« ZurückWeiter »
has been more dispassionately, more correctly, and less highly estimated. The writer of the Continuation believed himself unbiassed by any predilection for either Whigs or Tories, and not only borne out but bound by the facts. He felt, in fine, that his first duty to the reader and to himself was good faith.
The latter period of the history was one essentially of action and events. Hence, and from the necessity of taking up the career of the Prince of Orange where it was dropped by Sir James, the Continuation has swelled to an unexpected compass.
SIR JAMES MACKINTOSH will be remembered as a man of letters and member of the House of Commons. He cultivated literature without incidents or disputes, and spoke in Parliament without participation in the counsels, either of party or of the government. The following notice, therefore, contains little that is merely personal. * It will but present a passing and imperfect view of the exercise of his faculties, and development of his principles, in his writings and speeches. Some few particulars, however, of his private and early life may be given. He was born on the 24th of - October, 1765, in the county of Inverness. It appears, from the following passage in one of his speeches, referring to a grant from the civil list by the late king for the erection of a monument at Rome to Cardinal York, that his family were Jacobites, and espoused the cause of the Pretender :
“ I trust that I shall not be thought unfeeling, if I confess, that I cannot look in the same light on a sum of public money, employed in funeral honours to the last prince of a royal family, who were declared by our ancestors unfit to reign over this kingdom. That they should be treated as princes, in the relief of their distress—that they should be treated as princes, even to soothe their feelings, in
* It is right to state that the family of Sir James Mackintosh have had no part in the preparation of this notice.
the courtesies of society-I most cheerfully allow. Neither the place of my birth, nor the actions and sufferings of those from whom I have descended, dispose me to consider them with sternness; but, I own, that to pay funeral honours to them in the name of the country, or its sovereign, appears to me (to speak guardedly) a very ambiguous and questionable act.”
His father, a military officer of social habits and careless temper, had already encumbered and wasted the family patrimony, and was, for the inost part, absent from Scotland with his regiment on foreign service. Fortunately, neither the absence nor the impradence of Captain Mackintosh interfered with the education of his son. Sir James received his first instruction from a female relative, who was conversant with books, and to whose lessons he ever after acknowledged himself under lasting obligations. A bequest to him, whilst yet a child, by an uncle, supplied the means of continuing and completing his studies. He was placed, first at the school of Fortrose, in Ross-shire; next at King's College, Aberdeen; and gave, at both, decisive promise of his future eminence. His friends selected for him the profession of a physician. He accordingly became, about the age of twenty, a medical student at the University of Edinburgh. Here the study of medicine is said to have occupied the lesser, whilst literature, philosophy, and dissipation, engaged the greater portion of his time. One of the most fascinating and exciting objects of ambition, especially in youth, is oratory. Mackintosh distinguished himself as a speaker in two debating societies, the one limited to medical subjects, the other embracing a wider range in matters of taste and speculation. The ascendant of his talents was such, that it grew into a fashion among the students to copy him, even in the negligence of his dress. With his distaste for the study of medicine, he yet took the degree of doctor in 1787, apd printed, according to immemorial usage on the occasion, a thesis in Latin. He took, for his subject, Muscular Action. The probationary thesis of Sir James, in the midst of his distractions, could not add much to physiological science. He is said to have distinguished himself in what the Scotch call Humanity whilst at the University of Aberdeen; and he loved to quote the Roman classies in his writings and speeches. Yet this composition of his youth, when he must have been most familiar with Latin writers, is no signal exception to the latinity of physicians. The dedication may be cited, as a specimen the most favourable to the author, and most intelligible to the unprofessional reader.