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Kay's Originals Vol. 1


BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. 287 afterwards, with much inconsistency, established another, having similar objects in view, called the Royal Society of Edinburgh, Although engaged in literary and antiquarian research, the Earl of Buchan was far from being an indifferent spectator of passing events. He did not enter the political arena ; but when invasion threatened common r&, he not only with his pen endeavoured to create union among his countrymen, but, buckling on his sword, essayed to rouse them by example. The Earl, however, was no adherent of the powers that were ; and when the interference of the Court had completely set aside all semblance of freedom in the election of the Scottish peers, he stood forward in defence of his order; and, although he long fought singly, he at last succeeded in asserting its independence. The residence of Lord Buchan had for many years been in Edinburgh : but, in 1787, he retired on account of his health to Dryburgh Abbey-a property he acquired by purchase. Here he instituted an annual festive commemoration of the author of “ The Seasons,” the first meeting of which was held at Ednam Hill, on the 22d September 1791-on which occasion he crowned a copy of the j k s t collected edition of the Seasons with a wreath of bays. The following may be taken as a sample of the eulogium of the noble Lord on the occasion :- “And the immortal Prussian, standing like a herald in the procession of ages, to mark the beginning of that order of men who are to banish from the earth the delusions of priestcraft, and the monstrous prerogatives of despotic authority ! ” His lordship also took that opportunity of attacking the great English lexicographer, “ by whose rude hands the memory of Thomson has been profanely touched.” Burns wrote his beautiful lines to the shade of the bard of Ednam for the occasion ; and only five years afterwards, at the usual anniversary in 1796, Lord Buchan had the melancholy pleasure of placing an urn of Parian marble beside the bust of Thomson, in memory of the bard of Ayrshire. The copy of the Seasons alluded to, enclosed in a beautifully ornamented case, and enriched with some original autographs of the Poet, was subsequently presented by his lordship to the University of Edinburgh. The political sentiments of the Earl of Buchan were generally known ; but, in a work published in 1792, entitled “Essays on the Lives and Writings of Fletcher of Saltoun, and the Poet Thomson, Biographical and Political,” he embraced the opportunity of enforcing his favourite doctrines. In the same year his lordship presented the President of the United States with an elegantly mounted snuff-box, made from the tree which sheltered Wallace. This magnificent and truly characteristic present,” says a Philadelphia Journal, of January 2, “is from the Earl of Buchan, by the hands of Mr. Archibald Robertson, a Scots gentleman, and portrait painter, who arrived in America some months ago.’’ The box had been presented to Lord Buchan by the goldsmiths of Edinburgh in 1782, from whom he obtained leave to transfer it to the only man in the world to whom he thought it justly due.” The box was made by Robert Hay, might, afterwards in the Edinburgh Vendue.
Volume 8 Page 402
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