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who wrote this, who is quite ignorant of Latin, and to whom I was, with no little vexation, obliged to dictate not the words, but, one by one, the letters of which they were composed.”
The account of the gradual increase of his blindness is interesting, physiologically as well as otherwise :
"It is now, I think, about ten years (1654) since I perceived my vision to grow weak and dull; and, at the same time, I was troubled with pain in my kidneys and bowels, accompanied with flatulency. In the morning, if I hegan to read, as was my custom, my eyes instantly ached intensely, but were refreshed after a little corporeal exercise. The candle which I looked at seemed as if it were encircled by a rainbow. Not long after the sight in the left part of the left eye (which I lost some years before the other) became quite obscured, and prevented me from discerning any object on that side. The sight in my other eye has now been gradually and sensibly vanishing away for about three years; some months before it had entirely perished, though I stood motionless, every thing which I looked at seemed in motion to and fro. A stiff cloudy vapor seemed to have settled on my forehead and temples, which usually occasions a sort of somnolent pressure upon my eyes, and particularly from dinner till evening. So that I often recollect what is said of the poet Phineas in the Argonautics :
• A stupor deep his cloudy temples bound,
Or in a feeble trance he speechless lay.' I ought not to omit that, while I had any sight left, as soon as I lay down on my bed, and turned on either side, a flood of light used to gush from my closed eyelids. Then, as my sight became daily more impaired, the colors became more faint, and were emitted with a certain crackling sound; but, at present, cvery species of illumination being, as it were, extinguished, there is diffused around me nothing but darkness, or darkness mingled and streaked with an ashy brown. Yet the darkness in which I am perpetually immersed seems always, both by night and day, to approach nearer to a white than black; and when the eye is rolling in its socket, it admits a little particle of light as through a chink. And though your physician may kindle a small ray of hope, yet I make up my mind to the malady as quite incurable; and I often reflect, that as the wise man admonishes, days of darkness are destined to each of us. The darkness which I experience, less oppressive than that of the tomb, is, owing to the singular goodness of the Deity, passed amid the pursuits of literature and
the cheering salutations of friendship. But if, as it is written, man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth from the mouth of God why may not any one acquiesce in the privation of his sight, when God has so amply furnished his mind and his conscience with eyes? While He so tenderly provides for me, while He so graciously leads me by the hand and conducts me on the way, I will, since it is His pleasure, rather rejoice than repine at being blind. And my dear Philura, whatever may be the event, I wish you adieu with no less courage and composure than if I had the eyes of a lynx."
Though the organist was wrapped in utter darkness, only mingled and streaked with an ashy brown,' still the organ pealed forth its perpetual, sublime Te Deum! Shall we, sitting in the open sun-light, dare tune our humble pipes to any other strain ? Thou may’st thank Him, Milton, for, but for this misfortune, thou hadst been a benefactor to the great and strong only, but now to the multitude and suffering also thy voice comes, bidding them "hate no jot of heart or hope,' with archangelic power and melody. THE LIFE OF SIR JAMES MACKINTOSH.
BY HIS SON; ROBERT JAMES MACKINTOSH.
"Biography is by nature the most universally profitable, universally pleasant of all things; especially biography of distinguished individuals.” [Opinion of the sagacious Hofrath Henshrecke, as quoted in Sartor Resartus.)
If the biography of a distinguished individual be thus especially pleasant a matter, how most of all pleasant is it when a child is found worthy to erect the monument with which the world esteems his father worthy to be honoured! We see that it is no part of the plan of the universe to make nature or talent hereditary. The education of circumstances supersedes that of system, unlooked for influences disturb the natural action of the parent's character on that of the child; and all who have made even a few observations of this sort, must feel that, here as elsewhere, planting and watering had best be done for duty or love's sake, without any sanguine hopes as to the increase. From mistaken notions of freedom, or an ill-directed fondness for experimentalizing, the son is often seen to disregard the precepts or example of his father ; and it is a matter of surprise if the scion is found to bear fruit of a similar, not to say equal flavor, with the parent tree.
How opposed all this is to our natural wishes and expectations, (i. e., to our ideal of a state of perfection,) is evident from the pleasure we feel when family relations preserve their harmony, and the father becomes to the son a master and a model—a reverend teacher and a favourite study. Such a happy state of things makes the biography before us very attractive. It is in 5*
itself good, though, probably not as interesting or impressive as one who could have painted the subject from somewhat a greater distance might have made it. The affections of the writer are nowhere obtruded upon us. The feeling shown towards his amiable and accomplished father is every where reverential and tender, nowhere blind or exaggerated. Sir James is always, when possible, permitted to speak for himself; and we are not teased by attempts to heighten or alter the natural effect of his thoughts and opinions. The impressions he produced on different minds are given us unmutilated and unqualified. The youthful errors, and the one great defect which had power to prevent so rich a piece of creation from blooming into all that love or admi. ration could have wished, are neither dissembled nor excused. Perhaps here Mr. Mackintosh kept in mind his father's admirable remark upon Mrs. Opie's Memoir of her husband. “One pas. sage I object to; where she makes an excuse for not exposing his faults. She ought either to have been absolutely silent, or, with an intrepid confidence in the character of her husband, to have stated faults, which she was sure would not have been dust in the balance, placed in the scale opposite to his merits."
Indeed, the defect here was not to be hidden, since it sapped the noblest undertakings and baffled the highest aspirations of the gentle and generous critic; but we might have been annoyed by awkward attempts to gloss it over, which would have prevented our enjoying in full confidence the record of so many virtues and remarkable attainments. To these discerning and calm justice is done ; more, as the son and friend felt, was not needed. And, upon the whole, if filial delicacy has prevented the Life of Sir J. M. from making so brilliant and entertaining a book as it might be in the hands of one who felt at liberty to analyze more deeply and eulogize more eloquently, our knowledge of it as history is probably more correct, and of greater permanent value.
The recollections of childhood are scanty. We see, indeed, an extraordinary boy, but get little light as to what helped to make him what he was. Generally we know, that if there be anything of talent in a boy, a Scotch mist has wonderful power to draw it out. Add to this, that he lived much in solitude, and on the banks of a beautiful lake. To such means of intellectual developement many a Swiss and many a Highlander has done no visible, or at least so far as this world knoweth, no iinmortal honour; but there be hardy striplings, who expand their energies in chasing the deer and the chamois, and act out the impulse, poetic or otherwise, as it rises ; while the little Jamie was fed on books, and taught how thought and feeling may be hoarded and put out at interest while he had plenty of time and means for hoarding. Yet is the precocity natural to a boy of genius wher his atten. tion is so little dissipated, and the sphere of exercising his childish energies so limited, very undesirable. For precocity some great price is always demanded sooner or later in life. Nature intended the years of childhood to be spent in perceiving and playing, not in reflecting and acting; and when her processes are hurried or disturbed, she is sure to exact a penalty. Bacon paid by moral perversion for his premature intellectual developement. Mozart gave half a life for a first half all science and soul. Mackintosh brought out so wonderfully his powers of acquisition at the expense of those of creation, to say nothing of the usual fine of delicate health. How much he lived out of books we know not, but he tells us of little else. The details of his best plaything
—the boy-club at which he exercised himself, as the every-day boy rides the great horse, or the young Indian tries his father's bow, are interesting. At an early age he went to Aberdeen, where he came under the instruction of a Dr. Dunbar, who, if he did not impart much positive knowledge, seems to have been successful in breathing into his pupil that strong desire of know ing and doing, which is of more value than any thing one can receive from another. Here too, was he happy in that friendship