discoveries are not to be taken by storm, but are to be gained by more slow and formal approaches.

Perhaps the mind of Dr Beddoes was not exactly suited to the profession in which he was cast. Many of his extraordinary powers, which would have been eminently serviceable if he had been thrown into a different theatre of exertion, were thoroughly useless in the pursuits to which he was dedicated his fancy served only to give liveliness to his writings, not correctness to his opinions; and his intellect was far more comprehensive than his usual subjects demanded. Medical reasonings consist of short and simple trains of thought, and do not require that commanding power of reasoning which displays itself in passing skilfully through all the turnings and windings of a long and intricate argument, and which is in its true element when engaged in the subtilties of metaphysics, or the complexities of politics. The proper faculty for the physician is that of observation; that of perceiving, as Beddoes himself has well said, not merely where the hourhand of nature's church-clock points, but also the run of her second and third hands. Beddoes was an admirable observer; his defect, as a medical writer, consisted in an over expectancy of disposition, but this very defect was probably the cause of one of his greatest merits, his vast and perpetual activity, which enabled him to comprehend within the term of his own life the exertion of many common lives. From 1784, the date of his first publication, to the period of his death, a term of 24 years, there were only five years in which his pen was unproductive; but the fruitfulness of the others made up amply for this defect. This perpetual activity would probably not have existed, if it had

not been for this over expectancy of disposition which we have remarked; he would not have hunted so keenly, if the game had not been valued so highly.

As a medical practitioner, Dr Beddoes is said to have been eminently successful. In the common forms of disease, of which the nature is clear and the remedies notorious and efficacious, the difference between such a man as Dr Beddoes and an ordinary physician is not felt; but in obscure cases, where the symptoms are numerous, indistinct, and contradictory, when the medical observer is at sea, without the chart and compass of nosology, the extraordinary resources of a superior mind must be of infinite value; in cases of this description, therefore, it is said that his success was extraordinary. He was remarkably attentive, and patient in inquiring after symptoms, and in the investigation and treatment of the disease, displayed the same earnestness and zeal in the chamber of the sick, which appear so conspicuously in his writings.

The impression which Dr Beddoes made on the contiguous public among which he lived, was always strong in degree, but very different in kind. Those who had employed him long enough to sound the depth of his value, almost worshipped him; his appearance, however, was uncouth, and his manners to strangers cold and repulsive. Notwithstanding, therefore, that his abilities and learning were notorious, and that the unpleasingness of his first appearance soon yielded to a great and visible earnestness for the welfare of his patients, he is said never to have been a popular practitioner, or at least that the superiority of his talents did not produce a commensurate superiority of popularity,

This, however, is not to be wondered at; whenever we desire to win others, we always employ those means which we observe to have an influence on ourselves; the art of persuasiveness always begins with self-observation, and the consequence of this is, that the nearer our own feelings resemble those of the world in general, the greater is the chance that our inferences will be correct, and our measures effectual. It is easy therefore to see why a man of genius, whose mental habits have led him away from popular sympathy, should insensibly neglect the employment of a multitude of trifles, which have no power over him, but which greatly interest and affect the generality of mankind. Beside this, the talents of Beddoes, like those of every extraordinary mind, were too large to be measured by the multitude; they never perceive the difference between those minds which are a little above them, and those which are much above them; just as travellers in the valley suppose all the mountains above them of nearly an equal height, nor can they perceive, until they have ascended the tops of some, the greater height and vaster magnitude of others.

Dr Beddoes disliked general visit ing; when in the company of intelligent strangers, in whose society he delighted, he was habitually silent, and was always more anxious to gain knowledge from others than to make a parade of his own; with all his powers and his knowledge, he never aimed at becoming a conversationist, a character for which he was unfit

ted by his shyness and reserve. A large mixed party was not the theatre in which he shone; it was only in a small circle of literary friends that he enjoyed sufficient unreservedness of feeling, to make a full display of his powers. He was fond of the society of accomplished women, among whom he would often unbend and indulge in sallies of great wit and liveliness. In the relations of domestic life, his conduct was irreproachable; he never suffered his literary pursuits to exclude his family from his apartments. Many of his most celebrated publications were composed whilst his wife was conversing with a friend on one side, and his infant daughter was playing tricks and making noises on the other. There is a singular story told of him, which strikingly shows how little he thought about many things which are the most interesting to the generality, of mankind. He had been absent in Wales for two or three weeks without having mentioned to his family the object of his journey; on his return, a gentleman called on him, and finding that he was not at home, requested to see Mrs Beddoes. After a little common conversation, he congratulated her on the late accession to her fortune, at which she expressed surprise and ignorance: the fact was, that the doctor had been down into Wales to attend on his dying father, who had bequeathed to him a fortune of very considerable amount, without mentioning to Mrs Beddoes either the cause or the result of his journey.




On the 9th May last, a discovery of an extraordinary nature was made in an enclosure called the Laav-park, on the farm of Mill of Williamston, in the parish of Culsamond, Aberdeenshire. In preparing the field for potatoes, the plough (at a spot from which a large cairn of stones had been removed about 30 years ago,) struck against something which impeded its progress. On examination, this proved to be a wooden coffin, of uncommon size and shape, and of the rudest conceivable workmanship. It had been made from the trunk of a tree of black oak, divided into three parts of unequal lengths, each of which had been split through the middle with wedges; the whole consisting of six parts, and resembling the body and shafts of a cart. The sides had been sunk into the ground about 13 or 14 inches, and about the middle of them, grooves were made, on which the bottom rested. The bottom was laid on a bed of fine blue clay, about 3 inches thick. The gabel-pieces were sunk into large holes, filled with fine blue sand brought from a distance; the whole surrounded with a double row of stones, and

carefully covered over with an immense quantity of moss, also brought from a distance. The coffin was laid due east and west, the head of it east ; and what appears very curious, the projecting parts of the sides rested on an oval hard substance, composed of earth and clay, in which too was a considerable mixture of ashes, and which evidently had undergone_the action of a very strong fire. This can be accounted for in no other way, but by supposing that on this part of the grave the funeral pile had been erected. In a corner of the inside of the coffin, towards the head of it, had been placed an urn, which was broken in the digging out. Its contents, which, owing to this, were mixed with the surrounding earth, had undoubtedly been the bones and ashes of some person whose dead body had been burnt and deposited there. The urn had been formed of a mixture of clay and sand, narrow at the bottom, very wide at the top, and about 10 or 11 inches deep. There was a large round hole at one of the extremities of each of the sides, but not the least appearance of any iron tool on any part of the coffin.

* 1812.

[graphic][merged small][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][merged small]

A, B, and C, D, sides of the coffin, each being 11 feet 7 inches long, and about 27 inches broad.

E and F, the gables, each 3 feet high, being that part of the tree next to the root, their girth measuring 7 feet 6 inches.

G, part of the bottom-breadth of it, and of the cover or lid, 2 feet 3 inches, length 5 feet 8 inches.

H and I, the projecting extremities of the sides.

[blocks in formation]

Amid the many hundred barrows, tumuli, and cairns, which have been opened, either in the course of antiquarian research, or for other purposes, we are not aware that any wooden coffins have ever been discovered. Their contents usually are urns, either deposited in little compartments formed of upright stones in the centre of the barrow, or the stone coffins known by the name of Kist-Vaen, or Cromlechs. But we have not found an instance during the age of barrows, that is, during the four or five first centuries, of wood being employed in forming a receptacle for the reliques of the dead. So much with respect to the actual experience of modern antiquaries; but even the records of ancient discoveries help us only to two instances, and in each case they referred to persons of the highest import


Most readers will remember, if not from Leland or Camden, at least from the beautiful poem of Warton, entitled "The Grave of King Arthur," the romantic discovery of the tomb of that prince, by Henry II., in the abbey of Glastonbury. The body was found, according to Giraldus Cambrensis, at the depth of 16 feet from the surface, enclosed in the hollowed trunk of an oak, in quercu cavata,says

Giraldus, though Leland supposes the wood to have been alder, as better calculated to resist wet.

Chiflet, an accurate antiquary, who was present at the opening of the tomb of Childeric, King of the Franks, is inclined to believe, from the fragments there discovered, that the royal coffin had been composed of oak planks, hooped together with bands of iron.

These are the only two instances we have found of wooden coffins, at the very early period to which, considering its contents and construction, we must necessarily refer that found in the Laav-park. The name of the place affords but little ground for further conjecture; it is pronounced Liav, like the double Ll of the Welch, or the Italian gli, and may be the same word with the Gaelic Llamh, signifying a hand. It may have been the grave of a chieftain, bearing the epithet of red hand, strong-hand, fairhand, or the like, though the adjective has been lost through time; Llamhdearg, or the like, being a natural appellative of an ancient chieftain. The division in the coffin was probably in. tended to separate the reliques of the chief from those of his family, or of the victims which were often sacrificed at the funeral of such a personage.

But without wearying our readers with farther conjecture, we have only to add, that the historical antiquary owes the preservation of this very curious relique to the care of the Reverend Mr Ellis, minister of the gospel at Culsamond.

« VorigeDoorgaan »