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terary improvement and philosophical disquisition. Ainong these were Mr. Adam Fergusson, from St. Andrews University, since so eminent in moral and political science; Mr. Hugh Blair, no less distinguished in elegant literature than his friend in profound; Mr. John Home, who has since introduced the Tragic Muse to the Scottish woods ; Mr. Alexander Carlyle, the inadequacy only of whose exertions to his powers has precluded the attainment of the same literary eminence; and Mr. Alexander Wedderburne, distinguished for genius and literary exertions among the ablest youths of the circle in which he then moved, as now by his genius, legal, and parliamentary efforts, in the exalted station which he fills.
In this javenile society there was, besides the ability of its members, another cause that tended to their improvement: they were not all destined to the same profession. Scotch students of divinity, during the first forty years of this century, confined their associations too much to members of their own body, and thence, naturally, to exclusively professional objects, and even those by no means on the liberal and enlarged plan most conducive to professional utility. Polemic divinity was almost the sole subject of their enquiries. That study they followed too much, according to the plans handed down from their puritanical predecessors. Their sermons were deeply tinctured with the enthusiastic cant and familiar coarseness of the Covenanters. The ability of Professor William Hamilton produced the commencement of a favourable change; the talents and learning of Dr. Wishart, an increase of improvement. Still, however, literature and science had many obstacles to encounter in the Scottislı Universities; nor were they such as might have best formed and directed such minds as a Fergusson's, a Wedderburne's, and a Robertson's. These minds, indeed, were such as seldom retain the characteristic of any particular seminary; they form and characterize themselves. In a society of young inen of vigorous talents and different estimations, there was necessarily an enlarged circle of subjects of discussion. The variety and multiplicity expanded the mind; the contest of generous emulation sharpened and invigorated the faculties; while the knowledge previously necessary for their exercises, and the examination it was to undergo, increased extent and accuracy of attainment, and produced close habits of investigation. The members of the society, in whatever particulars they might severally differ, agreed in being informed, just, and able reasoners.
Taste was beginning to advance in Scotland as well as liberal knowledge and science. Accuracy and elegance of composition became
prevalent among our associated youths, as well as extent and depth of information and powers of discussion. Mr. Robertson's efforts of youth exhibited those characteristics which afterwards still more strongly marked the productions of his manhood. He was distinguished chiefly for his power of combination, for his comprehensive views, for making the reader or hearer perfectly acquainted with actions, their series, their causes, and effects; for tracing his subject to the source, and following it throughout its various branches; for marking the distinctive features of each part, and the general aspect of the whole; for a clear and satisfactory representation of facts, with their adjuncts; for a most acute and perfect investigation of principle and cause, and deduction of consequences. His narrative, abounding in logical and philosophical excellence, was enriched, enlivened, diversified, and beautified with the pleasing imagery which vivacity and force of fancy bestow, aided and embellished by clearness, pros priety, and elegance of diction.
In 17 44, * Mr. Robertson was ordained mininister of Gladsmuir.
The first public theatre that offered † for the display of his talents was the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. It is the an. nual meetings of this court that produce to view men who would otherwise remain in the deepest obscurity. There the humble pastor, whose lot has been cast in the remotest corner of the Highland wilds, feels himself, for a time, on a footing of equality with the first citizen in the kingdom: he can there dispute with him the prize of eloquence, the most flattering distinction to a liberal mind, a distinction which is naturally sought after with the greater eagerness in that assembly, as the simple establishment of the church of Scotland has rendered it the only pre-eminence to which the greatest part of its members can ever hope to attain,
The clergy of Scotland have long been divided into two parties : the one has sought for popular favour, by cherishing those sentiments of bigotry and fanaticism, to which the people there were so unhappily disposed : the other has uniformly endeavoured to check or to eradicate those sentiments, and to establish the principles of rational and moderate religion in their place. At the head of the moderate party,
• The late Dr. Robert Hamilton, the learned, able, and worthy Professor of Divinity in Edinburgh, informed the writer of this article that Mr. Robertson was born in April 1722, and ordained minister in 1746. He, however, has a lopted the common account of his birth and first preferment, which makes both some. what earlier.
See Encyclopædia Britannica, vol. xvị. p. 308
when Mr. Robertson entered the church, was Mr. Thomas Tulideph, Principal of the united College of St. Andrew's, a gentleman of great talents, ciear, manly, and forcible eloquence. A valetudinarian state of health not long after prevented Principal Tulideph from taking that active concern in the direction of the Assembly that he had bestowed on it while his health permitted the exertion of his vigorous powers.
The clergy began to look on young Robrrtson as the man that was destined to be at the head of the society to which he belonged. The penetration, indeed, of Principal Tulideph anticipated, in the first essays of Robertson, not only a leader of the church, but a leader of literature, designed to throw a lustre on the body to which he belonged, and on the country which gave him birth. This was an opinion which Mr. Tulideph declared both in public and in private to a confidential friend, on hearing a speech from Mr. Robertson in the Assembly of 1749. * Mr. Robertson was equally able in reply as in opening a question; and as there were men of considerable powers on the opposite side, his talents were improved and strengthened by the contention of public debate, as they had at an earlier stage been invigorated by the juvenile contests of private societies.
The first publication of Mr. Robertson was a sermon preached at Edinburgh, before the • Society for propagating Christian Knowledge,' and afterwards published; the subject of which was, “The state of the world at the appearance of Jesus Christ. In this production the talents of the historian and philosopher were manifest; the genius which combined so many circumstances in themselves detached, and of which the co-operation would have escaped a writer of ordinary discernment; and shewed their tendency to one great object. This work, published in a collection of sermons by clergymen of the Church of Scotland, and from them entitled the. Scotch Preacher,' merits the peculiar attention of those who would wish to trace the advancing mind of Robertson. The performance in question increased the reputation which his eloquence in ihe Assembly had procured, and accelerated his admission to an Edinburgh living.
The chief object which exerted the powers and occupied the attention of Robertson was the history and character of man, less indeed,
Or about that time. The confidential friend was Mr Adam Fergusson, minister of Moalin, in Perthshire; a very able supporter of the moderate party, both when conducted by Principal Tulideph, and afterwards by Dr. Robertson himself. By Mr. Fergusson it was communicated to the writer of this article.
as a subject of pneumatology than as modified by different periods of civilization, different forms of policy, and other circumstances, either essentially connected or accidentally co-operating with these. That the powers of Robertson were not adequate to the most profound metaphysical exertions, it would be presumptuous to assert; that he could not have penetrated into the recesses of intellect and affection with as much force as Locke and Hutchinson, or with the more experimental, close, and successful investigation of a Reid, it would be arrogance in common men to affirm. In fact, however, it was the active force of man, as determined by the state of society, more than the anatomy of his mind, that Dr. Robertson considered.
In 1759 he published, in two volumes quarto, ' The History of Scotland during the Reigns of Queen Mary and King James VI. till his Arcession to the Crown of England, with a Review of the Scots History previous to that Period.' This work, in its structure, is one of the most complete of modern histories. It is not a dry jejune narrative of events destitute of ornament, nor is it a mere frothy relation, all glow and colouring. The historian discovers a sufficient force of imagination to engage the reader's attention, with a due proportion of judgment to check the exuberance of fancy. The arrangement of this work is admirable, and the descriptions are animated. His style is copious, nervous, and correct. Iinportant and interesting as the period itself is, one of the chief sources of instruction is the exhibition of the institutions, manners, and customs of the times,--the government and religion in themselves, and as affected by these in combination with the events. While chivalry engages our affections in the cause of a beautiful and lovely woman in distress, and policy, perhaps men, more actuated by understanding and less by feeling, may connect the supremacy of Elizabeth, and the annihilation of Mary's power, with the existence of the Protestant religion and successful opposition to the combination of despotism, goaded by bigotry; and though virtue cannot approve the motives of the English Queen, nor the means which she employed, yet patriotism may rejoice that the machinations of the St. Bartholomew massacre did not, in England, possess an auxiliary; who, though not of a sanguinary disposition herself, was by ties of blood and of faith so closely connected with the leaders of the Catholic league.
The opinion of Roberston concerning the guilt of Mary has been earnestly disputed by Messrs. Tytler, Stuart, and Whitaker. To enter into this discussion would ill suit our confined limits. Without enquiring whether his conclusion, respecting that one subject, was perfectly just; we cannot help thinking, that even on that subject, according to the evidence before him, his inference was probable, and his reasoning on the means of ascertaining accessary guilt very able. Whether Mary, however, was innocent or guilty, is only a single question, the solution of which either way does not affect this work as an object of criticism, and an accession to philosophical history. One of the chief excellencies in the History of Scotland, after importance of narrative, perspicuity of arrangement, exhibition of human nature in general, is the portraits of particular characters. Even the character of Mary herself is drawn by the hand of a master, with the most vigorous conception, most acute, and nice discrimination, and even, we will not hesitate to say, with a most candid liberality, according to the facts that be bad contemplated.*
For his first publication the profits of Dr. Robertson were very in. considerable for so valuable a work. We have heard that the copyright was sold for three hundred pounds. But the success of the work gave Dr. Robertson a very high place in the temple of Fame. Hume only prevented him from the highest place among modern historians. : In 1761 Dr. Robertson was appointed Principal of the University; soon after Historiographer to his Majesty for Scotland, and one of his Majesty's Chaplains for that kingdom.
Dr. Robertson became now acquainted with men of the highest rank in the literary and political world. In the habits of intimacy with Johnson, the vigorous and penetrating mind of Robertson comprehended the character of that extraordinary man; admired his acute, forcible, and profound understanding; rich, strong, and brilliant imagination, and most retentive memory, stored with the most accurate and extensive knowledge; but did not, like some of the intimates of the Litchfield sage, admit him to be equally able on every subject. Masterly as were the writings of Johnson in philology, criticism, biography, and ethics, Robertson would by no means allow him equal merit in politics, and considered his bright under
* The reader will observe that we limit our observation entirely to the testi, mony which Dr. Robertson himself had considered, as he found it in the writings of the historians of the time, and the inferences to which Mary's conduct, both before and after the death of her husband, led contemporary and subsequent writers to draw, and apparently without any gross violation of probability. We are far from asserting that both direct testimony and probable inference may not have been overturned by stronger testimony and stronger reasoning.