John Stuart Blackie Chapter XVI. Pilgrim Years 1870 - 1872
A TOUCH of vertigo bewilders
us as we try to follow the Professor through the maze of interwoven
activities which he so nimbly threaded during these years. We enter upon a
period of cession to the interest of the moment, of suspense from
concentrated effort, of varied study, of enjoyment, acquisition, expansion.
The pressure of life had relaxed for a time; Commissions and Parliaments
relieved him from the strain of lifting up his voice in the unredeemed
wilderness of education; he scarcely cared to swell the chorus, the burden
of whose song he had manfully raised. For some years, therefore, we are
concerned with a multitude of matters, important and purposely useful, but
demanding no longer the strenuous heroism of earlier tasks. Something of
abandonment to personal enjoyment may be discovered in this period,
involving work, social life, travel, and study in temperate proportions.
The level is broken by one
stirring enterprise, to which he was impelled partly by circumstances,
partly by the influence of his summer studies, ungoaded by professional
demands. These had necessarily supplied much of the stimulus to his
Æschylean and Homeric labours, but their claims were satisfied, and he was
free in his own words - "to let things take their natural course."
The Franco-German war of
1870-71 engaged his interest to a degree seldom effected by political
occurrences, which he generally disregarded. Two impulses accounted for
this, both personal to himself. These were the fighting instinct, which in
his case was rather mental than physical, and the part which German
influence had played in his education. War was always attractive to him,
whether past or present. He had accepted the theory of its value both for
individuals and for nations, and his enthusiasm for the war-makers seems, at
this distance of time, to border on extravagance. His sympathies were wholly
German. Germany was the native country of his mind and of its nurture, and a
constant current of filial and patriotic fervour repaid the debt which his
He knew little or nothing of
the French. Misled by the tawdry triumphs of the Third Empire, he mistook
for that industrious, thrifty, brave, enduring, ingenious nation, the
hysterical melee of its worst elements then in the capital. And since all
his emotions had to get themselves into rhyme and stanza, he busied himself
in autumn, during rambles on the Oban heights, with a collection of
'War-songs from the German,' which was published towards the end of the
year, and appropriately dedicated to Thomas Carlyle, the apostle of
The songs go thundering
along [wrote his old friend] with a furious tramp of battle in them; and
I Suppose, if one could sing, would be very musical and heart-inspiring.
I especially applaud the clear and vigorous historical summary, which
will be instructive to so many dark people here at home. As for the
Dedication, what can I say but drop a veil over my blushing face and
answer by expressive silence! Good be with you always, dear Blackie."
A copy of the little book was
accepted by the Queen, and he had the further honour of presenting one to
the Crown Princess of Germany.
The composition of the
historical introduction, which reviewed the first Napoleon's outrages upon
Germany, wound him up to a resolve that he would see for himself the
triumphal return of the German troops to Berlin in the summer of 1871.
The session over, the cause
of the lady students duly defended, the inclusion of the burgh schools in
the new scheme of educational reform rather impatiently handled, and other
matters dismissed, he started for London on April 19, took up his familiar
quarters at Phillimore Gardens for ten days, and fired off a rousing lecture
on War to a Sunday evening audience. He lectured at the Royal Institution as
well at a Friday evening function, and seems to have ventured on the burning
topic of Darwinism in the presence of its luminaries. But the vicissitudes
of species were not "far ben" in his thoughts, and after a whirl of dinners
he sailed for Antwerp on the last day of the month.
To see Germany in its hour of
triumph; to penetrate its mood; to learn the pros and cons of this
stupendous change, as they were in the vernacular, not in the crude
transcripts and shallow versions which reached the English ear; to know how
historians and philosophers and the men of thought regarded this avatar of
the men of action; to see the men of action themselves,— these were the
purposes which moved him.
He rested at Cologne for a
day and a night, and then dropped in on Professor Bernays at Bonn, to sip
Rhine wine " and to hold all sorts of profound and profitable disputations
about English Philosophy and German Politics" for two hours.
A. "wander" to the
Drachenfels and up some of the peaks at its back gratified his restless feet
next day, and sent him back to Bonn fatigued enough for his content. The day
after he visited Bunsen's grave, in the same churchyard as that of Moritz
Arndt. it was a shrine for the Professor, who, growing old, felt his heart
glow with gratitude to Providence, who had "led his blind unpractised foot
to great-souled Bunsen." Upon the headstone lie read, " Let us walk in the
light of the Eternal "—a message from that pure spirit who had attained
above what he sought below.
"Thoughts of Bunsen and Arndt
sink deep, and are the most profitable of meditations," he wrote; and his
pondering by their graves was shaped into a sonnet.
A shrine less holy attracted
him to Cassel, and he took train up the lovely Lahnthal to reach it. This
was Wilhelmshöhe, about three miles from the little city on the Fulda. He
strolled through the palace grounds and gay saloons, inspected the mark of
Louis Napoleon's half-burned cigars upon his writing-table, no venerable
relic of the captivity, gossiped about the captive's looks and occupations
with the castellan, and packed his reflections into a couple of sonnets as
he loitered back to Cassel. They record a man and a doom all unheroic, and
are wasted ingenuity.
Gottingen and a new
professoriate claimed his next sojourn, which lasted a week. During this
time Dr Pauli was his hospitable entertainer, and the student of forty-four
years earlier found himself a lion in the scene of his first aspirations
after academic dignity. He attended lectures with diligence, was anew
smitten with wrath at the immense gap between the matured learning of the
German and the scrambling pedagogy of the Scottish Universities, and was
increasingly impressed with the essential goodness and rationality of German
scholars. One little criticism he ventured to make, which indicates a change
in himself of which he was doubtless unaware. He liked their homeliness less
than in his student days, and would have preferred "some show of manners and
external presentation." From his host he gained much information with regard
to the great historical epoch in progress, and with the help of German books
on public questions, he was strengthened in his natural leaning towards the
Prussian side of the whole question.
From Gottingen he branched
off to Luther's country, visited Eisleben and Wittenberg, meeting at the
former place a train of French soldiers released and returning to France,
and at the latter outbreaking into the regulation fourteen lines on the twin
Reformers of Germany. Even more immediately impressive than their dust were
the graves of 150 Frenchmen, the toll left to death by the contingent of
prisoners who had Just been released. On this monument of utterable sorrow
he laid a tribute of tears—better than the unshapen verses, which failed to
express his real emotion.
Berlin was the goal of this
journey, and his object was not to see the city but to see the Emperor,
Bismark, and Moltke. Of the three, Bismark was naturally the most magnetic;
and although he did not attain to the honour of an introduction to him, he
was enabled by the good offices of Mr George Bunsen to attend the sittings
of the Diet, and both to see and hear the Chancellor. The story tells best
in his own words :-
On Friday, about 2 P.M.,
I went down the Leipziger Strasse to the Parliament House, and took my
seat in the Strangers' Gallery. The bench on the opposite side of the
House, which is occupied by members of the Upper House—who sit along
with the Lower House, only not voting—was as usual almost empty; and I
looked for Bismark in vain. Only Moltke sat amid the Lower House throng,
as quiet and meditative as an English professor. Shortly, however,
turning my eye again to the Bench of Magnates, I found the central seat
occupied by a broad-chested, commanding-looking figure, whom I more than
half recognised, and who turned out to be Bismark. He sat more than half
an hour signing papers and spending a few significant sentences on those
who sat near; then he sent across the House a note to the Speaker, by
which I guessed that lie had some intimation to make to the House. And
so it was. This was good luck, to hear the most powerful man in Europe
open his mouth, and see how lie opened it. So the Neptunianbreasted hero
arose, and looked exactly like the one man who had a right to command
everybody there; nevertheless, what he said was given forth in a very
quiet, modest way, being, in fact, only an intimation that the Peace had
been signed at Versailles, and that he had been ordered by the King to
depart immediately for Frankfort to set his final seal to the business
there. This was the whole; only I saw him quite close on the street
afterwards, with his military cloak, and with his white cuirassier cap
on his head, as if he wished to keep down his lofty presentment as much
as possible by a humble top-piece.
A descriptive sonnet
expressed the Professor's homage, and this was forwarded to the great
Chancellor, with what effect is not recorded.
Hearing that the triumphal
return of the Prussian army to Berlin would not take place till the middle
of June, Professor Blackie decided to utilise the intervening weeks in a
rapid survey of St Petersburg and Moscow,—a plan which he had made at the
outset, but reserved for favouring occasion, as it was secondary to his main
intentions. He left Berlin on May 23 for Köuigsberg, where a halt refreshed
him for the further journey, ended on the 26th. He had letters of
introduction to the English Ambassador, Sir Andrew Buchanan, and to the
Consul; and these gentlemen provided him with a week's social experiences,
while by dint of diligent map-study and of a native faculty for the points
of the compass he filled his mornings with sight-seeing, unhelped and
unhindered by compassion. He dined one day with Count Orloff Davidoff, who
had been a student in Edinburgh forty-five years earlier, a member of the
Greek class under Professor Dunbar; and he was permitted to be a spectator
of a very brilliant procession at TsarkoeSelo, described in a letter to his
You must understand there
was yesterday a grand display here on occasion of the baptism of one of
the Imperial babies; and I got a letter from the Minister of Education
to Prince Galitzin, the Master of Ceremonies, and drove out in the
railway with a whole host of princes, grafs, generals, and
generalissimos to the Palace of Tsarkoe-Selo, fifteen miles to the
south. Prince Galitzin could not get inc into the chapel where the royal
baby was baptised, but he got me an excellent station in the lobby of
the Palace, where I looked out from behind a glass door right iii front
of a long gallery, down which the Emperor and all the procession of
notables came after the baptism to refresh their imperial mortality with
a little lunch. I had two princesses beside me to prevent any appearance
of improper humiliation. I wished you had been there fully to appreciate
not only the general splendour, as I did, but the beauty of the details.
I never saw such a show, well worth a journey of some two or three
From the northern capital he
travelled early in June to Moscow, where good fortune awaited him in the
form of an old student of his own, already an experienced Muscovite, and now
the most distinguished of our authorities on matters of internal Russian
polity, Sir Daniel Mackenzie Wallace. Together they visited the lions of
Moscow, inspecting the "jewelled religiosity" of its churches, the
marvellous view from the Kremlin, and the huge Foundling Hospital with its
strange statistics. In the Cathedral the animated, rapid, inquiring figure
of the Professor roused curiosity in the worshippers, and they crowded after
him, and raised a report in the newspapers that he was Monsieur Jules Favre.
By June 5 his glance at
Moscow was over, and he was on his way back, by moor, fen, and forest, to St
Petersburg, where he wandered about the city till he knew its streets as
well as he knew Old Edinburgh. A week later he fled from its banquets and
palaces, its cloisters and splendours, to Warsaw, where he rested on his way
back to Berlin.
The triumphal entry was fixed
for June 16. He was invited to stay with Mr and Mrs George Bunsen, and saw
the procession from a comfortable seat, which cost him three dollars. "It
was a wonderful sight," he wrote, "to see billow after billow of armed
warriors coming out of the Linden and spreading to a glittering ocean in the
great open square." The decorations, the masses of well-satisfied Berlinese,
the illuminations, all contributed to the blaze of the moment, and completed
this festival of a new empire, for which the mourning mothers of Germany had
paid the reckoning.
The spectacle well over,
Professor Blackie went home by Hamburg and Leith, with his mind full of
memories. "What I have seen," he said, "will require a whole summer to
digest." His health was affected by fatigue and by the bad weather, which
dogged his steps up to the last, although the sun shone on the procession.
An ailment, which had long been in abeyance, irritated his skin and obliged
him to take medicine. The "thorn in the flesh" he called it, and it
persisted throughout the two months of his absence from home.
Mrs Blackie was at Altnacraig,
and after a few days spent in Edinburgh, collecting books upon the political
problem of the Franco-German war, he followed her thither. He left orders
with his publisher to forward copies of 'Homer' to the friends in Berlin and
St Petersburg whose hospitalities he so much enjoyed; and before starting
for Oban he bought a bulky parcel of white-foxglove seed, to be sowed by his
own hand in all the nooks and crannies of his rocky domain.
Be found Mrs Blackie far from
well. She was suffering from nervous depression, to which she had become
more than ever prone, and which robbed her of much enjoyment and made this
summer in the Highlands a toilsome round of housekeeping cares and duties.
At the best of times catering in Oban was difficult before the railway
reached so far, and to keep a house full of visitors supplied in all the
dainty variety and hospitable fulness which were her delight taxed even her
Her husband consulted his
books, refreshed his leisure with Ossian and the history of clan badges, and
corrected the proofs of 'Four Phases of Morals,' a book which gave to the
reading public the amended and amplified substance of his lectures on
Socrates, Aristotle, Christianity, and Utilitarianism, delivered the year
before in London. In commemoration of their original purpose the Professor
dedicated the book to Sir Henry Holland, President of the Royal Institution.
Its issue dated about the end of October 1871, and the book met with wide
acceptance: an edition appeared in New York during the following year, and a
second issue was called for in 1874.
This work stands amongst its
author's most popular, vigorous, and characteristic efforts. He was at home
on Socrates and Aristotle, and we are justified iii expecting from him the
lucid and large - minded estimate which he gives of these Hellenic apostles
of truth and moderation. But his chapter on Christianity had an even greater
value at the time of its publication, as correlating the new law of
Christian love with the needs and longings articulate in the best minds of
the ancient world, and as contrasting with the failures of man's many
religious inventions the divine force for salvation born again into the
world to conquer the world only so far as it is permitted a free course.
Perhaps the lecture on
lJtilitarianisin betrays the rash courage of a free-lance, undisciplined to
the onset and the brunt of orderly attack, and resenting more by instinct
than conviction conclusions which the teachers of its school have left
exposed to such attack. It needs more than the spelling out of sundry books
upon the subject to furnish a mind emphatically antagonistic with arguments
which can lay bare the insufficient area of utilitarian postulates and the
deliberate exaggeration of their practical philosophy.
nightmare [wrote Mr Froude] will disappear, as it has disappeared
before. It has its periods as comets have, but you do excellently well
to call it by its right name. [This and other quotations from the
letters of Mr J. A. Froude to Professor Blackie are made by kind
permission of Mr Froude's executors.]
Another literary labour of
this autumn was a revisal of his translation of 'Faust,' and his morning's
achievement was read to the fireside circle in the evening,—a circle often
widened by sympathetic outsiders.
In a letter written to his
Aunt Manic—now a very old lady, but in full possession of her faculties, and
living iii Edinburgh with Miss Christina Blackie—he dilates on the comforts
The sun is dominant, with
occasional whiffs of rain sufficient to encourage vegetation but not to
prevent perambulation: inside all is taste, elegance, and grace, the
natural fair effect of the fair cause who has organised the
establishment. It is worth while coming here if but to feel the comfort
of the circular, velvet-bottomed chairs which furnish forth the
drawing-room. These chairs by their circular form indicate a feeling of
security out of which a maim cannot be shaken, and by their softness
produce a sensation of comfort to which it is impossible to imagine that
Olympus with its couches of rosy clouds contains anything more
luxurious. We have a henhouse made by Mr Ross in the most fashionable
style of rusticity, in which there are at the present moment eight
fighting cocks and two hens! Every morning at breakfast we eat huge
turkey-eggs, and in the evening we make ourselves comfortable with
whisky toddy and a fine blazing fire from logs cut out of the thinnings
of the large and rich forest which surrounds us. Oh ! what you lose by
not coming to Altnacraig!
The winter session passed
without more than the usual quota of social events, of which the presence of
Dean Stanley at a meeting of the Hellenic, and a visit from "Orion,"—both
celebrities having come to lecture at the Philosophical Institution,-are
most worthy to be noted.
Many of the letters which the
Professor received were from Highlanders at home and abroad, whose love and
admiration were setting towards him in a current unstinted and almost
uninterrupted to the end of his life. He loved what they loved—the mighty
Bens, the peat-brown torrents, time open moors, the fragrant forests of
birch and pine and fir. And above all, he loved the clachan and the croft,
and cared to smell the pungent reek of the cotter's fire, and to learn from
the cotter's lips the names for all needs of home and husbandry. He loved
their language, its literature, its legends old as the myths of Rome, its
tender homeliness "shot" with the gold of imagination. He denounced their
wrongs, and his heart bled for their exile: what wonder that they loved him?
The talk in spring 1872 was
of 'Olrig Grange' and the mystery of its authorship, not impenetrable to the
Professor, who had paid just assignment of tribute towards the end of April,
when he was due in London.
He travelled thither in
beguiling intercourse with a Sanskrit grammar, finding welcome at his
brother-in-law's house in Holland Park. His lecture at the Royal Institution
was delivered on April 26, and was devoted to the "History and Growth of
Modern Greek." Amongst his auditors was Cardinal Manning, who had written to
him on the subject of the 'Four Phases of Morals' as follows:-
Your lecture pleased me
greatly from its indignant Theism. What are we doing? We are letting a
handful of men talk Atheism, and "their tongue goeth through the world."
And our men of culture are reviving gnosticism and sophistry. I rejoice,
therefore, when any one speaks to them as you do.
The Professor met the
Cardinal after the lecture, and they had an interesting talk.
Between Manning and inc
there exists a wonderful sympathy in our views of English philosophy
since Locke. The agreement consists simply in this, that we prefer
Socrates and St Paul to Bentham and Hume, and consider the English
generally as not a thinking people.
A lunch with the Cardinal
We got on swimmingly; he
says my book is written in excellent English, and always clear and
distinct., and he sympathises with my Theism and with my Aristotelian
He breakfasted with Mr
Gladstone on May 9,
when the conversation
being long, I did not get. away till 11.30. He was very frank and
agreeable. There were present only the family, a Lord Noel, and a
beautiful little creature, very eloquent about the law of copyright,
about which I professed myself very careless. She lectured both
Gladstone and me in a very charming style on the subject. But I am not
the man to enter into an agitation because a pretty woman asks me.
His quarters were changed to
Green Street, where he found himself in the heart of a spiritualistic
circle, and wasted some time on lectures and seances occupied with the
hysterical futilities of the craft.
I hear strange talk about
these spirits every day, but sit quietly keeping myself apart from them
and their ways. I have schooled myself to he perfectly content with what
reason can teach me, and feel comfortable only in an atmosphere of
sobriety and intelligibility.
He must have invited Carlyle
to be present at one of these foolish functions, for a scrap of paper
records the indignant sage's refusal.
No, a thousand times no!
Spiritualism = Ultra-Brutalism and Liturgy of Apes by the Dead Sea! Let
not such things be once named among you!
walked down to Chelsea,
and spent two agreeable hours with the grey old prophet and his brother.
As usual, he laid about him all round. However, we managed to get on, as
he was willing to take all the talk to himself. On departure he gave me
a nice present of the two big volumes of his 'Apprenticeship and Travels
of Wilhelm Meister,' with an inscription in his own hand.
A whirl of breakfast and
dinner parties absorbed him to the end of May,—with Mr Froude, Mr Haweis,
Mrs Thistlethwayte, Mr Stopford Brooke, Mr Torn Taylor, Lady Burdett Coutts,
and many others. It was a relief to pay a quiet visit to Dr and Mrs Kennedy
at Stepney, after which lie went for a week to Phillimore Gardens, to stay
with Mr and Mrs Archer, in a home always congenial to him, where the
interests were real and not feverish, and where the "sweet influences" of
art and nature calmed and enriched the social life.
Mr Archer was invalided, and
sent his guest to represent him at the Artists' Fund Dinner.
Prinsep made a telling
speech, and the Pro, also came off with flying colours. I had not the
least intention of making a speech, but the health of the strangers and
visitors having been put on the programme, my name was specialised,
perhaps as the most talkative, and I certainly did not find it difficult
to make them feel that a Scotch Professor can speak English as well as
spell Greek. I saw Millais, Graham, the Faeds, President Grant, and many
In the intervals left by his
social engagements he kept several appointments with Mr Isbister, to whom he
had submitted the MS. of the 'Lays of the Highlands and Islands.' That
gentleman liked the poems, and proposed that those on St Columba should
first appear in 'Good Words,' and afterwards take their place in a volume,
which lie was willing to prepare for issue in time for the tourists' season.
The Professor undertook to write a preface serviceable as an itinerary to
those tourists who cared to see the Highlands in the spirit of their
historic and romantic associations, and this w.ork occupied his mornings
after leaving town.
Perhaps his final fling there
was a second breakfast with Mr. Gladstone.
We had Torn Taylor, Lord
Lyttelton, Lord Houghton, and an artistical gentleman called Pennington,
who declaimed very well one of Macaulay's ballads; also Knowles, an
architect. I forgathered specially with Lord Lyttelton, who is
He went to Oxford on June 1,
but except a talk with Mr Jowett and a dinner with Dr Bradley, had little to
record of an uninteresting visit, and left, after two days' stay at the
Mitre Inn, for Nailsworth in Gloucestershire, and the hospitalities of his
friends Mr and Mrs Dobell. He found them both in frail health, but "dainty,
delicate, saintly, odd, and altogether original." He was storm-stayed part
of the time.
The weather continues
Obanesque: much wind, much rain, many clouds, little sunshine, and no
heat. Who could have thought of such ail of the elemental Old Adam here?
The 'Times' of June 18
brought him the sorrowful tidings of Dr Norman Macleod's death. "It is a
blow to my soul. To think that Scotland should thus have her noblest son
struck down." His "Itinerary" was finished, and already proof- sheets of the
'Lays' pursued him on his pilgrimage. He left for Gloucester, where he
lectured and was lionised, and whence he journeyed to Exeter, inspected the
Cathedral there, and took train for Truro. Here he made his headquarters in
the Red Lion Inn for some days, and the spell of bad weather being over,
footed it merrily through Cornwall, "jumping about from shore to shore," and
returning to his nest again. On one of these excursions lie walked
twenty-seven miles within the limits of twelve hours, resting during three
of the twelve.
Wales and Ireland had been
included in his plan for this summer, but both had to be given up, as he was
expected at Inverness early in July, and had, besides, to keep within a
reasonable distance front his publisher's office. So lie returned to
Gloucester, where his host, Dr Evans, received him with enthusiasm, the
staid proprieties of the little city having been pleased to approve of the
frolicsome old gentleman, whose snowy locks and academic reputation mediated
successfully for his unconventional deportment.
Neither I nor any one
else [wrote Dr Evans to Mr Dobell] ever saw or heard the like before;
his ways are as endless and startling as his learning and eloquence, and
make him only the more taking and attractive. He fascinates without
flattery, and tells the truth without offence.
From Gloucester to Edinburgh,
from Edinburgh to Oban, and from Oban to Inverness, formed the next sequence
of flights, and returning by the Caledonian Canal, he wrote an account of
his doings to his aunt, Miss Manie Stodart. Most of his letters to her were
written on board one or other of the Highland steamers, and this one is
dated Gondolier, Fall of Foyers, July 13:-
I have spent a very
pleasant week in Inverness. 1 harangued several splendid audiences on
Gaelic, and Nationality, and Depopulation, and came off with volleys of
applause; but I wish not only to entertain, but to stir up noble ideas
that will fructify. Besides speechification, we had Highland songs, and
Highland dances, and a Gaelic oration from one of the ministers. Then
there was the great Inverness wool-market, and a display of brawny
figures. To be altogether in the element, I went to the dinner in the
afternoon; there I felt myself, strange enough, sitting at the right
hand of Highland lairds and highland M.P.'s.
In August the 'Lays of the
Highlands and Islands' appeared, dedicated to Lady Burdett. Coutts, and
receiving a welcome from the public, expressed in many letters, amongst them
appre ciative thanks from Professor Campbell Shairp, Sir Andrew Ramsay, Sir
Theodore Martin, Dr Halley, and, of exceptional interest, from Charles
Edward d'Albanie, one of the Sobieski Stuarts well known in Scotland during
the early half of the century. Some sentences may be quoted from the first
and last of these letters.
MY DEAR BARD [wrote
Professor Campbell Shairp from Aberfeldy],—Thank you very much for
sending me your 'Lays.' Coming at this golden time of the year, there is
less leisure to read them carefully, as I have been all day long on the
hills, and only have time to look at them when I come in tired in the
evening. Still I have dipped into some of the shorter ones, and find a
fine, breezy exhalation in them. They are certainly like yourself, and
that is a main thing. The longer poems I shall keep for closer reading,
when, in your own words, late September makes us
"Heap up the logs and trim
the lamp, and bring
Our winter friends, our long-neglected books."
Sobieski Stuart wrote in warm
acknowledgment of verses which recalled to him the many Bens of Scotland,
upon which I have often
slept, and from their summits seen the sun rise or sink. The poetry in
which you have described these scenes fills me with delight and
admiration. You have sent forth the feelings of a mind— elevated above
the world, like the mountains which you describe lifting their foreheads
towards heaven filled with glory and gratitude to Him, God I time
Creator; and it fills my heart with profound consolation to feel that
there are still in this age of unbelief some illustrious and kindred
spirits to shine forth like the sun in Satan's face.
Towards the end of August the
Professor went to Aberfeldy to pay Dr and Mrs Kennedy a short visit, and
amongst the movements of the party there may be noted the ascent of
Schiehallion in company with Professor Campbell Shairp and Mr Mime Home, "a
stout old geologist engaged in a hunt for boulders." A visit to Ardgour, and
a fall in one of the rocky glens which his restless feet explored, brought
this summer's adventures to a close, and lie had to nurse a sprained ankle
at Altnacraig until October, when he left for Edinburgh.
Soon after his return to Hill
Street he received a gratifying letter from the East. The lecture on "Modern
Greek" delivered in April at the Royal Institution had been noticed with
cordial appreciation in the 'Neologos,' a Greek journal published at
Constantinople, whose editors requested Mr John Gennadius to procure the
address in its entirety, and to translate it into modern Greek for the
benefit of their readers. The father of this gentleman had believed in and
had taught the vitality of ancient Greek and its identity with the modern
language, notwithstanding a vanishing foreign element and some provincial
corruption in the latter. The son had inherited his father's faith, and now
welcomed the Professor's advocacy of a rational view not merely of the
development of modern from ancient Greek, but of the teaching of both
languages as so related, and as, in fact, one and almost the same.
In the letter which requests
the full text of Professor Blackie's lecture, with permission to translate
it for the columns of the 'Neologos,' Mr Gennadius expresses his
long-continued admiration for the learning, liberality, and enthusiasm with
which the lecturer had for many years advocated the ideas and traditions of
Greek scholars concerning their language.
I will consider it a
great honour [he proceeds] to render into Greek anything emanating from
so high an authority, from one who is respected and loved by all Greeks
of any learning.
The editors, on whose behalf
he wrote, desired to make the lecture widely known in Greece, and for this
purpose proposed to include it in an annual volume issued by them at the
beginning of the year, as well as to print it in the 'Neologos.'
Rhymed invitations were sent
out for the Hellenic meeting, and provoked answers in kind —Greek, German,
and English. Here is one from the pen of a learned Professor:-
And another runs:-
"The page of the Father of
With all his quaintness and mystery,
A song whatever its ring
(So that I am not asked to sing),
A supper that's sure to be good,
With varied potations and food,
Are attractions to me, one and all,
So I gladly respond to your call."
A scheme to raise a statue to
John Knox interested Professor Blackie, to whom that fierce apostle was a
hero, and he wrote far and wide to collect contributions. The business hung
fire for some years, however, much to his disappointment; for the weft and
woof of Scottish life was of varied texture and many colours, and there was
no unanimous voice to do homage to the memory of the strong, crafty,
unmerciful, shrewd, and victorious Reformer. Saints of such complexion are
hard to recognise, and yet just such a stubborn warrior did Scotland need in
that his day, and we may well be grateful for the work he did, even when we
mislike the manner of its doing. Deliverance from formalism, and a noble
national education, produced Robert Burns and Walter Scott, and Knox's
truculent right arm effected the one and laid the foundations of the other.
The characteristic heroism of the Scottish Reformer appealed to the
Professor, himself a "happy warrior," and at this time full of resentment
against the insidious influences which were sapping the national character
and transforming its rugged idiosyncrasy into the imperturbable type
prevailing in the south. Edinburgh was in its decadence. With flunkeyisrn
and diners a la Russe, a sort of trivial fashionableness spread like a
blight over its society. Decoration took the place of distinction, and the
remnant of men and women who belonged to freer times either fled from the
contamination, or shut themselves UI) in library and studio to remember the
past and avoid the present. There was no such course possible for the
Professor, who fell to spirited denunciation of the new drivelling
gentility. For the next score of years Ave find him the champion of the old
historic Scotland—the land of the white rose and Prince Charlie; of the
brown bent and the Covenanters; of "grey St Andrews" and Wishart, Hamilton,
and Myla; of old St Giles' and Jenny Geddes; the land made strong by
endurance, noble by devotion, and free by resistance to the death.
This comment system requires
you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an
account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or
Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these
companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All
comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator
has approved your comment.