« 이전계속 »
LIFE OF MR JOHN HOME.*
The biography of literary men is generally little more than a chronological account of their works, with a few private anecdotes, which, except being connected with, and, as it were, ennobled by their works, it could not be an object to record. But with that connection in their favour, the else unvalued circumstances of their lives acquire an interest with the reader proportionate to that which the writings of the author have excited; and we are anxious to know every little occurrence which befel him who was giving, at the period when these occurrences took place, the product of his mind to the public. We are anxious to know how the world treated the man who was labouring for its instruction or amusement, as well as the effect which his private circumstances had on his literary productions, or the complexion, as one may term it, which those productions borrowed from the incidents of his life.
* Read at the Royal Society, on Monday, 22d June 1812. VOL. I. A
The above considerations afford an apology for the narratives of the comparatively unimportant occupations which the world peruses with so much attention and interest; they help that personification of an author which the reader of his work so naturally indulges; and if they sometimes put that reader right in his estimate of the influence of genius or feeling upon conduct, they serve at the same time as a moral lesson on the subject, and mark, as it were, one of the unexpected shores or islands, sometimes it may be rocks or quicksands, on the chart of life.
The subject of the Memoir which I now take the liberty of laying before the Society, is somewhat more entitled to notice than the common biography of mere literary men, from the peculiar circumstances in which the person of whom it treats was placed; and more particularly as he began to write in the dawn of that period of literary eminence which our countrymen have so much illustrated, and was extremely intimate with most of those men to whom Scotland owes so much of its reputation in the world of letters.
It is on this ground chiefly that I venture to submit it to the Society, not as a thing of any value in itself, but as borrowing some estimation from the era of which it speaks, and the names which that era introduces to their notice. It is only with reference to this sort of chronicle that it pretends to claim your attention, and that he who reads it could now pretend to make it worthy of your hearing. That waning age, and often interrupted health, which have so long delayed its production, even in a very imperfect state, have blunted, he is well aware, those powers which the world were kindly disposed to estimate, more from their application and tendency than from their intrinsic worth.
The first favoured lot of age is to retain its powers undecayed ; the next is his who is sensible of their decay, and diffident of their exertions. The Society will pardon this little digression of egotism in one who will never probably be heard by it again in the first person, and who scarce presumes to expect that any partial friends will deem him of importance enough to recal him to its remembrance in the third.
John Home, of whose life I am to read the following sketch, was born at Leith, on the 22d day of September, 1722, O. S. He was the son of Mr Alexander Home, town-clerk of Leith, and Mrs Christian Hay, daughter of Mr John Hay, writer in Edinburgh, of a respectable family in the north of Scotland. His father was a son of Mr Home of Flass, in the county of Berwick, a lineal descendant of Sir James Home of Cowdenknows, ancestor of the present Earl of Home.
Mr Home (according to the narrative, for which I am indebted to an intimate friend and relation of his) was educated at the Grammar School of Leith, and the University of Edinburgh. In both these seminaries he prosecuted his studies with remarkable diligence and success. While he attended the University, his talents, his progress in literature, and his peculiarly agreeable manners, soon excited the attention, and procured him in no small degree the favour, both of the professors and of his fellow students. At this early period of life he entered into strict bonds of friendship with the late Drs Robertson, Blair, Drysdale, and several others, of whom I shall, in a subsequent part of this Memoir, give a more particular account.
As he was educated with a view to obtain a situation as a minister of the Church of Scotland, his studies were, of course, for some time principally calculated to qualify him for the performance of the several duties incumbent on a clergyman. His character as a zealous and accomplished student, became in a few years very conspicuous. After passing, with much approbation, through the various trials, which candidates for acquiring the station of probationers for the ministry are required to undergo, he was licensed to preach the gospel by the Presbytery of Edinburgh on the 4th day of April 1745, O. S.
His sincere attachment to the ecclesiastical and civil constitution of his country was, with his usual warmth and openness of mind, displayed in some of his early appearances in the pulpit.
The progress of his professional studies and oc- . cupations was interrupted by the breaking out of the Rebellion in 1745. This furnished an occasion for that military ardour, that chivalrous spirit, which his natural temperament and favourite course of reading had produced and fostered. He took the side of whiggism, as whiggism was then understood, and freedom, as British freedom was then conceived, and became a volunteer in a loyal corps, which was formed in Edinburgh with the original purpose of defending that city from the attack of the rebels, of which he has given a full account in his History of that Rebellion. In this corps he served at the unfortunate battle of Falkirk, and, after the defeat, was taken prisoner along with some others of his fellow volunteers, and committed to the Castle of Doune in Perthshire, from which the party contrived to escape by cutting their bed-clothes into ropes, and letting themselves down from the window of the room in which they were confined. One of their number (Mr Bar