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Kilsyth, A Parish History
Chapter XV


“The Christian Gentleman’s Daily Walk”—Sir Archibald Edmonstone, the Christian Gentleman—Public Opinion— Colzium Library and Chapel—Books, Sermons, Hymns— Letter to People of Kilsyth—Vols. of Travel—Thoughts by the Way—Opinion of Mezzofanti—Prince Charlie’s Widow— Meets Belzoni—The Holy Land—Ali Pasha—Classical Spots —Byron’s “Maid of Athens”—“Fitzwalter”—“Progress of Religion”—“Happiness”—Letter from Lamartine—Literary Estimate—Translation from Petrarch*

A very little more than forty years ago there was issued from the London press a modest and unassuming little volume, bearing the title “The Christian Gentleman’s Daily Walk.” It was suggestive of the saintly Herbert’s “Temple,” and Robert’s “The Portraiture of a Christian Gentleman.” In its form it was reminiscent of works that had gone before it, but that was all. It was the author’s own; it was original; it was written with a fine spiritual sympathy; it embodied the weightiest and maturest counsel which one, moving in the higher ranks of life, had to give to those who were similarly situated. To every man who held in his hands the power of doing good, and was willing to do it, the little book had something to say that was of the very best It taught the affluent and aristocratic to hold before their minds pure ideals and to cherish manly ambitions, to find worthier honours than could be won from the turf, the card-table, or the billiard-room. It taught them to remember the trust reposed in them, and to study how their lives might be best spent to the advantage of the people and the welfare of the State. And the book made its way. In a few years it passed through several editions.

About the character depicted in the volume there is no room for the slightest doubt. When the author spoke of the Christian gentleman at his devotions, at business, in his study, in society, in his family, in politics, he was but speaking of himself. The portrait he paints of the Christian gentleman is his own. The “ daily walk ” which he so faithfully describes, and so zealously commends, was but the transcript of his own common life. The book is doubly valuable. It is valuable because of its merits; and valuable as a revelation of the inner life of Sir Archibald Edmonstone, the third baronet of his family, and a man of the highest talents and accomplishments.

Educated at Eton and Oxford, endowed with excellent abilities, there is apparent in all Sir Archibald’s writings the complete Christian consecration of his gifts. He was a private gentleman, but he should have been a bishop. His literary products possess a high deportment of thought and statement, his orthodoxy is unimpeachable, his reasoning calm and sound. A safer, truer man there could not have been, nor one worthier of lawn sleeves and a seat among the spiritual peers. “Awful,” he writes, “is the responsibility, tremendous will be the doom, of those who have abused the talents committed to them, stimulating the passions, undermining the morals, or shaking the faith of their fellows. Who can limit the evil which an able and seductive writer may convey perhaps to the latest generations?” He thought it was much more for the interest of the State than for the interest of the Church that the ancient connection between these institutions should be maintained. On politics he has many things to say well worthy of being gravely pondered. “When we consider,” he remarks, “how absorbing is the spirit of party, how it tends systematically to conceal or pervert truth, the false guise with which it invests its own views and misrepresents those of others, how uncertain a test is public opinion, and how difficult to ascertain even were it a safe rule, it is evident with what caution the mind must be prepared to form its own judgment, and take its own course. ... He who seeks, then, to settle his political faith by an enlightened Christian standard, finds true wisdom to lie between extreme opinions; and, while he considers a reckless craving for change as amongst the dangerous signs of the times, he knows how fruitless it is to look for fixity in any of the affairs of a fleeting and mutable world.”

Colzium House bears two characteristics of Sir Archibald’s special tastes—its library and its chapel. The former fills two large rooms, and is a most valuable collection of the works of standard authors in English and French. He was of opinion a man could bequeath to successive generations of his family no better legacy than a judicious selection from the works of the good, the learned, the wise. In this valuable collection, theology, history, and travel are the most fully represented. Next to these, poetry, biography, and heraldry.

But the chapel is even more a mark of the man than the library. He was a strong High Churchman, hinging much on the efficacy of baptismal regeneration and not so much on apostolical succession. He believed in the orderly observance of the Christian feasts, and in the systematic views which they presented of Christian doctrine and life. In his “Family Lectures for Holy Seasons,” which originally appeared in the Scottish Magazine in the years 1849 and 1850, Sir Archibald gives a compendium of religious instruction of which the most learned and devout clergyman of the Anglican Church might well have been proud. “Short Readings on the Collects,” a thick octavo volume of 500 pp., was published in 1861. It treats also, in a methodical manner, of the doctrines of the Church and of saints’ days, but its chief value consists in the fulness and richness of its spiritual substance. It is a guide to holy living, an encouragement to perseverance in welldoing. It seeks to help the devout soul somewhat further on “in the narrow way that leadeth unto life eternal.” The reader is impressed as by the utterance of a supremely placid, but supremely earnest spirit. Here and there throughout the book there are found such sentences, such little glimpses of spiritual insight, as this: “The poorer we are in our own sight the more precious we become in His ; and in proportion as we are alive to the corruption of our nature are we preparing for its restoration in Him.”

Sir Archibald Edmonstone ministered, layman though he was, in his little chapel Sunday after Sunday. These volumes represent only a small part of the work he did there. He left a large number of sermons in manuscript, beautiful as to the writing, most carefully composed, and with the great doctrines of grace simply and faithfully set forth. Ranked along with the impetuous Livingstons, with the fervid Robe, with the sagacious Rennie, the staid Burns, the gentle Douglas, his personality adds a special interest to that group of theologi* cal worthies and pastors. While Sir Archibald lived at Colzium, his literary audience lay wholly beyond the Tweed. Whilst he lived, his devotion to letters was almost unknown in Kilsyth. It is also probable that if it had been known it would have remained unappreciated. Strange to say, Sir Archibald’s High Churchman-ship, however, in no way cut him off from the sympathies of the parishioners. Those who cared nothing about baptismal regeneration loved that kindly Christianity which they saw enshrined in his person, and which outflowed in every direction in works of mercy and labours of love. His interest in the spiritual work carried on in the parish was sincere. During the revival of 1839, he addressed a letter to the people of Kilsyth. Its language and spirit mark it the production of a member of the church catholic. As a witness to the reality and power of that revival it is of the utmost value, and I make no apology for quoting it entire :—

“My Dear Friends,—I am unwilling to allow the present period to pass by without, as one deeply interested in your welfare, addressing to you a few words. As soon as I learned the real nature of what was taking place among you, I felt justified in acknowledging that the hand of God was at work, and in thankfully believing that in the mysteries of His Providence it had pleased Him to visit your highly favoured locality in a peculiar and marked manner. Subsequent accounts have confirmed this, and the conviction that the sound of the Gospel is gone forth to the effectual wakening of not a few from the fatal sleep of sin and death into the glorious hope of everlasting life, is a cause of rejoicing in which we are assured even the blessed spirits participate. Very many, I am told, have lately, by a strong impulse, been induced suddenly to stop short in the course of thoughtlessness, perhaps of profligacy, and to seek with deep and anxious inquiry, the road that leadeth to salvation* My friends, this is a happy sign ! Divine grace, I doubt not, is acting upon your souls; but allow me, affectionately, though earnestly, to remind you that the necessity of your convictions can only be ascertained by the fruits. A saving faith is that which ‘worketh by love.’ The test is obedience, and that not partial but entire; not merely the renouncing of the open and grosser vices, but the striving with and praying against, and, in due time, the obtaining the mastery over the more secret and inward corruptions of the heart. Thus, becoming true and faithful servants of God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.

“My friends, these things I confidently hope from you, and let me, moreover, urge upon you to implant deeply and betimes, the seeds of truth into the hearts of your children, that they may grow up ‘ in the nurture and admonition of the Lord/ ere the ground be preoccupied by thorn and briers. It will save both them and you much bitterness and sorrow, and thus doing* you may be instruments, with the blessing of God, of peopling the mansions of heaven to succeeding generations. I do not know when the object which has for a time taken me from my home, namely, the health of one who fully participates in the feeling with which I am now writing, will enable me to return; but, whenever that may be the case, the happy change I shall hope to witness among the inhabitants of Kilsyth, will be one of the objects to which I shall look forward with the warmest satisfaction.

"Cordially congratulating, therefore, your worthy minister, in the cheering promise afforded to his long and faithful labours, and you, collectively, on the per-feet opening before you of walking henceforth as a community fearing the Lord!—Believe me,

“Your very sincere friend and well-wisher,

“Archibald Epmonstone.
“London, October 12tk, 1839.”

The journal of Sir Archibald Edmonstone’s travels through France, Switzerland, Italy, Greece, Egypt, Syria, and Turkey, is contained in two bulky volumes. Able to speak French, German, and Italian, with a mind richly stored with classical learning, and with introductions to those of the highest position, he got ready access to everything curious or interesting, and to all illustrious and distinguished persons connected with the places visited. Every page of this work is full of information or entertainment. Leaving London on Monday, the 14th September, 1818, he crossed from Dover to Calais. At the Court of the Tuileries he was presented to Louis XVIII. In Paris he inspected with equal interest the rare books of the Bibliothfeque du Roi, and Barthelemi’s collection of coins, said to be the finest in the world. Passing through Burgundy, he remembered that Gibbon observed that the vintage was celebrated in the days of the Antonines. At Clarens he meditated on the mingled good and evil in the character and writings of Rousseau. Chillon afforded him the opportunity of comparing the castle with the description of Byron. Among the Swiss he recalled the apt description of Goldsmith, “How the loud torrent and the whirlwind’s roar but bind them to their native mountains more.” On the plain of Lombardy he saw the vines clinging to the elms as in the days of Virgil.

At Bologna he met the world-renowned Mezzofanti. Sir Archibald writes: “One of the curiosities here, is a living one, a professor named Mezzofanti, who, without ever having left his native country, speaks, I believe, about thirty-five languages, the common ones perfectly, and understands grammatically above forty.” In a footnote he says, “I saw and conversed with Mezzofanti twice when at Bologna with Lady Sykes in 1829. His manner was very pleasing and agreeable, but he did not give me the idea of a person of extensive information, his whole mind having been absorbed in acquiring languages. Those with which I was acquainted, English, French, and German (besides his own), he spoke with wonderful accuracy, both of phrase and accent, so much so, that even in English I could scarcely detect any peculiarity. He talked of acquiring a language as a matter of perfect facility. During the war, when many strangers, especially Poles, were in Italy, his power of entering into conversation with the natives of any country was of great service.” At Florence he had an introduction which brought recollections of Scottish history. Sir Archibald was presented to the Countess of Albany, the widow of Bonnie Prince Charlie, who was afterwards married privately to Alfieri, the poet. The Venus de Medicis entranced him. “The hand of man,” he says, “has never, in my opinion, executed anything superior, if equal, to this piece of art.”

Whilst Sir Archibald was making his way up the Nile, he met the celebrated Belzoni. He was on his way to Alexandria, with the wonderful alabaster sarcophagus which he had discovered. He showed it to Sir Archibald, and was evidently proud of the discoveries he had made, and the prize he carried with him. On the advice of Belzoni he was induced to visit the Great Oasis. “Our conversation,” he says, “lasted about half an hour, and I did not meet this enterprising person again, till two years after, in London.” Sir Archibald visited the sepulchre which Belzoni had found. “It is not easy,” he writes, “to describe the different chambers and passages in this wonderful excavation ; the vividness of the colouring of the figures, however, cannot be conceived by one who has not seen the original. Of the figures themselves, a group forming part of a procession, and, as we supposed, Jewish captives, interested us most. The figures all relate to the King Osiris, father of Ramesses Sesostris, whose sepulchre this was, 1385 B.C.”

Leaving behind him the Great Oasis, the wonders of Karnac and Luxor, the pyramids and temples of Egypt, Sir Archibald bent his steps for Syria, and spent some weeks in exploring the antiquities of the Holy Land. As he crossed the sacred borders “sacred recollections thronged his mind with almost painful intensity.” To the end of his days the excursion was to him a source of fresh and never failing delight, nor was there any period of his life of which he would have regretted so much to lose the memory as the few weeks occupied in investigating the localities of Judea. He made a methodical study of Jerusalem and the places most intimately associated with the life and passion of our Lord. He visited Bethlehem and Jericho. He bathed in Jordan. Leaving Jerusalem by the way of Shechem (Nablous), he passed through the plain of Esdraelon. The plan of his route included Nazareth, Tabor, the Sea of Galilee, and Mount Carmel. His intention was to push onward to Damascus and the Lebanon, but two of his travelling companions having to return homewards, he was prevailed upon to forego this part of his journey, and accompanied them in a Greek vessel from Acre to Scala Nova. Parting from his friends, he journeyed to Constantinople. Sailing down the Sea of Marmora, he landed at Dardanelles town, and solaced his classical enthusiasm by exploring the Troad, climbing Mount Ida, and visiting the ruins of Assos. Sir Archibald made a detour to Joannina to see Ali Pasha and his dark, swarthy son, Mouctar. The traveller thought he was treated with less consideration than former visitors, but he praises the excellent character of Mouctar and his wise policy. Ali had a singular career. After a variety of fortunes, during which he had made use of every artifice which deceit and cunning could suggest, and treachery and cruelty put into practice, he was at that time undisputed master of the whole of Albania, from the Austrian frontier to the Gulf of Lepanto. When Sir Archibald visited him he was in the pride of his power and the possession of undisputed sovereignty. Having declared himself in open rebellion against the Porte, the armies of Turkey invaded his territory, and fifteen months after, his power was destroyed, he himself assassinated, and his kingdom divided between Turkey and Greece, In praise of Ali and Mouctar, Byron, in the second canto of “Childe Harold,” chants the rolling “Tambourgi! Tambourgi! ”

“I talk not of mercy, I talk not of fear,
He neither must know who would serve the Vizier:
Since the days of our prophet the Crescent ne’er saw
A chief ever glorious like Ali Pasha.”

On his way to Athens, Sir Archibald visited the Vale of Tempe and the heroic scenes of Pharsalia and Thermopylae. He drank of the Castalian spring, and, with undue self-depreciation, lamented that, so far as he was concerned, it seemed to have lost its power. At Athens our traveller lodged in the house of Signora Macri, the widow of the last English Consul. She had three lovely daughters, who were celebrated by the name of Consul-inas. The two elder were brunettes, with dark hair and eyes. The youngest, Marianna, was very fair, and her countenance had a gayer expression than her sisters. Their persons were elegant, their manners pleasing and lady-like. They possessed considerable powers of conversation, and more instruction than is generally possessed by Greek women. They were as much distinguished for their virtue as for their beauty. It was in praise of Theresa, the eldest of these, that Byron composed his famous song, “Maid of Athens.” Sir Archibald occupied the apartments which had been in the tenancy of the English poet. He makes the observation: “The eldest, Theresa, was Lord Byron’s ‘Maid of Athens/ but ten years had made a considerable impression on a face, though still handsome, in this precocious region.” The lady was afterwards married, and died not so many years ago. At Naples, hearing of his father’s serious illness, he hastened home, and arrived in London on the 17th August, 1820. Sir Archibald’s visit to the Great Oasis is the only section of his travels which has been published. This too brief account of his tour has been gleaned from his extensive manuscript journal.

Some time after the completion of his tour, Sir Archibald Edmonstone commenced the composition of “ Fitz-walter,” a romance. It was completed in 1829, but, as if loath to let it out of his hands, he submitted it to various revisions and alterations, and it was not published till the year 1861. The tale was intended rather to embody a theory of Christian character in the higher walk of life than as a narrative to excite stirring interest. As a first attempt in this form of literature it is entirely praiseworthy, and strongly confirms our belief that if he had concentrated his powers on this department of romance, he would have found such a free and unconstrained sphere for the exercise of his varied knowledge and cultivated faculties as could hardly have failed to secure a pre-eminent success.

But Sir Archibald had a higher ambition. He early determined on the winning of the poet’s name, and his persistent devotion to “Polymnia,” the Muse of the sublime hymn, cost him the laurels which he would certainly have received from the nameless goddess of the popular novel. Sir Archibald also published in his lifetime a considerable quantity of poetry. “The Progress of Religion,” a poem, appeared in 1842; “The Devotional Reflections” in 1858; and the “Dramas” in the latter years of his life. But these were not all. There were fugitive contributions to magazines, and at his death there were found amongst his MSS. a lengthy poem on “Happiness,” another on “Hades,” and a large number of hymns, translations, and sonnets. Here and there they manifest an impatience of the labour of the line, but, taken as a whole, they are most praiseworthy productions. “The Progress of Religion” is a noble poem, in four cantos, carefully conceived, and painstakingly executed. That Sir Archibald was no novice in the management of the difficult Spenserian versification such stanzas as these are sufficient witness :—

“Through the deep shades of night the orient dawn
Cheeringly breaks upon yon reddening hill;
In calm serenity the Sabbath mom
Awakes with sober gladness soft and still;
As if, obedient to her Maker's will,
Nature, through all her realm, kept holy day.
The whispering of the breeze—the babbling rill—
The insects wheeling in their mazy play—
The hum of vocal quires chirping from spray to spray.

“Knowledge, I grant, dilates the range of mind;
Science unfolds to view a broader sphere;
And morals stand as landmarks, whence-defined
Of good and ill the boundary lines appear.
But if ye think that man can truly steer
By human aid alone secure and free,
Ye do not count the perils he must fear:
You launch him in a wide uncertainty,
Without a pilot-hand, upon an unknown sea.

“No iron law, no strong necessity,
Controls our race foredoom'd. God did not give
For nought the innate feeling that we are free;
Nor were we taught by a fixed rule to live,
Denied of choice the just prerogative.
WTiatever of good we find, from Him it came :—
The evil’s our own ; and if our hearts contrive
Themselves their devious way, to us the blame;
We cultivate the seed, and ours the fruit, the shame. ”

The “Essay on Happiness” is a poetical reply to the motto from Rasselas, which it bears: “It is long before we are convinced that happiness is never to be found.”

The idea of the poem was suggested by reading the work of Johnson. It was begun while travelling in Greece in 1819, and after a time discontinued. It was resumed, and the plan remodelled at Torquay in 1832, and was finished at Rode Hall in the following year. The “Devotional Reflection” is a collection of hymns containing spiritual aspirations and meditations for each day of the Christian year. Sir Archibald’s taste and scholarship are finely displayed in his numerous translations, For his translations of “lmmortality,” from Lamartine’s “Meditations Portiques,” he received from that celebrated poet the following communication:—

“Sir,—The success the most flattering to a poet is to see his works translated, especially by a man of real talent, as real talent always supposes an enlightened taste. You have procured me this success, and I thank you doubly for it. Your fine language—more rich and flexible than ours—has much embellished my too feeble poetry, I find all my thoughts and all my sentiments in your flowing lines, but I find them embellished and more highly coloured by a more picturesque style, and in words which render the images more lucid. Impassioned admirer of English poetry, I am highly gratified by perusing my own thoughts expressed in the language which Shakespeare, Milton, and Byron have fashioned and modulated to the highest tone of philosophy, and which yourself speak with so much force and elegance. Allow me, sir, to renew the assurance of my gratitude, and of my desire to express it to you personally on my next visit to Paris or to London.—

I have the honour to be Sir, your humble servant,
Comte Alphonse de la Martine.

“Chateau de 15 Aofity 1829.”

The poetry of Sir Archibald Edmonstone has missed the mark of popularity, and the reason appears to lie on the surface. It is the poetry of culture and not the poetry of genius, There is no lack of poetic art; but there is a want of poetic warmth, an absence of imaginative elevation and fusion. The want of passion may be accounted for by considering the author’s religious standpoint, but the heart, if occasionally touched, is seldom deeply and powerfully moved. And this should not have been with the subjects he chose to handle. All this being granted, it has still certain distinguishing merits which should preserve it from oblivion. It manifests a purity of feeling; it is pervaded with a certain spiritual calmness and moral reflectiveness; it is wholly so elevated in tone, and it is here and there suffused with such a pure religious enthusiasm which well deserve it to be had in good remembrance of the learned and good of coming times, There will always be a class to which it can minister, and who could be profited by its ministry. It would consequently be a matter of regret if its notes should fail in a sphere where many less rich and musical are preserved,

I append to this chapter a translation by Sir Archibald of a passage from the “Trionfo della Morte of Petrarch,” cap. ii. :—

*Non come fiamma che per forza h spenta,
Ma che per se medesma si consume,
Se n’ and6 in pace l’anima contenta ;
A guisa d’ un soave e chiaro lume,
Cui nutrimento a poco a poco manca
Tenendo al fin il suo usato costume.
Pallida n6; ma phi che neve bianca
Che senza vento in un bel colie fiocchi
Parea posar come persona stanca :
Quasi un dolce dormir ne’suoi begli occhi
Essendo spirito gi^ da lei diviso.
Era quel che morir chiaman gli sciocchi,
Morte bella parea nel suo bel viso.”

“Not like a flame that is by violence spent,
But rather of itself consumes away,
In peace the gentle spirit passed content;
Like to the waning light’s soft, clear decay,
Which gradual failing of its nourishment
Still keeps its customed tenor to the last.
Not pale ; but whiter than the flaky snows
Which motionless on the hillside are cast
Resting like one that seeks repose :
As if sleep hung upon these beauteous eyes
While the flown spirit dwells no longer there.
Fools say this is to die,—yet in the guise
Of one so lovely, death itself is fair,”


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