Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

the poems of Ossian, he adopted an. both may be judged of from the fol. opinion more favourable to their au.. lowing circumstance. An interesting thenticity than has lately prevailed in fragment had been obtained of an anthe literary world. But the confessed cient historical ballad, but the remaininfidelity of Macpherson must always der, to the great disturbance of the excite the strongest suspicion on this editor and his coadjutor, was not to subject. Leyden composed, with his be recovered. Two days afterwards, usual facility, several detached poems, while Mr Scott was sitting with some upon highland traditions, all of which company after dinner, a sound was have probably perished, excepting a heard at a distance like that of the ballad, founded upon the romantic le. whistling of a tempest through the gend respecting Mac Phail of Colon- torn rigging of the vessel which scuds say, and the Mermaid of Corrievrekin, before it. The sounds increased as inscribed to Lady Charlotte Camp- they approached more near, and Ley. bell, and published in the third volume den to the great astonishment of such of the Border Minstrelsy, which ap. of the guests as did not know him,) peared at the distance of about a twelve- burst into the room, chaunting the demonth after the two first volumes. siderated ballad, with the most enthuThe opening of this ballad exhibits a siastic gesture, and all the energy of power of harmonious numbers which the saw-tones of his voice already comhas seldom been excelled in English memorated. It turned out, that he poetry. Nor were these legendary ef. had walked between forty and fifty fusions the only fruit of his journey; miles and back again, for the sole purfor in his passage through Aberdeen, pose of visiting an old person who pose Leyden so far gained the friendship of sessed this precious remnant of anti, the venerable professor Beattie, that quity. His antiquarian researches and he obtained his permission to make a poetic talents were also liberally exerttranscript from the only existing copy ed for the support of this undertaking, of the interesting poem entitled Alba. To the former, the reader owes in a nia. This work, which is a panegy- great measure the Dissertation on Fairic on Scotland in dervous blank ry Superstition, which, although arverse, written by an anonymous au, ranged and digested by Mr Scott, thor in the beginning of the eighteenth abounds with instances of such curious century, Leyden afterwards repub- reading as Leyden alone had read, and lished along with Wilson's “ Clyde,” was originally compiled by him ; and under the title of « Scotish Descrip- to the latter the spirited ballads entittive Poems," 12mo, 1802..

led Lord Soulis and the Cout of Keel. In 1801, when Mr Lewis published dar. his Tales of Wønder, Leyden was a Leyden's next publication was “The contributor to that collection, and fur. Complaynt of Scotland," a new edi. nished the ballad called the Elf-King. tion of an ancient and singularly rare And in the following year, he em. tract bearing that title, written by an ployed himself earnestly in the con uncertain author, about the year 1548. genial task of procuring materials for Thiscurious work was published by Mr the Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border, Constable, in the year 1801. Asthetract the first publication of Mr Walter was itself of a diffuse and comprehensive Scott. In this labour, he was equally nature, touching upon many unconnectinterested by friendship for the editor, ed topics, both of public policy and priand by his own patriotic zeal for the yate life, as well as treating of the learnhonour of the Scottish borders, and ing, the poetry, the music, and the arts

6f that early period, it gave Leyden tiquities. The Edinburgh Magazine an opportunity of pouring forth such a was united in 1802 with the old Scots profusion of antiquarian knowledge in Magazine, and was now put unthe preliminary dissertation, notes, and der the management of Leyden by glossary, as one would have thought Mr Constable the publisher. To this could hardly have been accumulated du publication, during the period of his ring so short a life, dedicated too to so management which was about five or many and varied studies. The inti- six months, he contributed several mate acquaintance which he has dis- occasional pieces of prose and poeplayed with Scottish antiquities of try, in all of which he was success. every kind, from manuscript histories ful, excepting in those where huand rare chronicles down to the tradi: mour was required, which, notwithtion of the peasant, and the rhymes standing his unvaried hilarity of tem. even of the nursery, evince an extent: per, Leyden did not possess. He was of research, power of arrangement, and also, during this year, engaged with his facility of recollection, which has never “ Scenes of Infancy," a poem which been equalled in this department. This was afterwards published on the eve singular work was the means of intro- of his leaving Britain ; and in which ducing Leyden to the notice and cor. he has interwoven his own early feel respondence of Mr Ritson, the celebra ings and recollections with the deted antiquary, who, in a journey to scription and traditional history of his Scotland, during the next summer, native yale of Teviot. His individual found nothing which delighted him so partiality may be also traced in this inmuch as the conversation of the editor teresting poem. Cavers and Denholm, of the Complaynt of Scotland, in the scene of his childhood, and Harwhose' favour he smoothed down and den, formerly the seat of an ancient fasoftened the natural asperity of his mily from which one of his friends is own disposition. The friendship how. descended, detain him with particular ever between these two authors' was fondness. The poem was composed broken off by Leyden's running his at different intervals, and much altered border hobby-horse a full tilt against before publication. In particular, as the Pythagorean palfrey of the Eng. it was originally written, the right or lish antiquary. Ritson, it must be southern side of the Teviot was first well remembered, had written a work surveyed ere the poet took notice of against the use of animal food; Ley. the streams and scenery of the northden, on the other hand, maintained it ern banks. A friend objected, that this was a part of a masculine character to arrangement was rather geographical eat whatever came to hand, whether than poetical, upon which Leyden newthe substance was vegetable or animal, modelled the whole poem, and introcooked or uncooked ; and he conclu- duced the subjects in their natural orded'a tirade to this purpose, by eat der as they would occur to the travel. ing a'raw beef-steak before the terrifi- ler who should trace the river from its ed antiquary, who never afterwards source to its junction with the Tweed. could regard him, except as a kind of It is another remarkable circumstance, learned Ogre. This breach, however, that the author has interwoven in this did not happen till they met in Lon- poem many passages, which were ori. don, previous to Leyden's leaving Bri- ginally either fragments or parts of tain.

essays upon very different subjects. Meanwhile other pursuits were not This will in some degree account for abandoned in the study of Scottish an- the similes in particular not being ako

ways such as the subject seems natu. was therefore now the wish of his sally to suggest, but rather calculated friends to turn this irresistible thirst to distract the attention, by hurrying for discovery, into some channel which it from the vale of Teviot to distant might at once gratify the predominant countries, to Africa, to India, and to desire of his heart, and be attended America, to the palaces of Gondar, with some prospect of securing his for. and the enchanted halls of the Caliph tune. It was full time to take such Vathek. Indeed, as Leyden's reading steps; for in 1802 Leyden had actual. was at all times somewhat ostenta. ly commenced overtures to the Afritiously displayed, so in his poetry he can society, for undertaking a journey was sometimes a little too ambitious in of discovery through the interior of introducing scientific allusions or terms that continent, an enterprize which of art, which embarrassed instead of sad examples have shewn to be little exalting the simplicity of his descripe better than an act of absolute suicide. tions. But when he is contented with To divert his mind from this desperate a pure and natural tone of feeling and project, a representation was made to expression, his poetical powers claim the Right Hon. William Dundas, the admiration and sympathy of every who had then a seat at the Board of reader.

Controul, stating the talents and disThe friends of Leyden began now position of Leyden, and it was sug. to be anxious for his present settlement gested that such a person might be in life. He had been for two years in usefully employed in investigating the orders, and there was every reason to language and learning of the Indian hope that he might soon obtain a tribes. Mr Dundas entered with the church, through the numerous friends most liberal alacrity into these views; and powerful interest which he now but it happened, unfortunately as it possessed. More than one nobleman might seem, that the sole appointment of high rank expressed a wish to serve then at his disposal was that of surhim, should any church in their gift geon's assistant, which could only be become vacant; and from the recom- held by a person who had taken a surmendation of other friends to those gical degree, and could sustain an ex. possessed of political interest he was amination before the medical board at almost assured of being provided for, the India house. It was upon this oc. by a crown-presentation, on some early casion that Leyden showed, in their ut. opportunity. But his eager desire of most extent, his wonderful powers of travelling, and of extending the bounds application and comprehension. He of literary and geographical knowledge, at once intimated his readiness to achad become, as he expressed himself to cept the appointment under the conan intimate friend, ri his thought by ditions annexed to it, and availing him. day and his dream by night, and the self of the superficial information he discoveries of Mungo Park haunted liad forinerly acquired by a casual at. his very slumbers.” When the risque tendance upon one or two of the me. was objected to him, he used to an. dical classes, he gave his whole mind swer in a phrase of Ossian, “ Dark to the study of medicine and surgery, Cuchullin will be renowned or dead,” with the purpose of qualifying himand it became hopeless to think that self for his degree in the short space this eager and aspiring spirit could be of five or six months. The labour confined within the narrow sphere, and which he underwent on this occasion limited to the humble, though use. was actually incredible; but with the ful duties of a couriry clergyran. It powerful assistance of a gentleman of

• the highest eminence in his profession, of Indiamen, in consequence of his ap

(Mr John Bell of Edinburgh,) he suc- pointment as assistant-surgeon on the ceeded in acquiring such a knowledge Madras establishment. It was suffi. of this complicated and most difficult ciently understood that his medical art, as enabled him to obtain his diplo. character was only assumed to bring ma as surgeon with credit, even in the him within the compass of Mr Duncity of Edinburgh, so long famed for das's patronage, and that his talents its medical school, and for the whole- should be employed in India with re. some rigour adopted in the distribution ference to his literary researches. He of degrees. Leyden was, however, in- was, however, pro forma, nominated to cautious in boasting of his success af- the Madras hospital. While awaiting ter so short a course of study, and this call, he bent his whole energies to found himself obliged, in consequence the study of the oriental languages, of his imprudence, to relinquish his and amused his hours of leisure by addintention of taking out the degree of ing to the Scenes of Infancy, many M. D, at Edinburgh, and to have re- of those passages addressed to his course to another Scottish university friends, and bearing particular refer for that step in his profession, Mean- ence to his own situation on the eve of while the sudden exchange of his pro.. departure from Scotland, which, flową fession gave great amusement to some ing warm from the heart, constitute of his friends, especially when a lady the principal charm of that impressive having fainted in a crowded assembly, poem, Mr Ballantyne of Kelso, an Dr Leyden advanced to her assistance, early and intimate friend of Leyden, and went through the usual routine of had just then established in Edinburgh treatment with all the gravity which his press, which has since been so disbeseemed his new faculty. In truth, tinguished. To the critical skill of a the immediate object of his studies was valued and learned friend, and to the always, in season and out of season, friendly as well as professional care of predominant in Leyden's mind, and Mr Ballantyne, Leyden committed just about this time he went to the this last memorial of his love to his evening party of a lady of the highest native land. The last sheets reached rank with the remnants of a human him before he left Britain, no more to hand in his pocket, which he had been return. dissecting in the morning, and on some Upon examining these, it would ap. question being stirred about the mus. pear that he imagined his critical cular action, he was with difficulty friends had exercised, with more rigour withheld from producing this grisly than mercy, the prerogative of retrenchevidence in support of the argument ment with which he had invested them. which he maintained. The character He complains of these alterations in a of Leyden cannot be understood with letter,whichis'no bad picture of hismanout mentioning these circumstances ner in conversation. It is dated from that are allied to oddity; but it is not the Isle of Wight, where he s:ates 80 easy to body forth those qualities hiniself to be “ like a weathercock, of energy, application, and intelligence, veering about with every wind, expectby which he dignified his extravagan ing and hoping every moment when cies, and vindicated his assumption of the boatswain's whistle pipes all hands merit, far less to paint his manly, ge- on board, and that he may be off from nerous, and friendly disposition. the old island forever in fifteen minutes.

In December 1802, Leyden was I fancy,” he continues, " you expect summoned to join the Christmas fleet to receive a waggon-load at least of thanks for your midwife skill, in swad. taste for ornamenting, and perhaps dling my bantling so tight, that I fear for printing, but he has too fat brains it will be swaddled in the growth ever for originality. Now, my dear Ballanafter. On the contrary, I have in tyne, though I lift up my voice like a my own mind been triumphing fa- trumpet against your bad taste in cri. mously over you, and your razor-wit- ticism, yet I give you all due credit for ted, hair-splitting, intellectual associ- good intentions, andmy warmest thanks ate, whose tastes I do not pretend to for the trouble you have taken, only think any thing like equal to my do not talk of men of taste approving own, though before I left Scotland, of your vile critical razors-razors of I thought them amazingly acute; but scarification ! Now, my dear fellow, I fancy there is something in a London farewell ; commend me warmly to your atmosphere, which greatly brightens good motherly mother, and your bro. the understanding, and furbishes the thers. I shall be happy to hear of taste. This is all the vengeance you you, and from you, in my exile, and have unfortunately left in my power, believe me, my dear Ballantyne, to be for I sincerely am of opinion, that you

Yours most sincerely, ought to have adopted the alterations

JOHN LEYDEN.” in the first sheet, which I think most indubitably better than those you have About the middle of December, retained. The verses you excluded were 1802, John Leyden left Edinburgh, certainly the most original in all the se. but not exactly at the time he had procond canto, and certainly the next best posed. He had taken a solemn fareto the Spectre Ship, in the whole poem, well of his friends, and gone to Roxand I defy you and , and the whole burghshire to bid adieu to his parents, Edinburgh Review, to impeach their whom he regarded with the most tenoriginality. And what is more, they der filial affection, and from thence he contained the winding-sheet of the dead intended to have taken his departure child, wet with a mother's repining for London without returning to tears, which was the very idea for the Edinburgh. Some accident changed sake of which I wrote the whole epi. his purpose, and his unexpected arrival sode, so you have curtailed what I liked, at Edinburgh was picturesque and and left what I did not care sixpence somewhat startling. A party of his about, for I would not have been half friends had met in the evening to talk soenraged, if you hadomitted the whole over his merits, and to drink, in Scotepisode ; and, what is most provoking tish phrase, his Bonallie. While about of all, you expect the approbation of the witching hour they were crowning every man of taste for this butchery, a solemn bumper to his health, a figure this mangling and botching. By Apol- burst into the room, muffled in a sea. lo, if I knew any man of taste that ap- man's cloak and travelling cap, coverproved of it, I would cut his tongue ed with snow, and distinguishable only out. But my only revenge is to triumph by the sharpness and ardourof the tone over your bad tastes. When - with which he exclaimed, “ Dash it, shewed me this part, I tore the sheet boys, here I am again!” The start in wrath, and swore I would have a Cal. with which this unexpected apparition cutta edition, for the mere purpose of was received, was subject of great exposing your spurious one. But you mirth at the time, and thecircumstance need not mind much his critical obser- has been since recalled by most of the varions. He is a sensible fellow, points party with that mixture of pleasure very well, understands music, has a fine and melancholy which attaches to the

« ZurückWeiter »