« PrécédentContinuer »
Robertson's occupations and habits, supersedes the necessity of attempting a formal delineation of his character. To the particulars, however, which have been incidentally mentioned in the course of this biographical sketch, it may not be unimportant to add, that the same sagacity and good sense which so eminently distinguished him as a Writer, guided his conduct in life, and rendered his counsels of inestimable value to his friends. He was not forward in offering advice; but when consulted, as he was very frequently, by his younger acquaintance, he entered into their concerns with the most lively interest, and seemed to have a pleasure and a pride in imparting to them all the lights of his experience and wisdom. Good sense was indeed the most prominent feature in his intellectual character; and it is unquestionably of all the qualities of the understanding, that which essentially constitutes superiority of mind : for, although we are sometimes apt to appropriate the appellation of genius to certain peculiarities in the intellectual habits, it is he only who distinguishes himself from the rest of mankind, by thinking better than they on the same subjects, who fairly brings his powers into comparison with others. This was in a remarkable degree the case with Dr Robertson. He was not eminent for metaphysical acuteness; nor did he easily enter into speculations involving mathematical or mechanical ideas; but, in those endowments which lay the foundation of successful conduct, and which fit a man to acquire an influence over others, he had no superior. Among those who have, like him, devoted the greater part of life to study, perhaps it would be difficult to find his equal.
His practical acquaintance with human nature was great ; and he possessed the soundest and most accurate notions of the characters of those with whom he was accustomed to associate. In that quick penetration, indeed, which reads the soul, and estimates the talents of others by a sort of intuition, he was surpassed by many; and I have often known him misled by first impressions : but where he had an opportunity of continuing his observations for a length of time, he seldom failed in forrning conclusions equally just, refined, and profound. In a general knowledge of the world, and of
of men, his superiority was striking and indisputable ; still more so, in my opinion, than in the judgments he formed of individuals. Nor is this surprising, when we consider the joint influence of his habits as an historian, and as a political leader.
Too much cannot be said of his moral qualities. Exemplary and amiable in the offices of private life, he exhibited in his public conduct, a rare union of political firmness with candour and moderation.—“ He enjoyed,” says Dr Erskine, “ the bounties of Providence without running into riot ; was “ temperate without austerity ; condescending and affable a without meanness; and in expence neither sordid nor pro
digal. He could feel an injury, and yet bridle his passion; was grave, not sullen; steady, not obstiáate; friendly, not “ officious; prudent and cautious, not timid.”—The praise is liberal ; and it is expressed with the cordial warmth of friendship; but it comes from one who had the best opportunity of knowing the truth, as he had enjoyed Dr Robertson's intimacy from his childhood, and was afterwards, for more than twenty years, his colleague in the same church; while his zealous attachment to another -system of ecclesiastical government, though it never impaired his affection for the companion of his youth, exempts him from any suspicion of undue partiality.
In point of stature Dr Robertson was rather above the middle size; and his form, though it did not convey the idea of much activity, announced vigour of body and a healthful constitution. His features were regular and manly ; and his eye spoke at once good sense and good humour. He appeared to greatest advantage in his complete clerical dress; and was more remarkable for gravity and dignity in discharging the functions of his public stations, than for ease or grace in private society. His portrait by Reynolds, painted about twenty years ago, is an admirable likeness : and fortunately, (for the colours are already much faded,) all its spirit is preserved in an excellent mezzo tinto. At the request of his colleagues in the University *, who were anxious to have
* Appendix, Note (P).
some memorial of him placed in the public library, he sat again, a few months before his death, to Mr Raeburn; at a time when his altered and sickly aspect rendered the task of the artist peculiarly difficult. The picture, however, is not only worthy, in every respect, of Mr Raeburn's high and deserved reputation, but to those who were accustomed to see Dr Robertson at this interesting period, derives an additional value from an air of langour and feebleness, which strongly marked his appearance during his long decline.
I should feel myself happy, if, in concluding this Memoir, I could indulge the hope, that it may be the means of completing and finishing that picture which his writings exhibit of his mind. In attempting to delineate its characteristic features, I have certainly possessed one advantage;—that I had long an opportunity of knowing and studying the original ; and that my portrait, such as it is, is correctly copied from my own impressions. I am sensible, at the same time, that much more might have been accomplished by a writer whose pursuits were more congenial than mine to Dr Robertson's : nor would any thing have induced me to depart, so far as I have now done, from the ordinary course of my own studies, but my respect for the last wish of a much lamented friend, expressed at a moment when nothing remained for me but silent acquiescence.