John Wilson Mary Wilson Gordon.

'Christopher North': a memoir of John Wilson, compiled from family ..., Volume 2 online

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MEMOIR OF JOHN WILSON.



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CHRISTOPHER NORTH.'



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EDIXBURQB I PRINTED BY THOMAS CONSTABLE,
FOR

EDMONSTON AND DOUGLAS.

LONDON HAMILTON, ADAMS, AND CO.

CAMBRIDGE MACMILLAN AND CO.

DUBLIN M'GLASHAN AND OILL.

OLAHOOW JAMES MACLEHOSE.



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'CHRISTOPHER NORTH'



A MEMOIR OF JOHN WILSON

LATB PRnreaSOR or MOBAL PHtLOeOPHY IK the UNIVEBSITY OP EDIXBUROn



COMPILED

FROM FAMILY PAPERS AND OTHER SOURCES

BY HIS DAUGHTER

MRS. GORDON.



VOL. IL



Ifltio '€bttion.



EDINBUEGH

EDMONSTON AND DOUGLAS

1863.



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r (' '' ■••



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CONTENTS OF VOL II.



CHAPTER X.

The PBOFEflBOR AHD HIS ClaSS.

PAOR

His Sjllabus — The ProfesBor in his Sporting Jacket — Adven-
ture in Hawick — ** A little Mill" — Makes two Students at
home in Ann Street— The Professor and his *' Children" at
St. Mary's Loch — Mr. Hill Barton's Reminiscences of the
winter of 1830 — A market-day at Tarland — A kind Teacher
— A Dinner at Gloucester Place — His Class — Saturday — A
Snow-ball Riot— Any Old Clothes?—'* Sir Peter Nimmo"
and the poet Wordsworth — Dr. Syntax — A " Conservative"
Meeting— Politics in the Class — Rev. Mr. Smith's Recollec-
tions of 1837— As a Lecturer— His Course for 1837-1838—
Illustration, the Love of Power— His Power as an Orator —
" The Demosthenes of Ireland " — An Episode in the Class-
Room— His Care and Industry in Examining the Students'
Essays — His Kindness to them privately — The Session for
1860-1851— Mr. A. Taylor Innes— " Professor Wilson's Gold
Medal" — The Origin of the Moral Faculty— His Appearance
in the Ciass-Room — An Unmannerly Student, 1-48

CHAPTER XI.

LrrsBARY AKD Domestic Life.

1820-26.

Lays from Fairy-Land — Devotion to the Magasdne, and Friend-
ship for Mr. Blackwood — Lights and Shadows of Scottish Life
—A Summer in Elleray once more — ^Letter from Mr. Black-
wood — Letter from Mr. Lockhart on Mr. Leigh Hunt — The
Gormandizing School of Eloquence— Miss Edgeworth, etc. etc



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VI CONTENTS.

TAQm

— Tom Purdie — Willie Laidlaw, etc. — Letters from Mr. Black-
wood regarding the Magazine — Another Summer at Elleray
— Letter from Mr. Blackwood — Letters from Mr. Lockhart —
The People he met in London — Edward Irving's Preaching
descrihed — Party Politics — Literary Gossip — Old Slop and
the Xew T\mes — A Daily Paper at the Breakfast-table, etc. —
Letter from De Quincey— Hill on Education — The " Breeches"
Review— '* A Confession '* —Accident to Mrs. Wilson — Letter
to Mr. R. Findlay— Death of Mrs. Wilson, senior — Letter
from Principal Baird — Removal to Gloucester Place — The Pro-
posed Chair of Political Economy — Tetters from Mr. Patrick
Robertson, Mr. Huskisson, Mr. Canning, and Sir Robert
Peel on the subject — Literary Work — Projected '* Outlines" —
Correspondence of Mr. Lockhart and Mr. Wilson on "Janus"
— Letters from Mr. Jjockhart on Sir Walter's visit to Elleray
— Letter from Professor Jameson — Letter from Mr. Lockhart
on Canning — W. Maginn — T^etter from Mr. Blackwood —
Letter to Delta on "Janus" — ^Illness of Mrs. Wilson — I^etter
from Mr. Lockhart, on becoming Editor of the QiMrteriy
Review — Work during 1826 — Letters to Mrs. Wilson from
Kendal— Colonsay, 49-113

CHAPTER XU.

LiTERAKY AKO DOMESTIC LiFB.

1827-29.

As a Friendly Critic — T^etter to Delta — Views on Free Trade —
*' Mansie Waugh," etc. — ^Notes to Mr. Ballantyne — Inner-
leithen — Letter to Mr. Fleming, Rayrig, on " Christopher
North," etc.— Letters to Mrs. Wilson — Hartley Coleridge —
Contributions for 1828 — Letters from Allan Cunningham, re-
garding " The Anniversary," " Edderline's Dream," etc. —
Mrs. Wilson to Miss Penny — "Evening at Furness Abbey" —
Letter from James Hogg, declining an invitation to Elleray
— Letter to Mr. Fleming — I-*etter from Thomas Carlylc —
Letter from Mr. Lockhart — Contest for Oxford University,
1829 — Letter to De Quincey, on his Sketch of the Professor
—Thomas De Quincey — Affection for him — His visit to
Gloucester Place, 114.168



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CX)NTENTS. Vll

CHAPTER XIII.
Literary and Dombotio Life — Cruise with the

EXPERIMBHTAL SqUADRON.

1830-32.

PAOI

Home Life in Gloucester Place— Letters to Mrs. Wilson from
Penny Bridge and Westmoreland— Homeric Papers— Letter
from Sotheby — Letter from Miss Watson — A Conservative
Meeting and Liberal Commentary — Criticism on Tennyson —
Letter to Mrs. Wilson on bis Cruise witb tbe Experimental
Squadron — London — Greenwich — H.M.S. tbe *' Vernon **
— Sbeerness— On Board tbe " Vernon "—A Sailor's Death
at Sea— Plymouth- The " Campeadora "— Tbe "Vernon"—
Holystoning— Oflf tbe Lizard — Land's End — Cork— London
and Home, 159-205

CHAPTER XIV.

Literary and Domestic Lips.
1832-37.

Letter from an Author to a Critic — Political Feeling — Paper
on Ebenezer Elliot, and Letter from him — " Come and break
a ton" of iron — Letter from Mr. Audubon — From Rev. James
White of Bonchurch — Letters to James Hogg — " The Shep-
herd's Reconciliation " — An Autumn in Ettrick — Rover and
theWitch— Pets— A Dog Fight— ThiHstane Castle — ^Letters
to Mrs. Wilson from Edinburgh — Mr. Blackwood's Illness
and Death — Letters from tlie Clyde to Mrs. Wilson — Public
Dinner at Paisley — Lasit Letter from Mrs. Wilson to her
Sister— Illness and Death of Mrs. WiUon, . . . 206-242

CHAPTER XV.

Literary and Domestic Life.
1837-44.

Depression of Spirits — Life at Roslin — Marriage of his Daugh-
ters — His main work that of a Teacher — His little ways at



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Vlll CONTENTS.

PAGR

Home — Pete — The Sparrow — His Dogs: Bronte — ^Tory —
Grog — Game Birds — A new Coop — A Note to Delta on the
Dispersion of his Aviary — Work for the Year — Letters to
Mr. Aird on Bums — Had Bams Family Worship at Dam-
fries? — ^The Professor's Study — Writing for BUckwood —
Habits of Composition — Letter to Mr. Findlay from Rothesay
— Cladich — A Fairy's Funeral — Letter to his Daughter, de-
scribing Billholm — Review of Macaulay's Lays— Letter to
Dr. Moir, 243-279



CHAPTER XVI.

LiTBRART AND D0MB8TIC LiFB.

1844^.

Characteristic Letters from John Gibson Lockhart— The Kemp
Absurdity — Maga — Novel Reading, etc — Letter to his son
John on Domestic matters — " The Kemp Affair" — Walking
Feats— The Burns Festival— Letter to Sheriff Gordon— Let-
ters from Seijeant Talfourd, excusing himself from attendance
at the " Festival"— Letter to Aird— Letter to his daughter
Jane — Fishing in the Dochart — Letter to his daughter Jane
— Maga Articles resumed in 1845 — British Critics— BUeray
—Letter to Sheriff Gt)rdon, asking him to edit an Article
of his for Blackwood — Opening of Edinburgh Philosophical
Institution, of which he was elected President — Mekn-
choly Reflections — ^Letter to Mr. Findlayi requesting his pre-
sence at the Marriage of his son John — ^Visit to the newly
Married Pair — Resolves not to retum to EUeray — ^Weakness
in the Hand, writes consequently with difficulty — Byron*s
"Address to the Ocean" — Peculiarities of Dress — Still in
Mouming for his Wife— A Street Scene — ^A Carter defeated
— Humanity to Animals — Visits to London — Sitting for a
Portrait — Conversational Powers — Reminiscences of Social
Meetings — Jeffrey *8 Receptions — Lord Robertson — The Pro-
fessor's Songs — Sailor's Life at Sea — Auld Lang Syne—
" A Quaint Ballad," 280-319



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CONTENTS.



IX



CHAPTER XVn.

CLOsnro Yeabs.
1849-54.

PAOS

' Dies Boreales"— Rituals of the Church— The Scottish Ser?ice
— Marriage of his youngest daughter to Professor Aytoun —
Playful ways — Toilet peculiarities — His Watch — Hat—
Snuff-Box — Gloves, etc. etc. — Horror of Gas — Love of Chil-
dren — Letter to his second son Blair, mentioning " Billy's "
Death— Letter to his son Blair— The "Dear Doctor"—
from College Duties on account of III Health — Illness —
Desire to return to his Labours — ^Excursion to the High-
lands in search of Health — Passion for Angling — Visit to his
Brother at Woodbum — ^Determines to retire from Active
Life — Letter from the Lord Advocate to Sheriff Gordon, con-
veying the news of the Gkant of a Pension of £300 per
annum — Letter from Lord John Russell to the Lord Advo-
cate, desiring him to have the Queen's intentions mentioned
to Wilson — Receives the News — Letter of Acknowledgment
to Lord John Russell — Takes up his abode at Woodbum —
Last Papers for Magazine — Step feeble and unsteady —
Letter to his son Blair, thanking him fur supplies of Books
— Macaulay a Candidate for the Representation of Edin-
burgh — Comes to Edinburgh and Votes for Macaulay
— Letter from Macaulay to Sheriff Gordon expressing his
kindly feelings towards the Professor — Last Visit of Mr.
Lockhart — Letter to Robert Findlay, congratulating him on
the Marriage of his Son — ^At Gloucester Place again — ^The
last Christmas — Seized with a Shock of Paralysis — Rapid
Decline— The End, 320-364



APPENDIX.

I.— Public Funeral and Proposed Statue, .... 367

II. — Correspondence relating to Janus^ 370

III.— List of Professor Wilson's Contributions to Blackwood's

Magazine from 1826, 377

Index, 393



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MEMOIR OF JOHN WILSON.



CHAPTER X.

THE PROFESSOR AND HIS CLASS.

It was no temporary enthusiasm that glorified the
name of " the Professor" among his students, and stiU
keeps his memory green in hearts that have long ago
outlived the romantic ideals of youth. One of the most
pleasing results of my labour has been to come upon
traces everywhere of the love and admiration with
which my father is remembered by those who attended
his class. That remembrance is associated in some
instances with sentiments of the most imbounded grati-
tude for help and counsel given in the most critical
times of a young man's life. How much service of this
sort was rendered during an academical connexion of
thirty years may be estimated as something more to bo
thought of than the proudest literary fama So, I doubt
not, my father felt, though on that subject, or on any
claims he had earned for individual gratitude, he was
never heard to speak. Of his merits as a teacher of

VOLu IL A



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2 MEMOIR OF JOHN WILSON.

moral philosophy I am not speaking, and cannot pretend
to give any critical estimate. I leave that to more com-
petent hands. What I speak of is his relation to his
students beyond the formal business of the class ; for it
is that, I think, that constitutes, as much as the quality
of the lectures delivered, the difference between one
teacher and another. Here was a poet, an orator, a
philosopher, fitted in any one of these characters to
excite the interest and respect of youthful hearers. But
it was not these qualities alone or chiefly that called
forth the affectionate homage of so many hearts : what
knit them to the Professor was the heart they found in
him, the large and generous soul of a man that could
be resorted to and relied on, as well as respected and
admired. No man ever had a deeper and kindlier
sympathy with the feelings of youth; none could be
prompter and sincerer to give advice and assistance
when required. Himself endowed with that best gift,
a heart that never grew old, he could still, when things
were no longer with him " as they had been of yore,"
enter into the thoughts and aspirations of those starting
fresh in life, and give them encouragement, and ex-
change ideas with them, in no strained or formal
fashion. No wonder that such a man was popular, that
his name is still dear, and awakens a thrill of filial
affection and pride in the hearts of men who once knew
him as their preceptor and friend.

I should have liked much had I been able to give
some account of the Professor's lectures,^ and his ap-

» The following is the Syllabus of his course, drawn up by the Pro-
fessor for the RiHiihxirgh Vtnversiiy Alman<tc, as delivered in the session



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THE PROFESSOR AND HIS CLASS. 3

pearance in his class. But I am saved the risk of
attempting to describe what I have not seen, and cannot
be expected to be skilled in, by the sketches with which
I have been favoured from men well able to do justice

1838-4, apparently the same in arrangement as originally determined on
in his consnltations with his friend Blair. In what year he remodelled
his course, having previously remodelled his views on the groat question
of the nature of the Moral Faculty, I have not ascertained. It was at
least subsequent to the year 1837, to which Mr. Smith's sketch refers. In
later years he began in his first lecture with the subject of the Moral
Faculty, the discussion of which extended, Mr. Nicolson informs me, over
thirty-seven lectures, occupying the time from the commencement of the
session in November to the Christmas recess : —

" MORAX PHILOSOPHY.

" This Class meets at Twelve o'clock.

*' Moral Philosophy attempts to ascertain, as far as human reason can
do so, the law which m'tist regulate the conduct of Man as a moral being.
Inasmuch as it does not derive this law from any authority, but endeavours
to deduce it from principles founded in the nature of things, it takes the
name of a science. It may be called the Science of Duty.
' " The first object, therefore, will be to find those principles on which
this law of duty must be grounded. For this purpose we have to consider
—1st, The nature of the human being who is the subject of such a law ;
and 2d, The relations in which he is placed ; his nature and his relations
concurring to determine the character of his moral obligations.

"When the nature of man has been considered, and also the various
relations of which he is capable, we shall have fully before us the ground
of all his moral obligations ; and it will remain to show what they are, to
deduce the law which the principles we shall have obtained will assign.
But when we shall have gone over the examination of his nature, the mere
statement of his relations will so unavoidably include the idea of the duties
that spring from them, that it would be doing a sort of violence to the
understanding to separate them ; and therefore the consideration of his
Duties will be included in the Second Division of the Course.

"But the performance of duty does not necessarily take place upon its
being known. . There are diflBculties and impediments which arise in the
weaknesses, the passions, the whole character of him who is to perform it.
Hence there arises a separate inquiry into the means to which man is to
resort, to enable him to discharge his known obligations. There must be



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4 MEMOIR OF JOHN WILSON.

to the subject, so far as any sketch can be supposed to
do justice to an eloquence that required to be heard in
order to be appreciated. Of these various reminiscences
I shall give three, in the order of the dates to which

a resolved and deliberate subjection of himself to the known Moral Law ;
and an inquiry, therefore, into the necessity, nature, and means of Moral
Self-government, will furnish the Third and last Division of the Course.

" In the First Division of the Course, then, we consider the constitution
of the Human Being. He has a Physical Nature, the most perfect of
any that is given to the kinds of living creatures, of which he is one, in-
finitely removed as he is from all the rest. He has an Intelliqenoi by
which he is connected with higher orders of beings ; he has a Moral
Nature by which he communicates with Gk>d ; he has a Spiritual
Essence by which he is immortaL

''AH these natures and powers, wonderful in themselves, aremysteri-
ously combined. The highest created substance Spirit, and Matter the lowest,
are joined and even blended together in perfect and beautiful union.

" We begin by treating generally of his Physical Constitution and
Powers, and showing that much of his happiness — it may be of his virtue
—is intimately connected with their healthful condition, as there is a
mutual reaction between them and his highest faculties. The Appetites
are explained, and the phenomena of the Senses ; and pains taken to put
in a clear light the nature of Simple Sensation, before proceeding to
illustrate the Theory of Perception.

'' The impressions received through the senses would be of no use ; they
could not become materials of Thought, if the mind were not endowed
with a power of reproducing them to itself in its internal activity ; and
this power we consider under the name of Conception, and very fully the
laws by which its action is regulated, the Laws of Association.

" We are then led to inquire what is the Faculty of Thought itself;
and if the different operations of Judgment, Abstraction, and Reason-
ING may all be explained as Acts of this one Faculty of Intellection.

'' Imagination itself seems to admit of being resolved into the union of
this Faculty, with certain Feelings, under the Law of Association ; and
here an inquiry is instituted into the sources of the Sublime and Beauti-
ful, an attempt made to define Oenius and its province, and illustrations
are given of the Philosophy of Taste.

** Looking on Man's Moral Nature, we seem to see one Principle pre-
siding over and determining the character of all the rest ; distinguished
by different names, but which no other, perhaps, so well describes as that



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THB PROFESSOR AND HIS CLASS. 5

they respectively relate, viz., 1830, 1837, and 1850, in-
teiposing first two characteristic records of earlier re-
lations between the Professor and his students.

About a year after he had entered upon his new

which expresses it to the common underatandings of men— Con80IB501B.
If it sncPLB or oompositb ? icatural or AcguiRED? In endeavonring to
answer these questions, we must take a review of all the most celebrated
Moral Systems in which it has been attempted to explain its origin, its
composition, its growth, and its power.

** From the consideration of this Moral Pbinoiplb, to which onr whole
mind is subjected, we pass on to those yarious Powbbs or Passioii and
Affection which are placed under its jurisdiction, and which, in their
endless complexity and infinitely diversified modifications, constitute the
strength of the human mind for action, and are the sources of the happi-
ness, the sorrows, and the unfortunate errors of human life. These numer-
ous principles, which have been classed in different manners by Ethical
writers, but of which no classification is adequate to represent the variety,
are very fully treated of under such great and simple divisions as serve to
mark them out for separate discussion ; an arrangement and order,
which, whether metaphysically just or not, appear to afford facilities for
analysing the processes of nature.

" In treating of Man as a Spiritual Beino, we consider the doctrines
of the Immatbriautt and Immortalitt of the Soul— doctrines so im-
portant and interesting that no argument can be lost that serves to impress
them more deeply, and so elevated, that merely to contemplate them, does
of itself tend to spiritualize the affection and imagination.

" The Second Division of the Course comprehends an inquiry into Man's
Relations and Duties. His first relation is as a creature to the Maker
AND Governor of the Worij>, and therefore it becomes necessary to con-
sider, in the first place, what we are able to know of the Attributes of that
Great Being to whom he owes his First Duty,— a duty which is the
foundation of all others.

" The utmost powers of the human mind have always been directed upon
this great object. Its Intelligence desires to know the Origin of all things.
Its Moral Understanding impels it to seek the Author of all order and law.
Its Love and Happiness carry it towards the Giver of all good.

" The chief doctrines which are held concerning the Being and At-
tributes of Deity, men have conceived might be established by two
methods ; the first is that which deduces them fh>m the absolute necessity
of things, prior to all consideration of the effects in which they are mani-



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6 MEMOIR OF JOHN WILSON.

duties, the Professor was rambling during vacation-time
in the south of Scotland, having for a while exchanged
the gown for the old " Sporting Jacket" On his return
to Edinbui-gh, he was obliged to pass through Hawick,

fested,— the Argument or Dehonstratton d priori. The other method
is that to which nature contiDually constrains us, which may be going on
in our minds at every moment, an evidence and conviction collecting upon
ns throughout life. It deduces the Existence and Attributes of God from
their effects in his works, which our Reason can ascribe to no other origin.
It reasons from effects to the cause, and is therefore termed the Abgument
a posteriori.

" The great points established by both these modes of argument are, in
the first place, the Existence of God, his Power, and his Wisdom. These
may be called the Attributes which our Intelligence compels us to under-



Online LibraryJohn Wilson Mary Wilson Gordon'Christopher North': a memoir of John Wilson, compiled from family ..., Volume 2 → online text (page 1 of 31)