« PreviousContinue »
they had previously been listening to, and the effect of the attempt to play a reel, without the skill necessary for touching such an instrument, had roused feelings which these city dames and damsels had not been accustomed to; and I have little doubt that they have since discovered for themselves a new pleasure in true music, which, but for this accident, they might never have enjoyed.
That the inhabitants of Edinburgh are not insensible to music of the highest class, is evident from the numerous attendance at the public performances of the Institution for the Improvement of Sacred Music. Some may be inclined to attribute this to the cheapness of admission, which enables the citizens to appear in a public place, on the same bench with persons of rank and fashion. But, granting that this frailty operates in full force, I cannot believe, that, unless there was something to be enjoyed superior to such silly gratification, the attendance would be so great. This Institution has done much to open the ears, and I hope too the eyes, of the Edinburgh public. It has contributed to convince us that we were ignorant of what true music was, and has unquestionably roused a desire to be well acquainted with much of the most impressive music that has ever been composed. The origin of the Institution, however, is to be found in the Festival of 1815; and I have been informed that it owes its existence to an observation of Mr Ashley, that Mr Mather, being fully competent to the task of instructing chorussingers, ought to make Edinburgh independent of foreign assistance. The public, I understand, are in expectation of a second Festival this year; but I have not heard that any of those gentlemen who took so active a part in promoting the first, have it in contemplation to undertake the labour a second time. When we consider the vast benefit which was conferred by the Festival in 1815 on many charitable Institutions, the managers of these may probably exert themselves to gratify the public; or the magistrates, who are the guardians of all the public charities, may promote the undertaking.
Besides to the want of musical knowledge, other causes of the little patronage bestowed on musical per
formances have been alluded to. Among them, the most powerful opponent to the success of professors, and to the formation of a good orches tra, is the inclination for that species of warfare, which unfortunately pervades other professions as well as that of music. We know enough, in this good town, of medical and of spiritual warfare; and the demons of hatred, envy, and contention, are well known to be no lovers of harmony. Could we establish a Philharmonic Society in Edinburgh, somewhat similar to the one in London, and convince our professors that their talents, in combination, could effect more towards their being esteemed, and their substantial benefit, than perpetual wrangling, we should have it in our power to produce concerts to please the most fastidious. But, while so much jarring subsists among the professors, as I have heard of, it will be impossible to form a tolerable orchestra. Were the nobility and gentry resident, or occasionally resident, in Edinburgh, to promote the establishment of a society both for the benefit of the professors, and for the entertainment of the public, we might indulge some hope of extensive patronage being bestowed on regular concerts. In a communication of this kind, it is impossible to give an entire plan for such a society; an outline, however, may be given.
I would propose, that the society should be formed by the professors in the first instance; and that the nobility and gentry should be invited to subscribe a certain sum annually, for a certain number of years, for the purpose of defraying the expences of concerts, in so far as regards the use of rooms, lighting, and attendance. The president, vice-presidents, and the majority of directors, to be chosen from among the subscribers. Whatever sum may be collected for tickets of admission, together with what may remain of the annual subscriptions, to be divided, at the end of the season, among the professors, by a scale previously prepared, according to the abilities of each. This may be done in a way similar to the division of naval or military prize-money. The society might occasionally speculate on the exhibition of London performers. Such is the outline of a scheme which appears, to me at least, calculated to quiet all the jealousy which at present
hinders the musical talent of Edinburgh from having its full effect, and from reaping its full reward. I have only further to say, that, should this meet the eyes of any professors or amateurs who may be inclined to promote the plan, they must thenselves set the matter agoing; for I have not the least intention of interfering in any way, but by cheerfully subscribing to the society, if established. I conclude by earnestly entreating the musical professors of Edinburgh to banish envy and jealousy, and their patrons to abstain from encouraging such feelings.
Mr Watson himself now alive, and could have seen such an increase to arise from the reversion of his small fortune, he would have most cheerfully acceded to the suggestion.
In this view, therefore, there are three important objects which I would take the liberty earnestly to recommend to the attention of the respectable body with whom Mr Watson was connected, and who have been appointed his trustees for employing the money agreeable to his views, in the formation of a bill, to be submitted by them to Parliament.
The first is the completion of the great central building in the new Lunatic Asylum at Morningside, for the accommodation of the poor patients, and also of a sum to aid the means of support of these unfortunate people.
The second object would be to dis
FUNDS, IN REPLY TO THE INQUI- encumber the Charity Work-House
In your Number for December, I observe a very judicious paper relative to the employment of the two great funds many years ago bequeathed by two respectable citizens of this metropolis, for charitable purposes, namely, the mortification by Mr John Watson, writer to the signet, and that by Mr Joseph Thomson, saddletreemaker, the value of the former of which, according to your correspondent Amicus's estimation of the present rate of Royal Bank stock, in which the money was most wisely vested, is no less than L. 100,000 Sterling; and he hints at the propriety of the keepers, commissioners, and society of clerks to his Majesty's signet, applying for an act of Parliament, enabling them to alter the destination of this great fund to other charitable objects.
It is very doubtful, however, whether the Legislature would so far interfere in this matter as to disappoint wholly Mr Watson's favourite object of a Foundling Hospital, whatever opinion his fellow-citizens of the present day may have formed of that measure. But it is humbly thought that Parliament would not refuse to lend their powerful aid towards the alienation of at least a part of the now great capital to which this legacy has accumulated, for other purposes not unsimilar, especially as it is believed, were
of this city of the present sum of debt owing for it, by which its exertions are cramped, and which burden has been unavoidably contracted in consequence of the late long war, and the pressure of the times, while it is well known that this important institution has been, for these several years, under the most judicious management.
And, thirdly, to aid the fund of Mr Thomson, already mentioned, for purchasing meal for the poor of this city at a reduced price, next to be spoken to; for, whatever differences of opinion may exist as to the propriety of Mr Watson's Foundling Hospital, it is believed that there will be but one sentiment as to the excellent scheme of the application of Mr Thomson's funds, as pointed out by him.
Supposing, therefore, that the sum to be taken by authority of Parliament from Mr Watson's L. 100,000, for the above three important charities, was only L. 20,000, there would still remain the great surplus of L. 80,000 for building and endowing his Hospital, or any other benevolent purpose which the Society of Writers to the Signet might think proper to recommend to the Legislature.
With regard to Mr Thomson's tification, the writer of this paper is happy to have it in his power to inform Amicus and the public, that, in consequence of the laudable endeavours of a lady to whom it happened to be known, every prudent step (besides other measures connected with
this important object) has been taken of late to let that gentleman's Roxburghshire farm upon a lease to the best advantage, for the benevolent purpose appointed by the donor; and there can be no doubt that his tenement in this city has experienced the same attention, so that matters are now in a proper train for realizing a considerable sum, to be applied as directed by this benefactor of the poor of the capital.
Before concluding, I wish to say a single word in defence of the clergy of Edinburgh, to whose superintendence, it would appear, from Amicus's paper, Mr Thomson had wished the distribution of his charity to be submitted. The truth is, that, by the death of the donor himself, of his man of business, and of some of the trustees named in his deed of settlement, his highly meritorious intentions have been altogether overlooked for a long period, and, indeed, it is believed the bequest was almost wholly unknown, until the circumstance attending the discovery of it already alluded to, so that, in fact, neither the ministers nor the magistrates are to blame in their supposed neglect to carry Mr Thomson's views into effect; for it is well known, that there are many active individuals in both of these bodies who would have gladly lent their helping hand in the proper application of a fund for the purchase of oatmeal, to be sold at a reduced rate to hundreds of poor families in the city who stood in need of it, at different periods since the testator's death, in which the price of this necessary article had a risen to a much greater height than, it is believed, was ever contemplated in his days; and it is not doubted that these gentlemen will now give all the assistance in their power to the hands into which the management of this patriotic legacy has at last happily, but unexpectedly, fallen.
Your inserting the above hints in your well-conducted Miscellany will much oblige, Sir, your most obedient Z. servant,
ON THE LIFE AND WRITINGS OF JAMES
(Continued from page 40.)
In an age when men, eminently endowed, spend their lives in the most minute researches into inanimate na
ture,-when they traverse unknown continents to discover a new plant or animal, and with a zeal that success alone can satisfy, devote years to the analysis of a gas, and with a mathematical exactness describe the fracture of a stone, or the angles of a crystal, -we trust we shall be excused if we enter at some length into the literary history of a man who has attained to great intellectual eminence, in a way so extraordinary as to be, perhaps, without a parallel in the annals of genius, full, as they have often been, of deviations from the common current of events. Terence, whose comedies are so justly celebrated for the delicacy of their wit, and the beauty and the purity of their style, was an African slave; but among the Romans, these slaves who displayed any superiority of talent, were trained to literature; and, in the family of an indulgent master, who gave him his freedom on account of his genius, he enjoyed all the means of intellectual cultivation which Rome then afforded, and mingled on terms of easy intimacy with the best society of that renowned city. The men who most nearly resemble Hogg in their early history, are Bloomfield, and Ramsay, and Burns. The circumstances of Bloomfield were certainly not the most favourable for the growth of genius; yet we happen to know that there exist at this moment, in many of the workshops of this end of the island, a thirst for knowledge, and an acquaintance with the lighter branches of science, and the popular literature of the day, which is, in many instances, read with a feeling of its beauties, and criticised with a correctness and discrimination of taste, which those who have not had an opportunity of observing the fact, could not easily imagine. He, notwithstanding, overcame great difficulties by the native vigour of genius, and has certainly looked on nature with the eye of a poet, and has sometimes painted such of her forms, as fell under his observation, with considerable felicity. On the first appearance of the Farmer's Boy, an attempt was made, rather injudiciously, we think, to exalt him to the rank of Burns; yet not even the Colossal shoulders of Capel Loft have been able to sustain him at that elevation, and he has long ago sunk to his own level, in a region very far beneath
the Scottish poet, but greatly above his self-important patron. Allan Ramsay, the author of the finest pastoral of any age or country, was bred a hairdresser, and for sometime practised that ignoble employment, yet he lived in a literary city, and the stores of knowledge with which it abounded were open to him; and we know that Burns, so far from being illiterate, had acquired greatly more knowledge at twenty years of age than many of the young men who issue from our universities at the same period. He could not read the Greek and Latin authors in the original, but he knew much of what they contained through the medium of translations, and no man could better estimate their beauties; and he was most intimately acquainted with a number of the more elegant English authors. Hogg was placed at a greater distance from the common avenues to knowledge than any literary man with whose history we are acquainted; and, indeed, calculating from the usual chances, they seemed to be shut against him for ever, even when he had arrived at manhood; for he could then read with difficulty, and could not write at all; and at an age when Terence had delighted Rome by the representation of the Andria, and Burns had composed his Cottar's Saturday Night, he was following his flocks among the mountains, equally ignorant of letters and the ways of the world; but he had genius within him, and the fairest page of the volume of nature lay open before him, and they were to him all in all.
We shall now resume the consideration of the Mountain Bard, which we were obliged to leave unfinished in our last Number from want of room. If this volume really be as meritorious a production as we then endeavoured to represent it, it may be asked why it had so little success on its first appearance? To this failure several causes contributed, not in the least connected with its merits; but the chief of these was the number of poets of the lower orders, who, encouraged by the success of Burns, swarmed in almost every village and parish of Scotland. Among this class the mania of poetry seemed to have become an epidemic, that required a salutary check. Some people confounded the Etterick Shepherd with them, and gave themselves
little trouble about the justice or injustice of the sentence; others, not less inconsiderate, compared the Mountain Bard with the first productions of Burns, with whom to attempt and to succeed were the same thing, and because it was unequal to them, they rashly concluded that its author possessed no genius.
It is not our intention at present to institute a comparison between two men, who seem to us to be dissimilar in all respects but originality of genius. For such a parallel a more proper opportunity will occur in the progress of this investigation; we shall only say now that Burns, besides the amazing superiority of execution, has been more fortunate in the choice of his subjects than the self-taught shepherd in these, his earlier productions. His poems generally describe manners, with which the world are more familiar than the legends of the Mountain Bard; and all saw the truth and the beauty of the picture, and received the work with partiality and favour, arising from the circumstances of the man, as well as from its extraordinary merit. We think, however, that each has chosen such subjects as his situation suggested, and it is curious that nature should have conferred on each the qualities of mind most suitable for perfecting his own species of poetry: On Burns, an eloquent pathos, that finds the nearest way to the heart, and never fails of its effect there;-on Hogg, a fancy that loves to hold its moon◄ light revels among the fays of a haunted glen; and as we think we may venture to predict, that Hogg will never equal the Cottar's Saturday Night in the same walk of genius, so we suspect that Burns could not have produced any thing similar to Kilmeny.
In forming to ourselves a fair estimate of Mr Hogg's talent in the composition of these poems, we ought to remember that they are the works of an unlettered shepherd, produced while he was tending his flocks, when his reading was extremely limited; for, though he could not have been placed in a more favourable situation for receiving poetical impressions, and storing up poetical ideas, yet, as language is the instrument by which these are communicated to others,—in order to succeed in poetry, a man must understand the use and the handling
of that instrument. But it is already more than time to adduce some specimens from the work itself in proof of what we have said of it. In Sir David Græme, the first poem in the volume, we discover in the following stanza the rudiments of that talent for the description of mountain scenery by which the author has since so greatly distinguished himself.
"The sun had drank frae Keilder fells
His beverage o' the morning dew; The wild-flowers slumbered in the dells, The heather hung its bells o' blue."
In the ballad of Gilmanscleuch, which we think the best in the volume, the story is rapidly and interestingly told, and it contains some vigorous stanzas. It reminds us of the old and popular ballad of Chevy Chase, exhibiting much of the same distinctness of painting, and simplicity, and occasionally even elegance of language; and on it we are ready to rest his claims to poetry at that period.
"Whair ha'e ye laid the goud, Peggye,
Ye drest in fine array;
O ha'e ye sent it to a friend?
Or gi'en it to a false leman,
And never man, without your ken,
Came shivering to the door;
His hair was like the thistle doune,
His cheeks were furred wi' tyme,
Whilk better days had seen;
Gilmanscleuch's description of his sister displays the same power of bringing living images before the mind. But our limits oblige us to be sparing in quotations.
The combat between Adam o' Gilmanscleuch and Jock o' Harden, though unequal to the passage already quoted, is a piece of good paint
"O turn thee, turn thee, traytor strong;' Cried Adam bitterlie;
'Nae haughtye Scott, of Harden's kin,
Sal proudlye scowl on me.'
He sprang frae aff his coal-black steed,
Then threw his bonnet aff his head,
And drew his deidlye brande.
Wi' swords of mettyl kene,
And lang they foucht, and sair they
For braiver there war nane ;
Though Adam was baith stark and gude,
His nees plett lyke the wande." p. 42.
tor is full of a simple and affecting pathos. In our language there exists not a finer effusion of tenderness and affection to that faithful and devoted creature. Fully to enter into the spirit of this poem, we must not think of the pampered puppy of the drawing-room, but of the shepherd's dog himself, who is often his master's only companion from sun-rise to sunset, and, in a service essential to him, displays a zeal and fidelity that neither fatigue, nor cold, nor hunger, can diminish, and a warmth and constancy of attachment, that deservedly raise him to a place in his friendship. “Come, my auld, towzy, trusty friend: What gars ye look sae douth an' wae? D'ye think my favour's at an end,
Because thy head is turnin gray? Although thy feet begin to fail,
Their best were spent in serving me; An' can I grudge thy wee bit meal, Some comfort in thy age to gi'e? For mony a day, frae sun to sun,
We've toil'd an' helpit ane anither; An' mony a thousand mile thou'st run, To keep my thraward flocks thegither. Ah, me! of fashion, health, an' pride, The world has read me sic a lecture! But yet it's a' in part repaid
By thee, my faithful, grateful Hector! O'er past imprudence, oft alane
I've shed the saut an' silent tear;
Then, sharing ay my grief an' pain,
An' they've been neither fine nor few,