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Scenes and Legends of The North of Scotland
Chapter VII


“He was a veray parfit, gentil knight.”—Chacces.

Of Sir Thomas Urquhart very little is known but what is related by himself, and though as much an egotist as most men, he has related but little of a kind available to the biographer. But there are characters of so original a cast that their more prominent features may be hit off by a few strokes; and Sir Thomas’s is decidedly of this class. It is impossible to mistake the small dark profile which he has left us, small and dark though it be, for the profile of any mind except his own. He was born in 1613, the eldest son of Sir Thomas Urquhart of Cromarty, and of Christian, daughter of Alexander Lord Elphinston. Of his earlier years there is not a single anecdote, nor is there anything known of either the manner or place in which he pursued his studies. Prior to the death of his father, and, as he himself expresses it, “before his brains were yet ripened for eminent undertakings,” he made the tour of Europe. In travelling through France, Spain, and Italy, he was repeatedly complimented on the fluency with which he spoke the languages of these countries, and advised by some of the people to pass himself for a native. But he was too true a patriot to relish the proposal. He had not less honour, he said, by his own poor country than could be derived from any country whatever; for, however much it might be surpassed in riches and fertility—in honesty, valour, and learning, it had no superior. And this assertion he maintained at the sword’s point, in single combat three several times, and 4t each time discomfited his antagonist. He boasts on another occasion, that not in all the fights in which he had ever been engaged, did he yield an inch-breadth to the enemy before the day of Worcester battle.

On the breaking out of the troubles in 1638, he took part with the King against the Covenanters, and was engaged in an obscure skirmish, in which he saw the first blood shed that flowed in the protracted quarrel, which it took half a century and two great revolutions to settle. In a subsequent skirmish, he succeeded, with eight hundred others, many of them “brave gentlemen,” in surprising a body of about twelve hundred strong, encamped at Turriff, and broke up their array. And then marching with his friends upon Aberdeen, which was held by the Covenanters, he assisted in ejecting them, and in taking possession of the place. Less gifted with conduct than courage, however, the cavaliers suffered their troops to disperse, and were cooped up within the town by the “Earl Marischal of Scotland,” who, hastily levying a few hundred men, came upon them, when, according to Spalding, they “were looking for nothing less;” and the “ young laird of Cromartie,” with a few others, were compelled to take refuge “ aboard of Andrew Finlay’s ship, then lying in the road,” and “ hastily hoisted sail for England.” Urquhart had undertaken to be the bearer of despatches to Charles, containing the signatures of his associates and neighbours the leading anti-covenanters; and in the audience which he obtained of the monarch, he was very graciously received, and favoured with an answer, “which gave,” he says, “great contentment to all the gentlemen of the north that stood for the king.” In the spring of 1641 he was knighted by Charles at Whitehall, and his father dying soon after, he succeeded to the lands of Cromarty.

Never was there a proprietor less in danger of sinking into the easy apathetical indolence of the mere country gentleman ; for, impressed with a belief that he was born to enlarge the limits of all science, he applied himself to the study of every branch of human learning, and, having mastered what was already known, and finding the amount but little, he seriously set himself to add to it. And first, as learning can be communicated only by the aid of language, “ words being the signs of things,” he deemed it evident that, if language be imperfect, learning must of necessity be so likewise; quite on the principle that a defect in the carved figure of a signet cannot fail of being transmitted to the image formed by it on the wax. The result of his inquiries on this subject differed only a very little from the conclusion which, when pursuing a similar course of study, the celebrated Lord Monboddo arrived at more than a hundred years after. His Lordship believed that all languages, except Greek, are a sort of vulgar dialects which have grown up rather through accident than design, and exhibit, in consequence, little else than a tissue of defects both in sound and sense. Greek, however, he deemed a perfect language; and he accounted for its superiority by supposing that, in some early age of the world, it had been constructed on philosophical principles, out of one of the old jargons, by a society of ingenious grammarians, who afterwards taught it to the common people. Sir Thomas went a little further; for, not excepting even the Greek, he condemned every language, ancient and modem, and set himself to achieve what, according to Monboddo, had been already achieved by the grammarians of Greece. And hence his ingenious but unfortunate work, “The Universal Language.”

“A tree,” he thus reasoned, “is known by its leaves, a stone by its grit, a flower by the smell, meats by the taste, music by the ear, colours by the eye,” and, in short, all the several natures of things by the qualities or aspects with which they address themselves to the senses or the intellect. And it is from these obvious traits of similarity or difference that the several classes are portioned by the associative faculty into the corresponding cells of understanding and memory. But it is not thus with words in any of the existing languages. Things the most opposite in nature are often represented by signs so similar that they can hardly be distinguished, and things of the same class by signs entirely different. Language is thus formed so loosely and unskilfully, that the associative faculty cannot be brought to bear on it;—one great cause why foreign languages are so difficult to learn, and when once learned, so readily forgotten. And there is a radical defect in the alphabets of all languages; for in all, without exception, do the nominal number of letters fall far short of the real, a single character being arbitrarily made to represent a variety of sounds. Hence it happens that the people of one country cannot acquaint themselves by books alone with the pronunciation of another. The words, too, proper to express without circumvolution all the midtiform ideas of the human mind, are not to be found in any one tongue; and though the better languages have borrowed largely from each other to supply their several deficiencies, even the more perfect are still very incomplete. Hence the main difficulty of translation. Some languages are fluent without exactness. Hence an unprofitable wordiness, devoid of force and precision. Others, comparatively concise, are harsh and inharmonious. Hence, perhaps, the grand cause why some of the civilized nations (the Dutch for instance), though otherwise ingenious, make but few advances compared with others, in philology and the belles-lettres.

These, concluded Sir Thomas, are the great defects of language. In a perfect language, then, it is fundamentally necessary that there should be classes of resembling words to represent the classes of resembling things—that every idea should have its sign, and every simple sound its alphabetical character. It is necessary, too, that there should be a complete union of sweetness, energy, and precision. Setting himself down in the old castle of Cromarty to labour on these principles for the benefit of all mankind, and the glory of his country, he constructed his Universal Tongue. There is little difficulty, when we remember where he wrote, in tracing the origin of his metaphor, when he says of the existing languages, that though they may be improved in structure “ by the striking out of new light and doors, the outjetting of kernels, and the erecting of prickets and barbicans,” they are yet restricted to a certain base, beyond which they must not be enlarged. In his own language the base was fitted to the superstructure. His alphabet consisted of ten vowels, and twenty-five consonants. His radical classes of words amounted to two hundred and fifty, and, to use his own allegory, were the denizens of so many cities divided into streets, which were again subdivided into lanes, the lanes into houses, the houses into storeys, and the storeys into apartments. It was impossible that the natives of one city should be confounded with those of another; and by prying into their component letters and syllables, the street, lane, house, storey, and apartment of every citizen, could be ascertained without a possibility of mistake. Simple ideas were expressed by monosyllables, and every added syllable expressed an added idea. So musical was this language, that for poetical composition it surpassed every other; so concise, that the weightiest thoughts could be expressed in it by a few syllables, in some instances by a single word; so precise, that even sounds and colours could be expressed by it in all their varieties of tone and shade; and so comprehensive, that there was no word in any language, either living or dead, that could not be translated into it without suffering the slightest change of meaning. And, with all its rich variety of phrase, so completely was it adapted to the associative faculty, that it was possible for a boy of ten years thoroughly to master it in the short space of three months! The entire work, consisting of a preface, grammar, and lexicon, was comprised in a manuscript of twelve hundred folio pages.

Laborious as this work must have proved, it was only one of a hundred great works completed by Sir Thomas before he had attained his thirty-eighth year, and all in a style so exquisitely original, that neither in subject nor manner had he been anticipated in so much as one of them. He had designed, and in part digested, four hundred more. A complete list of these, with such a description of each as I have here attempted of his Universal Language, would be,’ perhaps, one of the greatest literary curiosities ever exhibited to the world; but so unfortunate was he, as an author, that the very names of the greater number of the works he finished have died with himself, while the names of his projected ones were, probably, never known to any one else. He prepared for the press a treatise on Arithmetic, intended to remedy some defects in the existing system. The invention of what he terms the “ Tris-sotetrail Trigonometry for the facilitating of calculations by representations of letters and syllables,” was the subject of a second treatise; and the proving of the Equipollencie and Opposition both of Plain and Modal Enunciations by rules of Geometry (I use his own language, for I am not scholar enough to render it into common English), he achieved in a third. A fourth laid open the profounder recesses of the Metaphysics by a continued Geographical Allegory. He was the author also of ten books of Epigrams, in all about eleven hundred in number, which he “contryved, blocked, and digested,” he says, “in a thirteen weeks tyme;” and of this work the manuscript still exists. It is said to contain much bad verse, and much exceptionable morality; but at least one of its stanzas, quoted by Dr. Irvine, in his elaborate and scholarlike Biographies of Scottish writers, possesses its portion of epigrammatic point.

"A certain poetaster, not long since,
Said I might follow him in verse and prose;
But, truly if I should, ’tis as a prince
Whose ushers walk before him as he goes.”

In Blackwood’s Magazine for 1820, in a short critique on the Jewel, it is stated that the writer had “good reasons to believe Sir Thomas to be the real author of that singular production,

A Century of Names, and Scantlings of Inventions, the credit or discredit of which was dishonestly assumed by the Marquis of Worcester. The “good” reasons are not given; nor am I at all sure that they would be found particularly good; for the Marquis is a well-known man; and yet, were intrinsic evidence to be alone consulted, it might be held that either this little tract was written by Sir Thomas, or, what might be deemed less probable, that the world, nay, the same age and island, had produced two Sir Thomases.1 Some little weight, too, might be attached to the facts, that many of his manuscripts were lost in the city of Worcester, with which place, judging from his title, it is probable the Marquis may have had some connexion, by residence or otherwise; and that the “Century of Names” was not published until 1663, two years after death had disarmed poor Sir Thomas of his sword and his pen, and rendered him insensible to both his country’s honour

But the merit of the most curious of all his treatises no one has ventured to dispute with him—a work entitled “The True Pedigree and Lineal Descent of the Ancient and Honourable Family of Urquhart.” It records the names of all the fathers of the family, from the days of Adam to those of Sir Thomas; and may be regarded as forming no bad specimen of the inverted climax—beginning with God, the creator of all things, and ending with the genealogist himself. One of his ancestors he has married (for he was a professed lover of the useful) to a daughter of what the Abbe Pluche deemed an Egyptian symbol of husbandry, and another to a descendant of what Bacon regarded as a personification of human fortitude. In his notice of the arms of the family he has surpassed all the heralds who have flourished before or since. The first whose bearings he describes is Esormon, sovereign prince of Achaia, the father of all such as bear the name of Urquhart, and the fifth from Japhet by lineal descent. His arms were three banners, three ships, and three ladies in a field; or, the crest, a young lady holding in her right hand a brandished sword, and in her left a branch of myrtle; the supporters, two Javanites attired after the soldier habit of Achaia; and the motto, Tavra r, rg/a dg/o^e-ara—These three are worthy to behold. Heraldry and Greek were alike anticipated by the genius of this family. The device of Esormon was changed about six hundred years after, under the following very remarkable circumstances. Molin, a celebrated descendant of this prince, and a son-in-law of Deucalion and Pyrrha, accompanied Galethus, the AEneas of Scotland, to the scene of his first colony, a province of Africa, which in that age, as in the present, was infested with wild beasts. He excelled in hunting; and having in one morning killed three lions, he carried home their heads in a large basket, and presented it to his wife Panthea, then pregnant with her first child. Unconscious of what the basket contained, she raised the lid, and, filled with horror and astonishment by the apparition of the heads, she struck her hand against her left side, exclaiming, in the suddenness of her surprise, “O Hercules! what is this?” By a wonderful sympathy, the likeness of the three heads, grim and horrible as they appeared in the basket, was impressed on the left side of the infant, who afterwards became a famous warrior, and transferred to his shield the badge which nature had thus bestowed upon him. The external ornaments of the bearings remained unaltered until the days of Astorimon, who, after his victory over Ethus, changed the myrtle branch of the lady for one of palm, —Mean, speak, and do well. Both the shield and the supporters underwent yet another change in the reign of Solvatious of Scotland, who, in admiration of an exploit achieved by the Urquhart and his two brothers in the great Caledonian forest, converted the lions’ heads into the heads of bears, and the armed Javanites of Esormon into a brace of greyhounds. And such were the arms of the family in the days of Sir Thomas, as shown by the curious stone lintel now at Kinbeakie.

This singular relic, which has, perhaps, more of character impressed upon it than any other piece of sandstone in the kingdom, is about five feet in length, by three in breadth, and bears date a.m. 1612, a.g. 1651. On the lower and upper edges it is bordered by a plain moulding, and at the ends by belts of rich foliage, terminating in a chalice or vase. In the upper comer two knights in complete armour on horseback, and with their lances couched, front each other, as if in the tilt-yard. Two Sirens playing on harps occupy the lower. In the centre are the arms—the charge on the shield three bears’ heads, the supporters two greyhounds leashed and collared, the crest a naked woman holding a dagger and* palm, the helmet that of a knight, with tl^e beaver partially raised; and so profusely mantled that the drapery occupies more space than the shield and supporters, and the motto meane weil, speak weil, and do weil. Sir Thomas’s initials, S. T. Y. C., are placed separately, one letter at the outer side of each supporter, one in the centre of the crest, and one beneath the label; while the names of the more celebrated heroes of his genealogy, and the eras in which they flourished, occupy, in the following inscription, the space between the figures:—Anno Astorimonis, 2226. Anno Vocompotis, 3892. Anno Molini, 3199. Anno Rodrici, 2958. Anno Chari, 2219. Anno Lutorci, 2000. Anno Esormonis, 3804. It is melancholy enough that this singular exhibition of family pride should have been made in the same year in which the family received its deathblow—the year of Worcester battle.

During the eventful period which intervened between the death of Sir Thomas’s father and this unfortunate year, he was too busily engaged with science and composition to take an active part in the affairs of the kingdom. “In the usual sports of country gentlemen, he does not seem,” says Dr. Irvine, “to have taken any great share;” and a characteristic anecdote which he relates in his “Logopandacteision,” shows that he rated these simply by what they produced, estimated at their money value, and accordingly beneath the care of a man born to extend the limits of all human knowledge. “There happened,” he says, “a gentleman of very good worth to stay awhile at my house, who one day, amongst many others, was pleased in the deadest time of all the winter, with a gun upon his shoulder, to search for a shot of some wild-fowl; and after he had waded through many waters, taken excessive pains in quest of his game, and by means thereof had killed some five or six moor-fowls and partridges, which he brought along with him to my house, he was, by some other gentlemen who chanced to alight at my gate as he entered in, very much commended for his love of sport; and as the fashion of most of our countrymen is not to praise one without dispraising another, I was highly blamed for not giving myself in that kind to the same exercise, having before my eyes so commendable a pattern to imitate. I answered, though the gentleman deserved praise for the evident proof he had given that day of his inclination to thrift and laboriousness, that nevertheless I was not to blame, seeing, whilst he was busied about that sport, I was employed in a diversion of another nature, such as optical secrets, mysteries of natural philosophic, reasons for the variety of colours, the finding out of the longitude, the squaring of a circle, and wayes to accomplish all trigonometrical calculations by signes, without tangents, with the same comprehensiveness of computation; which, in the estimation of learned men, would be accounted worth six hundred thousand partridges and as many moorfowls. That night past—the next morning I gave sixpence to a footman of mine to try his fortune with the gun during the time I should disport myself in the breaking of a young horse ; and it so fell out, that by I had given myself a good heat by riding, the boy returned with a dozen of wildfowls, half moorfowl half partridge; whereat, being exceedingly well pleased, I alighted, gave him my horse to care for, and forthwith entered in to see my gentlemen, the most especiall whereof was unable to rise out of his bed by reason of the gout and siatick, wherewith he was seized through his former day’s toil.”

Sir Thomas, though he had taken part with the king, was by no means a cavalier of the extreme class. His grandfather, with all his ancestors for centuries before, had been Papists ; and he himself was certainly no Presbyterian, and indeed not a man to contend earnestly about religion of any kind. He hints somewhat broadly in one of his treatises, that Tamerlane might possibly be in the right in supposing God to be best pleased with a diversity of worship. But though lax in his religious opinions, he was a friend to civil liberty; and loved his country too well to be in the least desirous of seeing it sacrificed to the ambition of even a native prince. And so we find him classing in one sentence, the doctrine “de jure divino” with “picefraudes” and “political whimsies,” and expressing as his earnest wish in another, that a free school and standing library should be established in every parish of Scotland. But if he liked ill the tyranny and intolerance of Kings and Episcopalians, he liked the tyranny and intolerance of Presbyterian churchmen still worse. And there was a circumstance which rendered the Consistorial government much less tolerable to him than the Monarchical. The Monarchical recognised him as a petty feudal prince, vested with a prerogative not a whit less kingly in his own little sphere than that which it challenged for itself; while the Consistorial pulled him down to nearly the level of his vassals, and legislated after the same fashion for both.

He found, too, that unfortunately for his peace, the churchmen were much nearer neighbours than the King. He was patron, and almost sole heritor of the churches of Cromarty, Kirkmichael, and Cullicuden, and in desperate warfare did he involve himself with all the three ministers at once. Two of them were born vassals of the house; an ancestor of one of these “ had shelter on the land, by reason of slaughter committed by him, when there was no refuge for him anywhere else in Scotland;” and the other owed his admission to his charge solely to the zeal of Sir Thomas, by whom he was inducted in opposition to the wishes of both the people and the clergy. And both ministers, prior to their appointment, had faithfully promised, as became good vassals, to remain satisfied with the salaries of their immediate predecessors. Their party triumphed, however, and the promise was forgotten. In virtue of a decree of Synod, they sued for an augmentation of stipend; Sir Thomas resisted; and to such extremities did they urge matters against him, as to “outlaw and declare him rebel, by open proclamation, at the market-cross of the head town of his own shire.” He joined issue with Mr. Gilbert Anderson, the minister of Cromarty, on a different question. The church he regarded as exclusively his own property; and the minister, who thought otherwise, having sanctioned one of his friends to erect a desk in it, Sir Thomas, who disliked the man, pulled it down. There was no attempt made at replacing it; but for several Sabbaths together, all the worst parts of Mr. Anderson’s sermons were devoted entirely to the benefit of the knight; who was by much too fond of panegyric not to be affected by censure. Even when a prisoner in the Tower, and virtually stripped of all his possessions, he continued to speak of the “aconital bitterness” of the preacher in a style that shows how keenly he must have felt it.

On the coronation of Charles II. at Scone, he quitted the old castle, to which he was never again to return, and joined the Scottish army: carrying with him, among his other luggage, three huge trunks filled with his hundred manuscripts. He states that on this occasion he “ was his own paymaster, and took orders from himself.” The army was heterogeneously composed of Presbyterians and Cavaliers; men who had nothing in common but the cause which brought them together, and who, according to Sir Thomas, differed even in that. He has produced no fewer than four comparisons, all good, and all very original, to prove that the obnoxious Presbyterians were rebels at heart. They make use of kings, says he, as we do of card kings in playing at the hundred, discard them without ceremony, if there be any chance of having a better game without them; —they deal by them as the French do by their Roi de la feve, or king of the bean—first honour them by drinking their health, and then make them pay the reckoning; or as ‘players at nine-pins do by the king Kyle, set them up to have the pleasure of knocking them down again; or, finally, as the wassailers at Christmas serve their king of Misrule, invest him with the title for no other end than that he may countenance all the riots and disorders of the family. He accuses, too, some of the Presbyterian gentlemen, who had been commissioned to levy troops for the army, of the practices resorted to by the redoubtable Falstaff, when intrusted with a similar commission; and of returning homewards when matters came to the push, out of an unwillingness to “hazard their precious persons, lest they should seem to trust to the arm of flesh.” Poor Sir Thomas himself was not one of the people who, in such circumstances, are readiest at returning home. At any rate he stayed long enough on the disastrous field of Worcester to be taken prisoner. Indifferent, however, to personal risk or suffering, he has detailed only the utter woe which befell his hundred manuscripts.

He had lodged, prior to the battle, in the house of a Mr. Spilsbury, “a very honest sort of man, who had an exceeding good woman to his wife;” and his effects, consisting of “scarlet cloaks, buff suits, arms of all sorts, and seven large portmantles full of precious commodity,” were stored in an upper chamber. Three of the “portmantles,” as has been said already, were filled with manuscripts in folio, “to the quantity of six score and eight quires and a half, divided into six hundred forty and two quintemions, the quinternion consisting of five sheets, and the quire of five-and-twenty.” There were, besides, law-papers and bonds to the value of about three thousand pounds sterling. After the total rout of the king’s forces, the soldiers of Cromwell went about ransacking the houses; and two of them having broken into Mr. Spilsbury’s house, and finding their way to the upper chamber, the scarlet cloaks, the buff suits, the seven “portmantles,” and the hundred manuscripts fell a prey to their rapacity. The latter had well-nigh escaped, for at first the soldiers merely scattered them over the floor; but reflecting, after they had left the chamber, on the many uses to which they might be applied, they returned and bore them out to the street. Some they carried away with them, some they distributed among their comrades, and the people of the town gathered up the rest. One solitary quinternion, containing part of the preface to the Universal Language, found its way into the kennel, and was picked out two days after by a Mr. Broughton, “a man of some learning,” who restored it to Sir Thomas. His Genealogy was rescued from the tobacco-pipes of a file of musketeers, by an officer of Colonel Pride’s regiment, and also restored. But the rest he never saw. He was committed to the Tower, with some of the other Scottish gentlemen taken at Worcester; and a body of English troops were garrisoned in the old castle, “ upon no other pretence but that the stance thereof was stately, and the house itself of a notable good fabric and contrivance.” So oppressive were their exactions, that though he had previously derived from his lands an income of nearly a thousand pounds per annum (no inconsiderable sum in the days of the Commonwealth), not a single shilling found its way to the Tower.

The ingenuity which had hitherto been taxed for the good of mankind and the glory of his country, had now to be exerted for himself. First he published his Genealogy, to convince Cromwell and the Parliament that a family which Saturn’s scythe had not been able to mow in the progress of all former ages, ought not to be prematurely cut off; but neither Cromwell nor the Parliament took any notice of his Genealogy. Next he published, in a larger work entitled the Jewel, a prospectus of his Universal Language: Cromwell thought there were languages enough already. He described his own stupendous powers of mind; Cromwell was not in the least astonished at their magnitude. He hinted at the vast discoveries with which he was yet to enrich the country; Cromwell left him to employ them in enriching himself. In short, notwithstanding the much he offered in exchange for liberty and his forfeited possessions, Cromwell disliked the bargain; and so he remained a close prisoner in the Tower. It must be confessed that, with all his ingenuity he was little skilled to conciliate the favour of the men in power. They had beheaded Charles I., and he yet tells them how much he hated the Presbyterians for the manner in which they had treated that unfortunate monarch; and though they would fain have dealt with Charles II. after the same fashion, he assures them, that in no virtue, moral or intellectual, was that prince inferior to any of his hundred and ten predecessors. Besides the Genealogy and the Jewel, he published, when in the Tower, a translation of the three first books of Rabelais, which has been described by a periodical critic as the “finest monument of his genius, and one of the most perfect transfusions of an author, from one language into another, that ever man accomplished.” And it is remarked, with reference to this work, by Mr. Motteux, that Sir Thomas “possessed learning and fancy equal to the task which he had undertaken, and that his version preserves the very style and air of the original.” What is known of the rest of his history may be summed up in a few words. Having found means to escape out of prison, he fled to the Continent, and there died on the eve of the Restoration (indeed, as is said, out of joy at the event), in his forty-eighth year.

“The character of Sir Thomas Urquhart,” says a modern critic, “was singular in the extreme. To all the braveiy of the soldier and learning of the scholar, he added much of the knight-errant, and more of the 'visionnaire and projector. Zealous for the honour of his country, and fully determined to wage war, both with hi3 pen and his sword, against all the defaulters who disgraced it—credulous yet sagacious—enterprising but rash, he appears to have chosen the Admirable Crichton as his pattern and model for imitation. For his learning he may be denominated the Sir Walter Raleigh of Scotland, and his pedantry was the natural fruit of erudition deeply engrained in his mind. To this I may add, he possessed a disposition prone to strike out new paths in knowledge, and a confidence in himself that nothing could weaken or disturb. In short, the characters of the humorist, the braggadocio, the schemer, the wit, the pedant, the patriot, the soldier, and the courtier, were all intermingled in his, and, together, formed a character which can hardly ever be equalled for excess of singularity, or excess of humour—for ingenious wisdom, or entertaining folly.” He is described by another writer as “not only one of the most curious and whimsical, but one of the most powerful also, of all the geniuses our part of the island has produced.”

He was unquestionably an extraordinary man. There occur in some characters anomalies so striking, that, on their first appearance, they surprise even the most practised in the study of human nature. By a careful process of analysis, however, we may arrive, in most instances, at what may be regarded as the simple elements which compose them, and see the mystery explained. But it is not thus with the character of Sir Thomas. Anomaly seems to have formed its very basis, and the more we analyse the more inexplicable it appears. It exhibits traits so opposite, and apparently so discordant, that the circumstance of their amazing contrariety renders him as decidedly an original as the Caliban of Shakspere.

His inventive powers seem to have been of a high order. The new chemical vocabulary, with all its philosophical ingenuity, is constructed on principles exactly similar to those which he divulged more than a hundred years prior to its invention, in the preface to his Universal Language. By what process could it be anticipated that the judgment which had enabled him to fix upon these principles, should have suffered him to urge in favour of that language the facility it afforded in the making of anagrams! As a scholar, he is perhaps not much overrated by the critic whose character of him I have just transcribed. It is remarked of the Greek language by Monboddo, that, “ were there nothing else to convince him of its being a work of philosophers and grammarians, its dual number would of itself be sufficient; for, as certainly as the principles of body are the point, the line, and the surface, the principles of number are the monad and the duad, though philosophers only are aware of the fact.” His Lordship, in even this—one of the most refined of his speculations—was anticipated by Sir Thomas. He, too, regarded the duad, “not as number, but as a step towards number—as a medium between multitude and unity;” and he has therefore assigned the dual its proper place in his Universal Language. And is it not strikingly anomalous, that, with all this learning, he should not only have failed to detect the silly fictions of the old chroniclers, but that he himself should have attempted to impose on the world with fictions equally extravagant! We find him, at one time, seriously pleading with the English Parliament that he had a claim, as the undoubted head and representative of the family of Japhet, to be released from the Tower. We see him at another producing solid and powerful arguments to prove that a union of the two kingdoms would be productive of beneficial effects to both. When we look at his literary character in one of its phases, and see how unconsciously he lays himself open to ridicule, we wonder how a writer of such general ingenuity should be so totally devoid of that sense of the incongruous which constitutes the perception of wit But, viewing him in another, we find that he is a person of exquisite humour, and the most successful of all the translators of Rabelais. We are struck in some of his narratives (his narrative of the death of Crichton, for instance) by a style of description so gorgeously imaginative, that it seems to partake in no slight degree of the grandeur and elevation of epic poetry. We turn over a few of the pages in which these occur, and find some of the meanest things in the language. And his moral character seems to have been equally anomalous. He would sooner have died in prison than have concealed, by a single falsehood, the respect which he entertained for the exiled Prince, at the very time when he was fabricating a thousand for the honour of his family. Must we not regard him as a kind of intellectual monster—a sort of moral centaur ! His character is wonderful, not in any of its single parts, but in its incongruity as a whole. The horse is formed like other animals of the same species, and the man much like other men ; but it is truly marvellous to find them united.


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