depths of Homeric research and translation. He sought opinions from Mr Theodore Martin, Mr Campbell Shairp, and other critical friends as the quality of his lines.

I was much interested [wrote Mr Shairp from St Andrews] in what you read me of your Homer. Don't spare the linial labour, for if it is to succeed it must have the trick of sound to catch the vulgar rather than the learned ear. The only thing I fear is whether the ballad couplet will not become monotonous when prolonged through 24 books. I almost despair of any metre of ours answering to homer's hexameter.

About the middle of September the British Association met at Aberdeen under Prince Albert's presidency, and the Professor was invited by his old friend Mr Forbes White to attend its meetings from the hospitable shelter of his home in Bon Accord Square. Miss Chambers travelled north with him, and his record of the journey is worth quoting :-

Such a monster train, with 900 people in one huge winding line! We had in our carriage a trump-card of a fellow, the Rev. Norman Macleod of Glasgow, who kept us in a roar of laughter with a succession of the most admirable jokes and humorous stories. The very look of the man is a joy, so round, so full, so jovial, so clear, bright, healthy, and hilarious! I was quite prepared to fall in love with him by what I had previously known, and now fell right into his arms at once. What a good and pleasant thing is a jovial man, how transcendently good is a jovial priest! Jenny was tired with her previous day's work, but could not help brightening up under the radiant influence of the lively theologer; she got upon her sanitary hobby-horse, and made various sage remarks, dear lassie! We found here Scott, Edersheim, Dr Cairns of Berwick, with Professor and Mrs Geddes, and the three Miss Johustones.

On September 17 he wrote :-

The address of the Prince was full of sound sense, philosophy, and tact. Germany has always ideas. He looked very bland and benign, and gave me a special nod as he walked out from the Geological Section on Thursday. You must understand that in order to secure to myself some real benefit I at once determined to attend regularly only one section, and various reasons combined to make me choose the Geological Section. I have now attended three days for four hours each, and have heard much good matter, and begin to feel myself at home in the present state of the most important discoveries. The Old Red Sandstone, as usual, plays a great figure in the debates. It is most edifying to me to contemplate the variety of character exhibited by the speakers. Our friend Ramsay is a direct, cheerful, distinct fellow, never long-winded, and always to the point. Sir E. Murchison has the decision of an old soldier, and is quite erect, not at all grey, though he has been hammering rocks all over the world for thirty-five years since he left the army. The most massive brain and finely chiselled scientific face is Sir Charles Lyell's; and almost all of the leading men have a vigour and directness about their style of speaking that seenis to be borrowed from the clear blow of the hammer which they practise on the rocks.

On September 20 he continued :-

I am still in a vortex. Last night we had a dinner of the "Red Lions," a club founded by Forbes, Bennett, Huxley, and a few other notables in the scientific world. Owen, the zoologist, was in the chair—a grand, tall, broad, truly leonine man, combining dignity with good-humour, which is not easy. I sang two songs and smoked two cigars, and made myself agreeable considerably to the gratification of the old Adam, who also in one sense has his rights. James Martineau has been living up at Braemar for two months, and preached last Sunday forenoon in this place. Of course I did not miss the opportunity of seeing what small account the Holy Spirit takes of our petty orthodoxies and heterodoxies, and verily I was rewarded! Such a sermon, so commanding, so comprehensive, so profound, so original, and as a whole so effective, I have seldom heard. It was directed to the men of science especially, showing how the idea of a mere God of natural laws is insufficient to satisfy the cry of the human heart.

Before returning to Edinburgh the Professor made a short excursion to Elgin to see some sandstone beds from which crocodiles had been unearthed where fishes were expected.

Messrs Sutherland & Knox issued the 'Lyrical Poems' in December. They formed a collection to which many years had made contribution, and he took warrant for their publication from Goethe's example :-

"What stood in time and space asunder,
Each born in its appointed land,
Are gathered now, one cover under,
And placed in one kind reader's hand."

The volume was dedicated to Dr Guthrie, its first poems being memories of Scottish Covenanters, of whom the Doctor wrote -

You have done justice, grandly done, to a body of men of genuine piety, and true, enlightened, and staunch patriotism. I would like to read the pieces sacred to the memory of our martyrs with a thousand or two of leal Scotch men and women for my hearers,—how one could move and melt and fire them!

A volley of reviews for and against the poems but little disturbed his equanimity. They need not be recalled, but worthy of quotation are some of the letters, which either acknowledged the cheerful spirit of his book or criticised its style. The most interesting of these may be given in full. The date is January 7, 1860

MY DEAR SIR,—For the last few days I have been interesting myself in the Poems you have been so good as to send me, and the sense they have given me of our agreement in many points of opinion and feeling has heightened the value which your words of sympathy already had for me when I first read them on New Year's morning. That generous prompting which made you write the words will make you glad to know that they were like a draught of courage and strength to me. It is not so with all praise, but only with that which shows that one's intention has been thoroughly understood; and your praise is of this kind. Without such encouragement now and then, it would be a much harder task to keep oneself clear of the petty influences that come from the echoes of journalistic and club life—nay, even from the reflection that popular success is hardly a test until the second generation.

To have helped me in this way will, I know, be a satisfaction to the writer of that golden "Advice to a favourite Student," and it will not less be a remembered ground of deep obligation by THE Author of 'ADAM BEDE.'

A few lines from Dr Whewell's letter of January 9 emit a gleam of pedantry :-

I much like the "Hymn to Helios." It has many very good hexameters, and would have had more if you had written it with a full belief in your English hexameter. The verse is, when well written, quite as perfect as any other English verse; and it is only the mistakes of pedants which have prevented the English public from seeing this. The reasons why I think that you have in this case written it carelessly are such as these: you have many, far too many, spondaic verses,, which should be avoided, and may surely be avoided in general; and you have one verse with a dactyl at the end—Theology—a shocking barbarism. Excuse my criticisms—ed io anche—I too am a hexametrist —and believe me, yours very truly, W. WHEWELL.

The Poems are loosely parcelled together into five books, labelled classically, with regard, not always obvious, to their contents. Book I. places eleven poems on the Covenanters under the protection of Quo; amongst thein is the spirited song of "Jenny Geddes" already mentioned. Book IT., with Polyhymnia as the guardian Muse, contains "Advice to a favourite Student," "The Sabbath- day," "Moments," and "Trust in God," which, from a varied assortment, rise into distinction, although more because their spirit aspires than because their form attains. Erato presides over a number of love-songs, whose Doras and Fannys and Janets are vigorously courted in strains too rollicking to be dangerous. Euterpe takes charge of a sturdy squad, whose sentiments are robust, but scarcely poetical, and amongst which "The Working Man's Song" is neither good nor true nor beautiful. No sensible working man understands the term "gentleman" in so false and froward a sense. Book V. celebrates, under the title Qamena, certain hymns, songs, elegies, and epigrams in Latin.

It seems to have been in this year that Professor Blackie was first introduced to Mr Gladstone. The meeting took place in Dr Guthrie's vestry at the close of a Sunday afternoon's service; but the acquaintance was confirmed, at the Chancellor of the Exchequer's own desire, by a conversation over breakfast on the following Tuesday morning, when Dean Ramsay was host, and which the subject of interest common to both was Homer.

In March he was iii correspondence with Professor ltitschl of Boimim, for whom he was able to secure three volumes of Sir Walter Scott's works missing' from the University library there. By the end of the session he was worn out with fatigue, and went to Moor Park for rest. He wrote on arrival " Time journey was stupid, no smallest lisping of the Muse to fill the dull vacancy. Dr Lane was on the eve of removing his establishment to Sudbrooke Park, and there his patient paid him a second visit in July, after a stay of some weeks in London. A. letter to Mrs Mackie gives some interesting' details of his doings at Richmond

I rambled about the Park all yesterday forenoon with Darwin on the Origin of Species in my hand, meditating to get at the source of the unhappy divorce between science and religion which everywhere meets one nowadays, and which, I begin to suspect, is, as in so many other cases, to be looked on as a reaction against the one-sidedness of time orthodox view of creation as a thing done once for Hl by a magical fiat, after which the Creator retires from the scene. But I need not theologise with you.

Yesterday I dined with Lord Russell, alias "Finality John," at 2.30 o'clock, in a very delightful and easy style. He has a gift of Pembroke Lodge, on the ridge of the high ground just above our meadows, from the Queen, and lives there in elegant cottage style; for the place, though full of beauty, is quite small and unpretending. It commands from every point the most magnificent views of English greenery. We dined in a little room painted with trellis and green leaves, with open window, and looking out, or rather walking out into the rich grass and trees amid which the house lies embosomed. The new Earl is a little smiling mannie. The son (Lord Aniberley) you know. He was very attentive to me, and seems to have some wise thoughts in his noddle. I owe two things to him not at all to be despised. He taught me a new game called croquet, and he gave me the new sensation of playing at a game on Sunday, doing what to our Scottish conscience should appear a sin. The dinner was quite quiet, not above eight or ten altogether—and a few visitors popped in afterwards. After dinner we walked into the other room and out into the garden, and then made up a small knot round a table in the open air and took tea about half-past five. Among the party was Lord Dufferin, a tall, lithe, smiling, dexterous, agreeable, and gentlemanly fellow. We had also the Italian and French Ambassadors, with whom Lord John walked up and down among the trees.

I must off on Thursday morning and direct for the Isle of Wight.

There are indications of an intended visit to Alfred Tennyson, hindered by the poet's absence from home.

He was in Edinburgh at the end of September, and was in correspondence with Sir Roderick Murchison about the geology of Greece and the contiguous northern land.

In the inaugural lecture of the next session we find him leaping the academical fence and foisting in the subject of the Highland clearances, a proof that it lay close to his mind. The lecture, on its proper ground, was occupied with modern Greek, its heredity, its corruption by Albanian, Italian, and Turkish, and its effort in literature to revert to the purity of the mother language.

The closing week of November brought the sad news of Baron Bunsen's death, after an illness which lasted for several months and involved much suffering. He died without finishing his People's Bible, but no man ever left behind him the memory of a more fully perfected life, lived in the constant sense of the Divine presence, in untiring love of men, in reverent fulfilment of all duty.

It is impossible to give a detailed account of all Professor Blackie's activities during these years. His life had become a full and tranquil stream, of whose chief currents record may he maintained, whose depth and breadth can be indicated, but not minutely gauged and stated. During his absence in the summer of 1860 his wife had taken charge of" flitting" their belongings from Castle Street to 24 Hill Street, his Edinburgh home till 1882. The house suited him for many reasons, its main advantage being the quiet of a narrow street undisturbed by traffic. The close neighbourhood of Professor and Mrs Lorimer and of the Sterhugs commended the removal to 'Mrs B1.ackie, whose touch converted the dull house into a home of rare. beauty and fitness. Old friends must still remember the charm with which she endowed her dwelling, each appointment seeming born in its proper place, and the whole giving an impression of harmony, variety, and comfort almost unique in those days of degenerate upholstery.

The dining-room was walled with books, for a large sum was yearly spent upon their acquisition, and they overflowed into corridors and bedrooms. This room served a double use, and was study as well as dining-room. It opened into Mrs Blackie's domain, whose walls were panelled in ivory and gold, with Greek mottoes for its cornice, and with dark crimson hangings and couches—a long, low room, full of associations to all who knew it and its treasures. Its magnet was the hostess, whose gifts were in no way second to her husband's, but on whom the blight of self- distrust, of a modesty which underrated all that she did, had settled from her youth upwards. It was perhaps indwelling, but it had been fostered in childhood by the severity of Calvinistic influences. The friends who have survived can well remember her intuition, her responsive sympathy, her originality, her gift in language, her capacity for quick and sure apprehension of all she read, with unhesitating appreciation or swift condemnation of matter, manner, or both, her singular attractiveness compounded of all these things, and of a certain personal spell woven by eyes and voice and rapid movements, and which was emphasised by the full and flowing folds of her dress, silken or velvet or woollen. She followed fashion enough to pacify opinion, but stopped short of restraint and deformity.

The first years of their stay in this new home were signalised by an upheaval of hospitable inclinations on the part of the Professor. The spare rooms were seldom empty, and dinner-party followed dinner-party during the winter. We can only cast a backward glance upon these bygone recreations. The number of guests never exceeded ten; their names were those of the friends of years: artists, professors, "Rab," certain genial divines, some humorous or melodious limb of the law, the confraternity of poets, and various "elect ladies" were on the inner list; but wanderers from the scientific world of London, like Professor Huxley, or from over the water, men of other race and eke of other colour, gave the whet of occasional novelty. The cooking was of high repute. The dinner-hour had grown belated in Edinburgh. It had moved slowly round the household clock from twelve to four, where a generation manfully stayed its course; but now it bounded forward in half- hour leaps, and fixed itself for a time at six o'clock. There the Professor decreed that it should stop, and although it tottered on to bedtime in the idle west, he maintained his point in Hill Street. This gave him a long and fruitful evening. At eight o'clock the drawing-room was filled with visitors, chosen friends of the house, who sought its pleasant ingle. Amongst them were many young people, nieces and nephews, whom the atmosphere of varied talk braced into effort after higher culture. Ladies predominated, but they were such as were worthy of a majority. Miss Lucy Cumming, Miss Bird and her sister, Miss Chambers, Miss Amelia Paton, Miss Fanny Stoddart, represent but a tithe of the gifted circle whose members - cloaked and hooded - flitted along to Hill Street, on many a winter evening, to find warmth and welcome there. In the other room the Professor slept peacefully in his chair till the kettle boiled, and then in loose student's robe and wide-brimmed hat, worn for his eyes' sake, he made his entry with a crackling discharge of quips and compliments for the tea- drinkers.

Nothing was more congenial to him than this interval of fireside laughter, and yet when it was over he returned to his work for two long hours, often to spend them in coaching a student too poor to pay for help and too zealous to escape his kind teacher's interest. At eleven o'clock he sat down to the piano, a practice with which he kept unbroken faith all the years of his maturer life. For half an hour he strummed with difficulty, searching the chords of old and new psalm-tunes, and patiently repeating the phrases, more often wrong than right, which he picked out of the keys. Sometimes a visitor with a soul for old Covenanting tunes helped him a little with her voice, but he was best pleased to hunt them out himself. Strange sounds assailed the ears of unwonted sleepers in the house, sounds which assorted with no known melody, until weeks of discord had gone by, when the chords would be marshalled into approaching order, and at prayers next morning the psalm or paraphrase would be sung to the newly captured air. He led the singing himself, and had ten or twelve favourite psalms.

There were blanks by this time in the circle of his relatives. Old Mr Blackie died in the summer of 1856; Mr Wyld of Gilston was gone, and now Mrs Wyld followed her husband. Mrs Blackie's sister, Miss Augusta Wyld, joined them in their Hill Street home, and made one of the family for some years.


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