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The Scot Abroad
Chapter 1 - The Scholar and the Author - Part 6


As these sketches profess to be entirely free from the despotism of systematic arrangement, and licensed to wander at their own sweet will, I feel that I should compromise the privileges claimed for them were I to continue to arrange them, as the last groups have been, under religious or professional denominations. Let us, then, before running into any more clasaifications, take a brief ramble into the republic of letters. First, I shall call up Florence Wilson, or Florentius Volusinus, who commemorates with pleasant pensiveness his early childhood on the banks of the Lossie, while he writes on the consolations of philosophy in the old cathedral town of Carpentras, of which he is as much a denizen as if his ancestors had lived there for many generations. A learned and accurate scholar, who has done much to clear pathways through the jungles of this kind of literature, gives the following pleasant account of some of the steps upwards in Wilson’s career:-

"He prosecuted his studies in the University of Paris, and was there employed in the capacity of tutor to a son of Cardinal Wolsey’s brother. Such an appointment might have led to much higher honour and emolument; but the death of the cardinal, which took plate in the year 1530, compelled him to search for new employment. Another cardinal, Jean de Lorraine, encouraged him in the pursuit of learning by assigning to him an annual pension, of which, however, the amount was probably small, nor does it appear to have been punctually paid. He likewise obtained the favour of Jean du Bellay, Bishop of Paris; and in the year 1534, when that prelate was employed on an embassy to Rome, Wilson was included in his train, and had proceeded as far as Avignon, when he was arrested by a malady which compelled him to relinquish his engagement. In addition to his bodily ailments, he had now to complain of the exhausted state of his purse; and thus he was again left to seek a new path of preferment. From two of his letters which have been preserved in the Cotton Library, we learn that he had visited London, and was personally acquainted with several persons of distinction. One of these letters, written in his native language, is somewhat mutilated by fire, and is without the superscription; it seems, however, to have been addressed to Thomas Cromwell, subsequently Earl of Essex, and is chiefly occupied with details of ecclesiastical proceedings in Paris. In the other, written in Latin and addressed to Dr Starkey, he sends his salutations to Cromwell, then Secretary of State, as well as to Edward Fox, Bishop of Hereford; and the famous Bishop of Winchester, Stephen Gardiner, is there mentioned as one particularly interested in the writer. Both letters are undated; but, from internal evidence, this last appears to have been written in the year 1535. He alludes to his having been in London during the preceding summer; and he reminds his correspondent, Starkey, that while they were walking in the garden of Antonius Bonvisius, he recommended the city of Carpentras, in the south of France, as a place where he might find a pleasant retreat. As he was anxious to visit Italy, he did not at that time feel inclined to avail himself of this suggestion; but after he had proceeded as far as Lyons, where he met his friend Bonvisius, and was still doubtful whither he should direct his course, he resolved that he would at least take Carpentras in his route. When he arrived at Avignon, he received information that the bishop of the diocese was anxious to find some person properly qualified to teach the public school of Carpentras. This prelate was the celebrated Cardinal Sadoleto, who was himself distinguished for his Latinity; a qualification which had recommended him to the office of Apostolical Secretary under two successive pontiffs. Wilson lost no time in proceeding to the episcopal residence, where he experienced a very gracious reception. The cardinal was one evening engaged in his studies, when a servant announced that a stranger, wearing a gown, requested permission to wait upon him. The wayfaring scholar was admitted without delay; and on being questioned as to his country, his profession, and the occasion of his visit, he answered with so much modesty of sentiment and propriety of expression, that Sadoleto was immediately impressed with a most favourable opinion of his character and attainments. His nice ear was gratified with Wilson’s classical Latinity; nor was he a little surprised on learning that his visitor was a native of a country so wild and remote as Scotland. At an early hour of the following morning, having sent for one of the chief magistrates of the city, together with another functionary apparently concerned in the management of the school, he communicated to them his strong prepossessions in favour of this candidate. He had requested his nephew, Paolo Sadoleto, to inquire in Italy for a person duly qualified to undertake the charge of the school; but he was now persuaded that he could scarcely expect to find in an Italian the same modesty, prudence, and propriety of address and demeanour. Being invited to dine at the cardinal’s with the chief magistrates and other guests, he conducted himself with so much decorum, and displayed so much knowledge, as well as modesty, in the discussion of some questions of natural philosophy, that the patrons of the school thought it unnecessary to seek any other evidence of his qualifications. The magistrates immediately took him aside, and he was appointed master of Carpentras school, with an annual salary of seventy crowns. When we estimate the comparative value of money, this may be considered as no despicable sum; and it may be supposed that he was entitled to some additional emolument arising from fees. Sadoleto was much gratified to find that he was qualified to initiate his pupils in the Greek language.'

How pleasant it would be if we could trace a few others in this way, and see the steps by which they mounted upwards. There was a James Martin, who was professor at Rome and Turin, and remembered his far-off Scots home among the wooded valleys of Dunkeld, as Wilson remembered his in Morayshire, who would perhaps have afforded as distinctive a narrative had we now any memorial of him beyond his book professing to clear up physiological difficulties which still puzzle the learned.

William Hegate and Robert Balfour were simultaneously professors at Bordeaun and it is of them that Vinetus is supposed to write to Buchanan when he says, "This school is rarely without a Scotsman; it has two at present—One of whom is professor of philosophy, the other of the Greek Ianguage and mathematics: both are good, honest, and learned men, and enjoy the favourable opinion of their auditors." The same university was for some time the theatre of the celebrity of John Cameron, whose life, as written by Bayle, affords us an excellent specimen of the vagrant Scottish scholar, filling successively a chair in half the universities of western Europe. The great sceptic records the astonishment of the French, who found in this youth, raw from Glasgow, "que dans un âge si peu avartcé, II parlait en Grec sur le champ avec la même facilité, et avec la même pureté, que d’autres font en Latin." Sir Robert Ayton, whose monument is in Westminster Abbey, wrote many of his sweet poems in France, and frequented several of the German courts. David Panther—whose ‘Literie Regum Scotorum’ were thought worthy of publication at a period comparatively late, on account of the excellence of their Latinity—was a wanderer abroad, and acquired a knowledge of foreign countries which marked him out as a proper representative of the Crown of Scotland at the French Court.

It would be unpardonable to omit William Bellenden, of whose life scarcely anything is known, save that he spent the greater part of his days in Paris, where he is spoken of as an advocate, and a professor of humanity. His works are remarkable for their pure Latinity and their searching analytical criticism of the indications of ancient life and govern-meat afforded by the classical writers, and especially by Cicero. A set of his tracts, clustered together under the title of ‘De Statu,’ was re-edited by Samuel Parr, with a Latin preface in his usual style, bristling with Greek quotations, and allusions to Foxius and Northius. The chief object of the publication was to show how largely Conyers Middleton, in his ‘Life of Cicero,’ was indebted to Bellenden.

Every one is familiar with the ‘Argenis’ of Barclay. Many have been tempted by the aspect of the compact Elzevier in the book-stalls to transfer it to their library. Few, however, notwithstanding the eulogium of Cowper, have had intrepidity enough to read this dense little romance. Prose works of fiction have never had a strong popular vitality. The ‘Telemaque’ has lived under the protection of the birch as a useful schoolbook; and, by the way, in its turnings of historical allegory it has more analogy to the ‘Argenis’ than any other book I could point to. It remains to be seen whether Scott is to retain his fame on higher sanctions, but the fate of his predecessors is unpromising. Richardson, over whose melting pages our grandmothers cried their eyes dry and feverish, is now voted a bore. Even Fielding and Smollett, though respected as wit and humorist, are rather shunned; and the ‘Mysteries of Udolpho’ no longer draw the evening circle nearer to the fire, their hearts beating with the terror of mysterious sounds in dark cornea It requires some reading to inform one that the world was once mad about ‘Artimenes, or the Grand Cyrus.’ Hence we can form little notion of the popularity to which the ‘Argenis’ was entitled as a romance. But it has its merits of another kind worth looking into. The hints it gives about the designs of the Guises have been already referred to. The strange complexity and rather tiresome absence of all touches of nature in the narrative arise from the peculiarity and difficulty of the task which the author had set before hinself. He resolved to leave a transcript of his insight into the secret politics of the time without saying anything which could be taken hold of as dangerous criticism and revelation. Accordingly, he told a long story as far apart from ordinary or even possible human events as possible. And yet in his characters the critic has gradually worked out Henry IlI. of France, Henry IV. and his father of Navarre, Philip II. of Spain, Queen Elizabeth, the Guises including the Duke of Mayenne and their follower Villeroi, Bethlehem Gabor prince of Transylvania, Cardinal Barberini, who became Pope Urban VIII., John Calvin, and many minor political celebrities. Still many people prefer his secondary work, called the ‘Satyricon Euphormionis,’ on account of its curious notices of the condition of Britain.

A question here arises, Was Barclay a Scot? One’s conscience might easily be set at rest by the brief statement in the Life prefixed to the best edition of his works, that he was born at Aberdeen. My own belief, however, is, that be was born while his parents sojourned in France. He came, however, of an Aberdeenshire family, the same whose old fortalice of Towie enabled the Russian general to take the name of Barclay de Tolly.

The father of the author of ‘Argenis,’ William Barclay, was born in Aberdeenshire, in the year 1546. After sitting at the feet of Cujacius, and learning from Donnellus and Contius, he became professor of civil law in the University of Pontamousson in Lorraine. He wrote some jurisprudential works, chiefly with a political tendency, and might have been cited among the opponents of Buchanan.

William Barclay and his contemporary Peter Ayrault had each a contest with the Jesuits, which has associated them with each other in the amusing pages of Menage. It was the practice of the Society of Jesus to look out for young men of high ability and absorb them out of the world into their own order, to fight as spiritual soldiers, with a grasp on their absolute devotedness stronger even than that which held the priesthood at large; for while these had no wife and offspring to divide their affections, the youth enlisted in the army of Loyola were children so obtained and trained as to be ignorant of their ancestry, their parentage, and the very existence of their family. It was the policy on which the Egyptian Government embodied the Mamelukes. It was thus that Peter Ayrault lost his son René. He made all Europe ring with his lamentations. As the Lieutenant-Criminel of Angers, he was notorious for the severe discharge of his duties, but he stretched them to their utmost against the Jesuit brethren in vain. He used every engine which connection, political influence, and sympathy with his wild grief could move, but all was naught. He published a book for helping the youth, should he alight on it, to find his father, to whom he was implored to reveal himself and return. He executed a public document of paternal disownment. Everything was in vain; and whether his offspring was dragging out a life of miserable drudgery, or was high in fame and power as an illustrious member of his powerful order, the father never knew, though the industry of subsequent biographers revealed the story of René’s life, and found it to be a rather commonplace one.

Barclay’s affair with the Jesuits was the antithesis of this. They wanted his son John, but the father put them at defiance. After both toil and danger, he was just successful in keeping the author of the ‘Argenis’ for the ordinary world. The stories, however, were parallel in showing the great power of the new order. Barclay was driven from his lucrative office in Lorraine, where the Duke, who had warmly befriended him, became either afraid or unwilling to back him against his powerful enemies. A time of retribution was recorded, though the sufferers did not see it. The wrongs of the father bereaved, and of the father oppressed, went forth together into the world of letters, and had their weight in that accumulating storm of fear and hatred which crushed the order.

The elder Barclay naturally suggests to us a special class of authors, the jurists. Some of them have already been spoken of for their labours in other spheres. As a practical lawyer, Robert Reid, the second President of the Court of Session, was enabled to adjust the procedure in that tribunal to the foreign model on which it was founded, by much sojourning among the Italian and French lawyers. He was a patron of letters, and desired to infuse new intellectual blood into his country, by inducing eminent foreign scholars to reside in Scotland. He brought with him from France, and placed as a monk in the retired Monastery of Kinloss, Perrerius the Piedmontese, who continued Boece’s History.

Among his contemporaries several Scotsmen held the chairs of jurisprudence in the Continental universities. Edward Henryson, who wrote a tract ‘De Jurisdictione,’ preserved in Meerman’s ‘Thesaurus,’ and who was employed in editing and consolidating the Scottish Acts in the reign of James VI., was for some time a professor of civil law at Bourges.

Peter Bissat was professor of canon law in Bologna, and wrote some works, jurisprudential and literary, with which I profess no acquaintance beyond the titles attributed to them in works of reference. William Wellwood, of a family afterwards distinguished in literature, and in many other paths to eminence, published at Porto Ferrara a work on International Law, as connected with ocean rights—one of the books which helped Grotius to frame his great system. He published at Leyden, before the end of the sixteenth century, a parallel between the French and the Roman law. Henry Scrimgeour, of the house of Dudhope, gained a high fame among Continental civilians by his Greek version of the ‘Constitutiones Novells.’ — he lived the greater part of his days at Augsburg and Geneva. Sir Thomas Craig, the great feudalist, though he lived a good deal in Scotland, drew the resources of his work from his intercourse with the Continental jurists, the next generation of whom referred to it as an authority.

Sir John Skene, a lawyer at the height of his fame about the turning of the seventeenth into the eighteenth century, performed a more enlightened task than that of the commentators or the civilians. He was the first in any systematic way to collect the Acts of Parliament and other native laws of his own country. But he had been a considerable wanderer in most parts of Europe, and recalled the reminiscences of his foreign experiences evidently with enjoyment. In a passage in his Dictionary of Law Terms, which I remember reading long ago, but cannot now find, he refers, as an example of something he has to say, to the great Alpine horn on which the Swiss shepherds seem to have performed in his day, as every traveller there knows that they do in this; and in reference to the customs of pedlars, he refers to his experience in Poland. Sir James Melville wanted to take Skene as his legal adviser when he went to adjust the terms of the marriage of King James with Anne of Denmark, saying of him "that he was best acquainted with the condition of the Germans, and could mak them lang harangues in Latin, and was a gude true stout man lyk a Dutch man." Were this an exhaustive catalogue of the Scottish jurists, it would be necessary to include in it the eccentric Mark Alexander Boyd, the friend of Cujacius, who found himself, although a Protestant, fighting against his own friends. Drummond of Hawthornden, too, studied civil law at Bourges, with the intention of practising on his return; but Themis was not the muse in whose train he was destined to march.

Having got again into the groove of "the departments," medicine should have its share. The well-earned renown of Scotland as a medical school belongs to that later period when she was enabled to keep her distinguished sons at home. If one were very anxious to catch at names, we might claim one of the early lords of the fantastic science, which was the medical science of its day, in "the wondrous Michael Scott." But within the period of more authentic biography, if not of more legitimate science, we are not unrepresented abroad in this department. Duncan Liddel, the son of a respectable citizen in Aberdeen, where he was born in the middle of the sixteenth century, ambitious for a wider field than his native town afforded, took his staff in his hand and wandered to Frankfort-on-the-Oder, where he found a friend and guide in his countryman, John Craig, professor of logic and mathematics. After trials of his fortune in several places, he became professor of physic in the University of Helmstadt, where he was revered as the founder and maintainer of a distinguished medical school. His professional works had a great European reputation in their day. Henry Blackwood, the brother of the vindicator of Queen Mary, was dean of the faculty of medicine in the University of Paris. Peter Lowe, who wrote a book no less comprehensive than ‘The whole Course of Chirurgie’ in 1597, styled himself "Arellian Doctor in the Faculty of Chirurgie in Paris," and became physician in ordinary to Henry IV. A life of Marc Duncan, who was a practising physician at Saumur, will be found in Moreri. He obtained so high a professional reputation that King James I. of England endeavoured to bring him to St James’s, but he had married and settled himself in France. He wrote a pamphlet, taking the bold and merciful view of the celebrated persecution of Urban Grandier, the events connected with which came wider his immediate notice—but he is chiefly remembered as the author of the 'Institutiones Logicae.’ He was Principal of the University of Saumur. Another multifariously endowed Scottish physician, Walter Donaldson, an Aberdonian, is commemorated at length by Bayle. In the University of Sedan he was professor of physics, ethics, and Greek. Dr Pitcairn, now better known as a sarcastic Jacobite author than as a scientific physician, was a professor in Leyden before he took up his residence in Edinburgh.

Patrick Anderson, a physician, born some time after the middle of the sixteenth century, acted a part very similar in externals to that of a quack vendor of pills in the nineteenth. He advertised as a sovereign remedy for all ills his angelic grains or pills. It may be pleaded in his defence, however, that his advertisement was in the form of a Latin exposition. It was probably not very extensively read in its own day, and is now so rare that a copy of it is worth much more than its weight in gold. He professed to bring the art of compounding these pills from Venice. Probably no patent medicine in this country has lived so long. Its vitality is connected with important constitutional adjustments. In consequence of the formidable protestations by the House of Commons against monopolies, the Act of 1623 was passed for abolishing then’. This Act, by reserving the power to grant for fourteen years a monopoly to inventors, founded the law of patents. Now Anderson had got a patent for his pills before the passing of the Act, and it was not liable to the abbreviation. It still, I presume, exists. I remember an old "land" in the High Street of Edinburgh, dedicated to the sale of "Anderson’s Pills," a popular medicine in the early part of the present century. There was a portrait of Anderson on the wall, which must have been durably painted on hard materials, for after it was neglected it required several years of the east winds and drifting showers of Edinburgh to obliterate it; and many persons may still remember how odd it was to see a portrait of a man with a high forehead and peaked beard, in the costume of the age of Shakespeare, and not unlike the usual portraits of him, staring out like a family portrait in a dining-room, from the grey cold walls of the High Street. I happen to know that, some twenty years ago, the property in "Anderson's Pills" was litigated in the Court of Session as a question of hereditary succession under an entail. By the law of Scotland, the privilege of making them would descend like landed property or any hereditary dignity.

One of the Barclays was a physician, and appears to have lived about half his life abroad. The editor of one of his little medical tracts says he had it "from a sober person of good note, to whom the gentleman who had it out of Lipsius’s mouth told it," how that great scholar said, "if he were dying, he knew no person on earth he would leave his pen to but the Doctor." This Barclay, influenced by devotion to scientific truth, was so disloyal as to publish a tract on the many beneficent influences of tobacco, though the weed had been solemnly condemned by his monarch in his celebrated ’Counterblast.’ Barclay tells us, in his ‘Nepenthes, or Virtues of Tobacco,’ that "it hath certain melifluous delicacy which deliteth the senses and spirits of man with a mindful oblivion, in so much that it maketh and induceth the forgetting of all sorrows and miseries. There is such hostilitie between it and melancholie, that it is the only medicament in the world ordained by nature to entertain good companie." And in the climax of his laudation he says epigrammatically, " I durst be bold to say that tobacco is the mercure of vegetals, and mercure is the tobacco of. minerals." He was one of the earliest of scientific Scotchmen who ventured to tell his science in the vernacular language. He wrote poems and literary criticism, but these works he would not trust to the rude medium of his native tongue, so they are conserved in Latin. His poems may be found in that collection of which it is said of Samuel Johnson, that although he knew it to be of Scotland, he admitted that it would be a credit to the scholarship of any country - the ‘Deliciae Poetarum Scotorum.’

This Barclay, like the rest of his name, including the apologist and the pugilist, was of Aberdeen, and so was the Davidson whose patriotic ebullitions, rising up in the midst of his alchemy and astrology, have been already spoken of. He calls himself "nobilis Scotus," but had be been of any worshipful family be would have had local celebrity, which he has not. He says that he began his great book on philosophical medicine when enjoying a peaceful and rather important position as Curator of the Jardin des Plantes of Paris, while he held the title of Physician to the King of France. He tells how he continued at his work while tossed about in voyages on the German Ocean and the Baltic and the Euxine, the Elbe, the Oder, the Bug, and the Dniester, through the roar of cannon, the tumult of advancing and retreating armies, and all the miseries, dangers, and difficulties of war, until he again found patronage and a peaceful retreat with John Casimir, the King of Poland. Among professional criticisms on his works it is noted that he denies the existence of the plica polonaica, a horrible and incurable disease, in which the blood passes out through the hair acting as small ducts; and his testimony is considered the more valuable that he lived in Poland and Russia, where the malady is reported to prevail. Of him and another native of the same district Sir Thomas Urquhart says—

"The excellency of Doctor William Davidson in Alchymy above all the men now living in the world, whereof by his wonderful experiments he giveth daily proof, although his learned books published in the Latin tongue did not evidence it, meriteth well to have his name recorded in this place; and after him, Dr Leeth (though in time before him) designed in Paris, where he lived, by the name of Letu; who, as in the practice and theory of medicine he excelled all the doctors of France, so in testimony of the approbation he had for his exquisiteness in that faculty, he left behind him the greatest estate of any of that profession then; as the vast means possest by his sons and daughters there as yet can testify."

Having thus got somehow among Aberdonians, it occurs that a good way of winding up this chapter with some kind of completeness would be to settle down on the district to which these belong, and offer something approaching to a full enumeration of the more remarkable of those born in or connected with it who represented their country in foreign lands. And here aptly enough comes up the name of one who, like Barclay, was a physician, a poet, and an Aberdonian — Arthur Johnston. His literary characteristics have a curious parallel with those of Ausonius, who was a physician of Bordeaux. Both seem to have turned aside from the ordinary topics of heroic or lyric poetry to indulge in genial reminiscences of the men or the places they were personally interested in. Among Johnston’s epigrams, as he called them, though many of them stray out of that term in its strict sense, one dwells on the delights of his own dear paternal home of Caskieben, on the banks of the little river Urie or Urius. Here he notices a phenomenon which doubtless enlivened many an evening ramble, that at the time of equinox the domain is touched by the shadow of the hill of Benochie—the same hill that is commemorated in the beautiful Scotch song, "I wish I were where Gadie rins, at the, back o’ Benochie."

His reputation is said to have budded at Rome, and his poems touch on friendships with many Continental celebrities. He did much injury to his own fame by his most elaborate work, which was the fruit of a preposterous ambition. George Eglisham, an Englishman, wrote a book to show that Buchanan was an overpraised man, especially as to his version of the Psalms; and for the purpose of proving his case he showed how he could do the thing better by giving a specimen of his own handiwork in the translation of the 104th Psalm. A controversy arose, in which Johnston, with others, poured abundance of contumely on Eglisham’s effort. But while exposing another’s incapacity for such a fight, he discovered his own; and actually set about—not merely a specimen, as Eglisham had given—but a complete rival version to Buchanan’s Psalms. Here, of course, there was no opportunity for awarding distinctive merits to the two efforts, and pronouncing how far each was "good of its kind." Johnston challenged Buchanan upon every line, otherwise he had no excuse for offering to the world a different one. Each was in a manner chained to the other, and the stronger would prevail throughout. But in the very method in which he set about his work he acknowledged the presence of a master; for while Buchanan revels with a sort of luxurious ease in all varieties of measure, as if each came to him in companionship with the tone and tenor of the special psalm, Johnston nailed himself down to the hexameter and pentameter couplet. There was an exception—the 119th Psalm—in which he ran over the gamut of Latin metre, as if to show that he could do so. But he is not without his champions. The Dutch are said to have preferred him to Buchanan. Hebrew scholars say he is a more faithful translator, showing great skill in expressing biblical conditions without departing from the course of pure Latinity; and it is easy to see that his work has a more quiet devotional air than the other, reminding one less of a heathen classic.

But Johnston’s fame was afterwards irretrievably injured in the house of his friends by an attempt to lift him far above his master. This was the doing of a citizen of London, Mr Auditor Benson, who strove to get into a little niche in the temple of Fame by spending money on the printing of grand editions of great authors. By the bad advice of that William Lauder who charged Milton with plagiarism, and forged passages in confirmation of the charge, Benson sent forth no less than three fine editions of Johnston’s Psalms, accompanied by Lauder's eulogistic proclamations, which far overshot their mark. A long tedious controversy then broke out, and the whole affair brought a shot from ‘Dunciad,’ which, in the opinion of the polite world, extinguished Johnston’s fame for ever, though aiming at Benson’s taste:—

"On two unequal crutches propt he came,
Milton’s on this, on that one Johnston’s name."

It is an awful testimony to the despotic power of ruling geniuses, that though a man may have filled a high place in the serviceable literature of his age, and reaped solid rewards in the shape of wealth and honour, yet more than for anything of his own doing he is remembered by posterity through some sting from Dryden or Butler.

"There was an ancient sage philosopher
Who had read Alexander Ross over;"

and many a sage philosopher has spent his time to less profit. Ross’s ‘View of all Religions in the World’ is full of matter. It carries the reader over a vast tract of diversified knowledge, without leading him through the dreary wastes of discussion to which divines are often addicted; and the book has a strong claim on collectors, by its quaint biographies and portraits of illustrious fanatics.

Ross was the neighbour of Arthur Johnston, but long after both were dead their names became associated as fellow-instruments in the perverse machinations of William Lauder. Ross was the author of the ‘Christiados,’ which may safely be pronounced one of the queerest books ever brought into existence. By a marvellous ingenuity he strings together on a new sequence nearly every line that Virgil wrote, adapting it sometimes with the change of a word—sometimes with no change at all—to what may be termed a poetical exposition of Christianity. One could easily suppose that if Virgil has devotees as Horace has, the jingle of this ringing of the changes might drive such a one to insanity. When Lauder brought his charges of plagiarism against Milton, he put Ross forward as one of the pillaged authors; and certainly in his opening there is a ludicrous incidental similarity to that of ‘Paradise Regained.’

From the same root as Arthur came another poet, John Johnston, who, after studying at Aberdeen, is found successively in the universities of Helmstadt and Rostock. Gilbert Jack—born, says the complimentary Freher, in Aberdeen, a place illustrious for the capture of salmon - taught philosophy at Herborn and Helmstadt, and became professor of philosophy at the University of Leyden, where he gave forth some disquisitions on physics and metaphysics. John Vaus, whose works on grammar are published by Ascensius, describes the difficulties of his journey to Paris to correct the press. Of Robert Baron we do not know even so much, but some of his works on philosophy and divinity were published abroad, and all of them were in the hands of foreign scholars. James Gregory, the discoverer of the reflecting telescope, has only to be named: he is qualified for reception into the present company by living at Padua, where he published his quarto on that troublesome adjustment, the quadrature of the circle. He was married to the daughter of a David Anderson, called, from the multiplicity of his petty accomplishments, "Davy-do-a’-things;" and this Davy was a cousin of Alexander Anderson, another Aberdonian, who was professor of mathematics in Paris, and the author of a multitude of works on algebra and the other exact sciences which have excited the keen interest of adepts. Of him the unfailing translator of Rabelais says that he "was, for his abilities in the mathematical sciences, accounted the profoundlyest principled of any man of his time: in his studies he plyed hardest the equations of algebra, the speculations of the irrational lines, the proportions of regular bodies, and sections of the cone; for though he was excellently well skilled in the theory of the planets and astronomy, the opticks, catoptricks, dioptricks, the orthographical, stereographical, and schemographical projections; in cosinography, geography, trigonometry, and geodesie; in the staticks, musick, and all other parts or pendicles, sciences, faculties, or arts of or belonging to the disciplines mathematical in general, or any portion thereof in its essence or dependances: yet taking delight to pry into the greatest difficulties, to soar where others could not reach, and (like another Archimedes) to work wonders by geometry and the secrets of numbers; and having a body too weak to sustain the vehement intensiveness of so high a spirit, he dyed young, with that respect nevertheless to succeeding ages, that he left behind him a posthumary book, intitled ‘Audersoni Opera,’ wherein men versed in the subject of the things therein contained will reap great delight and satisfaction."

Among the plethoric volumes which slumber in decorous old libraries may sometimes be found the bulky Greek grammar of a certain Alexander Scot. We only know personally of him that he wrote certain other books; that he was an Aberdonian, and that he held a judicial office of some kind or other at Carpentras. His grammar, lying like some helmless hulk on the great sea of literature, might probably, on a week or two’s careful and exclusive study, give forth some value to the modern inquirer. In its day the book had at least so much vitality as to be brought up on the side of Reuchlin in the controversies about the Erasmian innovations on the pronunciation of the Greek.

Under associations other than topographical we have already come in contact with several names connected with Aberdeen—as Bishop Elphinstone, Hector Boece, Bishop Leslie, Alexander Arbuthnot, Father Innes, Thomas Dempster, the two Chamberses, George Cone and James Laing, Sir John Skene, the Barclays, Gordon of Straloch, the theological Forbeses, and the physicians Duncan Liddel and Walter Donaldson. To go centuries further back to one whose literary fame is entirely of a home cast: John Barbour, Archdeacon of Aberdeen, the author of the heroic poem called ‘The Bruce,’ went at least three times to France, for so many times had he letters of safe-conduct to pass through England thither, and one of those declares his purpose to be study.

Let me conclude this chapter with another patriotic chronicler of his times, not unlike him, though writing in prose, and coming down to that more fortunate era when his patriotism could include England.

The Burnets, like the Barclays, were a branching family, with many members of more or less distinction, but rooted in this district. Thomas, a physician, the brother of the bishop, wrote medical books, which passed through several Continental presses; but whether he went himself into other lands, or stayed at home, is not known. The bishop’s eldest son studied at Leyden, and became Governor of Massachusetts. He had a younger son in some measure eminent in literature; but whether he qualified for a place here by crossing the Channel I am unable to say. It is of more consequence that a man of such mark as the bishop himself had a good deal to do abroad. Some of his wanderings were on business, and that of a not agreeable kind; but some of them were for enjoyment. His ‘Tour in Switzerland, Italy, and Germany,’ now little known, is a very amusing book, full of sagacious observation. It had the honour—rarely conferred then on an English book of travels—of being translated into German. He was a very distinguished man, and yet somehow his name is seldom mentioned without a slight smile of derision. This cannot be caused by falsities in the foundations of his fame, for they were thoroughly sound. He was steady and brave as a politician, and. narrowly escaped the thumbikin or the boots. He was a clear and vivid historian. I have the bad taste to think him a better writer than Clarendon, preferring his distinct unaffected story to the weighty woolsack magniloquence of the chancellor’s stately sentences. Of his works on divinity, one at least, the ‘Treatise on the Thirty-nine Articles,’ has become a standard book. He was a mighty pulpit orator, and his audience, instead of contemplating with nervous anxiety the increase of the pile of leaves on the left-hand side of the cushion and their corresponding decrease on the right, felt as if they had lost something when his longest sermon was finished. The world in general is not afflicted with the cynicism that made Paley say of a friend, that he knew nothing against him except that he was a popular preacher; on the contrary, such an adept is often raised to an elevation too high and giddy for the ordinary understanding to bear steadily. How, then, with all his claims on admiration, has Burnet been somewhat under sneer? It is because he was a meddler in matters that he had no call to interfere with, and incontinent of tongue—a gossip and tattler, whose talk filled with dismay the hard, dry, serious persons engaged in games in which fortune and life were the stakes. The world has a desperate prejudice against men of this stamp. Had he been very profligate, or a tyrant, or a traitor, it would have been more easy to assimilate him to the dignity of history.


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