« PredošláPokračovať »
language. In fact, the influence of Hume is not only an active principle in modern thought, but it has been instrumental in moulding and governing the thought of every philosophical writer since his own day. For example, up to the time that Immanuel Kant was thirty years of age, he was sadly hampered in his speculations by his partial acceptance of Swedenborg's spiritualistic theories, and it is almost pathetic to observe the efforts of a great mind struggling to escape from its original moorings. These efforts, however, were subsequently rewarded by the gift of freedom, and it may be claimed for David Hume that he was the emancipator of this gifted intellect. By his treatment of causation in the inquiry, he aroused Kant from his dogmatic slumber and fired him with the first impulse to write his "Critique of Pure Reason." In saying this much it must be ever borne in mind that no great writer ever interfered less than did Hume with the writings of others in the same field as himself in a direct way. Wherein, then, does his great strength lie? It is unquestionably to be found in the power he had of vitalising the interrogative faculty. There is something in common between the mental bias of Socrates and Hume, with this difference, that inasmuch as the interrogative of Socrates was verbal and directed to the analysis of terms, that of Hume was intellectual and aimed at analysing the groundwork of thought itself. But Hume was not only great in philosophy; he has high claims as a historian, and it is to David Hume that we are indebted for the first history of England constructed on literary principles, and though it is open to the charge of defects in sympathy and imagination, it had the effect of stimulating his friend. and contemporary, Dr. Robertson, to write history after the same model. Robertson, it is true, wrote a history of Scotland which is characterised by much style and earnestness; but his entire historical researches were not confined to his own country; he also wrote the history of America and that of Charles V. of Germany. As historians, however, neither Hume nor Robertson are entitled to claims of infallibility; but they are both to be commended for their freedom from passion, their clearness, and dignified literary style.
In addition to philosophy and history, the eighteenth century was the most prolific in poetry of any century in the history of Scottish literature. This claim is not exclusively made because it was the century which gave birth to Robert Burns, who did so much to add to the lustre of its poetry, but because there was so great an outburst of popular sentiment, and the vernacular was the chosen medium of expression to a far greater extent than was the case in the century preceding it. As we have already seen, the Semples of Beltrees at the close of the last century, more especially Francis, rekindled native sentiment and stimulated an interest in those simple and natural themes with his Piper of Kilbarchan and other pieces.
This poetic current was united to the eighteenth century by John Hay, tenth Lord Yester, third Earl and second Marquis of Tweeddale. It can scarcely be claimed for him that he did more than supply one link to the chain of this poetic continuity. "Tweedside," his single known composition, is said to be the earliest remaining Tweeddale song, and was first printed by Herd in 1776. The air of Tweeddale, however, was adopted by Gray for one of the lyrics in his opera of "Polly" in 1729. Nor can much more be claimed for Lady Grizel Baillie than that she furnished another link to this chain unless there is reason to suppose that she wrote a number of pieces which were afterwards lost.
Lord Yester, 1646-1713.
During the Persecution in Scotland both her father and lover, George Baillie of Jerviswood, were under the ban of the Government for intriguing against the succession of the Catholic Duke of York, who ascended the throne of England as James VII. Sir Patrick Hume of Marchmont remained for some time in concealment in the family vault in Polwarth Kirk, where he was secretly fed by his daughter Grizel. He and his faithful daughter subsequently escaped to Holland. On the authority of Lady Murray of Stanhope, the daughter of Lady Grizel Baillie, she composed while in exile a number of songs
Lady Grizel Baillie, 1665-1746.
which were left in a MS. volume and in the possession of her daughter, but only two of her productions are now known to exist. The one, "Werena my heart licht I wad dee,” and the other, "The Ewe Buchtin's Bonnie." Both pieces, with their airs, are printed in Chambers' Songs of Scotland prior to Burns. "Werena my heart licht" shows a fine reflective spirit and true pathos, which were so appreciated by Burns that the eighth and ninth stanzas were used by him as descriptive of the last sad days of his life.
Lady Wardlaw of Pitreavie, another female author, is entitled to notice, having produced the interesting ballad of "HardyKnute," which gave rise to so much controversy Lady Wardlaw, in the early part of the eighteenth century. When it first appeared it was claimed for this ballad that it was a contemporary account of the battle of Largs, fought in 1263, and was deemed one of the oldest ballads in the Scottish tongue. The authoress, who evidently had a love of the romantic, declared she had discovered it written on strips of paper used for the bottoms of weaving (clues)-a claim which had just -sufficient plausibility to recommend it to the curious and uncritical. The statement was at first received without questioning by literary antiquarians of repute, and it was included by Allan Ramsay in his "Evergreen" in 1724 among poems written by the ingenious before 1600, and it even appeared in the first edition of Percy's Reliques of Ancient Poetry," with its original claims undisputed. Pinkerton, in his "Scottish Tragic Ballads," published in 1781, manufactured a new theory, however, and "Hardyknute" was attributed to Sir John Bruce of Kinross, and appeared with his name attached thereto in the fourth edition of Percy's "Reliques." This, too, in spite of the fact that Lord Hailes had furnished the information to a previous edition of the "Reliques" that Lady Wardlaw had acknowledged the authorship, which was finally put to the test by her addition to the ballad of two new and concluding stanzas. These stanzas prove almost beyond question that the preceding stanzas had been executed by the same hand. "Hardyknute" was highly appreciated by Gray and Warton, and Sir
Walter Scott so much admired it that he committed the whole of the forty-two stanzas to memory, with the resolution that it should be the last poem he would forget. It has been implied by Professor Masson and others that Lady Wardlaw wrote many other poems and ballads; but the evidence in favour of the assumption is not in all respects satisfactory, and "Hardyknute" is the only ballad or poem of hers known to be extant. The poem, however, has had so rare a popularity that the authorship of such a piece is sufficient to entitle Lady Wardlaw to recognition in the history of Scottish poetry.
In William Hamilton of Bangour, we have a poet not so strictly Scottish as the two previously mentioned in this chapter; but one of a wider range and with an ardent love of the art. Born in 1704 at his father's estate of Bangour, with all the advantages of a good education and an entrêe to the society of the cultured, he was the poet of the polite world in Scotland at the beginning of the eighteenth century. Amid the amenities of life and society he cultivated a taste for literature, making himself acquainted with the best writers both in ancient and modern times. His natural bias was to poetry, which he manifested early in life. These juvenile attempts were privately circulated and read among his friends, and were so well received and favourably criticised that he was encouraged to persevere in the art of poetical composition. Though he was never great enough to startle the public he gradually achieved success, and in 1724 he contributed to Allan Ramsay's "Tea-table Miscellany." When the Rebellion of 1745 broke out he took the side of the Pretender and became an active partisan in the second Jacobite rising. After its collapse at Culloden he fled to the mountains and for a time suffered many hardships, after which he made his escape to France. The period of his exile was short, however, having many friends and admirers among the more fortunate party behind him who took the earliest opportunity of appealing to the Government for his pardon. Nor was their appeal in vain, for he was permitted to return to his native country in 1749, and he succeeded to the family
William Hamilton of Bangour, 1704-1754,
estate in the following year. His military adventures, and the exposure to which he was subjected when he sought refuge in the mountains, had told upon his health, and he was compelled to go to a warmer climate. Consequently he went to reside at Lyons, where he died on March 25th, 1754, in the fiftieth year of his age.
In 1748 a pirated edition of his poems was published at Glasgow without the author's sanction, which abounded in errors. For some time this was the only edition to which the public had access, but for the sake of the author's reputation his friends published a complete collection of his works after his death, from his original manuscripts. This edition was published at Edinburgh in 1760, but fell almost still-born from the press, and when almost forgotten a review of the volume appeared in the Lounger by Professor Richardson. On this occasion the Lounger did for Hamilton's poems what it did for Burns many years afterwards, by awakening the interest of the reading public in their behalf. In spite of the flattering terms with which Professor Richardson's review sought to gain the ear of the public, Hamilton's poems do not possess in any high degree either the lyric or dramatic power which belongs to great poets. A man of culture he certainly was, and he had a due sense of balance and harmony, but, though some of the subjects with which he dealt lent themselves to gay and humorous treatment, his verses display little evidence of the mirth and brilliancy of wit which were needful to fascinate the popular mind in a period of dull and prosaic writing. Perhaps Hamilton's principal poem is "Contemplation," or "The Triumph of Love," which is more grave than lofty, more solemn than sublime. "The Braes o' Yarrow" has been estimated by some critics as one of the finest ballads ever written, while Pinkerton regards it as inferior to the poorest of the old ballads on the same subject, but at any rate it has been popular. The verses Hamilton addressed to the Countess of Eglinton, which were prefixed to the "Gentle Shepherd," form unquestionably a fine poem, and would do honour to one who made poetry his vocation rather than his amusement. In fact, it is perhaps the