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John Stuart Blackie
Chapter XXI. Class-Room and Platform 1841 - 1882


The foregoing chapters have been written in vain if the reader, personally unacquainted with Professor Blackie, has not by this time realised what manner of man he was. But there are aspects of his public life and conversation, to which justice can only be done by giving them the necessary emphasis with a multitude of small touches. An attempt to vivify his portrait in this way may therefore be made in a chapter set apart for the purpose.

Blackie at home and Blackie abroad differed considerably. He was a compound of two individualities both wholesome and good, but not the same in manifestation. At home he was gentle, considerate, methodical, serious; only at table relaxing into discursive talk and occasional explosiveness. His domestic pleasantries were tranquil, and took the form of genial banter and of equally genial irony. To the latter kind belonged the continued narration of the married life and adventures of Mr Bob Melliss. He was a mythical schoolfellow, gifted and amiable. In an evil hour, allured by her rank and pretensions, lie had married the Lady Letitia Lambert. This stately personage belonged to the school of "white-satin-shoe philosophers." Her dainty nerves endured no breath from the plebeian world, but required an environment of patrician and ceremonious elegance. The easy-going Bob had to surrender every friend and every habit of his bachelor days, and became a model husband for this lofty and sensitive dame. He forgot the very meaning of liberty, ate and drank as her stern glance directed, spoke and kept silence at her command. He was not unhappy,—far from it,—but lie was a slave, a well-dressed appendage to the Lady Letitia's train. This sorry spectacle was constantly held up for compassion. No wife ever honoured her husband's freedom of action more than did Mrs Blackie, but even she at times begged for small concessions to conventionality, which he granted willingly, but which became inevitably the theme of some new episode in the fabled disfranchisement of Bob Melliss. We knew what was coming when he shook his head and muttered, "Poor Bob Melliss."

Another home freak was the production at dinner of a four-lined stanza addressed to "Mrs Oke." Its genesis was always reputed to be as follows: "A very curious thing happened to-day, my dear: as I came round the corner, a young man, who seemed to be hanging about the Crescent, rushed up to me in a state of great agitation and thrust a piece of paper into my hand. I asked him what lie meant, but lie was gone before I could finish." And then he read the lines:

Is Okum with youI Oh that stately dame,
Who walks the earth in such majestic frame;
Whose glance, like Juno's, casts on all its spell,
And who in soups and puddings doth excel!

That is one variant of the daily compliment. The agitated young man sometimes thrust a handful of papers upon him, in which case all guests were duly commemorated.

As Professor, as lecturer, and as diner-out, he displayed characteristics which laid him open to the charge of eccentricity. These were the excess of naturalness, of bonhomie, of time laughter-loving, jocund, piquant, quick-witted humanity which contact with others excited into ebullition.

In the class-room these humours were often provoked by kindred qualities in the students, and many stories are afloat—taking to themselves a certain Protean contour—of their manifestation. The most celebrated of these may he told in the words of Surgeon-Major Grant Macpherson, a student at the time and eyewitness :-

On a pillar of the colonnade outside his lecture-room he had pasted up one day a notice to say that he would be "unable to meet his classes" that afternoon. It was not long before the c had been scratched out. Shortly afterwards, singing as usual, the Professor came across the quadrangle from the Senate-room, and promptly scored out the l also. Then with characteristic gesture, tossing his white hair and Scotch plaid over his shoulder, he walked jauntily away, trolling his favourite song, "Green grow the rashes, O!"

This story first appeared in the 'Strand Magazine,' and Mr Harry How received about a dozen letters afterwards, the writer of each claiming to be the man who scratched out the c.

Sharp tussles occurred from time to time between the Professor and some dour Scot who disliked being made conspicuous, but the most sensitive relaxed in the end, under the spell of his sunny masterfullness. A new name in the class gave rise to a sometimes puzzled monologue on its derivation. A certain John Crawford was subjected to an inquisition on the subject of his name, which, yielding little, all the Crawfords in the class—about half-a-dozen----had to stand up, and were bidden produce an essay on the name by the next day. The new student was wag enough to compose the following:-

In bygone and distant days bridges were as scarce as names, so the aboriginal tribes of our country, when under the necessity of crossing rivers and streams, had to mind their feet and keep a look-out for the depths and shallows of the water. But my ancestors soared above such effeminate considerations, and forded the water as the crow flew over it. Therefore, Crawford.

This alert audacity delighted the Professor. Students called Bell would be told that no doubt they were so named from the ancestral beauty of the family founder, a joke cheered to the echo when the immediate Bell chanced to be plain. We are told by an old student that Professor Blackie would walk into his class-room, lift up his hands, and offer the Lord's Prayer in Greek. Then he would speak his mind in English on some notable event, exacting from the students a repetition or free rendering of the matter in Greek. This would be analysed and corrected and committed to memory. The exercise accumulated a repertory of flexible words and phrases for those who made use of it. Then the reading commenced. All that was noblest in human interest and finest in the larger scholarship was noted with learned commentary and quotations; but he resented losing time over small grammatical pedantries, and over minute accuracies in the rendering of obscure passages. When a difficulty had to be faced, he would pause and go over the passage himself, and would either conquer it or decide that it might be skipped, as the notes respecting it were too verbose.

He leant for help on the few best students, when the others were impenetrably stupid. One of his best men, some time in the seventies, was an Irishman called Geoghegan, a word which the Professor decided should be pronounced Gawan. This gentleman came constantly to the assistance of the duller sort, but resented the liberty taken with his name, which he pronounced Gaiçian. One day when called upon to read, he kept silence. "Gawan," repeated the Professor without response. "Gaigan, you dour deevil, will you read?" he cried, and Geoghegan leapt to his feet with alacrity. On another occasion Geoghegan decided that he was asked to do too much, and answered that he was "unprepared." The Professor gazed at him reproachfully and said, "O, Geoghegan, I never expected this of you."

A student reading with the book in his left hand was called to order and bidden hold it in the other. He coloured and continued to read as before. The Professor was annoyed, and reprimanded him sharply. The class hissed at this, and the student held up the stump which was all that remained of his right arm. Then Mackie stepped down from his desk, and taking the young fellow in his arms, begged his pardon with tears in his eyes, and turning to the rest, he said, "I am glad that I have gentlemen to teach," and went back to his desk in an outburst of applause. The men loved him, and if the more riotous spirits took advantage of his sympathetic boyishness, and sometimes turned order into rout, even the most ungovernable amongst them acknowledged at heart his patience and tolerance and indomitable pluck and manliness.

Once in winter, when a crowd of students filled the quadrangle and were indulging in a free fight with snowballs, he passed through them with the swinging stride peculiar to him. A snowball struck him as he mounted the steps; he turned at once, flung aside his plaid, and doffed his wide awake. "Fire away!" he cried, but the snowballs fell from the hands of the shamefast lads.

It is true that the talk in class hours was apt to diverge from Greek during the last years of his College duties. His mind, running on Gaelic, on the Celtic Chair, on the crofters, on Goethe, on John Knox, on time Apostle Paul, would suddenly revolt at the overtrodden track of grammatical precision, and rush for a space with reinvigorating eagerness down some tempting vista. We are told that a student whose head reminded him of Byron was the occasion of an eloquent lecture on the genius, misfortunes, temptations, and mistakes of that great poet; while a mere hint would cause to bubble up and sparkle forth a whole volume of wisdom out of his own experience, and out of the resources which he had stored from Goethe, Aristotle, and St Paul.

But he was really saturated with Greek thought, and fully familiar with Greek stand- points and the Greek spirit. He knew Hellas as well as he knew Scotland, and his aim was to inspire his students with enthusiasm for all that was great in Hellenism, and to imbue their minds with the lessons of its histories, its philosophies, its literature, its examples,—with all that made for reverence, for endurance, for culture, for self-control in its drama and national life,— with what, in short, was worthy of their inheritance from Greek humanity. For he was essentially practical, and taught men how to live. It was from Germany that he had learnt his method. He was a German Professor, in closest touch with the students, as the material from which men were to be matured, and it was to their future worth as men that he mainly looked. He felt himself in this whole-hearted way responsible for the impulse which young minds might at a touch receive, and it can be affirmed that never in his most extravagant moments, when in a manner let loose on the stream of random thought and utterance, did he lose sight of the great seriousness of life, and of its dependence upon God.

He identified himself with the students iii a thousand ways, calling on those whom sickness kept from the class; saving some from ruin by his wise interference; supplementing the work of many by instruction at home; assisting the poorer with books given or lent; watching the development of the more hopeful with solicitude understanding all except the irredeemably shallow; patiently bearing foolishness, boisterousness, even horseplay, as one who knew that boys must learn to be men through experience of the futility of ignorance and presumption.

He was present whenever it was possible at their gatherings,— often the only Professor there, —and his arrival was the occasion of acclamation. He dedicated books to them,—'Musa Bursehicosa' and 'Messis Vit'; he supported their magazine, and constantly contributed song, sonnet, or paper to its pages. He secured the cooperation of Sir Herbert Oakeley in the arrangement of Scottish songs to be sung at their concerts; he helped forward the production of a 'Book of Student Songs' for the Scottish Universities, and wrote its introduction. He was one with them, as he had found the professors at Göttingen and Berlin to be; and this beautiful relation outlasted his retirement and characterised him to the end. His reward was great, for the students loved him. No torchlight procession was complete that did not wind up at Blackie's door; and when he appeared at lecture or theatre, he was received as a king might be amongst them, going to his cab at the close between two ranks of cheering youths.

Countless letters testify to the affection of individuals amongst them, to gratitude for salvation, for inspiration, for rnaterial help. They cannot be quoted,—they would add volumes to this work. But some from those who, students first and friends afterwards, were acquainted with him both in public and in private, throw sufficient light upon his value as a teacher to be indispensable to this attempt at computation.

I was his assistant [writes the Rev. George Paulin] some thirty-five years back, and spent one or two evenings a-week at his house, examining the class exercises and partaking of tea, and my recollections of these delightful evenings are very vivid.

He was the pleasantest of men to work with [writes Dr James Steele of Florence], as his class-assistants will bear me out in testifying; he spared them all the trouble lie could in that most irksome part of the duties they shared with him—that of correcting and appraising the class exercises and examination papers. Far on into the night, with weary brain and aching eyes, we have gone through the monotonous grind together, and all the while Ills cheery jest and indomitable vivacity would keep us in heart and head to the end. Then would come in the supper-tray, over which lie would troll out at intervals a couplet from Homer.

A letter from Professor Cowan, Aberdeen University, is full of point with regard to his professorial work in the sessions 1859 to 1862:-

The Professor was both popular among and respected by his students—the few exceptions being those whose sense of humour was defective, or who confounded the efficiency of a professor with that of a schoolmaster. Blackie didn't profess to drill boys, but to guide the studies of young men, and to inspire them with a love of the Greek language and literature. Students who did not care for Greek, and wouldn't work, managed, I dare- say, to "get through" his classes without much affliction. Students who did like Greek received both stimulus and direction in a high degree; and for not a few who, like myself, entered his junior class without much love of the subject, his brightness awakened interest and his enthusiasm became an inspiration. A notable feature of his junior class was what some of us called his "leading article." He commenced proceedings by "delivering his soul" in English upon some topic of the day—academic, civic, national, social, or religious—and thereafter called lip a couple of students to turn the deliverance with his help into Greek. It was an excellent Greek exercise, but it was more; it gave us lads fresh ideas and stimulated our own thought about what was going on in the world. In his class-work he was accustomed rather to read a good deal than to examine passages microscopically, although when a disputed point of importance emerged, he went into the matter thoroughly. When translating Homer, he liked to draw attention to the bard's simple piety. A Greek Professor in his prelections cannot avoid occasionally coming across passages suggestive of things not "of good report." Blackie, whose modesty was genuine, not prudish, hastened over such passages paraphrastically. I shall never forget his words to me after my return from a summer session in Germany. Before he asked me about lectures or anything academical, he said, quite quietly, but seriously and, as I felt, searchingly, "I hope you learned no bad habits when you were away." I have a dim recollection of Blackie's breakfasts. Like most other professorial breakfasts, they were probably a little heavy. No man is himself socially on a cold winter's morning at nine o'clock. But the Blackie suppers, to which I think he invited only those who took some position in the classes, were socially joyous and intellectually stimulating. Toasts, speeches, and songs were the order of the night, and what bulked least was the drinking; not, of course, through any artificial restriction, but simply because the flow of soul detracted from the flow of negus. Any student who introduced into his speech a graceful classical allusion to "Juno" (Mrs Blackie) met with special appreciation.

Endorsing what Professor Cowan says of his "genuine modesty," some sentences may be quoted from a letter written to Dr Walter C. Smith by Blackie's oldest living friend, Sir Theodore Martin, on March 9, 1895:-

Since 1835 Blackie and I have been friends. I knew him in his early days in Edinburgh as I believe nobody knew him. Though there was a difference of eight years between us, he was to me like an elder brother, and his heart was as open to me as if I had been a woman. It was impossible not to love him—not only for his fiery energy and determination to work out for good whatever power God had given him, but for the truly original purity of his nature. He was in truth the most purely- minded young man I ever met -ail Israelite without guile,—and I have no doubt many of the best impulses of my nature are due to his influence upon me in those far-away days. Though we met in later rears but rarely, the affection then cemented between us never relaxed, widely though we often differed in our views on social and political questions.

The Rev. Dr Farquharson of Selkirk writes:-

The Professor held a deep place in the affections of his old students, and many of us felt that we owed him much. I entered his class in Aberdeen—a very young student—in session 1846-47. That is only one year short of half a century ago; but while the words and teaching of most of the Professors of that day are but confused sounds to me now, I vividly remember his sayings and manner, and living forceful personality. The intellectual impulse I received from him I regard as one of the most precious portions of my education. I shall ever cherish with gratitude and affection the memory of those early days; and youthful feelings of attachment grew into deep admiration and respect as for a true-souled man, when in maturer years I was brought in contact with him.

A still older friend, Dr Forbes White, supplies an interesting testimony to his work at Aberdeen :-

My first introduction to Professor Blackie took place in the session of 1843-44, at Marischal College, Aberdeen. We entered college in those days at an early age, and were surprised and delighted by the exuberance of spirit of our new Professor. Except on the recognised clays of prize-giving and on the eve of holidays, good order was maintained, though by the influence of love rather than of fear. Jokes came not unfrequently, and witty, wise sayings; yet excellent work was done, though on lines new to us. Looking at a drawing of the Apollo Belvidere or the Discobolus on the walls, he would describe it and its history in free, flowing Latin, and gradually encourage us to stand up in the class and declaim, first more or less oil his own lines, and afterwards by giving us another statue to be described in our own words, correcting errors at the close. With what pleasure we heard him in the afternoon hour translating book after book of the 'Aneid,' with philological and historical explanations and references to Milton, Goethe, and Dante All this, along with the regular class-work, formed a part of his written weekly examination by a method which I believe he was the first to introduce. Thirty questions were dictated verbally, one after the other. A couple of minutes was allowed for the student to write the short reply to each question on a folio sheet. The papers were then exchanged among the students; the Professor gave the correct replies, the number of errors was added up, and the order of merit announced before the close of the meeting. All this showed a systematised method of work with which Blackie is not usually credited. Again, with what unerring skill he discovered the student who was translating honestly, and distinguished him from one relying on a crib; and with what pleasure he detected any vein of poetry in the style of another. Indolence and carelessness he passed by with a word or two more stinging than a severe reproof. Encouragement and the gift of his friendship were the secrets of his power among us. To be invited to his house on the Saturday evenings for private reading in some less known Latin author was the best reward of all. On these occasions he treated us as if we were his sons or younger brothers. After work came the light supper and the feast of intellectual good things—first-fruits of those evenings which in later times he was to make famous in the Hellenic Societies of Aberdeen and Edinburgh. Thus he got to know the tastes and pursuits of different students, and became their wise adviser—pouring out stores from his Italian travel, his studentship at German Universities, and his intercourse with great and good men—a living centre of quickening influence."

Mr Burness, a friend of thirty years standing, and a well-known member of the Edinburgh Hellenic Society, sends a spirited contribution, which may fitly conclude these personal reminiscences:-

I have a vivid recollection of the day on which I became acquainted with Professor Blackie. It was a day memorable in the life of every boy—that on which he exchanges the boyish jacket for the manly coat. Like many other country boys, I had left the provincial school with small Latin and less Greek, and come to attend the University. There was then no entrance examination, but each boy went separately into the Professor's private room and was asked to read a verse or two of St ,John's Gospel in Greek. The result was generally such as to satisfy the good-natured Professor, and it was so in my case. But when the lad happened to come from the wilds of some Highland parish, and was hopelessly at sea, he was sent to a tutorial class for a month or two, after which lie was allowed to warstie through. I little dreamt that that short interview was to be the beginning of a lifelong friendship, and that after long years I should mourn for the dead Professor as for one of my dearest friends.

There were then three Greek classes. The first was composed chiefly of boys, but with a sprinkling of men older even than any in the senior classes. These were either altogether self-taught or had been kept back by difficulties of various kinds. The junior was certainly the class in which the Professor was seen to most advantage, and in which the salient features of his character were most conspicuous. He good-naturedly ridiculed his being called on to teach such a class. It was, he said, like employing a 500 horse-power engine to pick up a pin. But then, he added, it was the system he complained of, not the boys. "Oh no, my heart yearns over the boys" but the remainder was lost in a deafening thorubos, and the Professor's eyes were seen to be moist. The fact is, he revelled in his junior class. It was the safety-valve for all his latent fun and animal spirits. Some of the sentences he gave us to turn into Greek still remain in my memory:-

"Now I know for certain that the British spring-time has arrived; for the wind cuts me like a knife, and time frost hangs in icicles from my beard."

Some believe in ten Homers, I am one. Nature is not so prodigal of her great poets."

His kindness to the young fellows was beyond description. How often he warned us all against overwork and the night-lamp, reminding us that we were only growing lads. Many of the students were strangers in Edinburgh, and, friendless but for him, led lives lonely enough. He invited them in relays to breakfast at his house in Castle Street, where lie and his accomplished wife dispensed a genial hospitality. If any student were ill, he missed him at once, and went to his lodgings to inquire for him. In a thousand ways he endeared himself to them all, and this was the secret of his success. There may be a difference of opinion as to his powers as a teacher, but he certainly kindled the enthusiasm for Greek culture which led his students to teach themselves.

At the end of the session the Professor delivered to his class a valedictory address in rhyme. The only couplet I now remember, and of which the Professor delighted to be reminded, is—

"But if you wish for Greek to feed the soul, that fiery particle,
Then come to Blackie's shop and get—the only genuine article."

This was followed by the presentation of the prizes, the winners being described in verse, always highly humorous, if also somewhat personal. On these occasions lie generally had some friends with him on the platform. Once, when in the middle of a poetical description of a tall red-headed rustic, he turned suddenly to Dr Guthrie and said, "Do you see him? Yonder he is, like a beacon, on the back form."

Dr Gardiner, in speaking of his qualifications as a teacher of Greek, mentions the fascination exercised oil mind by the study of Comparative Philology, in which " lie contrived to awaken an interest by apt illustration. Competitors for the Philological Prize have been known to read the whole range of English books on the subject; and some afterwards devoted themselves to Sanscrit or Celtic, or with the aid of the Greek Travelling Scholarship, which was always said to be the gift of Blackie himself, they pursued the study of Greek Philology at a German university."

Enough has been said said on this subject, and it is time to turn to the public Educational work which he associated intimately with his position as Professor both in Aberdeen and Edinburgh. It has been told already, but a brief retrospect seems to be essential to this chapter, which is summarising and complementary. Such a retrospect he drew up himself towards the end of August 1894, and placed it in the writer's hands as his own estimate of the services which lie had been enabled to do for Education. It runs as follows:-

1. Signed the Confession of Faith at my admission to the Latin Chair in Aberdeen under public protest and declaration; and the subsequent law case gave the prelusive note to the Repeal of the test in the case of Professors, which took place some years afterwards by Lord Moncreiff's Bill.
2. Gave breadth and catholicity to the Bursary examination in Marischal College by adding other subjects to the Latin version previously the sole test for bursaries in Aberdeen.
3. Gave a human and social character to the Latin scholarship by instituting social meetings and readings in Latin and Greek independently of regular class-work.
4. Was among the first to extend the influence of professorial teaching by taking an active part in popular lectures outside the University.
5. In Edinburgh protested strongly against the degradation of Scottish University teaching by the elementary standard in the Greek Class; was therefore thoroughly in favour of the Entrance Examination afterwards introduced; and in pamphlets and lectures all through the country, endeavoured to bring the people back to the standard of second-class Education, as set forth in the First Book of Discipline, c. 7.
6. Protested, both practically and by special work—and paper read before the Royal Society of Edinburgh—against the unnatural division between ancient and modern Greek, and the unscientific and insular habit of pronouncing the beautiful Greek language by the laws which regulate English intonation and accentuation.
7. Continued in Edinburgh regular social meetings unconnected with class - work, under the name of the Hellenic Society, for the purpose of giving a human significance and an intellectual fruit to the study of Greek in Scotland.
8. Indulged largely in popular lectures both in England and Scotland, with the double idea of spreading the seeds of fructifying thought among intelligent persons of all classes, and of stirring up the people to important questions of Educational Reform, which it was in vain to expect from the prejudiced class of professional teachers.
9. Protested strongly against the rigid routine of the Seven Classes in Arts as a qualification for the M.A. degree; and was warmly in favour of the optional principle of personal predilection within certain limits—a principle which, I understand, has been adopted and put into working order by the ordinances of the University Commission now sitting.
10. Have always denounced the cram system in examination, and advocated such a style of testing as will bring out the amount of thought and intelligence acting in the mind of the examinee, not mere learned results, which he has appropriated from without. JOHN S. BLACKIE.

Whatever he undertook he (lid with all his might. The quality of his work cannot be judged from narrow standpoints, whether of pedantry or of sect. Its worth was ethical rather than erudite, human rather than dogmatic. He was seer and a teacher after the ancient mould, not prig of either academic or ecclesiastic denomination. A strict Calvinist Celt admitted him into the company of the faithful in graphic terms" "Blackie's neyther orthodOx, haiterodox, nor ony ither dox; he's juist himsel' !"

On the platform he exhibited the same perfect independence. He had no confounding second thoughts about his utterances; he never hedged nor retracted, nor guarded himself from consequences. if people misunderstood his gay humours, they might do so. Re was healthy to the core, untainted by latter-day fevers which affect the mind with delirious audacity or chill it with apprehensive collapse. If Goethe and Aristotle had taught him the value of mental equipoise, St Paul and our Lord Jesus Christ taught him to work, to pray, to love, to surrender. He wasted 110 days in dull self-communings, no energy in slothful regrets.

Many stories are current of his eccentricities as a lecturer. They are not exaggerated. His appearance was the promise of a refreshing departure from the unwritten law of the platform. With his manuscript on a table for occasional reference, because he sometimes seemed to forget the very subject of his lecture, he marched to and fro and uttered all that occurred to him. The stream had its source, no doubt, in the opening, of his written address, but it took toll of whatever came iii its way, and the man current was often overwhelmed by the tributary. No man but Blackie would have been allowed so to defy the conventionalities of public lecturing; but his manner was sincerely natural, and what his audience wanted was the man himself, spontaneous, effusive, and stimulating—not an hour's formal information on a given subject. "Mind Blackie's sense and not his nonsense," lie would comment after a succession of verbal fireworks; and even in these the sound sense was apparent. He was not careful to respect the susceptibilities of his hearers—indeed he rather enjoyed a thrust at local polemics, but it was too kindly to rouse any parry but laughter. Once at Dundee he found the reading-desk adorned with a lovely bouquet of flowers, and curtly commanded, "Take away that bauble."

In the learned Institutions of London and Edinburgh he preserved a more precisian method and kept carefully to his notes, but even there he relieved the tension with outbursts pugnacious and whimsical.. Imagination falters when it seeks to depict his appearances in Oxford, and the fine contempt with which the use-and-wont bound dons must have turned aside his lance-thrust, straight and to the point.

In the provinces he might instruct, inveigh, or banter as he pleased. He was the despair of reporters, on whose presence he was apt to comment with scant deference, and who revenged themselves by reporting more of his nonsense than of his sense. Mr Burness remembers his "presiding at a meeting in support of Miss Burton's candidature for the School Board. He had made a very happy, vigorous speech, and resumed his seat, when he suddenly started to his feet again and said, 'I have only to add that though my language is strong, my opinions are moderate—take that down, you blackguards.'"

He would relieve the tediuni of talking with a song, and would break off a serious disquisition on the influence of Goethe, to ask his chairman why he wasn't married. When Madame Annie Grey illustrated his lecture on "Scottish Song," he would kneel down on the platform and kiss her hand as she finished her delightful rendering. Once he introduced her to the audience as the Show," adding, "I am but the showman." He horrified a meeting of teetotallers at which he presided by beginning his speech as follows:-

I cannot understand why I am asked to be here. I am not a teetotaller—far from it. If a man asks me to dine with him and does not give me a good glass of wine, I say he is neither a Christian nor a gentleman. Germans drink beer, Englishmen \vine, ladies tea, and fools water.

It is true that he soothed the fluttered dovecot by a strenuous appeal for temperance, but he was not again invited to take the lead on its behalf. His very temperance led him to revolt against total abstinence, and his value for the sacredness of a man's word showed him the danger of urging a pledge on those who took it and broke it without remorse.

Perhaps the most amusing instance of his tendency to personality on the platform occurred at Dunfermline. After the restoration of St Giles' Cathedral he was wont to advocate a greater beauty both in the structure and the ceremonial of Scottish churches. On this occasion he was lecturing on Scottish Song, and alluded particularly to the revival of sacred singing and the introduction of the organ into so many of the kirks. This innovation had roused the ire of conservative Presbyterians, who were anxious to retain the stern simplicity of the Reformation, and who looked upon such concessions as Romanising. The minister of Townhill, near Dunfermline, Mr Jacob Primmer, was their mouthpiece, and was deputed to stump the country in defence of bare walls and a precentor. On him the Professor loosed the vials of his invective. "I hear," he said, "you've got a man in this town called Jacob Primmer, who says that worship can't be true unless it is ugly. Let him come to me, and I'll prove liiiii an ass in five minutes." At the close up stepped the Rev. Jacob Primmer and demanded to be proved an ass. The Professor was taken aback for a moment, but recovered with copious quotations from the Psalms, and wound up with a plea for dancing as a religious rite. Mr Primmer took it in excellent part, and next day the two were seen arm ill making a round of the sights of Dunfermline.

He has summed up his own misdemeanors in lilies addressed to his wife, when she requested him to cultivate a manner void of offence oil platform of the Philosophical Institution. "Pious Resolutions, by a prospective Lecturer," he called the verses

I sober truth and sense will speak,
Sense from all nonsense free
With wisdom in a perfect way
Shall my two lectures be.
I will endure no sportive whim
Before my mind to play,
No pictured bubble born to burst,
But sober, grave, and grey!

I will not send a shallow jest
Light rattling through the hail
An idle and a foolish song
I will not sing at all !
I will not flourish my stout stick,
or in my plaid appear,
But sit like judges in the court,
Sage, solemn, and severe!

I will not touch with rude offence
A thin-skinned man at all,
But softly shape the thornless thought
To please both great and small.
 I will be polished in my phrase,
Judicial in my tone,
That all who hear well pleased shall say,
How wise is Blackie grown!

As a diner-out his alert vivacity and repartee made him welcome. To sit beside Professor Blackie at a public banquet was to he one of the most happily placed at the table, although it involved some hard thumps on the back, and some effort to be equal to the sudden appeals for the faith within. It also involved liability to public embrace if the responses demanded were to the point and pleasing, but it also ensured immunity from boredom. Called upon for a song, and sometimes unrequested, the Professor would give "Jenny Geddes," "Woo'd and married and a'," or "Get up and bar the door," with vigour. In earlier days it was the "Battle of the Nile," or "Hermann the German," and then the voice was sweet and resonant. Towards the end its volume failed, and had to be supplemented with action suited to the verse.

In conversation he liked to startle, and shone as a fighter. Calling on a lady, lie said abruptly, When I walk along Princes Street, I go with a kingly air, my head erect, my chest expanded, my hair flowing, my plaid flying, my stick swinging. Do you know what makes me do that? Well, I'll tell you - just con-ceit."

Mr Seton relates that "at a dinner-party given by the late Sir James Falshaw a verbal contest took place between Blackie and Dr Hodgson, in which some excellent hits were made on both sides—Blackie excited and explosive, while Hodgson was calm and self- controlled. At last the Greek Professor put down his knife and fork with the cry, 'Hodgson, I surrender!

Sometimes he would rise and make a tour of the table to reach his antagonist and tackle him more effectually. He took everything in good part, and expected the like treatment from others.

But nowhere was he seen to such advantage as at the meetings of the Hellenic Society, particularly when these took place in his own house. Mr Burness in the following pages gives us a glimpse into the social doings on these occasions :-

Professor Blackie was seen at his very best at the meetings of the Hellenic Society. These were held fortnightly during the winter months in the houses of members by rotation. It is impossible to give any one who never saw him on these occasions any idea of the versatility of his talent, the brilliance and readiness of his wit, or the exuberance of his animal spirits. I was admitted in 1859, and among the members at that time were Dr Lindsay Alexander, Dr John Brown, Lord Neaves, Robert Herdman, Prof. Gairdner, Dr John Muir, Celt Nicolson, Prof. Bayne, Dr Donaldson, and the Rev. Alexander Webster. We got through a good deal of Greek, but the great feature of the meetings was the symposium which followed. As the hour drew nigh, the Professor became conscious, as he said, of which, ascending from the dining-room, gradually became perceptible in the drawing-room, where the readings were held. When the tables were cleared the Professor generally quoted in paraphrase the motto of the 'Noctes Arnbrosiana'

"This is a distich by wise old Phocylicles,
An ancient who wrote crabbed Greek in no silly days;
Meaning, ''Tis right for good wine-bibbing people
Not to let the jug pace round the board like a cripple,
But gaily to chat while discussing their tipple.'
An excellent rule of the hearty old cock 'tis
And a very fit motto to put to our Noctes."

Then fixing his eye on the symposiarch, he rose to propose the health of that gentleman, first commanding the removal of any epergne or ornament which obstructed his view. This he did iii the historic phrase, "Remove that bauble!"

His speeches were simply inimitable; but they were surpassed by his songs. I question whether anything he has said or written will survive "Sam Sumph " or "Jenny Geddes." The only other regular toast permitted was that of the Despoinct, unless there happened to be a distinguished stranger present, when a similar compliment was paid to him. If the unfortunate man happened to be from Oxford o Cambridge, the honour done him was almost neutralised by the torrent of abuse with which his University was at the same time assailed. Alas! "Where be your gibes now? Your gambols? Your songs? Your flashes of merriment that were wont to set the table in a roar?" The remembrance of Blackie and the Hellenic Society suggests the reminder to Ben Jonson of

"Those lyric feasts
Where men such clusters had
As made them nobly wild, not mad;
While yet each verse of thine
Outdid the meat, outdid the frolic wine."

The following is a specimen of how the Professor's health was sometimes drunk at these jovial meetings

"To PROFESSOR BLACKIE.

"Blackie! thou art a Scotsman to the core,—
No 'Oxford prig episcopizer,' fed
On cates and comfits and the rosy red
Of alien grape; but one who lovest more
Cauld kail from Aberdeen's grim granite shore,
Haggis and brose of Athole, kebbuck instead
Of gorgonzola; for thy dress a plaid
For lyre the pipes; for letters Celtic lore.

Thou hear'st not Beethoven; and thy spirit loathes
The idiot song of West-End coteries.
'Oh for some lilt of love and lover's oaths
Sung by some Hebe of the Hebrides,
Or Oban auburn maid trampling the clothes
And standing in her tub, as erst Diogenes.'

In far corners of the world his name was an inspiration to Scotchmen who had known him. The home papers were ransacked for news of Blackie. An old student recorded in the pages of 'The Liberal' soon after his death :-

It was the writer's fortune once, in the dense Australian bush, hundreds of miles distant from the nearest civilisation, to come across a shingle-splitter who had seen better days, but whom the drink demon had reduced from the status of a scholar to that of a waif and a pariah. As we sat beside his camp-fire watching our "billy" of tea boil, as soon as he knew I hailed from Edinburgh he cried, "Man, how's old Blackie?" In the very bowels of the earth once, when down some five hundred feet in the famous Prince Imperial Gold Mine, on the Thames Field, New Zealand, a humble miner, who nevertheless could write M.A. after his name, accosted me with the query, "I say, mate, were you under good old Blackie in Edinburgh?" Go where you pleased—and I have wandered over a good part of the world's surface—there you would find men who not only had been students under the grand old man, but who loved him and reverenced him even as sons a father.

And men who had not come directly in contact with him had caught the same contagion of love and reverence from what they knew of his life and work. A friend travelling in South Africa found hospitality at a farmhouse in a lonely spot, far from neighbours and from news. She asked the farmer what requital she could make on her return to Scotland. " Send me Blackie's last book," he said; "nothing could be so welcome." He got it with the author's autograph and a verse of his writing for inscription.

Mr Lees of Boleside, Galashiels, coining back from New York some years ago, found in the steerage, which he used to visit, an engineer who had made a little competence in the West Indies, and was coming home to spend it in making his old mother comfortable. Talking of Edinburgh one day this man asked him, "Div ye ken Blackie?" and when Mr Lees explained that the Professor and he were personal friends, the worthy engineer seized his arm and shook it in his excitement : "Ye ken Blackie I ye ken Blackie Man, he's juist ma deity.

One summer day Mr Lees took an old nurse—of ninety years "—a jaunt up Yarrow on the coach. Blackie was a fellow-passenger, and talked away with friendly readiness to her, and when he left she turned in great excitement to say, "Eh, he's graund I He's a' folks say o' him."

Professor Blackie was no politician so far as purty politics go. He was, as he said himself, not a politician, but a student of politics—interested in public measures and administration only so far as they enabled him to comprehend the principles on which political conduct is based, and out of which social progress proceeds." From the party point of view he felt himself "an altogether exceptional creature in this corner of the world. As a. practical man and a good citizen, I only take part in political movements when I see that I can thoroughly understand the debatable ground, and can do some good by giving my vote on the right side."

It is not surprising to find, therefore, that his vote was given sometimes on one side and sometimes on the other. He explains in the "Notes" that "in the main I have been a Liberal, though I voted twice with the Tories, to the great astonishment of partisan politicians. To my nature there is nothing more abhorrent than party feeling; my delight is on all occasions to search out and to acknowledge the good of my antagonist, and to give him my hearty applause when I think he is right." Following this inclination, he once gave one of his two votes in Edinburgh to a Liberal and the other to a Tory, because he liked the men, and saw no reason why both parties should not be represented in Parliament to correct each other! "None the less I was a good sound Liberal: God made me so emphatically."

Only where great public enthusiasm demanded reforms far higher than party motives, could he feel himself at the source of their movement, and in sympathy with their direction. All attempts to enrol him as a partisan were ineffectual, and he retained for himself the liberty of speaking and voting as he pleased. He attacked what seemed to him injustice and wrong-dealing in high places in his own way.

The moment I saw my adversary clearly defined before me, I marched at once into his camp with drawn sword in hand, and gave him my card. This abrupt way of asserting far-reaching principles, and it may be attacking time-hallowed institutions, though it might not have been always prudent, as the world loves the word, was, I am convinced, time way in which God meant me to act.


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