페이지 이미지

enjoy it. I have mentioned above, his remarkable memory for anecdotes, and his happy manner of relating them; those little narratives became naturally the chief materials of his conversation, and the openness and warmth of his temper never kept back his own share in the occurrences he was relating. In truth, a man never actually forgets himself in recounting such anecdotes ; it is the reserve of politeness only that makes him forbear talking in the first person ; and reserve was a quality which, of all men, Mr Home possessed the least. This style of conversation is, however, very unpopular, except when sparingly introduced: Its hearers, who have not participated in such scenes or adventures, feel the details of them a sort of foreign language, by which they are cut off from a share in the conversation. Proud men feel resentment, humble ones an awkwardness, in being mere auditors on such occasions, and are apt to impute altogether to vanity or conceit, what the speaker is often in truth telling for their entertainment.

On this ground, there was a most intimate friend of our author's, who might have been a pattern for his imitation. I never knew a man of such pleasing talents for conversation as Dr Robertson: He spoke, as became him, a good deal; but there was nothing assuming or authoritative either in the manner or the matter of his discourse. He took every opportunity of calling on his hearers for their share of the dialogue,—of asking their opinion or information on the subject of it, and introduced such topics as gave opportunities for his asking such information or opinions. I had often occasion to be with him along with strangers at their first introduction, not unfrequently to introduce them myself. When we left his house, they always expressed their admiration of his general knowledge, as well as of his politeness. The Doctor's general knowledge enabled him to transport himself, as it were, into the country of the stranger; and to speak of that country with the deference of an inquirer—a manner which is always flattering to the person we address, because it seems to call for the favour of his information.

The agreeableness of Mr Home's manners and conversation, as much as the notice of Lord Bute, introduced him into a society in London of the most respectable and pleasing kind. Lord Loughborough, (then Mr Wedderburn,) his brother-inlaw, Sir Harry Erskine, Mr Robert Adams, Mr Garrick, Mr Douglas, afterwards Bishop of Salisbury, Sir Gilbert Elliot, Mr Ross Mackie, Drs Armstrong, Smollett, Pitcaira, and William Hunter, were his daily companions. They formed a club at the British Coffee-house, of which the then mistress was a woman of uncommon talents, and the most agreeable conversation, Mrs Anderson, sister of Dr Douglas.

Garrick, at whose theatre Douglas was now occasionally performed, and always with the greatest applause, brought out Mr Home's tragedy of Agis, (the second in order of representation, though the first in order of composition,) in 1758, and played himself Lysander to Mrs Gibber's Euanthe. I have in my possession an original note of Garrick's, written on the morning after the first representation, which is conceived in the following terms :—

"My Dear Friend, "Joy, joy, joy to you!

"My anxiety yesterday gave me a small touch of the gravel,* which, with a purging, weakened me prodigiously; but our success has stopped the one and cured the other. I am very happy, because I think you are so. The Ode, as I foretold, is certainly too long. There were other little mistakes, but all shall be set right to-morrow. Ever most affectionately,

"My Genius,

"D. Garrick. "Pray, let me see you at twelve to-morrow."

* A complaint which he laboured under all his life, which was often occasioned by the violent exertions of his acting, and of which he died at last.

In London, or at Lord Bute's house, at Luton, in Bedfordshire, Mr Home passed much of his time from this period, for several years. He was in Scotland, however, when his Siege of Aquileia was brought out at Drury-Lane, in 1760, Garrick playing, as usual, the principal part, Emilius, to Mrs Gibber's Cornelia. I remember to have heard from Dr Robertson, that in a letter written by Garrick to Mr Home, after reading this tragedy to Mrs Garrick, and a young lady then living with them, of whose taste he had a high opinion, he expressed the greatest admiration of the play, and predicted the most brilliant success in its representation. But his prediction was not fulfilled; notwithstanding all his skill in scenic effect, he had not been aware of one objection to the conduct of this drama, namely, that most, or indeed almost all the incidents, are told to, not witnessed by, the spectators, who in England, beyond any other country, are swayed by the Horatian maxim, and feel very imperfectly those incidents which are not " oculis sub. jectafidelibus." It rather languished, therefore, in the representation, though supported by such admirable acting, and did not run so many nights as the manager confidently expected.

In this year, 1760, he published those three tragedies of Douglas, Agis, and the Siege of Aquileia, in one volume, dedicated to the Prince of Wales, who in that very year having succeeded to the crown, showed an immediate additional mark of favour to Mr Home, by settling on him a pension of L.300 per annum, from his privy purse.

In 1763, he had obtained, as I have mentioned above, the office of Conservator of Scots Privileges at Campvere. The salary of this office was L.300 per annum, which, with his former pension from the crown, gave him independence, to him it might be called wealth. This wealth he used as he did every thing else; he made it an offering to friendship. "His house," said Dr Adam Ferguson, "was always as full of his friends as it could hold, fuller than, in modern manners, it could be made to hold." David Hume told Mr Ferguson he should lecture his friend on his want of attention to money-matters. "I am afraid I should do so with little effect," answered Dr Ferguson ; " and, to tell you the truth, I am not sure if I don't like him the better for this foible."

One instance of such inattention Mr Ferguson relates in a letter to me, received but a few days ago. "I happened once to have occasion for L.200. John Home told me he had L.200 mere than he had immediate use for, and he lent it me upon my note of hand. Soon after, having received some money, I remitted to my 'agent at London this L.200, with the interest due upon it, with directions to pay it to Mr Home, in discharge of my debt. My agent paid him the money, and begged

« 이전계속 »