« AnteriorContinuar »
gentle stroke of a wet towel across many can procure from the best furhis throat.
nished library. Nor was this study One thing is certain ; the experience wholly unproductive of fruit. It is which the Minister had of the world proved by the history both of nations at these places, neither enlisted him and of individuals, that if there be in its pleasures nor allured him to its intellect wbich cannot come in the imitation; for, though it was believed way of science and ordinary literature, in his native glen, that the power of it will spontaneously burst forth in the M.Kenzie (who had then just been poetry. The earliest mental producrestored, and had swung, as most of tions of all nations, of which any trace the chieftains swung, from the ac- remains, are poetical, and may in getiveness of rebellion to the passiveness neral be considered as songs ; poetry of worshipping royalty) was second is the first to be found and the first to only, if not, indeed, superior to that ripen in the revivals of literature ; and of the king himself, and could have whenever what is called a genius procured for Mr. M'Cra the very springs up in pastoral countries, where foremost appointment in the island, he there are no marvels of art and mawas contented to return to his native chinery to attract the attention, it glen immediately when the period of invariably appears in poetry. With his study expired; nor did he again our hero the general principle was not leave it except to attend the meetings broken; and before he had settled of the Presbytery and Synod, and the twelve months in his native place, the latter he frequented as seldom as he lads on the hill and the lasses in the could. During his absence, too, he valley were carolling blithely the bad attended so closely to his books, strains of Donald M'Cra. or, at least, had been so incurious in One step of renown leads to anoall the matters that he might have ther; and when mental improvement learned respecting the manners of is once in any way begun, there is a men, that he returned to the glen al- native impetus, which it requires very tered in nothing but in years and in- considerable resistance to stop. Acformation, the latter consisting of two cordingly, the elevation of Donald to portions--some half-acquired Latin, the dignity of poet to the glen was which he was gradually to forget, and soon followed by his elevation to the a great deal of mystical theology, more important office of schoolmaster; which was destined to increase at a and the love of song among the people greater ratio than the other diminished. was succeeded by a love for informa
What to do with the student fresh tion. Thus an arena was opened for from college in a place where nobody Donald to win laurels in the sight of could read English but the minister, all those who constituted the world to and he was scarcely in possession of his care or even to his knowledge ; a book, would have been a puzzle to and, from the state in which he found many; and in these times, when read- matters, the conquest was an easy ing constitutes so much of the business one. We have mentioned the extent and pleasure of all who can find lei- of the school books, at the time of his sure for it, it would have been difficult own initiatory instruction; and as his to imagine how the life of M‘Cra aged predecessor had, for several could at all be borne. There is, years, lost his sight and nearly his however, a voice in every object in senses, the system had fallen off. nature; and in a romantic and lovely The boards were abandoned, and had land that voice is pleasant as well as become obliterated by the smoke loud. We are not sure but our reve- that filled the hovel which was callrend anchorite derived more exquisite ed the school-house ; so that the whole pleasure, with occasional glimpses of instruction the old schoolmaster gave, a finer philosophy, from the volume of consisted of small scraps on reliuncultivated nature around him, than gious subjects, neither very well put together, nor very well adapted to the on first commencing his duty in the comprehension of his young auditors. chair of an university; and though Mr. M'Cra, from the reputed influence there were few to see, and, with the he had with the chief of the clan, ea- exception of the minister, none who sily prevailed upon the interested to could appreciate the labors of the inerect a more commodious place for structer of Inverdonhuil, he toiled on, instruction. The school-house now cheered by the thought that he was rose with walls, formed alternately of doing good, and solaced with the idea turf and stone, with window holes that at some future period -bis present closed with turf in tempestuous wea- pupils would be able to appreciate the ther, but open when the days were value of his exertions, and by their good; and thus it was a palace com- gratitude compensate him for the appared with the former one, which, parent neglect in which those exerlike the more ancient houses of the tions were made. Nor was the fulHighlanders, was a trench having a filment of his hope extended to that bank thrown up on each side partially remote distance, as though he had covered with a roof, but with an open- been a teacher in a district already ing in the middle, for the admission educated, and had begun the directing of light and the escape of smoke, the studies of “ young gentlemen from which made it a matter of some diffi- the age of three to nine;" for most of culty to find out a dry corner in those the pupils were rather advanced in storms of wind and rain by which that youth, some of them trenching on the part of the country is so frequently verge of manhood, and the majority visited.
of them sought the instructions of Mr. Mr. M'Cra had carried with him, M-Cra of their own rolition, and as from Aberdeen, a few dozen copies having previously been captivated by of the “ Assembly's Catechism," in the chaunting of his songs. Thus his English ; and these he elaborated into labor was an experiment on human school-books-by pasting the large nature which it is seldom in the powalphabets, at the beginning, upon the er of man to make. The understandformer boards, for the use of his ings of those with whom he had to younger scholars; and treasuring up deal had been more or less exercised the remainder, as initiatory books, for upon the occurrences around them, the more advanced, until they should the traditions of the glen, the oral be able to grapple with the Bible it- instructions of the catechist in reliself, the ultimate object of knowledge gious matters, and the annual examiin those days, of which he had pro- nation of the minister. Instead, vided himself with two copies. One therefore, of having, as is usually the of these, carefully fortified with a case, the labor of training those in the casing of goat-skin, he destined for external technicalities of learning, who the future use of the school. Nor are incapable of entering into the spiwere the materials of writing altoge- rit of what is taught, he had only to ther wanting : a neighboring mountain teach those who were already converfurnished argillaceous schistus or slate; sant with thinking, to clothe their and by a good deal of labor with a ideas in a new language, and acquire stone and sand they were brought to a knowledge of those symbols, of the such a surface that rude lines and signification of which they were alfigures could be traced upon them ready informed. In consequence of with an angular fragment of stalactite. this, the progress that they made
Thus prepared for his labor, and would, but for the knowledge of its haring the esteem and the respect of causes, have been looked upon as litall the glen, Mr. MCra opened his tle less than miraculous; and, perhaps, session with probably as much heart- there never was a people who acquired felt pride, and as strong hopes of suc- the capacity of reading their own ver. cess, as ever were felt by a professor nacular tongue in so short a period as the younger inhabitants of the glen the discourse for him. Other than acquired at least some knowledge of this there were no means of procedure a strange language under the tuition for Mr. M Cra; and accordingly, beof Mr. M‘Cra.
fore the terrors of winter set in, Fame and success like these could and the roads, which were then bad not be concealed even within the steep in the best seasons, had become altofastnesses that separated glen Donhuil gether impassable, he used to send off, from the adjacent districts; and the for the edification of the regents and
schoolmaster of that country had as- students at the college, the whole of En cribed to him as many of the attributes the discourses in one parcel, the de
of natural and supernatural power, as livery of which was to bring him half E. if he had been a second Friar Bacon. a year nearer to the sacerdotal office;
The reward thus came far more and the discourses thus sent, and speedily, and to a far greater extent, which were bona fide his own produc
than the laborer had anticipated ; and tions, gained him as much credit, and : that made him devote himself to his were perhaps as conclusive evidence
pursuit with increasing assiduity; and of his progress in the sacred study, as also awakened in him some traces of if he had been resident at the univeran ambition which he had not felt at sity; while, probably, the simplicity first—that of aspiring to the pulpit of of his habits, and the little that there some Highland parish—the one in was to distract his mind, were better
which he was born and had his chief moral qualifications than if he had, at By renown, if possible. The easy way the most precarious period of life,
in which divinity, at least in the lat- been exposed to those temptations in ter years of the course, can be studied society, against which it but too freat the King's College, tended to ac- quently happens that the study of dicelerate the consummation of his vinity is no certain or absolute prohopes. The process is, or was, by tection. what are called half-sessions ; that is with all these hopes and advanto say, the student journeys toward tages, however, there were still drawthe hall of the college once or twice backs : Mr. M‘Cra was completely in the course of the season, and there excluded from what was called sociedelivers a homily from some text of ty; had no means whatever of knowing scripture. The delivery of this ho- the world ; and, therefore, was forced mily (and no question is to be asked to limit bis information to that system as to whether it is the student's own of divinity which he could form out of or not) was held, and probably was, the two or three books he possessed, equal in value to one half-session's and from the conversation of those attendance on the prelections of the elders of the congregation who were professors; and thus many young men the depositaries alike of religious and were enabled to qualify themselves for of traditionary lore. In consequence orders, who would otherwise be ex- of this, he was a singular compound; cluded from the church. In extreme and if any man was ever in danger of cases, and among the rest in the case erring through excess of faith, Mr. under consideration, further indulgence M Сra was that man. He believed was granted. These half-sessional all that had been told him by the discourses are delivered in the incle- Aberdonian professors; he believed ment part of the year, during which all that was found in the two or three travelling is difficult in any district of clerical books he possessed; if any the north, and from the glen alluded other written matter, whether the to, to the eastern part of the country, History of Gulliver, or that of Jack generally impossible ; so that the at- and the Giants, came by fragments in tendance is dispensed with, provided his way, he failed not implicitly to bethe student can find among his resi- lieve that; and from this universality of dent fellows a substitute who will read faith it was easy for him to believe, in supplement, the whole of the tra- in man which in no state of his being dition, seer-craft, and diablerie of the can remain at rest; and, really, when glen. He never doubted that the we dispassionately compare the creduamulets, consisting of a scrap of pa- lity of the vulgar with that of even per, sewed up in sheepskin, which the most learned of philosophers, we were then common among the High- are unable to say which, when they landers, were perfect preservatives step beyond the limits of experience, against evil eyes, evil spirits, and is the most absurd. The rustic finds bodily diseases ; and he never doubted within hinuself a power which, when that the fairies held their nocturnal he is stretched upon his couch in the gambols on a lovely little meadow silence of the night, can not only paint between the churchyard and the river, his meadows and his heaths in all which was marked by those annular their beauty, scent the wild flowers traces called fairy-rings, which were with all their perfumes, and awaken brown when the rest of the meadow the songs of the birds and the bleatwas green, and green when it was ings of the flocks; but, when his exbrown; and which are known to be ternal senses are wrapped in sleep, the produced by a certain species of fun- same busy power can bring before gus, or mushroom, which cannot be him not only the objects with which reproduced on the same soil for a long he has been conversant, but new obseries of years, but which, by casting jects and new combinations of which its spawn always outwards, causes the he had not any previous knowledge. ring of which so much use has been Now, as the “ why is it thus ?" and made in the history of invisibles in the "why should it be thus ?” arise these islands. If oaths had been in with the same force to him as they do fashion in those parts, he would at to the most active of his species, his any time have readily sworn that he belief in ghosts and supernatural had heard the wailing of the kelpie powers and agencies is certainly not from the river, before storms and ca- more absurd than some of the specusualties; and that never a sheep had lations about which the inost subtle been lost but through the neglect of logicians have wasted their time, and timely warning given by that guardian of which there are whole waggon of rustic property. The ghost, too, loads upon the shelves of every learnof the man who had been treacherous ed library. When the most learned to the M.Kenzie, he would admit had of the schoolmen propounded that been seen in the churchyard; he avoid- "an infinite number of angels could ed the cairn of the robber after dusk ; exist in the same indivisible point of and though Christian M'Cra was his space at the same instant; that space own grand-aunt, and really the most might be empty and yet might have intelligent old woman in the glen, he angels in it;” or “ that God could es. would have felt uneasy for that day ist in possible but yet uncreated if she had crossed his path in the space, as well as in space existent ;" morning before he had, by eating and when, even in our own times, bread and salt,“ sained” by a proper some of the most eminent and elegant benediction, which laid on witchcraft of our philosophers, and nearly the and devil-craft an embargo which whole of our divines, make man a dunone of the evil powers, ghostly or plicate of himself, by giving him inbodily, were able to break.
tellectual and active powers by which These, and many similar points of to carry on the processes of thought credulity, wbich are general in the un- and action, with conscience or conlettered states of society, and which sciousness sitting by the while, wigged no advancement in literature has been like a Recorder, to jot down the proable to eradicate, instead of being ceedings,—we have really marvellousevidences of folly, are proofs of the ly little ground for taunting those who internal labor of that immortal machine are shut out from the written book of knowledge, with those vagaries of they can borrow all their imagery and credulity that lie beyond the bounda- illustrations from things that are faries of reason and experience. In the miliar to the people. If one of Mr. same spirit which leads us to condemn, M'Cra's Gaelic discourses, which in Mr. M‘Cra, the ghost, the kelpie, were productive of sighs and groans, the amulet, and the witch, we should and even stronger emotions, had been have had reason to condemn much of literally translated into English, it what was set before him by the moral would not have been a bit more intelphilosophy regent at King's College; ligible to an English reader : but yet only the advantage was that this sup- so well were they adapted to those to - plemental superstition he did not un, whom they were addressed, that when, - derstand. The people among whom on the demise of his predecessor, he he picked up his first opinions had im- got to the pinnacle of bis ambition, he ported many of their religious notions was accounted the star of the presfrom the army of Gustavus Adolphus. bytery. Such, indeed, were his piety These notions had got certainly not and renown, that the only daughter less austere in the keeping, and, and heiress of the former incumbent therefore, “ vain philosophy” was as surrendered at the first summons; and much a matter of objurgation with the Reverend successor was beneficed, them as was a hypothesis contrary to wired, and housed all in the same his own views to a theoretical philoso- year. No sooner was he thus settled pher. Even the Elements of Euclid,” than he began to project reforms in which Mr. M'Cra heard repeated pro the kirk establishment, which, in the forma, were looked upon as something end, led to a change in the economy which « smacked of the black art ;” and manners of the whole glen. and we doubt not that, in mastering The kirk itself was, at the time of the Pons Asinorum, he verily believed his appointment, a singular structure ; that he could have raised the devil.- and stood, sadly rebuked by the ruins At all events he never tried.
of the old catholic chapel, that were Still, in consequence of what he hard by. The chapel had been of did with the A B C's and the Cate- stone, and from the part that remained chisms, the fame of the schoolmaster had been elegant for the situation. of Inverdonhuil penetrated into the The kirk, on the other hand, had neighboring glens, and he was reported walls of turf, and a roof of heather. to be alike a miracle in science and Such of the people as were not more sanctity. He was the oracle of the than two miles distant came, stool in catechists, the pride of the whole hand, to the service; and they, from parish, with the exception, perhaps, the more remote part of the glen, of the minister, who did not brook an were accommodated upon the trunks eclipse.
of two or three unhewn trees, raised Time rolled on, however; the old a little above the mud floor upon minister became infirm ; and, as the stones. As the roof was seldom living did not admit of even the scan- water-tight, the floor was always a ty support of a Highlander in supple- few inches deep of mire in rainy weament to that of the invalid, Donald ther; but that, instead of being an was appointed assistant and successor. inconvenience to the Highlanders, was In this situation his fame extended an advantage. It saved them the apace. · It is a peculiarity in the Gae- trouble of wading into a brook, withlic language that they who know the out which lubrication, the brogues of least of the sciences and literature of untanned hide which they then wore the rest of the world, can be the most were as hard as iron.* eloquent in the use of it, because then Though the ministers of the Scot
* Time has worked great changes. The Commissioners for building Highland Churches are erecting them at an expense of 15001. each, for church and manse.