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The following brief notices, of three lamented and honoured Friends, certainly were set
contributed to the Edinburgh Review: But, as I am not likely ever to appear again as a
author, I have been tempted to include them in this publication-chiefly, I fear, from a fond
desire, to associate my humble name with those of persons so amiable and distinguished :-
But partly also, froin an opinion, which has been frequently confirmed to me by those most
competent to judge--that, imperfect as these sketches are, they give a truer and more graphia
view of the manners, dispositions, and personal characters of the eminent individuals com
cerned—than is yet to be found or now likely to be furnished, from any other quarter.

THE HONOURABLE HENRY ERSKINE.

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DIED, at his seat of Ammondell, Linlith- no successor. That part of eloquence is not
gowshire, on the 8th instant, in the seventy. mute—that honour in abeyance.
first year of his age, the Honourable Henry As a politician, he was eminently distin
Erskine, second son of the late Henry David, guished for the two great virtues of inflexible
Earl of Buchan.

steadiness to his principles, and invariable
Mr. Erskine was called to the Scottish Bar, gentleness and urbanity in his manner of as
of which he was long the brightest ornament, serting them. Such indeed was the habitual
in the year 1768, and was for several years sweetness of his temper, and the fascination
Dean of the Faculty of Advocates: He was of his manners, that, though placed by his
twice appointed Lord Advocate --in 1782 and rank and talents in the obnoxious station of a
in 1806, under the Rockingham and the Gren- Leader of opposition, at a period when politie
ville administrations. During the years 1806 cal animosities were carried to a lamentable
and 1807 he sat in Parliament for the Dunbar height, no individual, it is believed, was erer
ard Dumfries district of boroughs.

known to speak or to think of him with any
In his long and splendid career at the bar, thing approaching 10 personal hostility. I
Mr. Erskine was distinguished not only by the return, it may be said, with equal correctness
peculiar brilliancy of his wit, and the grace- that, though baffled in some of his pursuits
fulness, ease, and vivacity of his eloquence, and not quite handsomely disappointed of
but by the still rarer power of keeping those some of the honours to which his claim was
seducing qualities in perfect subordination to universally admitted, he never allowed the
his judgment. By their assistance he could slightest shade of discontent to rest upon his
not only make the most repulsive subject mind, nor

the least drop of bitterness io mia-
agreeable, but the most abstruse easy and gle with his blood. He was so uilerly inca-
intelligible. In his profession, indeed, all his pable of rancour, that even the rancorous felt
wit was argument; and each of his delightful that he ought not to be made its victim.
illustrations a material step in his reasoning: He possessed, in an eminent degree, that
To himself, indeed, it seemed always as if deep sense of revealed religion, and that zeal-
they were recommended rather for their use ous attachment to the Presbyterian establish-
than their beauty; and unquestionably they ment, which had long been hereditary in his
often enabled him to state a fine argument, or family. His habits were always strictly moral
a nice distinction, not only in a more striking and temperate, and in the latter part of his
and pleasing way, but actually with greater life even abstémious. Though the life and
precision than could have been attained by omament of every society into which he en-
ihe severer forms of reasoning

tered, he was always most happy and most
In this extraordinary talent, as well as in the delightful at home; where the buoyancy of
charming facility of his eloquence, and the his spirit and the kindness of his heart found
constant radiance of good humour and gaiety all that they required of exercise or enjoy.
which encircled his manner of debate, he had ment; and though without taste for expensivo
no rival in his own times, and as yet has had pleasures in his own person, he was ever most

indulgent and munificent to his children, and
From the "Endinburgh Courant" Nowspaper a liberal benefactor to all who depended on his
of the 16th of October, 1817.

bounty.

He finally retired from the exercise of that|tion; but retained unimpaired, till within a
profession, the highest honours of which he day or two of his death, not only all his intel-
had at least deserved, about the year 1812, lectual activity and social affections, but, when
and spent the remainder of his days in do not under the immediate athliction of a painful
mestic retirement, at that beautiful villa which and incurable disease, all that gaiety of spirit,
had been formed by his own taste, and in the and all that playful and kindly sympathy with
improsement and adornment of which he innocent enjoyment, which made him ihe idol
found his latest occupation. Passing thus at of the young, and the object of cordial attach-
once from all the bustle and excitement of a ment and unenvying admiration to his friends
public life to a scene of comparative inactivity, of all ages.
he never felt one moment of ennui or dejeo-

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Or Mr. Playfair's scientific attainments - methods of inquiry, and to imbue their minds
of his proficiency in those studies to which he from the very commencement of the study,
was peculiarly devoted, we are but slenderly with that fine relish for the truths it disclosed,
qualified to judge : But, we believe we hazard and that high sense of the majesty with which
nothing in saying that he was one of the most they were invested, that predominated in his
learned Mathematicians of his age, and among own bosom. While he left nothing unexo
the first, if not the very first, who introduced plained or unreduced to its proper place in the
the beautiful discoveries of the later conti- system, he took care that they should never
nental geometers to the knowledge of his be perplexed by petty difficulties, or bewil-
countrymen; and gave their just value and dered in useless details; and formed them
true place, in the scheme of European know. betimes to those clear, masculine, and direct
ledge, to those important improvements by methods of investigation, by which, with the
which the whole aspect of the abstract sciences least labour, the greatesi advances might be
has been renovated since the days of our il- accomplished.
lustrious Newton. If he did not signalise Mr. Playfair, however, was not merely a
himself by any brilliant or original invention, teacher; and has fortunately left behind him
ae must, at least, be allowed to have been a a variety of works, from which other genera-
most generous and intelligent judge of the rions may be enabled to judge of some of those
achievements of others; as well as the most qualifications which so powerfully recom-
eloquent expounder of that great and magnifi- mended and endeared him to his contempo-
cent system of knowledge which has been raries. It is, perhaps, to be regretted that so
gradually evolved by the successive labours much of his time, and so large a proportion of
of so many gifted individuals. He possessed, his publications, should have been devoted to
indeed, in the highest degree, all the charac- the subjects of ihe Indian Astronomy, and the
teristics both of a fine and a powerful under- Huttonian Theory of the Earth: And though
standing, at once penetrating and vigilant, it is impossible to think too highly of the in-
but more distinguished, perhaps, for the cau- genuity, the vigour, and the eloquence of those
tion and sureness of its march, than for the publications, we are of opinion that a juster
brilliancy or rapidity of its movements,--and estimate of his talent, and a truer picture of
guided and adorned through all its progress, his genius and understanding, is to be found
by the most genuine enthusiasm for all that in his other writings;—in the papers, both bio-
is grand, and the justest taste for all that is graphical and scientific, with which he has
beautiful in the Truth or the Intellectual Ener. enriched the Transactions of our Royal Socie-
gy with which he was habitually conversant. ty; his account of Laplace, and other articles

To what account these rare qualities might which he contributed to the Edinburgh Re-
have been turned, and what more brilliant or view,-the Outlines of his Lectures on Natu-
lasting fruits they might have produced, if his ral Philosophy, -and above all, his Introduc-
whole life had been dedicated to the solitary tory Discourse to the Supplement 10 the
cultivation of science, it is not for us to con- Encyclopædia Brittannica, with the final cor-
jecture; but it cannot be doubted that they rection of which he was occupied up to the
added incalculably to his eminence and utility last moments that the progress of his disease
as a Teacher; both by enabling him to direct allowed him to dedicate to any intellectual
his pupils to the most simple and luminous exertion.

With reference to these works, we do not
Originally printed in an Edinburgh newspaper

think we are influenced by any national, or
of August

, 1819. A few introductory sentences are other partiality, when we say that he was
now omitted.

certainly one of the best writers of his age

a

a

and even that we do not now recollect any and the singular thing in his case was, not
one of his contemporaries who was so great á only that he left this most material part of his
master of composition. There is a certain work to be performed after the whole outline
mellowness and richness about his style, had been finished, but that he could proceed
which adorns, without disguising the weight with it to an indefinite extent, and enrich and
and nervousness which is its other great char- improve as long as he thoughi fit, without any
acteristic,-a sedate gracefulness and manly risk either of destroying the proportions of
simplicity in the more level passages, and a that outline, or injuring the harmony and unity
mild majesty and considerate enthusiasm of the original design. He was perfectly
where he rises above them, of which we aware, too, of the possession of this extraor-
scarcely know where to find any other exam- dinary power; and it was partly, we presume,
ple. There is great equability, too, and sus- in consequence of it that he was not only at
tained force in every part of his writings. He all times ready to go on with any work in
never exhausts himself in flashes and epi- which he was engaged, without waiting for
grams, nor languishes into tameness or in- favourable moments or hours of greater alac-
sipidity: At first sight you would say that rity, but that he never felt any of those doubts
plainness and good sense were the predomi- and misgivings as to his being able to get cre-
nating qualities; but by and bye, this sim- ditably through with his undertaking, to which
plicity is enriched with the delicate and vivid we believe most anthors are occasionally liable.
colours of a fine imagination,—the free and As he never wrote upon any subject of which
forcible touches of a most powerful intellect, he was not perfectly master, he was secure
-and the lights and shades of an unerring and against all blunders in the substance of what
harmonising taste. In comparing it with the he had to say; and felt quite assuredl, that if
styles of his most celebrated contemporaries, he was only allowed time enough, he should
we would say that it was more purely and finally come to say it in the very best way of
peculiarly a written style,-and, therefore, re- which he was capable. He had no anxiety,
jected those ornaments that more properly therefore, either in undertaking or proceeding
belong to oratory. It had no impetuosity, with his tasks; and intermitted and resumed
hurry, or vehemence, -

-no bursts or sudden them at his convenience, with the comfortable
turns or abruptions, like that of Burke; and certainty, that all the time he bestowed on
though eminently smooth and melodious, it them was turned to account, and that what
was not modulated to an uniform system of was left imperfect at one sitting might be
solemn declamation, like that of Johnson, nor finished with equal ease and advantage at
spread out in the richer and more voluminous another. Being thus perfectly sure both of
elocution of Stewart; nor, still less, broken his end and his means, he experienced, in the
into that patchwork of scholastic pedantry and course of his compositions, none of that little
conversational smartness which has found its fever of the spirits with which that operation
admirers in Gibbon. It is a style, in short, of is so apt to be accompanied. He had no
great freedom, force, and beauty; but the de. capricious visitings of fancy, which it was
Jiberate style of a man of thought and of necessary to fix on the spot or to lose for ever,
learning; and neither that of a wit throwing -no casual inspirations to invoke and to wait
out his extempores with an affectation of care for,—no transitory and evanescent lights to
less grace,-nor of a rhetorician thinking more catch before they faded. All that was in his
of his manner than his matter, and deter- mind was subject to his control, and amena-
mined to be admired for his expression, what. ble to his call, though it might not obey at the
ever may be fate of his sentiments.

moment; and while his taste was so sure,
His habits of composition were not perhaps that he was in no danger of over-working any
exactly what might have been expected from thing that he had designed, all his thoughts
their results. He wrote rather slowly-and and sentiments had thai unity and congruity,
his first sketches were often very slight and that they fell almost spontaneously into har.
imperfect, —like the rude chalking for a mas- mony and order; and the last added, incor-
terły picture. His chief effort and greatest porated, and assimilated with the first

, as if
pleasure was in their revisal and correction; they had sprung simultaneously from the same
and there were no limits to the improvement happy conception.
which resulted from this application. It was But we need dwell no longer on qualities
not the style merely, nor indeed chiefly, that that may be gathered hereafter from the works
gained by it: The whole reasoning, and sen- he has left behind him. They who lived with
timent, and illustration, were enlarged and him mourn the most for those which will be
new modelled in the course of it; and a naked traced in no such memorial! And prize far
outline became gradually informed with life, above those talents which gained him his high
colour, and expression. It was not at all like name in philosophy, that Personal Character
the common finishing and polishing to which which endeared him to his friends, and shed
careful authors generally subject the first a grace and a dignity over all the society in
draughts of their compositions, nor even which he moved. The same admirable taste
like the fastidious and tentative alterations which is conspicuous in his writings, or rather
with which some more anxious writers assay the higher principles from which that taste
their choicer passages. It was, in fact, the was but an emanation, spread a similar charm
great filling in of the picture,-the working up over his whole life and conversation; and gave
of the figured weft, on the naked and meagre to the most learned Philosopher of his day
woof that had been stretched to receive it; l the manners and deportment of the most per

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lect Gentleman. Nor was this in him the I never failed to manifest the most open scorn
result merely of good sense and good temper, and detestation. Independent, in short, of his
assisted by an early familiarity with good high attainments, Mr. Playfair was one of the
company, and a consequent knowledge of his most amiable and estimable of men: Delight-
own place and that of all around him. His ful in his manners, inflexible in his principles,
good breeding was of a higher descent; and and generous in his affections, he had all thai
his powers of pleasing rested on something could charm in society or attach in private;
better than mere companionable qualities. — and while his friends enjoyed the free and
With the greatest kindness and generosity of unstudied conversation of an easy and intel-
nature, he united the most manly firmness, ligent associate, they had at all times the
and the highest principles of honour, -and proud and inward assurance that he was a
the most cheerful and social dispositions, with Being upon whose perfect honour and gene-
the gentlest and steadiest affections. rosity they might rely with the most implicit

Towards Women he had always the most confidence, in life and in death,—and of whom
chivalrous feelings of regard and attention, it was equally impossible, that, under any cir-
and was, beyond almost all men, acceptable cumstances, he should ever perform a mean,
and agreeable in their society,—though with a selfish, or a questionable action, as that his
out the least levity or pretension unbecoming body should cease to gravitate or his soul to
his age or condition : And such, indeed, was live!
the fascination of the perfect simplicity and If we do not greatly deceive ourselves, there
mildness of his manners, that the same tone is nothing here of exaggeration or partial feel-
and deportment seemed equally appropriate ing, and nothing with which an indifferent
in all societies, and enabled him to delight the and honest chronicler would not heartily con-
young and the gay with the same sort of con- cur. Nor is it altogether idle to have dwelt
versation which instructed the learned and so long on the personal character of this dis
the grave. There never, indeed, was a man tinguished individual: For we are ourselves
of learning and talent who appeared in society persuaded, that this personal character has
80 perfectly free from all sorts of pretension done almost as much for the cause of science
or notion of his own importance, or so little and philosophy among us, as the great talents
solicitous to distinguish himself, or so sincerely and attainments with which it was combined,
willing to give place to every one else. Even -and has contributed in a very eminent de
upon subjects which he had thoroughly studied, gree to give to the better society of this our
he was never in the least impatient to speak; city that tone of intelligence and liberality by
and spoke at all times without any tone of which it is so honourably distinguished. It is
authority; while, so far from wishing to set not a little advantageous to philosophy that it
off what he had to say by any brilliancy or is in fashion,—and it is still more advanta-
emphasis of expression, it seemed generally geous, perhaps, to the society which is led to
as if he had studied to disguise the weight confer on it this apparently trivial distinction.
and originality of his thoughts under the It is a great thing for the country at large,
plainest forms of speech and the most quiet for its happiness, its prosperity, and its re-
and indifferent manner: so that the profound- nown,—that the upper and influencing classes
est remarks and subtlest observations were of its population should be made familiar,
often dropped, not only without any solicitude even in their untasked and social hours, with
that their value should be observed, but with sound and liberal information, and be taught
out any apparent consciousness that they to know and respect those who have distin-
possessed any.

guished themselves for great intellectual at.
Though the most social of human beings, tainments. Nor is it, after all, a slight or
and the most disposed to encourage and sym- despicable reward for a man of genius, to be
pathise with the gaiety and even joviality of received with honour in the highest and most
others, his own spirits were in general rather elegant society around him, and to receive in
cheerful than gay, or at least never rose to his living person that homage and applause
any turbulence or tumult of merriment; and which is 100 often reserved for his memory:
while he would listen with the kindest indul. Now, those desirable ends can never be ef-
gence to the more extravagant sallies of his fectually accomplished, unless the manners
younger friends, and prompt them by the of our leading philosophers are agreeable,
heartiest approbation, his own satisfaction and their personal habits and dispositions en-
might generally be traced in a slow and tem- gaging and amiable. From the time of Hume
perate smile, gradually mantling over his and Robertson, we have been fortunate, in
benevolent and intelligent features, and light- Edinburgh, in possessing a succession of dis
ing up the countenance of the Sage with the tinguished 'men, who have kept up this salu-
expression of the mildest and most genuine tary connection between the learned and the
philanthropy. It was wonderful, indeed, con- fashionable world; but there never, perhaps
sidering the measure of his own intellect, and was any one who contributed so powerfully to
the rigid and undeviating propriety of his own confirm and extend it, and that in times when
conduct, how tolerant he was of the defects it was peculiarly difficult, as the lamented in
and errors of other men. He was ton indul- dividual of whom we are now speaking: And
gent, in truth, and favourable to his friends! they who have had most opportunity to ob
--and made a kind and liberal allowance for serve how superior the society of Edinburgh
the faults of all mankind—except only faults is to that of most other places of the same
of Baseness or of Cruelty, -against which he size, and how much of that superiority in

owing to the cordial combination of the two the importance of the service he has that
aristocracies, of rank and of letters,*-of both rendered to its inhabitants, and through tben,
of which it happens to be the chief pro- and by their example, to all the rest of the
vincial seat,—will be best able to judge of country,

* In addition to the two distinguished persons Dr. Adam Fergusson, Mr. John Home, Mr. Joha
mentioned in the text, (he first of whom was, no Robison, Mr. Dugald Stewart, Sir Janies Hall

,
doubl, before my time.) I can, from my own recol. Lord Meadowbank, Mr. Henry Mackenzie, Dz.
lection, and without referring to any who are still James Gregory, Rev. A. Alison, Dr. Thomas
living-give the names of the following residents in Brown, Lord Webb Seymour, Lord Woodhouse-
Edinburgh, who were equally acceptable in polite lee, and Sir Walter Scott;---without reckoning
society and eminent for literary or scientific aitain. Mr. Horner, the Rev. Sydney Smub, and Me
ments, and alike at home in good company and George Wilson, who were settled in Edinburgh
in learned convoca:ions :- Lord Hailes and Lord for several years, in the earlier part of the period
Monbodda, Dr. Joseph Black, Dr, Hugh Blair, 1 referred to,

NOTICE AND CHARACTER

07

JAMES WATT.*

MR. JAMES WATT, the great improver of the It was our improved Steam-engine, in short,
steam-engine, died on the 25th of August, that fought the battles of Europe, and exalted
1819, at his seat of Heathfield, near Birming. and sustained, through the late tremendous
ham, in the 84th year of his age.

contest, the political greatness of our land. I
This name fortunately needs no commemo- is the same great power which now enables
ration of ours; for he that bore it survived to us to pay the interest of our debt, and to
see it crowned with undisputed and unenvied maintain the arduous struggle in which we
honours; and many generations will probably are still engaged, (1819), with the skill and
pass away, before it shall have gathered "all capital of countries less oppressed with taxa.
its fame.' We have said that Mr. Watt was tion. But these are poor and narrow views
the great Improver of the steam-engine; but, of its importance. It has increased inde
in truth, as to all that is admirable in its finitely the mass of human comforts and en-
structure, or vast in its utility, he should joyments; and rendered cheap and accessi-
rather be described as its Inventor. It was ble, all over the world, the materials of wealth
by his inventions that its action was so regu- and prosperity. It has armed the feeble hand
lated, as to make it capable of being applied of man, in short, with a power to which no
to the finest and most delicate manufactures, limits can be assigned; completed the do-
and its power so increased, as to set weight minion of mind over the most refractory qua.
and solidity at defiance. By his admirable lities of matter; and laid a sure foundation
contrivance, it has become a thing stupendous for all those future miracles of mechanic
alike for its force and its flexibility,—for the power which are to aid and reward the la-
prodigious power which it can exert, and the bours of after generations. It is to the genius
ease, and precision, and ductility, with which of one man, too, that all this is mainly owing!
that power can be varied, distributed, and ap- And certainly no man ever bestowed such a
plied. The trunk of an elephant, that can gift on his kind. The blessing is not only
pick up a pin or rend an oak, is as nothing to universal, but unbounded; and ihe fabled in.
it. It can engrave a seal, and crush masses ventors of the plough and the loom, who were
of obdurate metal before it—draw out, with- Deified by the erring gratitude of their rode
out breaking, a thread as fine as gossamer, cotemporaries, conferred less importanı bene-
and lift a ship of war like a bauble in the air. fits on mankind than the inventor of our pre.
It can embroider muslin and forge anchors, sent steam-engine.
cut steel into ribands, and impel loaded ves- This will be the same of Watt with future
sels against the fury of the winds and waves. generations: And it is sufficient for his race

It would be difficult to estimate the value and his country. But to those to whom he
of the benefits which these inventions have more immediately belonged, who lived in his
conferred upon this country. There is no society and enjoyed his conversation, it is
branch of industry that has not been indebted not, perhaps, the character in which he will
to them; and, in all the most material, they be most frequently recalled-most deeply
have not only widened most magnificently lamented-or even most highly admired. In-
the field of its exertions, but multiplied a dependently of his great altainments in me
thousand-fold the amount of its productions. chanics, Mr. Wat was an extraordinary, and

in many respects a wonderful man. Perhaps
* First published in an Edinburgh newspaper no individual in his age possessed so much
* The Scotsman"), of the 4th September, 1819. and such varied and exaci information, -had

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