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13. Memorials of Cockburn.

Memorials of his Time, by HENRY COCKBURN. Edinburgh: Adam and Charles Black.

“COCKBURN,” said Professor Wilson to a gifted literary friend of ours, long-buried in dusty law papers like bright gold hidden in a dirty napkin, “Cockburn is a man of no common calibre, but he can't write.” Aloe-like, however, he blossomed into authorship before he died. His genial biography of Lord Jeffrey published in his lifetime, and now these posthumously printed Memorials, prove that he could write—dear, eloquent, departed Kit—and write well, too. His style is always vigorous; and though occasionally coarse, even ungrammatical, in an access of slovenly colloquialism, it is far oftener epigrammatic in its witty conciseness; spirit-stirring by its pictorially graphic description; laughter-moving with its rich, sly, sometimes grotesquely-extravagant humour, autumnally mournful, “brightly sad,” with its passing shades of chastened, manly, pathos.

Lord Cockburn's forte appears to have been the portraiture of character. His Memorials are filled with photographs of his contemporaries. To these, in our notice of the book, we shall chiefly direct the reader's attention, introducing, however, his lordship's comments on the remarkable events of his time, and his curious sketches of the manners of the 'eras of his youth and early manhood; but omitting much discussion of legal matters as interesting only to professional readers, sundry revivifications of by-gone politics as a useless resuscitation of “extinct Satans,” mention of Edinburgh institutions and Edinburgh improvements as memorabilia to Edinburgh citizens merely. The Memorials, to tell the honest truth, are somewhat overloaded with these local records; but still their cosmopolitan element is large, as the following summary of the volume's contents, with its illustrative extracts (principally anecdotical), will show. This is simply a notice, not an analytic criticism; we, therefore, make no excuse for interspersing our abstract with desultory observations, instead of finishing off with a regular volley of reviewer's musketry after consigning our summary to paper.




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On the 26th of October, 1779, either in one of the tall gloomy houses of the Parliament-close, or amid the rural sights and sounds of Cockpen, “a small estate about eight miles south of Edinburgh,” Henry Cockburn, son of the Sheriff of Midlothian and of Janet his wife, came out of mysterious darkness into the mysterious light of life.

He tells us that he was connected, by affinity and consanguinity, with the “once powerful house of Arniston,” and that his father, “afterwards Judge Admiral,” became “finally a Baron of Exchequer;” but we caer more to hear this mention of his mother: She “was the best woman I have ever known. If I were to survive her for a thousand years, I should still have a deep and grateful recollection of her kindness, her piety, her devotion to her family, and her earnest, gentle, and Christian anxiety, for their happiness in this life, and in the life to come.” When was it otherwise with the true mother, God's first revelation of His goodness, the Bible of the Babe?

Like the young David Copperfield, young Cockburn had an ornithological horror; an awe-inspiring peacock being his earliest reminiscence.

When eight years old he was sent to the High School, but of what Carlyle calls “express schooling” he speaks as slightingly as Carlyle. His first master was a cruel despot and dull gerund-grinder, and even under Dr. Adam, “born to teach Latin, some Greek, and all virtue,” his progress does not appear to have been astounding. Amongst his school-fellows were Francis Horner and Henry Brougham, the latter known as “the fellow that had beat the master,” having, in spite of contemptuous pooh-poohs, and still more cutting “palmies,” convicted one Mr. Luke Frazer, a hypodidaskalos, of an error in Latinity. Comparing the figure that boys cut at school with their success in after-life, Cockburn quits “the yards” with this naif observation: “I have ever had a distrust of duxes, and thought boobies rather hopeful.” Naif, because this is a previous confession,—“I never got a single prize, and once sat boobie at the annual public examination.”

The amount of poetry in Lord Cockburn's mind has astonished us. His pages sparkle with simile, the metaphor through which his thought gleams forth, like a robin's eye through summer leaves, is often “beautiful exceedingly.” A single image proves him to have been a poet even when a boy. Rising, one brilliant morning, through fear of being too late for school, at two, he describes the city as it lay asleep in the golden sunlight.—“I came home awed, as if I had seen a dead city, and the impression of that hour has never been effaced.” There is something very solemn in the union of light and silence, in the interchange of glances between the


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glowing sun and his dumb bride, the hushed yet happy earth. No passage in Sartor Resartus is more striking than the picture of Herr Teufelsdröckh looking out from the North Cape, at midnight, on the silent sunny sea. Our modern Chrysostom in style, the English Opium-eater, produces a somewhat similar effect when he describes, with his musical majesty of words, the silent summer morn on which he fled from school.

In October, 1793, Cockburn commenced his collegiate studies. His “first-class was for more of that weary Latin; an excellent thing, if it had been got.” The Greek Professor in his day was Andrew Dalzel, of collectanea celebrity, a learned, innocent, affectionate, simple-minded man. Of him his pupil tells this pleasant story:—“He was trying to discharge a twopenny cannon for the amusement of his children; but his alarm and awkwardness only terrified them the more; till at last he got behind a washing-tub, and then, fastening the match to the end of a long stick, set the piece of ordnance off gloriously.” Charles the Second considered Presbyterianism a religion unfit for a gentleman: Dalzel seems to have thought it a faith unfit for a scholar; in some comical way associating English episcopacy with Greek and Latin prosody. “Sydney Smith asserted that he had overheard the professor muttering one dark night on the street to himself, ‘If it had not been for that confounded Solemn League and Covenant, we would have made as good longs and shorts as they.’ ”

The young student first learned that he “had a mind” whilst attending Professor Finlayson's logic lectures—Dugald Stewart he so devoutly idolised that he thought his “very spitting” eloquent: an apotheosis of expectoration in which we must confess we cannot sympathise. The Professor, when told by Macvey Napier of this extravagance of youthful enthusiasm, is said to have observed, “I am glad there is at least one thing in which I have no competitor!”

Whilst at college Cockburn became a member first of the Academical, and afterwards of the Speculative Society; at the meetings of the latter of which, Brougham already gave promise of his future in impetuous bursts of fervid declamation.

A few notes on society and manners at this time are worth jotting down. Imprimis of the ball-room. “Martinet dowagers and venerable beaux acted as masters and mistresses of the ceremonies, and made all the preliminary arrangements. No couple could dance unless each party was provided with a ticket prescribing the precise place in the precise dance. If there was no ticket, the gentleman or the lady was dealt with as an intruder, and turned out of the dance. If the ticket had marked upon it—


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say for a country dance—the figures 3, 5, this meant that the holder was to place himself in the 3rd dance, and 5th from the top; and if he was anywhere else, he was set right or excluded; the partner's ticket must correspond. Woe on the poor girl who, with ticket 2, 7, was found opposite a youth marked 5, 9! It was flirting without licence …” 3.5, 2.7, 5.9!—don't it look like decimal fractions, or a time-table from the Railway Guide? Our ancestors were funny people. “Tea was sipped in side-rooms; and he was a careless beau who did not present his partner with an orange at the end of each dance.” The dinner hour was two or three. The ladies marched from the drawing- to the dining-room “all in a row,” the gentlemen following in like order. “Taking wine” was a serious business.—“No nods, or grins, or indifference, but a direct look at the object, the audible uttering of the very words ‘your good health,’ accompanied by a respectful inclination of the head, a gentle attraction of the right hand towards the heart, and a gratified smile. And after all these detached pieces of attention during the feast were over, no sooner was the table cleared, and the after-dinner glasses set down, than it became necessary for each person, following the landlord, to drink the health of every other person present individually.” Then came “toasts” and “sentiments:” bugbears to modest spirits. Cockburn records a droll specimen of the latter. “There can scarcely be a better example of the emetical nature of the stuff that was swallowed than the sentiment elaborated by the poor dominie at Arndilly. He was called upon in his turn, before a large party, and having nothing to guide him in an exercise to which he was new, except what he saw was liked, after much writhing and groaning he came out with ‘The reflection of the moon in the cawm bosom of the lake.’” After dinner gentlemen were expected to get drunk, in which state they would rejoin the ladies; not scrupling to indulge in their presence in what Cockburn waggishly terms “solid commination.” A hearty supper, with a subsequent carouse, invariably wound up the day. Dress was supposed to indicate political bias; buckles and hair-powder manifesting the Tory, whilst trousers and gaiters were only seen on Jacobinical extremities. The ordinary topics of conversation are thus concisely summarised. “Grown up people at this time talked of nothing but the French Revolution, and its supposed consequences; younger men of good education were immersed in chemistry and political economy; the lower orders seemed to take no particular concern in anything.”

In December, 1800, Cockburn “entered the Faculty of Advocates; and, with a feeling of nothingness, paced the outer House.”

After an apparently faithful, drearily truthful, record of the reign of


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Toryism in Edinburgh at that period—like a rank Upas blighting all beneath its shade, buttressing every tottering abuse, stifling each noble aspiration; Lord Cockburn gives us a series of masterly sketches of the judges that then formed the Scottish Bench.

Having still more than 300 pages to get through, we must be chary and choice in our selections, but David Rae, Lord Eskgrove, is so richly ludicrous a character, that we cannot resist the temptation of dwelling at some length on his remarkable dicta.

But first, behold his portrait:

“He seemed, in his old age, to be about the average height; but as he then stooped a good deal, he might have been taller in reality. His face, varied according to circumstances, from a scurfy red to a scurfy blue; the nose was prodigious; the under lip enormous, and supported on a huge clumsy chin, which moved like the jaw of an exaggerated Dutch toy. He walked with a slow stealthy step—something between a walk and a hirple, and helped himself on by short movements of his elbows, backwards and forwards, like fins. The voice was low and mumbling, and on the bench was generally inaudible for some time after the movement of the lips showed that he had begun speaking; after which the first word that was let fairly out was generally the loudest of the whole discourse.” “Whenever a name could be pronounced in more ways than one, he gave them all; and always put an accent on the last syllable.”

Lord Cockburn—to make use of a colonial phrase—has evidently “a down” on this worthy gentleman, as the following string of anecdotes will show:

“Brougham tormented him, and sat on his skirts wherever he went, for above a year. The Justice liked passive counsel who let him dawdle on with culprits and juries in his own way; and consequently he hated the talent, the eloquence, the energy, and all the discomposing qualities of Brougham. At last it seemed as if a court day was to be blessed with his absence, and the poor Justice was delighting himself with the prospect of being allowed to deal with things as he chose; when lo! his enemy appeared—tall, cool, and resolute. ‘I declare,’ said the Justice, ‘that man Broom or Broug-ham, is the torment of my life!’ His revenge, as usual, consisted in sneering at Brougham's eloquence, by calling it or him the Harangue. ‘Well, gentle-men, what did the Harangue say next? Why, it said this (mis-stating it); ‘but here, gentle-men, the Harangue was most plainly wrongg, and not intelligibill!’”

Now for a burst of Mr. Chadband eloquence:—

“As usual, then, with stronger heads than his, everything was connected


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by his terror with republican horrors. I heard him, in condemning a tailor to death for murdering a soldier by stabbing him, aggravate the offence thus—‘And not only did you murder him, whereby he was bereav-ed of his life, but you did thrust, or push, or pierce, or project, or propell, the le-thall weapon through the belly-band of his regimen-tal breeches, which were his Majes-ty's.’”

The Judge once gave the subjoined singular exhortation to a veiled witness:—

“‘Youngg woman! you will now consider yourself as in the presence of Almighty God, and of this High Court. Lift up your veil, throw off all modesty, and look me in the face!”

“A very common arrangement of his logic to juries was this,—‘And so, gentle-men, having shown you that the pannell's argument is utterly impossibill, I shall now proceed for to show you that it is extremely improbabill.’

Our next ecloga—an address to a prisoner condemned to death—is, we think, for polite piety, “a peerless gem:”—“Whatever your religi-ous persua-shon may be, or even if, as I suppose, you be of no persua-shon at all, there are plenty of rever-end gentle-men who will be most happy for to show you the way to yeternal life.”

We part with Lord Eskgrove passing sentence on certain burglars; and this is the climax of his peroration:—

“All this you did; and God preserve us! joost when they were sitten doon to their denner!”

Dickens latterly has dealt in ethical arabesque, in monsters, benevolent and otherwise, rather than in types of living men—making character rather than depicting it. To prove to him that flesh-and-blood originals are still undrawn, waiting, almost without need of exaggeration or idealisation, ready for reproduction by his magic pen, Lord Cockburn's sketch of Lord Hermand should be, we imagine, quite sufficient. We deeply regret that we cannot give it in extenso, but here are the most striking tints and touches:—

“Tall and thin, with grey lively eyes, and a long face, strongly expressive of whatever emotion he was under, his air and manner were distinctly those of a well-born and well-bred gentleman. His dress for society, the style of which he stuck to almost as firmly as he did to his principles, reminded us of the olden time, when trousers would have insulted any company and braces were deemed an impeachment of nature. Neither the disclosure of the long neck by the narrow bit of muslin stock, nor the outbreak of the linen between the upper and nether garments, nor the


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short coat sleeves, with the consequent length of bare wrist, could hide his being one of the aristocracy. And if they had, the thin and powdered grey hair, flowing down into a long thin gentleman-like pigtail, would have attested it. * * * He could not be indifferent. Repose, except in bed, where, however, he slept zealously, was unnatural and contemptible to him. It used to be said that if Hermand had made the heavens, he would have permitted no fixed stars. * * * * * Common-place topers think drinking a pleasure, but with Hermand it was a virtue. * * * * * He had a sincere respect for drinking—indeed a high moral approbation; and a serious compassion for the poor wretches who could not indulge in it; with due contempt of those who could, but did not. * * * * * The cordiality inspired by claret and punch was felt by him as so congenial to all right-thinking that he was confident that he could convert the Pope if he could only get him to sup with him. And certainly his Holiness would have been hard to persuade, if he could have withstood Hermand about the middle of his second tumbler. * * * His eagerness made him froth and sputter so much in his argumentation, that there is a story to the effect, that when he was once pleading in the House of Lords, the Duke of Gloucester, who was about 50 feet from the bar, rose and said with pretended gravity, ‘I shall be much obliged to the learned gentleman if he will be so good as to refrain from spitting in my face.’ * * * * Bacon advises Judges to draw their law ‘out of their books, not out of their brain.’ Hermand generally did neither. He was very apt to say, ‘My Laards, I feel my law—here, my Laards,’ striking his heart. Hence he sometimes made little ceremony in disdaining the authority of an Act of Parliament, when he and it happened to differ. He once got rid of one which Lord Meadowbank (the first), whom he did not particularly like, was for enforcing, because the Legislature had made it law, by saying, in his snorting, contemptuous way, and with an emphasis on every syllable. ‘But then we're told that there's a statute against all this. A statute! What's a statute? Words. Mere Words! And am I to be tied down by words? No, my Laards; I go by the law of right reason!’” Taking his law from ‘here, my Laards’—the heart of a bon vivant, he thus commented on the conduct of a young gentleman who had stabbed a friend at the close of a carouse: ‘We are told that there was no malice, and that the prisoner must have been in liquor. In liquor! Why, he was drunk! And yet he murdered the very man who had been drinking with him! They had been carousing the whole night; and yet he stabbed him!—after drinking a whole bottle of rum with him! Good God, my laards, if he will do this when he's drunk, what will he not do when he's sober?’




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We wish we had room for his lordship's admirable word-pictures of the notabilities of this age, but since we have not, we must content ourselves with marking here and there a characteristic trait. Principal Robertson “evidently fond of a good dinner, at which he sat with his chin near his plate, intent upon the real business of the occasion.” Fur-clad Adam Furguson, “like a philosopher from Lapland—rioting over a boiled turnip,” with Dr. Joseph Black. “His temperature was regulated by Fahrenheit, and often when sitting quite comfortably, he would start up, and put his wife and daughters into commotion, because his eye had fallen on the instrument, and discovered that he was a degree too hot or too cold.” Dr. Black, dying, “seated with a bowl of milk on his knee, of which his ceasing to live did not cause him to spill a drop,”—etc., etc. The story of Dr. Henry, the historian, shamming a sleep on the very day of his death, in order to escape the infliction of a “wearisome body” of a minister, might, we think, have been omitted. A joke at such a time jars on one's feelings. “The dying man peeping cautiously through the fringes of his eye-lids to see how his visitor was coming on” is a clause remarkable neither for good English nor good taste.

During Cockburn's student-days there dwelt at Edinburgh “a singular race of excellent Scotch old ladies. They were a delightful set, strong-headed, warm-hearted and high-spirited; the fire of their tempers not always latent; merry even in solitude; very resolute; indifferent about the modes and habits of the modern world, and adhering to their own ways so as to stand out, like primitive rocks, above ordinary society.” Lector benevole, we must introdnce you to these jolly sybils, give you a taste of the quality of these withered winter apples. “There sits a clergyman's widow, the mother of the first Sir David Dundas. * * * * I remember one of her grand-daughters stumbling, in the course of reading the newspapers to her, on a paragraph which stated that a lady's reputation had suffered from some indiscreet talk on the part of the Prince of Wales. Up she of fourscore sat, and said, with an indignant shake of her shrivelled fist and a keen voice—‘The dawmed villain! does he kiss and tell?”' A fair friend, with eyes as keen as they are bright, suggests that conscience might have something to do with the old lady's indignation—

“A fellow feeling makes one wondrous kind.”

“Miss Menie Trotter, of the Mortonhall family, * * * generally sacrificed an ox to hospitality every autumn, which, according to a system of her own, she ate regularly from nose to tail; and as she indulged in him only on Sundays, and with a chosen few, he feasted her half through the winter. I remember her urging her neighbour, Sir Thomas Lauder, not


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long before her death, to dine with her next Sunday—‘For, eh! Sir Thammas, we're terrible near the tail noo.’” “On one of her friends asking her, not long before her death, how she was, she said, ‘Very weel—quite weel. But eh! I had a dismal dream last night! a fearfu' dream!’ ‘Aye! I'm sorry for that—what was it?’ ‘Ou! what d'ye think? Of a' places i’ the world, I dreamed I was in heeven. And what d'ye think I saw there? Deil ha'et, but thoosands upon thoosands, and ten thoosands upon ten thoosands, o' stark naked weans? That wad be a dreadfu' thing! for ye ken I ne'er could bide bairns a' my days!’”

Every one has heard the story of Sheridan, found drunk in the gutter, stuttering out, to the horrified astonishment of his interrogators, that he was Wee-il-berforce. Lord Cullen, when a young man, was guilty of an equally impudent piece of personation. “Dugald Stewart somewhere calls him ‘the most perfect of all mimics.’ He was particularly successful with his friend Principal Robertson, whose character he once endangered in a tavern by indecorus toasts, songs, and speeches, given with such a resemblance of the original, that a party on the other side of the partition, suspecting no trick, went home believing that they had caught the reverend historian unawares.” Principal Robertson talking smut, and bellowing out bacchanalian stanzas—conceive the profanation! The Memnonian head indulging in cider-cellar songs at sunrise seems scarcely a more blasphemously improbable contingency!

The Bench having been disposed of, the Scottish Bar is painted; indeed, as we have already hinted, the Memorials are one long picture-gallery, filled with the portraits of lawyers, literary men, savans, and divines; but we have only space for one more likeness, a miniature, which we insert as likely to correct a widely-prevalent false impression,—HENRY MACKENZIE.

“The title of ‘The Man of Feeling’ adhered to him ever after the publication of that novel; and it was a good example of the difference there sometimes is between a man and his work. Strangers used to fancy that he must be a pensive sentimental Harley; whereas he was far better—a hard-headed practical man, as full of worldly wisdom as most of his fictitious characters are devoid of it; and this without in the least impairing the affectionate softness of his heart. In person he was thin, shrivelled, and yellow, kiln-dried, with something, when seen in profile, of the clever wicked look of Voltaire.

From 1803 to 1814, Edinburgh was “a camp” of militia and volunteers. Everybody was a soldier. Like our local Tyrtæus, Mr. Henry Halloran, literary men wielded alternately the pen and the sword. “Broughham served the same gun in a company of artillery with Playfair. James Moncreiff, John Richardson, James Grahame, (the Sabbath), Thomas


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Thompson, and Charles Bell, were all in one company of riflemen. Francis Horner walked about the streets with a musket, being a private in the gentlemen-regiment. Dr. Gregory was a soldier, and Thomas Brown, the moralist, Jeffrey, and many another since famous in more intellectual warfare.”

The following anecdote of Walter Scott—not mentioned by Lockhart, if we remember rightly—is very characteristic:—“He was the soul of the Edinburgh troop of Midlothian yeomanry cavalry. I do not know if it is usual, but his troop used to practise, individually, with the sabre at a turnip, which was stuck on the top of a staff, to represent a Frenchman, in front of the line. Every other trooper, when he set forward in his turn, was far less concerned about the success of his aim at the turnip, than about how he was to tumble. But Walter pricked forward gallantly, saying to himself, ‘cut them down, the villains, cut them down!’ and made his blow, which, from his lameness, was often an awkward one, cordially muttering curses all the while at the detested enemy.”

In 1805, John Leslie succeeded Playfair as Professor of Mathematics in the University of Edinburgh. There was strong opposition to the appointment on the part of the ‘Moderate’ clergy; ostensibly because Leslie looked with favour on Hume's theory of causation; really because they wished the vacant chair to be filled by one of their own body. A regular “Hampden controversy” ensued. Buried bigotry and greed, like other putrid corpses, are unpleasant things to dig up; we merely refer to the dispute to mention that Leslie was made, in a somewhat amusing manner, a criterion of orthodoxy for himself; Dr. Andrew Hunter, Professor of Divinity, quoting in the Assembly a note on Euler that Leslie had written in defence of Hume, as emanating from his namesake of unimpeachable piety, and presbyterianism, Dr. Henry Hunter, the translator of Euler's Letters. After concluding his pro-Lesliac, the Professor was told that the note was Condorcet's; a piece of information which—honourably, but still somewhat after the fashion of the proverbial cow that always kicked over the pailful of rich milk she had just given—he immediately communicated, amidst “inextinguishable laughter,” to his opponents. The fact that Leslie himself had written the note for an anonymous translation of Condorcet's works, from which, as Condorcet's, Dr. Henry Hunter had transferred it to his Euler, was only known to Mr. Macvey Napier, and in his breast the truth remained locked up, a sacred secret. The strife is only interesting now as having been the warm and dirty soil from which sundry cool metaphysical publications of permanent value were “raised,” like cucumbers from a hotbed.

We pass over the avatar of chivalric poesie in Scott, his literary career


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being familiar to every one “as household words. In reference to a political escapade of his, the “Tally-ho to the Fox!” song, Lord Cockburn makes these just and charitable observations: “If, as was said, Scott really intended this as a shout of triumph over the expiring orator, it was an indecency which no fair license of party-zeal can palliate: but I am inclined to believe that nothing was meant beyond one of the jocular, and not unnatural exultations over the defeated leaders of the impeachment [Lord Melville's] of which the song was composed. There were some important persons, however, whose good opinion by this indiscretion was lost to Scott for ever. Lockhart's explanation is, that Scott having (apparently) just accepted his Clerkship of Session from the Whigs, thought it necessary to show his independence by abusing them. It seems absurd to impute this to a sensible man; besides it does not hit the blot. It was not abuse of the Whigs that gave offence, but a supposed triumphant cheer over Fox's approaching death.”

In 1806 an advocate-deputyship was offered to Cockburn by the Tories; it was accepted with “considerable misgiving as to the result.” In 1810 his lordship “had the honour of being dismissed by the Lord Advocate” from the office.

In 1809 died Dr. Adam; his last words being, “It grows dark, boys; we must put off the rest till to-morrow.” His to-morrow was spent in a world where grammars are unknown—perhaps less heavenly to the good old schoolmaster on that account. Like whimsical Charles Lamb, he might, perchance, regret the exchange of well-beloved books for “some awkward experiment of intuition.”

Speaking of the foundation of the Edinburgh Horticultural Society in 1810, Lord Cockburn says: “This Horticultural Society was one of the first buds of that extraordinary and delightful burst of floral taste which has since poured such botanical magnificence over our great places, and such varied and attainable beauty round our cottages. It is not in our public establishments, or in our great private collections, that its chief triumph is to be looked for; but in the moderate place, the villa, and especially in the poor man's garden; in the prevalence of little flower societies; its interest as a subject of common conversation; and the cheap, but beautiful and practical works that are to be found in the houses of the humblest of the people. I cannot doubt its proving a great civiliser. In innocence, purity, and simplicity, the florist—not the scientific botanist, but the florist of his own little borders, is the only rival of the angler. I wish we had a good Flowery Walton.” Like Dr. Arnold, who said that the wild flowers were his music, Lord Cockburn had “dead ears” for what


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is ordinarily so called. In both cases we imagine this insensibility must have arisen from some physical defect; there being so close an analogy between the pleasures of the eye and ear, that where the one class is keenly felt, we confidently expect, and almost always find, as keen an appreciation of the other. How could we give a blind man a better idea of the rainbow than by telling him it was a chord of colours?

In March, 1811, Lord Cockburn married, and set up his “rural household gods at Bonaly, in the parish of Colinton, close by the northern base of the Pentland Hills.” Of personal Memorials he is very parsimonious; here, however, is a peep into his peaceful solitude,—“One summer I read every word of Tacitus in the sheltered crevice of a rock (called ‘My Seat’) about 800 feet above the level of the sea, with the most magnificent of scenes stretched out before me.”

Having our author book in hand, we will next make him utter a few literary comments:—“I think it was to Mrs. Hamilton that Jeffrey said, in allusion to the good taste of never losing the feminine in the literary character, that there was no objection to the blue stocking, provided the petticoat came low enough down. One wonders why Mrs. Hamilton, with her good Scotch eye, did not put more Scotch among her cotta gers than dirt, on which almost solely the book lives.”

Of Scott and his novels: “The change of line, at his age, was a striking proof of intellectual power and richness. But the truth is, that these novels were rather the outpourings of old thoughts than new inventions.”

De Noctibus Ambrosianis: “There is not [another] so curious and original work in the English or Scotch languages. It is a most singular and delightful outpouring of criticism, politics, and descriptions of feeling, character, and scenery, of verse and prose, and maudlin eloquence, and especially of wild fun. It breathes the very essence of the Bacchanalian revel of clever men. And its Scotch is the best Scotch that has been written in modern times. * * * The characters are all well drawn and well sustained, except that of the Opium Eater, who is heavy and prosy; but this is perhaps natural to opium.” In reference to the former portion of the last remark, we may observe, on the authority of one who knew both the imitator and imitated intimately—that De Quincey never had justice done him in the Noctes; Wilson, though able to mimic his physical peculiarities of voice, and look, and gesture to the very life, being incompetent to simulate his “deep-flowing Oceanus” of Thought, or marshall in magnificent array his triumphal pomp of words. In reference to the latter, let the English opium-eater speak himself: “Certainly opium is classed under the head of narcotics; and some such effect it may produce


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in the end; but the primary effects of opium are always, and in the highest degree, to excite and stimulate the system. * * * Turkish opium-eaters, it seems, are absurd enough to sit, like so many equestrian statues, on logs of wood as stupid as themselves. * * * * It will be seen that at least opium did not move me to seek solitude, and much less to seek inactivity, or the torpid state of self-involution ascribed to the Turks.”

In his introduction to an account of the “Sedition Trials,” Lord Cockburn forcibly observes:—“Demagogues are almost always effects—rarely causes; they are the froth that rises and bubbles on the surface, when the mass of the people ferments.”

When speaking of the Burke and Hare atrocities, his lordship, who acted as counsel for Helen Macdougal, expressly denies that he whispered, “Infernal hag!” “The gudgeons swallow it!”—in an interval of his address to the jury, according to the accusation of the Quarterly. On Burke he passes this slightly eccentric eulogy:—“Except that he murdered, Burke was a sensible, and what might be called a respectable man.” To ordinary minds murder appears a rather more important drawback on a man's good qualities than Lord Cockburn seems to have considered it.

This summary is not complete, even according to the meagre ideal of completeness we indicated at its commencement, but, just referring to our author's description of the “Edinburgh great fires” as a specimen of his happy, but careless, historico-picturesque, we must hastily conclude our notice with an intimation that in 1823, principally through the exertions of Cockburn and Leonard Horner, the first stone of the Edinburgh Academy was laid; that, under the ministry of Earl Grey, Cockburn became Solicitor-General for Scotland, and that farther the deponent sayeth not.

We close the book, made memorable to us by the healing hush—unbroken save by still more soothing music—and the sweet society in which it has been read.

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