Additional Info

Click here to get a Printer Friendly Page

Share

Check all the Clans that have DNA Projects. If your Clan is not in the list there's a way for it to be listed. Electric Scotland's Classified Directory An amazing collection of unique holiday cottages, castles and apartments, all over Scotland in truly amazing locations.

The Autobiography of Dr. Alexander Carlyle of Inveresk
Chapter II - 1736-1743 AGE, 14-21


I WAS witness to a very extraordinary scene that happened in the month of February or March 1736, which was the escape of Robertson, a condemned criminal, from the Tolbooth Church in Edinburgh. In those days it was usual to bring the criminals who were condemned to death into that church, to attend public worship every Sunday after their condemnation, when the clergyman made some part of his discourse and prayers to suit their situation; which, among other circumstances of solemnity which then attended the state of condemned criminals, had no small effect on the public mind. Robertson and Wilson were smugglers, and had been condemned for robbing a custom-house, where some of their goods had been deposited; a crime which at that time did not seem, in the opinion of the common people, to deserve so severe a punishment. I was carried by an acquaintance to church to see the prisoners on the Sunday before the day of execution. We went early into the church on purpose to see them come in, and were seated in a pew before the gallery in front of the pulpit. Soon after we went into the church by the door from the Parliament Close, the criminals were brought in by the door next the Tolbooth, and placed in a long pew, not far from the pulpit. Four soldiers came in with them, and placed Robertson at the head of the pew, and Wilson below him, two of themselves sitting below Wilson, and two in a pew behind him.

The bells were ringing and the doors were open, while the people were coming into the church. Robertson watched his opportunity, and, suddenly springing up, got over the pew into the passage ["Robertson, crossing the church, passed close by the head of the pew where I was."—Recollections.] that led in to the door in the Parliament Close, and no person offering to lay hands on him, made his escape in a moment—so much the more easily, perhaps, as everybody's attention was drawn to Wilson, who was a stronger man, and who, attempting to follow Robertson, was seized by the soldiers, and struggled so long with them that the two who at last followed Robertson were too late. It was reported that he had maintained his struggle that he might let his companion have time. That might be his second thought, but his first certainly was to escape himself, for I saw him set his foot on the seat to leap over, when the soldiers pulled him back. Wilson was immediately carried out to the Tolbooth, and Robertson, getting uninterrupted through the Parliament Square, down the back stairs, into the Cowgate, was heard of no more till he arrived in Holland. This was an interesting scene, and by filling the public mind with compassion for the unhappy person who did not escape, and who was the better character of the two, had probably some influence in producing what followed: for when the sentence against Wilson came to be executed a few weeks thereafter, a very strong opinion prevailed that there was a plot to force the Town Guard, whose duty it is to attend executions under the order of a civil magistrate.

There was a Captain Porteous, who by his good behaviour in the army had obtained a subaltern's commission, ["He was a common soldier in Queen Anne's wars, but had got a commission for his courage."—Recollections.] and had afterwards, when on half-pay, been preferred to the command of the City Guard. This man, by his skill in manly exercises, particularly the golf, and by gentlemanly behaviour, was admitted into the company of his superiors, which elated his mind, and added insolence to his native roughness, so that he was much hated and feared by the mob of Edinburgh. When the day of execution came, the rumour of a deforcement at the gallows prevailed strongly; and the Provost and Magistrates (not in their own minds very strong) thought it a good measure to apply for three or four companies of a marching regiment that lay in the Canongate, to be drawn up in the Lawnmarket, a street leading from the Tolbooth to the Grassmarket, the place of execution, in order to overawe the mob by their being at hand. Porteous, who, it is said, had his natural courage increased to rage by any suspicion that he and his Guard could not execute the law, and being heated likewise with wine—for he had dined, as the custom then was, between one and two—became perfectly furious when he passed by the three companies drawn up in the street as he marched along with his prisoner. ["He was heard to growl as he passed down the Bow [West Bow]: 'What ! was not he and his Guard fit to hang a rascal without help! ' "—Recollections.]

Mr. Baillie had taken windows in a house on the north side of the Grassmarket, for his pupils and me, in the second floor, about seventy or eighty yards westward of the place of execution, where we went in due time to see the show; to which I had no small aversion, having seen one at Dumfries, the execution of Jock Johnstone, which shocked me very much. When we arrived at the house, some people who were looking from the windows were displaced, and went to a window in the common stair, about two feet below the level of ours. The street is long and wide, and there was a very great crowd assembled. The execution went on with the usual forms, and Wilson behaved in a manner very becoming his situation. There was not the least appearance of an attempt to rescue; but soon after the executioner had done his duty, there was an attack made upon him, as usual on such occasions, by the boys and blackguards throwing stones and dirt in testimony of their abhorrence of the hangman. But there was no attempt to break through the guard and cut down the prisoner. It was generally said that there was very little, if any, more violence than had usually happened on such occasions. Porteous, however, inflamed with wine and jealousy, thought proper to order his Guard to fire, their muskets being loaded with slugs ; and when the soldiers showed reluctance, I saw him turn to them with threatening gesture and an inflamed countenance. They obeyed, and fired; but wishing to do as little harm as possible, many of them elevated their pieces, the effect of which was that some people were wounded in the windows; and one unfortunate lad, whom we had displaced, was killed in the stair window by a slug entering his head. His name was Henry Black, ["Henry, being of a jocular humour, had been laughing at the people who fell in the street, which he imagined was only through fear. On the second fire his jokes were laid at once, when his companions jogging him perceived his head was bleeding."—Recollections. In the Caledonian Mercury appears the name of Henry Graham, tailor in the Canongate, shot through the head while looking out at a window.] a journeyman tailor, whose bride was the daughter of the house we were in. She fainted away when he was brought into the house speechless, where he only lived till nine or ten o'clock. We had seen many people, women and men, fall on the street, and at first thought it was only through fear, and by their crowding on one another to escape. But when the crowd dispersed, we saw them lying dead or wounded, and had no longer any doubt of what had happened. The numbers were said to be eight or nine killed, and double the number wounded ; but this was never exactly known.

This unprovoked slaughter irritated the common people to the last ; and the state of grief and rage into which their minds were thrown, was visible in the high commotion that appeared in the multitude. Our tutor was very anxious to have us all safe in our lodgings, but durst not venture out to see if it was practicable to go home. I offered to go; went, and soon returned, offering to conduct them safe to our lodgings, which were only half -way down the Lawnmarket, by what was called the Castle Wynd, which was just at hand, to the westward. There we remained safely, and were not allowed to stir out any more that night till about nine o'clock, when, the streets having long been quiet, we all grew anxious to learn the fate of Henry Black, and I was allowed to go back to the house. I took the younger Maxwell with me, and found that he had expired an hour before we arrived. A single slug had penetrated the side of his head an inch above the ear. The sequel of this affair was, that Porteous was tried and condemned to be hanged; but by the intercession of some of the Judges themselves, who thought his case hard, he was reprieved by the Queen-Regent. ["Having been a golfing companion of President Forbes, Lord Drummore, and other persons of rank and consequence, application was made for a respite to Queen Caroline, then Regent."---Recollections.] The Magistrates, who on this occasion, as on the former, acted weakly, designed to have removed him to the Castle for greater security. But a plot was laid and conducted by some persons unknown with the greatest secrecy, policy, and vigour, to prevent that design, by forcing the prison the night before, and executing the sentence upon him themselves, which to effectuate cost them from eight at night till two in the morning; and yet this plot was managed so dexterously that they met with no interruption, though there were five companies of a marching regiment lying in the Canongate.

This happened on the 7th of September 1736; and so prepossessed were the minds of every person that something extraordinary would take place that day, that I, at Prestonpans, nine miles from Edinburgh, dreamt that I saw Captain Porteous hanged in the Grassmarket. I got up betwixt six and seven, and went to my father's servant, who was thrashing in the barn which lay on the roadside leading to Aberlady and North Berwick, who said that several men on horseback had passed about five in the morning, whom having asked for news, they replied there was none, but that Captain Porteous had been dragged out of prison, and hanged on a dyer's tree at two o'clock that morning.

This bold and lawless deed not only provoked the Queen, who was Regent at the time, but gave some uneasiness to Government. It was represented as a dangerous plot, and was ignorantly connected with a great meeting of zealous Covenanters, of whom many still remained in Galloway and the west, which had been held in summer, in Pentland Hills, to renew the Covenant. But this was a mistake; for the murder of Porteous had been planned and executed by a few of the relations or friends of those whom he had slain; who, being of a rank superior to mere mob, had carried on their design with so much secrecy, ability, and steadiness as made it be ascribed to a still higher order, who were political enemies to Government. This idea provoked Lord Isla, [Lord Islay was Archibald, brother of John, fourth Duke of Argyle, and succeeded him in the Dukedom in 1743.] who then managed the affairs of Scotland under Sir Robert Walpole, to carry through an Act of Parliament in next session for the discovery of the murderers of Captain Porteous, to be published by reading it for twelve months, every Sunday forenoon, in all the churches in Scotland, immediately after divine service, or rather in the middle of it, for the minister was ordained to read it between the lecture and the sermon, two discourses usually given at that time. This clause, it was said, was intended to purge the Church of fanatics, for as it was believed that most clergymen of that description would not read the Act, they would become liable to the penalty, which was deposition. By good-luck for the clergy, there was another party distinction among them (besides that occasioned by their ecclesiastical differences), viz., that of Argathelian and Squadrone, of which political divisions there were some both of the high-flying and moderate clergy. [The term "Argathelian" is new to the Editor, but the meaning is obvious. "Argathelia" is the Latin name of the province of Argyle, and the word doubtless applied to those who favoured that unlimited influence in the affairs of Scotland exercised by the family of Argyle before the ascendancy of Lord Bute. The name of "Squadrone" had been long used to designate a public party professing entire independence. The "ecclesiastical differences" concentrated themselves in a dispute, of memorable importance to the Church of Scotland, called "The Marrow Controversy," from one party standing by, and the other impugning, Fisher's Marrow of Modern Divinity.—J. H. B.] Some very sensible men of the latter class having discovered the design of the Act, either by information or sagacity, convened meetings of clergy at Edinburgh, and formed resolutions, and carried on correspondence through the Church to persuade as many as possible to disobey the Act, that the great number of offenders might secure the safety of the whole. This was actually the case, for as one-half of the clergy, at least, disobeyed in one shape or other, the idea of inflicting the penalty was dropped altogether. In the mean time, the distress and perplexity which this Act occasioned in many families of the clergy, was of itself a cruel punishment for a crime in which they had no hand. The anxious days and sleepless nights which it occasioned to such ministers as had families, and at the same time scruples about the lawfulness of reading the Act, were such as no one could imagine who had not witnessed the scene.

The part my grandfather took was manly and decided; for, not thinking the reading of the Act unlawful, he pointedly obeyed. My father was very scrupulous, being influenced by Mr. Erskine of Grange, and other enemies of Sir Robert Walpole. On the other hand, the good sense of his wife, and the consideration of eight or nine children whom he then had, and who were in danger of being turned out on the world, pulled him very hard on the side of obedience. A letter from my grandfather at last settled his mind, and he read the Act.

What seemed extraordinary, after all the anxiety of Government, and the violent means they took to make a discovery, not one of those murderers was ever found. Twenty years afterwards, two or three persons returned from different parts of the world, who were supposed to be of the number ; but, so far as I heard, they never disclosed themselves. [Charles Kirkpatrick Sharpe has a characteristic bit of gossip to relate regarding the Porteous mob: "People of high rank were concerned in the affair. My great-grandfather, Lord Alva, told my grandfather that many of the mob were persons of rank—some of them disguised as women. Lord Haddington for one, in his cook-maid's dress."—Wilson's Reminiscences of Old Edinburgh.]

In my second year at the College, November 1736, besides attending M`Laurin's class for mathematics, and Kerr's private class, in which he read Juvenal, Tacitus, etc., and opened up the beauties and peculiarities of the Latin tongue, I went to the Logic class, taught by Mr. John Stevenson, who, though he had no pretensions to superiority in point of learning and genius, yet was the most popular of all the Professors on account of his civility and even kindness to his students, and at the same time the most useful; for being a man of sense and industry, he had made a judicious selection from the French and English critics, which he gave at the morning hour of eight, when he read with us Aristotle's Poetics and Longinus On the Sublime. At eleven he read Heineccius' Logic, and an abridgement of Locke's Essay; and in the afternoon at two—for such were the hours of attendance in those times—he read to us a compendious history of the ancient philosophers, and an account of their tenets. On all these branches we were carefully examined at least three times a-week. Whether or not it was owing to the time of life at which we entered this class, being all about fifteen years of age or upwards, when the mind begins to open, or to the excellence of the lectures and the nature of some of the subjects, we could not then say, but all of us received the same impression—viz., that our minds were more enlarged, and that we received greater benefit from that class than from any other. ["The truth is, that it is universally known in this part of the country, that no man ever held a Professor's chair in the University of Edinburgh who had the honour of training up so many young men to a love of letters, and who afterwards made so distinguished a figure in the literary world as Dr. Stevenson. He died in 1775, and bequeathed his library to the University."—Bower's history of Edinburgh University.] With a due regard to the merit of the Professor, I must ascribe this impression chiefly to the natural effect which the subject of criticism and of rational logic has upon the opening mind. Having learned Greek pretty well at school, my father thought fit to make me pass that class, especially as it was taught at that time by an old sickly man, who could seldom attend, and employed substitutes.

This separated me from some of my companions, and brought me acquainted with new ones. Sundry of my class-fellows remained another year with Kerr, and Sir Gilbert Elliot, John Home, and many others, went back to him that year. It was this year that I attended the French master, one Kerr, who, for leave given him to teach in a College room, taught his scholars the whole session for a guinea, which was then all that the regents could demand for a session of the College, from the 1st of November to the 1st of June. During that course we were made sufficiently masters of French to be able to read any book. To improve our pronunciation, he made us get one of Molie're's plays by heart, which we were to have acted, but never did. It was the Medecin malgre lui, in which I had the part of Sganarelle.

Besides the young gentlemen who had resided with us in the former year, there came into the lodging below two Irish students of medicine, whose names were Conway and Lesly, who were perfectly well-bred and agreeable, and with whom, though a year or two older, I was very intimate. They were among the first Irish students whom the fame of the first Monro [Dr. Monro was appointed Professor of Anatomy in 1720. In the year referred to by Dr. Carlyle his pupils numbered 131, the largest attendance since his appointment.] and the other medical Professors had brought over; and they were not disappointed. They were sober and studious, as well as well-bred, and had none of that restless and turbulent disposition, dignified with the name of spirit and fire, which has often since made the youth of that country such troublesome members of society. Mr. Lesly was a clergyman's son, of Scottish extraction, and was acknowledged as a distant relation by some of the Eglintoun family. Conway's relations were all beyond the Channel. I was so much their favourite both this year and the following, when they returned, and lived so much with them, that they had very nearly persuaded me to be of their profession. At this time the medical school of Edinburgh was but rising into fame. There were not so many as twenty English and Irish students this year in the College. The Professors were men of eminence. Besides Monro, Professor of Anatomy, there were Dr. Sinclair,

I was in use of going to my father's on Saturdays once a-fortnight, and returning on Monday ; but this little journey was less frequently performed this winter, as Sir Harry Nisbet's mother, Lady Nisbet, a sister of Sir Robert Morton's, very frequently invited me to accompany her son and the Maxwells to the house of Dean, within a mile of Edinburgh, where we passed the day in hunting with the greyhounds, and generally returned to town in the evening. Here I had an opportunity of seeing a new set of company (my circle having been very limited in Edinburgh), whose manners were more worthy of imitation, and whose conversation had more the tone of the world. Here I frequently met with Mr. Baron Dalrymple, [George Dalrymple of Dalmahoy, who married Euphame, eldest daughter of Sir Andrew Myrton, Bart., of Gogar. He died in 1745.] the youngest brother of the then Earl of Stair, and grandfather of the present Earl. He was hold to be a man of wit and humour; and, in the language and manners of the gentlemen of Scotland before the Union, exhibited a specimen of conversation that was so free as to border a little on licentiousness, especially before the ladies; but he never failed to keep the table in a roar.

Having passed the Greek class, I missed many of my most intimate companions, who either remained one year longer at the Latin class, or attended the Greek. But I made new ones, who were very agreeable, such as Sir Alexander Cockburn of Langton, who had been bred in England till now, and John Gibson, the son of Sir Alexander Gibson of Addison, both of whom perished in the war that was approaching. ["Gibson at the siege of Carthagena and Cockburn at the battle of Fontenoy. Jenny Stewart, the beauty, afterwards Lady Dundonald, was engaged to Gibson, but his father forbade and sent him abroad."—Recollections.]

In summer 1737 I was at Prestonpans; and in July, two or three days before my youngest sister Jenny was born, afterwards Mrs. Bell, I met with an accident which confined me many weeks, which was a shot in my leg, occasioned by the virole of a ramrod having fallen into a musket at a review in Mussel-burgh Links, part of which lodged in the outside of the calf of my leg, and could not be extracted till after the place had been twice laid open, when it came out with a dressing, and was about the size of the head of a nail. This was the reason why I made no excursion to Dumfriesshire this summer.

Early in the summer I lost one of the dearest friends I ever had, who died of a fever. We had often settled it between us, that whoever should die first, should appear to the other, and tell him the secrets of the invisible world. I walked every evening for hours in the fields and links of Prestonpans, in hopes of meeting my friend; but he never appeared. This disappointment, together with the knowledge I had acquired at the Logic class, cured me of many prejudices about ghosts and hobgoblins and witches, of which till that time I stood not a little in awe.

The next session of the College, beginning in November 2737, I lodged in the same house and had the same companions as I had the two preceding years. Besides Sir Robert Stewart's Natural Philosophy class, which was very ill taught, as he was worn out with age, and never had excelled, [He became a regent in 1703. His father was Sir Thomas Stewart of Coltness,] I attended M'Laurin's second class, and Dr. Pringle's Moral Philosophy, besides two hours at the writing-master to improve my hand, and a second attendance on Mr. Kerr's private class. The circle of my acquaintance was but little enlarged, and I derived more agreeable amusement from the two Irish students, who returned to their former habitation, than from any other acquaintance, except the Maxwells and their friends. illy acquaintance with Dr. Robertson [Afterwards Principal of Edinburgh University.] began about this time. I never was at the same class with him, for, though but a few months older, he was at College one session before me. One of the years, too, he was seized with a fever, which was dangerous, and confined him for the greater part of the winter. I went to see him sometimes when he was recovering, when in his conversation one could perceive the opening dawn of that day which afterwards shone so bright. I became also acquainted with John Home [Author of Douglas and other plays.] this year, though he was one year behind me at College, and eight months younger. He was gay and talkative, and a great favourite with his companions.

I was very fond of dancing, in which I was a great proficient, having been taught at two different periods in the country, though the manners were then so strict that I was not allowed to exercise my talent at penny-weddings, or any balls but those of the dancing-school. Even this would have been denied me, as it was to Robertson and Witherspoon, and other clergymen's sons, at that time, had it not been for the persuasion of those aunts of mine who had been bred in England, and for some papers in the Spectator which were pointed out to my father, which seemed to convince him that dancing would make me a more accomplished preacher, if ever I had the honour to mount the pulpit. l\Iy mother too, who generally was right, used her sway in this article of education. But I had not the means of using this talent, of which I was not a little vain, till luckily I was introduced to Madame Violante, an Italian stage-dancer, who kept a much-frequented school for young ladies, but admitted of no boys above seven or eight years of age, so that she wished very much for senior lads to dance with her grownup misses weekly at her practisings. I became a favourite of this dancing-mistress, and attended her very faithfully with two or three of my companions, and had my choice of partners on all occasions, insomuch that I became a great proficient in this branch at little or no expense. ["The partner I had for most part was Miss Jenny Watson. She was a beautiful girl, who afterwards married Alexander Rocheid, the brother of Sir David Kinloch. Jenny was a fine dancer, and I was envied; but I would have rather had one of the three or four Miss Cants. . . . Dame Janet was haughty and reserved, and all the rest turned away from her."—Recollections.] It must be confessed, however, that, having nothing to do at Stewart's class, through the incapacity of the master, and M'Laurin's giving me no trouble, as I had a great promptitude in learning mathematics, I had a good deal of spare time this session, which I spent, as well as all the money I got, at a billiard-table, which unluckily was within fifty yards of the College. I was so sensible of the folly of this, however, that next year I abandoned it altogether.

Dr. Pringle, afterwards Sir John, was an agreeable lecturer, though no great master of the science he taught. [The youngest son of Sir John Pringle of Stitchell, where he was born in 1707. He practised as a physician in Edinburgh, while he held the chair of Moral Philosophy, which he clearly considered a secondary subject. He afterwards became well known in scientific circles in London, and was President of the Royal Society.] His lectures were chiefly a compilation from Lord Bacon's works; and had it not been for Puffendorf's small book, which he made his text, we should not have been instructed in the rudiments of the science. Once a-week, however, lie gave us a lecture in Latin, in which language he excelled, and was even held equal to Dr. John Sinclair, Professor of the Theory of Medicine, the most eminent Latin scholar at that time, except the great grammarian Ruddiman. The celebrated Dr. Hutchison of Glasgow, who was the first that distinguished himself in that important branch of literature, was now beginning his career, and had drawn ample stores from the ancients, which lie improved into system, and embellished by the exertions of an ardent and virtuous mind. He was soon followed by Smith, who had been his scholar, and sat for some years in his chair; by Ferguson at Edinburgh; by Reid and Beattie, which last was more an orator than a philosopher; together with David Hume, whose works, though dangerous and heretical, illustrated the science, and called forth the exertions of men of equal genius and sounder principles.

I passed the greater part of this summer (1738) at my grandfather's, at Tinwald, near Dumfries, who had a tolerably good collection of books, and where I read for many hours in the day. I contracted the greatest respect for my grandfather, and attachment to his family; and became well acquainted with the young people of Dumfries, and afterwards held a correspondence by letters with one of them, which was of use in forming my epistolary style.

A new family came this year to Prestonpans; for Colin Campbell, Esq., the brother of Sir James of Arbruchal [Aberuchill], had fallen in arrears as Collector of the Customs, and was suspended. But his wife dying at that very time, an excellent woman of the family of Sir James Holburn, and leaving him eight or nine children, his situation drew compassion from his friends, especially from Archibald, Earl of Isla, and James Campbell of St. Germains, who were his securities, and who had no chance of being reimbursed the sum of £800 or £1000 of arrears into which he had fallen, but by his preferment. He was soon made a Commissioner of the Board of Customs, an office at that time of £1000 per annum. This deprived us of a very agreeable family, the sons and daughter s of which were my companions. Mr. Campbell was succeeded by Mr. George Cheap, ["On the death of Mr. George Cheap, Mr. Colin Campbell's youngest son, Archibald, who had been a lieutenant in the 42nd Regiment, was appointed Collector at Prestonpans." Recollections.] of the Cheaps of Rossie in Fife, whose wife, an aunt of the Lord Chancellor Wedderburn, had just died and left a family of eight children, two of them beautiful girls of sixteen or eighteen, and six sons, the eldest of whom was a year older than I, but was an apprentice to a Writer to the Signet in Edinburgh. This family, though Iess sociable than the former, soon became intimate with ours; and one of them very early made an impression on me, which had lasting effects. ["The girls were both as handsome as possible, especially the younger, who was born for my perdition, for from the moment I saw her, I loved her with a constancy of adoration which was not surpassed by that of Petrarch for his Laura."—Recollections.]

In November 1738 I again attended the College of Edinburgh ; and, besides a second year of the Moral Philosophy, I was a third year at M'Laurin's class, who, on account of the advanced age and incapacity of Sir Robert Stewart, not only taught Astronomy, but gave us a course of experiments in Mechanics, with many excellent lectures in Natural Philosophy, which fully compensated the defects of the other class. About this time the choice of a profession became absolutely necessary. I had thoughts of the army and the law, but was persuaded to desist from any views on them by my father's being unable to carry on my education for the length of time necessary in the one, or to support me till he could procure a commission for me, as he had no money to purchase; and by means of the long peace, the establishment of the army was low. Both these having failed, by the persuasion of Lesly and Conway, my Irish friends, I thought of surgery, and had prevailed so far that my father went to Edinburgh in the autumn to look out for a master in that profession. ["I drew up with them [Leslie and Conway], and they had almost induced me to be a doctor, had not the dissection of a child, which they bought of a poor tailor for 6s., disgusted me completely. The man had asked 6s. 6d., but they beat him down the 6d. by asserting that the bargain was to him worth more than 12s., as it saved him all the expense of burial. The hearing of this bargain, together with that of the dialogue in which they carried it on, were not less grating to my feelings than the dissection itself. Before that I had been captivated by the sight of a handsome cornet of the Greys, and would needs be a soldier; but my father having no money to purchase a commission for me, and not being able, he said, to spare as much money per day as would make me live like a gentleman, although Colonel Gardiner said he would recommend me for a cadet in a very good regiment, I desisted from this also."—Recollections.]

In the mean time came a letter from my grandfather, in favour of his own profession and that of my father, written with so much force and energy, and stating so many reasons for my yielding to the wish of my friends and the conveniency of a family still consisting of eight children, of whom I was the eldest, that I yielded to the influence of parental wishes and advice, which in those days swayed the minds of young men much more than they do now, or have done for many years past. I therefore consented that my name should this year be enrolled in the list of students of divinity, though regular attendance was not enjoined.

On the 13th of January 1739, there was a total eclipse of the moon, to view which M`Laurin invited his senior scholars, of whom I was one. About a dozen of us remained till near one o'clock on the Sunday morning, when the greatest tempest arose that I remember. Eight or ten of us were so much alarmed with the fall of bricks or slates in the College Wynd, that we called a council of war in a stair-foot, and got to the High Street safe by walking in file down the Cowgate and up Niddry's Wynd.

I passed most of the summer this year in Dumfriesshire, where my grandfather kept me pretty close to my studies, though I frequently walked in the afternoons to Dumfries, and brought him the newspapers from Provost Bell, his son-in-law, who had by that time acquired the chief sway in the burgh, having taken the side of the Duke of Queensberry, in opposition to Charles Erskine of Tinwald, at that time the Solicitor. George Bell was not a man of ability, but he was successful in trade, was popular in his manners, and, having a gentlemanly spirit, was a favourite with the nobility and gentry in the neighbourhood. He had a constant correspondence with the Duke of Queensberry, and retained his friendship till his death in 1757. What Bell wanted in capacity or judgment was fully compensated by his wife, Margaret Robison, the second of my mother's sisters, and afterwards still more by my sister Margaret, whom they reared, as they had no children, and who, when she grew up, added beauty and address to a very uncommon understanding. During the period when I so much frequented Dumfries, there was a very agreeable society in that town. They were not numerous, but the few were better informed, and more agreeable in society, than any to be met with in so small a town.

I returned home before winter, but did not attend the College, though I was enrolled a student of divinity. But my father had promised to Lord Drum-more, his great friend, that I should pass most of my time with his eldest son, Mr. Hew H. Dalrymple, who, not liking to live in Edinburgh, was to pass the winter in the house of Walliford, adjacent to his estate of Drummore, where he had only a farmhouse at that time, with two rooms on a ground-floor, which would have ill agreed with Mr. Hew's health, which was threatened with symptoms of consumption, the disease of which he died five or six years afterwards, having been married, but leaving no issue.

Mr. Hew H. Dalrymple had been intended for the Church of England, and with that view had been educated at Oxford, and was an accomplished scholar ; but his elder brother John having died at Naples, he fell heir to his mother's estate. He was five or six years older than I, and being frank and communicative, I received much benefit from his conversation, which was instructive, and his manners, which were elegant. With this gentleman I lived all winter, returning generally to my father's house on Saturdays, when Lord Drummore returned from Edinburgh, and went back again on Monday, when I resumed my station. We passed great part of the day in November and December planting trees round the enclosures at Drummore, which, by their appearance at present, prove that they were not well chosen, for they are very small of their age; but they were too old when they were planted. After the frost set in about Christmas, we passed our days very much in following the greyhounds on foot or on horseback, and though our evenings were generally solitary, between reading and talking we never tired. Mr. Hew's manners were as gentle as his mind was enlightened. We had little intercourse with the neighbours, except with my father's family, with Mr. Cheap's (the Collector), where there were two beautiful girls, and with Mr. Keith, afterwards ambassador, whose wife's sister was the widow of Sir Robert Dalrymple, brother of Lord Drummore. They were twins, and so like each other, that even when I saw them first, when they were at least thirty, it was hardly possible to distinguish them. In their youth, their lovers, I have heard them say, always mistook them when a sign or watchword had not been agreed on. Mr. Keith was a very agreeable man, had much knowledge of modern history and genealogy, and, being a pleasing talker, made an agreeable companion. Of him and his intimate friend, Mr. Hepburn of Keith, it was said that the witty Lady Dick (Lord Royston's daughter) said that Mr. Keith told her nothing but what she knew before, though in a very agreeable manner, but that Hepburn never said anything that was not new to her,—thus marking the difference between genius and ability. Keith was a minion of the great Mareschal Stair, and went abroad with him in 1743, when he got the command of the army. But I observed that Lord Stair's partiality to Keith made him no great favourite of the Dalrymples. Colonel Gardiner had been another minion of Lord Stair, but being illiterate, and considered as a fanatic, the gentlemen I mention had no intimacy with him, though they admitted that he was a very honest and well-meaning brave man.

My father had sometimes expressed a wish that I should allow myself to be recommended to take charge of a pupil, as that was the most likely way to obtain a church in Scotland ; but he did not press me on this subject, for as he had been four years in that station himself, though he was very fortunate in his pupils, he felt how degrading it was. By that time I had been acquainted with a few preceptors, had observed how they were treated, and had contracted an abhorrence of the employment—insomuch that, when I consented to follow out the clerical profession, it was on condition I should never be urged to go into a family, as it was called, engaging at the same time to make my expenses as moderate as possible.

This was the winter of the hard frost which commenced in the end of December 1739, and lasted for three months. As there were no canals or rivers of extent enough in this part of the country to encourage the fine exercise of skating, we contented ourselves with the winter diversion of curling, which is peculiar to Scotland, and became tolerable proficients in that manly exercise. It is the more interesting, as it is usual for the young men of adjacent parishes to contend against each other for a whole winter's day, and at the end of it to dine together with much jollity.

I passed the summer of this year, as usual, in the neighbourhood of Dumfries, and kept up my connection with the young people of that town as I had done formerly. I returned home in the autumn, and passed some part of the winter in Edinburgh, attending the divinity class, which had no attractions, as the Professor, [Dr. Goldie, minister of Edinburgh, and in 1754 elected Principal of Edinburgh University. It was during his Moderator-ship of the General Assembly, and on his casting vote to "proceed" to inflict the higher censure, that Ebenezer Erskine and other ministers were deposed and formed the body of dissenters known as "Seceders."] though said to be learned, was dull and tedious in his lectures, insomuch that at the end of seven years he had only lectured half through Pictet's Compend of Theology. I became acquainted, however, with several students, with whom I had not been intimate, such as Dr. Hugh Blair, and the Bannatines, and Dr. Jardine, all my seniors; Dr. John Blair, afterwards Prebendary of Westminster; John Home, William Robertson, George Logan, William Wilkie, etc. There was one advantage attending the lectures of a dull professor—viz., that he could form no school, and the students were left entirely to themselves, and naturally formed opinions far more liberal than those they got from the Professor. This was the answer I gave to Patrick, Lord Elibank, one of the most learned and ingenious noblemen of his time, when he asked me one day, many years afterwards, what could be the reason that the young clergymen of that period so far surpassed their predecessors of his early days in useful accomplishments and liberality of mind—viz., that the Professor of Theology was dull, and Dutch, and prolix. His lordship said he perfectly understood me, and that this entirely accounted for the change.

In summer 1741 I remained for the most part at home, and it was about that time that my old schoolmaster, Mr. Hannan, having died of fever, and Mr. John Halket having come in his place, I was witness to a scene that made a strong impression upon me. This Mr. Halket had been tutor to Lord Lovat's eldest son Simon, afterwards well known as General Fraser. Halket had remained for two years with Lovat, and knew all his ways. But he had parted with him on his coming to Edinburgh for the education of that son, to whom he gave a tutor of a superior order, Mr. Hugh Blair, afterwards the celebrated Doctor. [Lord Lovat was connected with Dr. Patrick Cumming of St. Giles, and before fixing on Dr. Blair as his son's tutor, had hoped to place him with Dr. Cumming. Writing in 1739, Lord Lovat says: "All this makes me resolve positively to have my son educated after my own manner; that is a true Scotsman and a Highlander. . . . And if I could prevail with you as my relative to accept of him, that I would settle him with you; and, if you refused to receive him, I would endeavour to settle him with Mr. Kerr, Professor of Humanity, who is my friend."—Burton's Life of Lovat.] But he still retained so much regard for Halket that he thought proper to fix his second son, Alexander Fraser, with him at the school of Preston-pans, believing that lie was a much more proper hand for training an untutored savage than the mild and elegant Dr. Blair. It was in the course of this summer that Lovat brought his son Alexander to be placed with Halket, from whom, understanding that I was a young scholar living in the town who might be useful to his son, he ordered Halket to invite me to dine with him and his company at Lucky Vint's, a celebrated village tavern in the west end of the town.

His company consisted of Mr. Erskine of Grange, with three or four gentlemen of the name of Fraser, one of whom was his man of business, together with Halket, his son Alexander, and myself. The two old gentlemen disputed for some time which of them should say grace. At last Lovat yielded, and gave us two or three pious sentences in French, which Mr. Erskine and I understood, and we only. As soon as we were set, Lovat asked me to send him a whiting from the dish of fish that was next me. As they were all haddocks, I answered that they were not whitings, but, according to the proverb, he that got a haddock for a whiting was not ill off. This saying takes its rise from the superiority of haddocks to whitings in the Firth of Forth. Upon this his lordship stormed and swore more than fifty dragoons; he was sure they must be whitings, as he had bespoke them. Halket tipped me the wink, and I retracted, saying that I had but little skill, and as his lordship had bespoke them, I must certainly be mistaken. Upon this he calmed, and I sent him one, which he was quite pleased with, swearing again that he never could eat a haddock all his life. The landlady told me afterwards that as he had been very peremptory against haddocks, and she had no other, she had made her cook carefully scrape out St. Peter's mark on the shoulders, which she had often done before with success. We had a very good plain dinner. As the claret was excellent, and circulated fast, the two old gentlemen grew very merry, and their conversation became youthful and gay. What I observed was, that Grange, without appearing to flatter, was very observant of Lovat, and did everything to please him. He had provided Geordy Sym, who was Lord Drummore's piper, to entertain Lovat after dinner; but though he was reckoned the best piper in the country, Lovat despised him, and said he was only fit to play reels to Grange's oyster-women. He grew frisky at last, however, and upon Kate Vint, the landlady's daughter, coming into the room, he insisted on her staying to dance with him. She was a handsome girl, with fine black eyes and an agreeable person ; and though without the advantages of dress or manners, she, by means of her good sense and a bashful air, was very alluring. She was a mistress of Lord Drummore, who lived in the neighbourhood; and though her mother would not part with her, as she drew much company to the house, she was said to be faithful to him; except only in the case of Captain Merry, who married her, and soon after went abroad with his regiment. When he died she enjoyed the pension. She had two sons by Drummore and one by Merry. One of the first was a pretty lad and a good officer, for he was a master and commander before he died. Lovat was at this time seventy-five, and Grange not much younger ; yet the wine and the young woman emboldened them to dance a reel, till Kate, observing Lovat's legs as thick as posts, fell a-laughing, and ran off. She missed her second course of kisses, as was then the fashion of the country, though she had endured the first. This was a scene not easily forgotten.

Lovat was tall and stately, and might have been handsome in his youth, with a very flat nose. His manner was not disagreeable, though his address consisted chiefly in gross flattery and in the due application of money. He did not make on me the impression of a man of a leading mind. His suppleness and profligacy were apparent. The convivium was not over, though the evening approached. He conveyed his son to the house where he was to be boarded, for Halket had not taken up house ; and there, while we drank tea, he won the heart of the landlady, a decent widow of a shipmaster, and of her niece, by fair speeches, intermixed with kisses to the niece, who was about thirty, and such advices as a man in a state of ebriety could give. The coach was in waiting, but Grange would not yet part with him, and insisted on his accepting of a banquet from him at his house in Preston. Lovat was in a yielding humour, and it was agreed to. The Frasers, who were on horseback, were sent to Edinburgh, the boy was left with his dame, and Lovat and Grange, and Halket and I, went up to Preston, only a quarter of a mile distant, and were received in Grange's library, a cube of twenty feet, in a pavilion of the house which extended into a small wilderness of not more than half an acre, which was sacred to Grange's private walks, and to which there was no entry but through the pavilion. This wilderness was said to be his place of retreat from his lady when she was in her fits of termagancy, which were not unfrequent, and were said by his minions to be devoted to meditation and prayer. But as there was a secret door to the fields, it was reported that he had occasionally admitted fair maidens to solace him for his sufferings from the clamour of his wife. This room had been well stored with books from top to bottom, but at this time was much thinned, there remaining only a large collection of books on damonologia, which was Grange's particular study. In this room there was a fine collection of fruit and biscuits, and a new deluge of excellent claret. At ten o'clock the two old gentlemen mounted their coach to Edinburgh, and thus closed a very memorable day. ["In 1748, Lord Grange was so much reduced in London that he accepted of two guineas from Robert Keith, then living with Marshall Lord Stair. By my lord's application, he got a pension of £200. On his wife's death he married his old mistress, Fanny Lindsay, and brought her down to Preston, when he still had the house and about 5o acres of land. Lord Prestongrange's lady and my mother were the only two ladies who visited her, having been wheedled into it by the old gentleman, who to his other talents added a very irresistible species of flattery. Fanny took pet on not being visited, and made him return to London again, where in a year he died in obscurity, not being then so much thought of as to be despised or hated."—Recollections.]

In the following winter—viz., November 1741—I attended the Divinity Hall at Edinburgh again for three or four months, and delivered a discourse, De Fide Salvifica, a very improper subject for so young a student, which attracted no attention from any one but the Professor, who was pleased with it, as it resembled his own Dutch Latin.

The summer 1742 T passed at home, making only a few excursions into East Lothian, where I had sundry companions. My father, ever attentive to what he thought was best for me, and desirous to ease himself as much as possible from the expense of my education, availed himself of my mother's being a relation of the Hon. Basil Hamilton—for their mothers were cousins—and applied to the Duke of Hamilton for one of the bursaries given by Duchess Ann of that family in the former century to students in divinity to pass two winters in Glasgow College, and a third in some foreign university, the salary for the first two years, £100 Scots annually, and for the third, £400; which might have been competent as far back as 1670, but was very far short of the most moderate expense at which a student could live in 1742. [A hundred pounds Scots are equivalent to £8, 6s. 8d. sterling. —J. H. B.] But I was pleased with this plan, as it opened a prospect of going abroad. The presentation was obtained, and my father and I set out on horseback for Glasgow in the beginning of November, and arrived there next forenoon, having stayed all night at Mr. Dundas's of Castle Cary, on the old Roman wall. My father immediately repaired to the College to consult with an old friend of his, Mr. Dick, Professor of Natural Philosophy, how he was to proceed with his presentation. I was surprised to see him return after in a great flurry, Mr. Dick having assured him that there was no vacant bursary, nor would be till next year. The next object was how to secure it, in which we were both much interested—my father, to prevent my deviating into some other employment; and I, for fear I should have been forced to become tutor to some young gentleman, a situation which, as I then observed it, had become an object of my abhorrence. Several of my companions had the same turn of mind; for neither Robertson, nor John Home, nor George Logan were ever tutors. We thought we had observed that all tutors had contracted a certain obsequiousness or bassesse, which alarmed us for ourselves. A little experience corrected this prejudice, for I knew many afterwards who had passed through that station, and yet had retained a manly independency both in mind and manner.

After a hasty dinner, we took our horses by four in the afternoon, and riding all night by the nearest road, which was as bad as possible, we arrived in Edinburgh by eight in the morning. My father dressed himself, and went down to the Abbey, where, to his great joy, he found that Duke Hamilton was not set out for London, as he was afraid he might have been, and obtained a promise that the presentation should be renewed next year.

In compensation for this disappointment, I passed the greatest part of this winter at my grandfather's, at Tinwald, where I read for many hours of the day, and generally took the weekly amusement of passing one day and night at Dumfries, where I met with agreeable society, both male and female.

I returned to Edinburgh in March, and attended the Divinity Hall for a few weeks. Living at Edinburgh continued still to be wonderfully cheap, as there were ordinaries for young gentlemen, at four-pence a-head for a very good dinner of broth and beef, and a roast and potatoes every day, with fish three or four times a-week, and all the small-beer that was called for till the cloth was removed. In the summer I passed some time in East Lothian, where by accident at that period there were no less than a dozen young scholars, preachers, and students in divinity, who generally met there on the presbytery day. For two or three times we dined with the presbytery by invitation; but finding that we were not very welcome guests, and that whatever number there were in company they never allowed them more than two bottles of small Lisbon wine, we bespoke a dinner for ourselves in another tavern; and when the days were short, generally stayed all night. By this time even the second tavern in Haddington (where the presbytery dined, having quarrelled with the first) had knives and forks for their table. But ten or twelve years before that time, my father used to carry a shagreen case, with a knife and fork and spoon, as they perhaps do still on many parts of the Continent. When I attended, in 1742 and 1743, they had still but one glass on the table, which went round with the bottle.

Very early in the afternoon, Mr. Stedman, a minister in the town, and one or two more of the clergymen, used to resort to our company, and keep up an enlightened conversation till bedtime. The chief subjects were the deistical controversy and moral philosophy, as connected with theology. Besides Stedman, Murray and Glen almost always attended us. [Mr. Edward Stedman was second minister of Haddington, and a man of very superior understanding. He it was who first directed Dr. Robertson how to obtain his leading in the Church, and who was the friend and supporter of John Home, when he was in danger of being deposed for writing the tragedy of Douglas. It was Stedman who, with the aid of Hugh Bannatyne, then minister of Dirleton, and Robertson, conducted the affairs of the presbytery of Haddington in such a manner that they were never able to reach John Home, till it was convenient for him to resign his charge.]

John Witherspoon was of this party, he who was afterwards a member of the American Congress [After being minister at Beith and Paisley, Witherspoon went to America, where he became Principal of Princeton College, N.J., in 1768. He took part in framing the first constitution of New Jersey in 1776, in which year he was a member of Congress and was active in support of the Declaration of Independence. He continued to hold political positions till the settlement of American Independence in 1783, when he resumed his duties in Princeton College. He died in 1794.] and Adam Dickson, who afterwards wrote so well on Husbandry. They were both clergymen's sons, but of very different characters; the one open, frank, and generous, pretending only to what he was, and supporting his title with spirit ; the other close, and suspicious, and jealous, and always aspiring at a superiority that he was not able to maintain. I used sometimes to go with him for a day or two to his father's house at Gifford Hall, where we passed the day in fishing, to be out of reach of his father, who was very sulky and tyrannical, but who, being much given to gluttony, fell asleep early, and went always to bed at nine, and, being as fat as a porpoise, was not to be awaked, so that we had three or four hours of liberty every night to amuse ourselves with the daughters of the family, and their cousins who resorted to us from the village, when the old man was gone to rest. This John loved of all things; and this sort of company he enjoyed in greater perfection when he returned my visits, when we had still more companions of the fair sex, and no restraint from an austere father; so that I always considered the austerity of manners and aversion to social joy which he affected afterwards, as the arts of hypocrisy and ambition ; for he had a strong and enlightened understanding, far above enthusiasm, and a temper that did not seem liable to it. [Thomas Hepburn, a distinguished minister, who died minister of Athelstaneford, and was born and bred in the neighbourhood, used to allege that a Dr. Nisbet of Montrose, a man of some learning and ability, which he used to display with little judgment in the Assembly, was Witherspoon's son, and that he was supported in this opinion by the scandalous chronicle of the country. Their features, no doubt, had a strong resemblance, but their persons were unlike, neither were their tempers at all similar. Any likeness there was between them in their sentiments and public appearances might be accounted for by the great admiration the junior must have had for the senior, as he was bred up under his eye, in the same parish, in which lie was much admired. Whether or not he was his son, he followed his example, for he became discontented, and Migrated to America during the Rebellion, where he was Principal of Carlisle College, Pennsylvania, for which he was well qualified in point of learning. But no preferment nor climate can cure a discontented mind, for he became miserable at one time because he could not return.]

It was this summer that my father received from Mr. Keith (afterwards ambassador) a letter, desiring that I might be sent over to him immediately. He had been sent for by Lord Stair, and went to Germany with him as his private secretary. This was after the battle of Dettingen. But I knew nothing of it for some years, otherwise I might probably have broke through my father's plan. When Lord Stair lost the command of the army, Mr. Keith lived with him at London, and had a guinea a-day conferred on him, till he was sent to Holland in 1746 or 1747 as Resident. His knowledge of modern history, and of all the treaties, etc., made him be valued.


Return to Book Index Page