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At present, almost all the celebrities of the modern Athens were originally natives of the provinces. Dr. Guthrie is a Brechin man; John Bruce is from the same place; Professor Blackie is an Aberdonian; Candlish is from the West, and so we think is Cunningham; Alexander Smith and Sydney Yendys, both now resident in Edinburgh, were both born in other parts of the land; Hugh Miller comes from Cromarty. With the exception of Hume, Jeffrey, and Sir Walter Scott, Edinburgh has never reared a really great literary character. Nor has she appreciated some of the greatest of Scotland's children. Carlyle was laughed out of her, not for his infidelity, and his stern dogmatic conceit, but for his oddities. Wilson was long looked at with an ungracious eye, had to fight his way inch by inch, and is even yet, by the general Edinburgh public, rated far below Macaulay, who should have been a native of Edinburgh, for he is, next to Jeffrey, the express image of that city, both in its merits and in its vital deficiencies. What has checked and chilled original genius in the capital of Scotland, has been the prevalence and the fear of criticism. Lockhart in his "Life of Scott," has truly and graphically described the talk of the notables in Edinburgh as remarkable for its cold acuteness; its elaborate and incessant discussion of logical points; its want of heart, geniality, and abandonment. In this atmosphere every Edinburgh youth is reared, and it is not at all to be wondered at, that the shoots of fancy are blighted in the bud. The Edinburgh Review gave an example of badinage, hyper-criticism, and free-and-easy contempt for works and men of genius, which has never ceased to find imitators. I have within a few years met with glib Edinburgh youths, who spoke with profound contempt of Wordsworth, and quoted Jeffrey's present opinion, as well as his past criticisms, to back them. Intellectual puppyism, in short, is, and has long been, the crying sin of Edinburgh coteries. An eternal stream of small talk goes on about phrenology, physical science, mesmerism, music, and art; and
the talk, on all such subjects, is generally as shallow as it is endless. "Have you been at the Exhibition?" "Have you heard the new singer at the Italian Opera?" "Have you seen the fine new picture of Noel Paton's?" are the perpetual questions.
What a lofty opinion all these people have of their city and themselves! "When a man comes to Edinburgh he finds his level," is the constant cuckoo-cry; its meaning being, that he is subjected to a system of quizzing and paltry pedantic criticism. And yet nowhere are all the stalking and talking humbugs of the day-the Peter Borthwicks and Goughs-more rapturously received. What audiences there assemble in the Modern Athens to listen to a lecturer! "Curled darlings"-bearded and whiskered philosophers— pale-cheeked and long-haired coxcombs-dry lawyers, with faces which seem made of biscuit, "the remainder biscuit after a voyage"-students at the " barrel-age"*—and ladies worthy of being doomed to similar immurement, with quizzing glasses at their eyes, and affectation steeping their faces and figures-an air of intense conceit pervading the whole assembly, like a general rustle of self-conscious importance— such, after subtracting one nine-tenth of sensible persons, is the average composition of an Edinburgh audience. How they do measure their man! What sneers and shrugs at anything outré! What significant smiles of derision! What forced or false cheers! How faint the enthusiasm, unless the lecturer has got a name! and even in this case what pedantic and contemptible carpings are sometimes heard! Indeed, intellect without heart may be fearlessly called the characteristic of the town; and that intellect, too, of a second-rate and merely æsthetic kind, fond of discussing knotty questions in law, politics, and science, but unable to create any new and powerful train of thought, or to produce, or even fully to appreciate, any high original genius. Pretension and buckram, in short, without capital or reality, distinguish this city, alike "Barrel-age." See Carlyle's "Sartor Resartus."
in its private life, with its splendid poverty-its literature— its philosophy-and its religion. Time would fail me, and temper, too, were I to dilate on its haughty and sneering scorn for the provinces, for provincial men, for even London, Dublin, and Paris, as if they, too, were overtopped by this Norland eyrie, resting on its cold crag, and with its exalted indigence, proud sin, and shivering population. I remember a man of the true Edinburgh breed, when speaking of the Queen's hasty transit, in 1842, from Granton to Dalkeith Palace, saying, with such a turkey-cock look of injured importance" Sir, she has insulted the city." I thought of the words of the Wise Man, "There is a generation, oh! how lofty are their eyes, and their eyelids are lifted up." I shall not dwell on the evil that the luxury of the Scottish capital does to many a young innocent life, and how many a one who entered it pure as virgin snow leaves it with muttered curses on its contaminating influences.
My experience as a probationer was not at all peculiar. I saw, in the course of the one year I spent in this capacity, many new faces and new scenes, both in Scotland and elsewhere. I visited the fair isle of Bute; heard the morning waves breaking in Ascog Bay; and, as I crossed the hills between it and Rothesay, saw the dark peaks of Arran, the mountain island, relieved against the south-west sky. I stood, one summer forenoon, on Bothwell-bridge, and heard the peaceful ripple of the river, which, on the 22d of June, 1679, had ran red with Covenanting blood. I walked from Forfar to Glammis Castle, and beheld with deep admiration the fine avenue leading up to the front of the old mansion, its noble mediæval structure, and the beautiful and most varied prospect which its leaden roof commands of the richly wooded valley of Strathmore, the Seidlaw hills to the south, and the Grampians to the north, surmounted in the far west by the proud peaks of Benvoirlich and Schiehallion. I visited Mona's isle; walked one bright winter day from Ramsay to Douglas; and saw a sea, calm as a summer's lake, reposing in the shadow of
the heathy hills of Laxley. I passed a night, on my way home, in Liverpool; and came in one of Glasgow's giant steamers to Glasgow, reading, as the waves of the Mull of Galloway were bounding below like a steed, Christopher North's review in Blackwood of Dana, the American poet. I stood, at the cold close of an April day, on Balgounie's "Brigg's black wall," with the walk in which Hall and Mackintosh were wont to melt down hours to moments in high converse, within sight with the sea in the distance, the city of Aberdeen behind, and the lame boy-poet, Byron, still seeming to lean with a fearful joy over the parapet of the bridge, which had been fated to fall "wi' a wife's ae son, and a mare's ae foal." But more of some of these beautiful scenes afterwards. At the end of a year I obtained a settled situation in the town of and commenced a series of incessant, arduous, and varied labours. These, too, and other things, I reserve.
PUBLIC AND LITERARY LIFE.
MY purpose in this chapter is less to give individual details or incidents, than to mass the results of these under certain leading deductions, which, as they have grown out of a pretty wide experience, may contribute somewhat to the guidance of others who may be standing on the threshold of public life. These deductions I shall not always formally state; but they can easily be gathered from the tenor of my remarks.
It is a great mistake to commence the ministerial life with too high expectations either of happiness or of usefulness. It is in this mood, however, that most young clergymen, particularly if they have excited considerable expectations, do commence their career. Flushed, perhaps, by College prizes; having been, it is probable, petted by presbyteries and professors; having gained with ease one, or two, or three calls to congregations; being almost all, besides, engaged, and straining upon the slip for a speedy marriage, their blood, when they are ordained, is at fever-heat, and they are resolved to carry all before them. What sermons they are to preach! What studies they are to pursue! What Herculean toils of visitation and tuition they are at the same time to carry on! Talk to them of such and such men of established reputation, who have had their trials, and perhaps been at one time in danger of utter neglect, their answer is ready, "Pshaw! they did not know how to manage, or how to preach as we shall preach and manage. They belonged to a former day, and did not even then fully discern their time; but we have now, too, 'been born out of the eternal silence;' we have come upon the stage, and shall play a great and glorious part." They hint,