Edinburgh Bookshelf

Kay's Originals Vol. 2


BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. 237 works of the day, but it was not till 1794 that Mr. Sommers, impelled by the political excitement of the times, committed himself to the public, by the production of a pamphlet on the “Meaning and Extent of the Burgess Oath.”‘ This essay, inscribed to Provost Elder, is written in a clear and forcible style. The aim of the author was to exhibit to his fellow-burgesses the nature and duties by which they were bound, and the evil effects consequent on disunion, disaffection, and civil war. As the pamphlet is now scarce, we may quote the following passage as a specimen :-“ How valuable, how important then, the blessings of internal peace-national peace ! Consequently, how criminal the conduct of those who would endeavour to deprive us of them ! Peace, at her leisure, plans and leads out industry to execute all those noble improvements in agriculture, commerce, architecture, and science, which we behold on every side. Peace sets the mark of property on our possessions, and bids justice guarantee them to our enjoyment. Peace spreads over us the banner of the laws, while, free from outrage, and secure from injury, we taste the milk and honey of our honest toil.“ The author was prompted to this performance by a desire to vindicate the character of the poet, and rescue his memory from the misrepresentations of ‘‘ those biographers who knew him not, and who have taken their materials from others little better informed than themselves.” The story of the poet’s accidental meeting with the Rev. John Brown, in the churchyard of Haddington, and the extraordinary effect resulting from the conversation, is strongly doubted by Mr. Sommers. “This rural excursion, and singular dialogue,” says he, “ with all its supposed direful effects, has even found its way into the first volume of the Supplement to the [email protected] dia Britanniea, and is held forth in that part of their biographical history as a sterling circumstance in the life of the unfortunate Robert Fergusson! I know, however, that account to be ill-founded in most particulars, although the visit alluded to was in the year 1772. The day before Robert Fergusson set out upon it, I saw and conversed with him; and the evening on which he returned to town was in his company ; and not one word dropped from him of any such thing having happened, though he was thn in every respect possessed of all his mental faculties. With regard to the accusation preferred against the poet, “that he was an utter stranger to temperance and sobriety, and that his dissipated manner of life had in a great measure eradicated all sense of delicacy and propriety,” Mr. Sommers observes, that ‘‘ those who were personally acquainted with him, will His Life of Fergusson appeared in 1803.’ “Observations on the Meaning and Extent of the Burgess Oath, taken at the admission of every Burgess in the City of Edinburgh, as comprehending the duties of Religion, Allegiance to the King, Respect and Submission to the authority of the Civil Magistrate, and the relative duties which the Bur gesses owe to each other. By Thomas Sommera, Burgess and Freeman Glazier of Edinburgh.” 8vo. * “Life of Robert Fergusson, the Scottish Poet, by Thomas Sommers, Burgess and Freeman of Edinburgh, and his Majesty’s Glazier for Scotland.” This biographical sketch was intended to accompany an edition of Fergusson’s Poems, printed in 12mo, by Chapman and Lang, 1500, and which Sommers characterises “as the best yet published.” Edin. 1803, 12mo.
Volume 9 Page 316
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