« ForrigeFortsæt »
THOSE who cannot take pleasure in the contemplation of a character from its intrinsic purity and gentleness, will find little that is interesting in the life of the author of THE SABBATH. It is a story which has much to whisper to the heart, but which never once astounds the mind,-in which a character of great moral worth, adorned with the captivations of genius, is all in all: the incidents are but a naked chronicle of the every-day events of many a good man's life. But genius is ever true to itself. The memoir of " one John Milton, an old blind schoolmaster,” or of William Cowper, a shy nervous man, driven into obscurity from mere incapacity for the most ordinary business of life, has been perused with more fervent admiration, and with infinitely more affectionate interest, than were ever accorded to the narrative of Marlborough's career, or Napoleon's splendid achievements.
" The Sabbath” is peculiarly one of those productions which invite to closer intimacy with the author. It reveals so much of a mind of excellence, and a heart glowing with kindness, that no one ever perused it with any tolerable perception of its beau. ties, without longing to hear all that can be told of the personal character, domestic habits, and private pursuits of the writer ; and this, because in every varied image and sentiment it gives the promise of delight and advantage in the nearer contemplation of an intellect so gifted, united to a nature so pure and affectionate.
James Grahame was born in Glasgow, on the 22d of April 1765. His father was a writer (attorney) in that city, in respectable business, possessed of some attainments in literature, and a worthy and benevolent man. His mother was of kindred excellence; and her early lessons of piety sunk deeply into the susceptible mind of her son.
There was a numerous family; and it was one of affection and domestic happiness.
Grahame received that education which appears best fitted to train a human being for happiness and virtue in this life, and for immortality in a better. He attended the excellent schools and public classes of his native city, and lived under his father's roof, in the bosom of his own amiable family, where every virtuous affection was fostered, every evil propensity repressed, by pure example and tender vigilance. Such a mode of education is not more desirable in the result than delightful in the
progress; and there can be no doubt that Grahame's early years were very happily spent. He makes a very pleasing allusion to his own school-boy days in the BIRDS OF SCOTLAND, on first finding a yellow-hammer's nest :
" I wandered blithe, Down to thy side, sweet CART, where 'cross the
stream A range of stones, below a shallow ford, Stood in the place of the now spanning arch; Up from that ford a little bank there was, With alder-copse and willow overgrown, Now worn away by mining winter floods; There, at a bramble root, sunk in the grass, The hidden prize, of withered field-straws formed, Well lined with many a coil of hair and moss, And in it laid five red-veined spheres, I found. The Syracusan's voice did not exclaim The grand Heureka, with more rapturous joy Than at that moment fluttered round my heart.”
In these solitary rambles of the boy the tastes of the man were laid.
The partiality of contemporary friendship, or the natural desire to find something marking in the early years of every man of distinguished talent, has attributed eminence in youthful scholarship to Grahame, though it is not evident that his classical attainments were ever more than respectable. A far less equivocal symptom of his youthful character, was the tender attachment with which his relatives regarded him. The softness and warmth of his fraternal feelings towards his elder sister, whose mind was cast in the same fine and delicate mould as his own, are very sweetly revealed in his affect
ing verses, written on revisiting Melrose Abbey after her death. This lady enjoyed the affectionate admiration of many, whom to please is true fame. She possessed the captivating gift of a beautiful voice ; and a youthful poet, who has since risen to high distinction, used, it is said, to call her “ the Angel of Music.” Her death was lamented in an elegy by Miss Cullen, the author of “ Home.”
In choosing the profession of law, Grahame sacrificed his own wishes to those of his father ; for, even at this early period of life, his inclination was for that sacred calling which he ultimately adopted, and to which, if such a thing can ever be affirined, he had a marked vocation. It is the natural wish of every father to see at least one of his sons rise to eminence in the profession which he himself has followed with honour and profit; and, though in nine cases out of ten a sensible parent is more capable of directing the choice of his son, than the youth can be of choosing for himself, this was one of the instances in which the father may act on an erroneous judgment. A very nice judgment is indeed requisite to discriminate between the transient vagaries of a boy's fancy, and the decided tendency of a marked character though discovered in the earliest youth. It appears to have been the capital error and misfortune of the poet's life, that he was forced on this ungenial pursuit.
Irksome years were wasted in it—the best years of life and it was fina abandoned. In compliance, however, with his father's desire, he went to Edinburgh, and was