« PredošláPokračovať »
WE are naturally anxious to know something of the personal history of those who have delighted us by their intellectual exertions—where they were born-in what sphere they moved-and whether, in the every-day world, Fortune was more lavish to them of her favours or her frowns. It is a pleasing task to follow talent through the maze of obstructions besetting its path, and behold it emerging from the darkness into the 'day-light, like a stream from its subterranean course. Circumstances are elucidated which enhance the value of performances we may have previously admired; and, as in the present case, we may have the comfort of knowing that the being, who had interested us by his literary exertions, affords also a noble moral lesson in the tenor of his blameless life.
ALEXANDER BALFOUR was born, on the first of March, 1767, in the parish of Monikie, Forfarshire. He was a twin; and was almost immediately adopted by a relative of the family, under whose roof he continued to reside; and from whom he experienced the endearing tenderness of a father. Of this kind parent he had many grateful recollections; and it is to him he refers (in a letter quoted in the course of this Memoir) as the friend to whom he was indebted for those lessons of piety and virtue which seem to have laid the foundation of his character in after life. It is evident, from several circumstances, that there was an inherent delicacy in his constitution; yet, in his early years, he was distinguished for his vivacity; and was a leader in the childish sports of his companions. One trait of the natural amiability of his disposition is preserved. Some depredations having been committed in the neighbourhood (then less common in the country than now) the circumstance took such hold of his imagination, that he never went to bed, for some time, save with nervous apprehension, except on Sunday—a day which he had been accustomed to regard with such reverence, that he considered it a time, when evil would either
lay aside its purpose, or be foiled in its accomplishment.
His protector, as well as his parents, being in humble life, his education was necessarily very limited-a grievance which was rendered more peremptory in its restrictions, by the early loss of his father. As a necessary step, preparatory to his entering on the business of life, he was apprenticed to the trade of weaving. Between this time and his removing to Arbroath, notwithstanding the many disadvantages under which he had laboured, he had for some years taught a school in his native parish, under the auspices of the Reverend WILLIAM (latterly Dr) MAULE; that gentleman considering Monikie to be too extensive a district to be adequately supplied by one parochial teacher. He became a kind and assiduous friend, assisted with his best advice and direction, and had the agreeable retrospect in after years, of knowing how well his attentions were merited. This intercourse between the worthy clergyman and his protegé continued unabated till the death of Dr MAULE, which took place a few years ago.
From a memorandum-book of the late Mr BALFOUR, we learn, that his first attempts at literary composition were made so early as his twelfth year