John Jenkins.

Life of the Rev. Alex. Mathieson, D.D. / with a funeral sermon by John Jenkins online

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the word. Bloody noses and scratched faces were the result, but
victory again smiled on me. I commenced Latin with Mr. Hally,
of Balfron, but made little progress. I was about a year at a school
in Lennoxtown, and afterwards went to the parish school of
Campsie, taught by Mr. McFarlane, or < Liffy' as we called him.
Sometimes he was cross and sometimes he was kind, which humours
we learned to take advantage of. He had two special favourite?,
who received a proportionate share of hatred from the others in the
school. He was a good man, and we loved and respected him. I
think he sent a class of nine to College on the 10th of October,
1809. Some of these failed. Three of them still survive I



believe, though of one of them I have not heard for some years
Tom Gordon, into whose insatiable ears I have poured a descrip-
tion of Wallace's sword a thousand times. Happy school-days !
light were our cares, transient our sorrows, intense our joys. What
dangers we encountered ! What toils we endured ! Harrying
hawks' nests gimmeling trouts fighting the boys of other schools.
I wish I could enjoy them again, even with their broken heads
and bloody noses. But in these penalties I shared little, for,
according to the testimony of old Janet Graham, I was "a weel set
laddie." I could give you many anecdotes of these school-days,
which, however uninteresting to another, have a charm for myself,
and no doubt tended to form, in a great measure, the future
characters of the actors. But I am not going to philosophize at
the end of a chapter. As usual, I have to crave your indulgence
for haste and blunders.

Yours, &c.,

A. M.



WE have now come to that interesting period in the Doctor's lus-
tory when, we must suppose, he made up his mind to qualify him-
self for a learned profession, for few in his station of life aspired to
a college curriculum without having that in view. But whether
he had at this time in prospect, as the ultimate result of his studies,
" to wag his head in a poopit" does not appear, although it is
likely that such was the case from the great interest which his
father took in church matters and his intimacy with the clergy, by
which Alexander would also be brought into frequent contact with
them. However that may have been, along with others of Mr.
McFarlane's pupils, to Glasgow College he went on the 10th of
October, 1809. Like many other Scottish students, the subject of
our sketch entered college at an early age. He was then only four-
teen, and very small in stature, and, indeed, remained so till about
the age that most young men have attained their full height, when,
all at once, he shot up to the size of a grenadier. " That was an
eventful day" to resume his own narrative "when I assumed


the somewhat delapidated and stained toga of my cousin Peter*
who had bequeathed to me his mantle on his entering the Divinity
Hall my pride being made to humble my vanity by being assured it
was more honourable to sport a frieze displaying somewhat of 'skyey
influences ' than flaming scarlet. Our Dominie was a proud man
that day when at the head of eight or ten sheepish boys they marched
into the courts of the old College, gazing with wonder at the Lion
and the Unicorn that silently guarded the large broad steps that
seemed the inviting but difficult ascent to the halls of knowledge.
That we might the more easily and gracefully make our bows he
had recommended us to go to the ' dancing school ' which pre-
cursive polish I contemned having been denied that privilege a
short time before when I was in the humour to go. Notwithstand-
ing all his maxims of polite and courtly bearing, we huddled toge-
ther into a corner and stood, ill at ease, on the defensive. At col-
lege we wrought hard till the Blackstone Examination f was over :
after that much of our time was spent idly. The second year
little or nothing was done the far famed battles with the 71st occu-

*The late Rev. Peter Napier, of the College Church Glasgow, and
formerly of St. George's-in-the-Fields.

t So called from an old oak chair having a seat of black marble, which
the student under examination occupied. The examination is rather an
initiatory form than a rigid test, and is required of all students before
entering each and all of the gown classes. To the first year's student it
is nevertheless sufficiently formidable. The usual first question of the
Professor is, "Air." so and so naming him in Latin, "What do you
profess?" The general reply being " Doctissime Prefessor, Evangelium
secundum Joannera Profiteer," when the candidate takes his seat on
the Blackstone and construes a verse or two.


pying the greater part of the winter, and in which the ' Campsies'
held a distinguished position. ' Plunking the class,' too, was so
frequent as to cause numerous rows in ' Jammy's '* class the
absentees on their return being taken for strangers, and the ' strong
man ' called in to turn the strangers out.

" My father had removed to Woodside on the banks of the Kel-
vin and there I entered on my labours, at sixteen, as a schoolmas-
ter to the workers at Houldworth's Cotton Mills. My salary was
ten shillings per week from the Company, and threepence from each
pupil, by which I earned about seven shillings and sixpence per
week. It was an evening school. During the day I attended the
classes at college, but studied little. In the summer I kept the
books and accounts of a cooper who had entered into the herring
trade, and received for this my board and 2s. 6d. per week. My
pockets were always empty and my coat seedy but, no help for it
but drudge on. Thus passed over about eighteen months during
which very little mental progress was made, for which there may
be an excuse in the want of time for study, but, what was worse, I
lost all habits of application. My good old aunty a most inde.
pendent, energetic woman procured me a tutorship for the ensue-
ing six summer months at Gairlochead, in the family of Captain
Campbell, with a salary of five pounds. A few extra pupils brought
me about seven pounds more, and, on my twelve pounds, with a suit
of clothes from my father, and shirts from my mother, I campaigned
the winter, or rather two winters. My pupils made considerable
progress, notwithstanding a great deal of broken time every

* James Miller, M. A., Professor of Mathematics.


sheep-gathering' and 'peat-casting' all hands being required
and in these exercises my health which began to fail me was quite
restored. Idly I spent much of my time, but very pleasantly. The
afterwards celebrated Mary and Isabella Campbell were my pupils.
Isabella was a good creature amiable and pious. Mary, quick,
pretentious, and conceited ; she was spoiled by her father, who.
proud of her qualifications, exhibited her scholarship on all occa-
sions, and excited in her inordinate vanity and presumption the
foundation of the contemptible fanaticism which afterwards misled
Story, Campbell, and Irving. In a word, Mary became a design-
ing hypocrite, or, an arrant fool, which the little education she had,
and the natural force of her mental faculties, forbid me to receive.
Her cunning and deceit were irrepressible when she was a child,
and though my intercourse with her in after life was little, I did
not wonder when it culminated in the working of miracles, and in
gibbering in ' an unknown tongue.' The extravagances into which
her fanaticism led were notorious, and, better that they are buried
in oblivion than awaken the pity and disgust of the sober thinking.
" Mary's elocution was good. For a child, she read remarkably
well, and her father took every opportunity of exhibiting her gifts.
Mr. Robert Campbell of Roseneath had been in this quarter, on
business I suppose, and called at Fernicarry. Mary, as was cus-
tomary, was brought on the stage and dismissed with applause.
This led to some expressions of regret from the Captain that I was
about to leave them for college, and ended by his recommending me
as a tutor to his brother's boys. In the interview which followed
1 stated my intention not to abandon my college course, but engaged
to return as early in spring as passible. This I did, and the


next eleven years of my life were spent in Mr. Robert Campbell's
family, at the Clachan, in as much happiness as it were befitting
mortal to enjoy. It was by far the most eventful period of my
existence, if the successes and disappointments of a sensitive and
proud spirit could form a marked epoch in mental history. But I
must be off to other matters, and I dare say you have got enough
usque ad nauseam of this for the present."

In these references to his College career there is hardly so much
as Jin allusion to the struggles and privations of student life, but
we are not on that account to suppose that Sandy Mathieson, as he
was called at school, had discovered a royal road to learning. With
twelve pounds in his pocket to defray the expenses of a session at
college the student, if he was clothed in purple, could not hope to
" fare sumptuously every day." He would have to be content
with a lodgement in the fifth or sixth story of a gloomy " land" of
tenements known by such unclassical names as " the Candleriggs,"
" the Rotten Row," or, " the Cowcaddens." His coat could not
be otherwise than "seedy ; " and, if there was any virtue in hard
beds, he would reap all the benefits thereto belonging. What the
Doctor says about the " plunking " * proclivities of his schoolmates
and of his own " idle-set" must be taken cum grano, for when he
left college those who were in a position to pronounce on his acquire-
ments gave unequivocal testimony that he was a young man of exten-
sive learning and of earnest piety.

No student ever better enjoyed a lark than did our friend at
college. The following may be taken as an illustration of the pranks

* Plunking, a Scotticism for playing the truant.


practised by the " Colly dougs '' the soubriquet by which, the
gowned students were knewn to the " Keelies. " * It will be
recognized as a true picture by every who has an experimental
knowledge of college life : ;< In our anxiety to see Kean the elder,
in Macbeth, we were *brced by necessity to tempt a douce elder of
the Kirk to enter that den of iniquity a play-house pretending
that we were taking him into a grand Episcopalian Church to hear
a great gun from London. His free remarks on ' Episcopawlian
corruptions ' his amazement and horror when at length he
discovered that he was in the DeeviVs house his subsequent
resignation to his fate, when out of the pit he could not get his
undoubting conviction of the reality of every thing that passed
before his eyes especially the witch scene and his ultimate gra-
tification with the whole play, would Form an admirable chapter in
a novel. If it does not already supply the ground work of one of
the best scenes in Mansie Waugh, which I am half inclined to
believe from the intimacy afterwards contracted between one of our
theatrical heroes and Moir, the author of Mansie."

It may be mentioned that the curriculum of study at the Uni-
versity, required of a candidate for the ministry, consisted of four
years in the " gown classes " i. e. in the Arts, or classical litera-
ture department, and four years in the study of Theology, in all its
branches, in the Divinity Hall. That was eight years in all ; but,
by an arrangement at that time permissible a very bad arrange-
ment it was allowable for the student to take partial sessions in his

* The term " Keeliea " was applied to the lower order of Glasgow street
Arab?, between whom and the students there has always been waged am
interminable warfare.


Divinity course and to extend bis studies over an indefinite time.
And of this, the Doctor, like many others who with himself were
pressed for the needful to prosecute an uninterrupted course, availed
himself. How long his theological teaching was thus extended
we cannot now tell; it is altogether likely, however, that he applied
for and obtained license to preach the Gospel as soon as the pre-
scribed term had been fulfilled, and having been licensed to preach
in the year 1823 at which time he would be 28 years of age
the presumption may be entertained that it was not until about that
time that he had completed the course. A.t all events, from the
time that he began the study of Theology until its consummation
a period of full ten years had elapsed, during the whole of which he
was living as tutor in the family of Mr. Robert Campbell, of Rose,
neath, excepting the intervals of his attendance at college.

His first " trial discourse " in the Divinity Hall was to him a
great trial. For a long time before its delivery he felt no small
uneasiness in regard to it. This feeling did not arise from anything
like inability to write a sermon, or fear of the professor's criticism,
but from the fact that it was then, as it still is, the invariable
practice for each, theological student to preface the reading of his
discourse by the offering up of a brief prayer. Having no faith in
his powers of speaking or of praying extempore, and having as
little faith in his poor memory, he carefully wrote out a prayer on
the back of his manuscript, and for several weeks might have been
daily seen perambulating the college green, diligently committing
it to memory, till a last he had it at his tongue's end, of -which he
satisfied himself by repeatedly saying it aloud in the hearing of a
congregation of " venerable rooks," whose progenitors had from


time immemorial found a home among the branches of a few old
trees that stood in a corner of the green, and who were never
molested, an old law of the University being yearly read in Latin,
prohibiting the students from troubling them.

At last the day of trial comes. The students assemble. Dr.
McGill, a distinguished man in his day, takes the chair, and the
subject of our sketch tremblingly enters the desk. After a verse or
two had been sung, he begins his prayer, fortified by the thought
that should memory prove treacherous, and things come to the
worst, he could take a quiet peep at his manuscript. After repeating
a little of it the thought struck him " What if 1 should stick?"
the result being utter confusion, or, rather, the mind becoming a
perfect blank. In vain he cast his eyes to his paper. Not a word
or letter could he distinguish from another, but he managed to
stammer a few sentences, which he used afterwards to say must
have been " sheer nonsense," and an AMEN. Though terribly
crest-fallen he managed to deliver his discourse, and was even com-
plimented by the professor on his first attempt at sermonizing. He
was asked to remain at the end of the hour, and accordingly went
up to the professor's desk after the class had left, fully expecting a
reprimand, but no, the good professor, addressing him, said, " I
observed, Sir, that you failed somewhat in prayer this morning,
but don't be cast down about that, the very best men in the Church
have done the same thing." But for these timely and wise words
it is doubtful if he would have further prosecuted his studies for
the Holy Ministry, so sensitive was his nature.

Not long after receiving license Mr. Mathieson found himself in
"a pulpit " that acme of ambition for her son of many a good


Scottish dame. It was in the parish Church of Luss, on the banks of
Lochlomond, sufficiently removed from Roseneath, as he believed, to
obviate the inconvenience of his trying his " prentice hand" at
preaching in the presence of friends ; but the gardener at the
Clachan, who had a great respect for " Maister Alexander," and
who, like many others of his class, deemed himself a good judge
of sermons, set out in the morning to hear him, and on being inter-
rogated after his return as to how Mr. Mathieson got on, replied,
" ou verra weel, Sir verra weel." " And where was the text ? "
continued the questioner; "a dinna mind that, Sir, but there was
a deal about therefore in it." The text being Romans xn, 1.
" I beseech you, therefore, brethren by the mercies of God, &c.''

In the refined and cultivated society of the inmates of the
Clachan and of the neighbouring " gentry " the respect with which
the young tutor was at first treated ripened gradually into closest
friendship, which neither lapse of time nor distance ever diminished
and that were only dissolved by death. Mr. Campbell was the
Duke's factor, and Mr. Story informs us that the trait which marked
the Clachan family distinctively was their devotion to the house of
Argyle, and as an illustration of a highlander's veneration for the
head of his clan relates the following amusing instance : A man
came to Mr. Campbell with a long complaint of contumelious usage
received at the hands of some adversary or other ; " and mair nor
that," said he, coming, after a detail of his grievances, to the crisis
of his charge, ' he had the impiddence to strike me in the pre-
sence o' His Grace's Horse ! "

Mr. Druramond was the Minister of Roseneath at the time Mr.
Mathieson went to reside in the parish ; a man of considerable


ability in his day, but at this time quite incapacited from old age
for the discharge of public duties.

He was succeeded by the Kev. Robert Story who was an amiable
and pious man, and, being young Mathieson's senior by only five
years, they came to regard each other with a brotherly affection
that never was interrupted until Mr. Story's death in 1859. The
Manse was but a short distance from the Clachan, the approach to
which was through an avenue over-arched by magnificent yew trees,
whose sombre foliage imparted a solemnity almost a sacredness
to the vicinity, very much in harmony with the poetic tendencies
of the tutor's mind. The peninsula and parish of Roseneath lie
between the Gairloch and Loch Long, in the estuary of the Clyde,
one of the most picturesque spots in all Scotland. " The weariest
Pilgrim of the Beautiful could wish to gaze on no lovelier scene."
The broad expanse of rippling waters, sea-ward ; the sinuous, silent
Lochs; the wooded, winding shores ; the sparkling roofs and towers
of castle and villas rising amongst the trees and gardens, and,
towering above all, that majestic chain of rugged rock which from
time immemorial has by strange caprice been styled " The Duke
of Argyle's Bowling Green." It was amid such scenery that Dr.
Mathieson became imbued with that inextinguishable and romantic
love for the hills and glens of his native land that so conspi-
cuously characterized him.



THERE were associations of another kind connected with Mr.
Mathieson's sojourn at Roseneath that lingered in his memory as
long as he lived. These arose out of the intercourse he then had
with two of the most remarkable divines of modern times ; the
one, in the zenith of his glory; the other, just emerging from
comparative obscurity destined to win his way to unparalleled
celebrity. We refer to Dr. Chalmers, and his assistant, the eccen-
tric, but highly gifted Edward Irving men, both endowed with
brilliant and powerful talents, sharing a common inheritance in
the domain of genius, yet differing greatly in the tone and clv.irac-
ter of their eloquence. His recollections of the latter formed the
subject of a long and interesting letter, written in 18G4, of which
the following is the substance :

" MY DEAR FRIEND, I have been long in acknowledging your
last kind letter, and what excuse have I for my negligence ?
None ! I have had little to do for the last six weeks, and there-
fore, I suppose, from that natural tendency to do nothing, which


some one has declared to be the summum bonum of happiness, I
determined to be happy. But it would not do. Mental indolence
was wretchedness. So, ascending one degree higher in the scales
of action, I seized a parcel of old papers and letters which were
rotting in a box, and amidst scenes and friends of my early days,
I have been holding revelry. Your phantom would occasionally
intrude and scowl on me for not fulfilling my promise of giving
you some personal reminiscences of Edward Irving.

" Irving was a noble-minded fellow, kind, generous, and of a
lively genius. But there was one point in his character that I
cannot reconcile with true greatness of mind, that is, his excessive
vanity. Though he made no pretentious demands on the applauses
of others, it was clear that he considered them due to his talents,
and when he received them he rolled them as a sweet morsel
under his tongue.

" I first met with him at the Manse of Fintry. I think it must
have been a very short time before he became assistant to Dr.
Chalmers at that time the minister of St. John's Church,
Glasgow. I don't remember what led me to pay a visit of a few
days to my old friend Colthard. I was then not licensed to
preach, and could give him no relief on Sabbath. So, not to
interrupt his preparations, with my fishing rod I repaired to the
oft-frequented pool of the Endrick to practice "the gentle craft."
It was a Saturday. On returning to the Manse I found that Mr.
Irving had arrived, and had already engaged to take the morrow's
pulpit duties. He was, from some cause, terribly in the doldrums.
He had not succeeded in his expectations, and I think had no
employment of any kind, and the future, to his ardent and sensitive


mind, presented a picture of unrelieved darkness. In fact, he
was not only desponding, he was misanthropical. His finely
chiselled face, his dark flowing hair, and the outward squint of
his eyes which somebody has called ' a portentous obliquity of
vision ' when his countenance was lighted up with indignation
at the want of the world's discrimination, and made gloomy with
disappointment, presented him to the imagination as one of those
northern demigods whose ire is more to be feared than their love
to be courted. I do not remember the character of his preaching
on that occasion there was something peculiar about it yet it
failed to impress me. He formed a thousand projects of future action
was determined to leave his native land and seek for a field of
usefulness abroad. Though his purposes were unsettled, and altering
every few minutes, he seemed most inclined to proceed on his own
hook as the Yankees say as a Christian missionary to South
America. Mr. Colthard tried hard to sooth his mind and give it
a more hopeful bent. I remember that I wondered at him, and
pide'd him for there was something that, in spite of his eccen-
tricities, commanded respect. On Monday morning he set out
to walk across the moor to Glasgow I do not think there was a
public conveyance at that time from Fintry, if there was one from
Campsie, which was about half way. But he was strong and
resolute, and I am persuaded he would not have availed himself
of it. Mr. Colthard and I accompanied him to the top of the
hill by ' the Craw Road,' which led across the moor. When we
parted from him he threw forward his brawny arms and exclaimed
' farewell ! I go I go I go. God my guide, the world my
field ! ' and rushed forward on his way. I met with him frequently


afterwards, and learned to love him, which 1 confess I did not do
at first. Once, at his earnest !-i vitation, I breakfasted at his
lodgings, if I remember well, in Uowgate or Charlotte-street.
He was engaged on some nietaphysi. 1 question which absorbed
his mind, and though he earnestly tried to be social and conversa-
tional, every now and then the subject lagged, and our interview
was neither very intellectual nor ag eeable. On his ' marriage-
trip ' he came by Rosencath from the Highlands. I had gone
with Mr. Story to visit one of his parishioners who resided in a
cottage by the lake side. Looking out from the window we
beheld a singular sort of procession two gentlemen, each bearing
on his shoulder a well stuffed carpet-bag, and between the two, a
travelling trunk of no ordinary size : following them was a lady,
a carpet bag slung over her shoulders and in her hand a large
leathern reticule. We speculated with many jokes who these

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Online LibraryJohn JenkinsLife of the Rev. Alex. Mathieson, D.D. / with a funeral sermon by John Jenkins → online text (page 2 of 18)