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Scottish Review

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Parish Life in the North of Scotland
Author's Preface


WHEN a man sits down to write his own life with the view of giving it to the public, however well known to the public he may be, or however highly recommended by rank, or station, or mental abilities, he can after all scarcely, we think, escape from the rather ugly charges of egotism or self-conceit. Hume and Gibbon were unquestionably great men. So the "Iearned of this world" pronounced them to be. But "The Author's Memoirs of Himself " by the one, and "My Own Life" by the other, evince, particularly the former, a degree of self-complacency and arrogance which all the literary merit of their works can scarcely, if at all, redeem. How much more then, and heavily, does the charge fasten upon one who, to the public, is nothing, and who has notwithstanding taken up the doughty resolution of filling this volume with memorabilia of his grandfather, his father, and himself. Ajax had to present in battle against the sword's point of his adversary a shield of seven folds. Against the charge above-mentioned the writer of these memoirs has to present a shield only of two folds, which he thinks will be fully sufficient to defend him. The first is, that he writes, not with the most distant intention to publish these memoirs himself, or not with the slightest desire or expectation that they should be published when the hand that now writes them shall be stiff in death—when the mind that indites them shall be a disembodied spirit in eternity. Then another fold in his shield is, that he records these family reminiscences, not to tell the public what he or his were, but to tell it to himself. There is something peculiarly solemn and edifying —something which betters a man's spirit—in the truly believing consciousness, not only that we ourselves are but "pilgrims on earth," but that we are so "even as all our fathers also have been." Their race is run; their course—involving the every-day duties, occurrences, crosses, businesses, joys, and sorrows, in short, all the "lights and shadows" of an earthly existence—is finished, never again to be begun. They are gone—never to return—and where am I? Unceasingly following them; like them, now conscious of things earthly; like them, at last to know eternity ! To look back on the years they spent on earth, to recount the incidents of their humble, but I trust in some measure useful, lives, to connect them with my own, and to view the whole in the spirit and temper of a pilgrim, are to me sufficiently good reasons why I should write these memoirs.

DOND. SAGE.

MANSE of RESOLIS,
25th. May, 1840.


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