« PrécédentContinuer »
cur a single question which was not terminated by an unanimous decision.
In consequence of the various connexions with society, which arose from these professional duties, and from the interest which he was led to take, both by his official situation, and the activity of his public spirit, in the literary or the patriotic undertakings of others *, a considerable portion of Dr Robertson's leisure was devoted to conversation and company. No man enjoyed these with more relish ; and few have possessed the same talents to add to their attractions.
A rich stock of miscellaneous information, acquired from books and from an extensive intercourse with the world, together with a perfect acquaintance at all times with the topics of the day, and the soundest sagacity and good sense applied to the occurrences of common life, rendered him the most agreeable and instructive of companions. He seldom aimed at wit; but, with his intimate friends, he often indulged a sportive and fanciful species of humour. He delighted in goodnatured, characteristical anecdotes of his acquaintance, and added powerfully to their effect by his own enjoyment in relating them. He was, in a remarkable degree, susceptible of the ludicrous : but, on no occasion, did he for
* Appendix, Note (N).
get the dignity of his character, or the decorum of his profession; nor did he even lose sight of that classical taste which adorned his compositions. His turn of expression was correct and pure; sometimes, perhaps, inclining more than is expected in the carelessness of a social hour, to formal and artificial periods ; but it was stamped with his own manner no less than his premeditated style : it was always the language of a superior and a cultivated mind, and it embellished every subject on which he spoke. In the company of strangers, he increased his exertions to amuse and to inforın; and the splendid variety of his conversation was commonly the chief circumstance on which they dwelt in enumerating his talents ;-and yet, I must acknowledge, for my own part, that much as I always admired his powers when they were thus called forth, I enjoyed his society less, than when I saw him in the circle of his intimates, or in the bosom of his family.
It only now remains for me to mention bis exemplary diligence in the discharge of his pastoral duties; a diligence which, instead of relaxing as he advanced in life, became more conspicuous, when his growing infirmities withdrew him from business, and lessened the number of his active engagements. As long as his health allowed him, he preached regularly every Sunday ; and he continued to do so occasionally, till within a few months of his death.
The particular style of his pulpit eloquence may be judged of from the specimen which has been long in the hands of the public; and it is not improbable, that the world might have been favoured with others of equal excellence, if he had not lost, before his removal from Gladsmuir, a volume of sermons which he had composed with care. The facility with which he could arrange his ideas, added to the correctness and fluency of his extemporary language, encouraged him to lay aside the practice of writing, excepting on extraordinary occasions; and to content himself, in general, with such short notes as might recal to his memory the principal topics on which he meant to enlarge. To the value, however, and utility of these unpremeditated sermons, we have the honourable testimony of his learned and excellent colleaguc, who heard him preach every week for more than twenty years. “ His discourses from this place,” says Dr Erskine; “ were so plain, that the most illiterate might easily under“ stand them, and yet so correct and elegant that they could “ not incur their censure, whose taste was more refined. “ For several years before his death, he seldom wrote his " sermons fully, or exactly committed his older sermons to
memory; though, had I not learned this from himself; I " should not have suspected it; such was the variety and “ fitness of his illustrations, the accuraoy of his method, and " the propriety of his style."
His health began apparently to decline in the end of the year 1791. Till then, it had been more uniformly good than might have been expected from his studious habits; but, about this period, he suddenly discovered strong symptoms of jaundice, which gradually undermined his constitution, and terminated at length in a lingering and fatal illness. He had the prospect of death long before him; a prospect deeply afflicting to his family and his friends, but of which, without any visible abatement in his spirits, he happily availed himself, to adorn the doctrines which he had long taught, by an example of fortitude and of Christian resignation. . In the concluding stage of his disorder, he removed from Edinburgh to Grange House in the neighbourhood, where he had the adyantage of a freer air, and a more quiet situation, and (what he valued more than most men,) the pleasure of rural objects, and of a beautiful landscape. While he was able to walk abroad, he commonly passed a part of the day in a small garden, enjoying the simple gratifications it afforded with all his wonted relish. Some who now hear me will long remember,-among the trivial yet interesting incidents which marked these last weeks of his memorable life, his daily visits to the fruit-trees, (which were then in blossom,) and the smile with which he, more than once, contrasted the interest he took in their progress, with the event which was to happen before their maturity. At his particular de sire, I saw him (for the last time) on the 4th of June 1793, when his weakness, confined him to his couch, and his articulation was already beginning to fail : and it is in obedience to a request with which he then honoured me, that I have ventured, without consulting my own powers, to offer this tribute to his memory. He died on the 11th of the same month, in the 71st
I have already hinted at his domestic happiness. Nothing was wanting to render it perfect while he lived ; and, at his death, he had the satisfaction to leave, in prosperous circumstances, a numerous family, united to each other and to their excellent mother, by the tenderest affection. His eldest son, an eminent lawyer at the Scotish bar, has been only prevented by the engagements of an active profession, from sustaining his father's literary name; while his two younger sons, both of whom very early embraced a military life, have carried his vigour and enterprize into a different career of ambition *. His eldest daughter is married to Mr Brydone, the well-known author of one of our most elegant and popular books of Travels. Another is the widow of the late John Russell, Esq. Clerk to the Signet, and one of the members of this Society.
The general view which has been already given of Dr
* Appendix, Note (0)