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Kay's Originals Vol. 2


238 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. not subscribe to that opinion ; for even when in his more devoted hours at the shrine of Bacchus, he preserved a modesty and gentleness of manners, exhibited by few of his age, sprightly humour, and unpatronised situation." Of the intimacy betwixt the poet and his biographer, the following anecdote affords a characteristic instance. Mr. Sommers, alluding to his shop in the Parliament Square, states that he was frequently visited by the poet, when passing to or from the Comniissary Office :-" In one of those visits I happened to be absent ; he found, however, my shopboy Robert Aikman (a great favourite of Fergusson), then engaged in copying from a collection of manuscript hymns one on the Creation, given to him by a friend of the author, in order to improve his hand in writing. Fergusson looked at the hymn, and supposing that I had given it to the boy, not merely to transcribe, but to learn its serious contents, took the pen out of his hand, and upon a small slip of paper wrote the following lines : - ' Tom Sommers is a gloomy man, His mind is dark within ; 0 holy - ! glaze his soul, That light may enter in.' He then desired the boy to give his compliments to me, delivered to him the slip of paper, and retired." Another circumstance relative to the only portrait known to have been taken of the poet, is too interesting to be omitted. Speaking of Ruiaciman, the painter, Sommers says-" That artist was at this time painting, in his own house in the Pleasance, a picture on a half-length cloth of the Prodigal Son, in which his fancy and pencil had introduced every necessary object and circumstance suggested by the sacred passage. I was much pleased with the composition, colouring, and admirable effect of the piece, at least what was done of it; but expressed my surprise at observing a large space in the centre, exhibiting nothing but chalk outlines of a human figure. He informed me that he had reserved that space for the Prodigal, but could not find a young man whose personal form and expressive features were such as he could approve of, and commit to the canvas. Robert Fergusson's face and figure instantly occurred to me ; not from an idea that Fergusson's real character was that of the Prodigal; by no means-but on account of his sprightly humour, personal appearance, and striking features. I asked Mr. Runciman if he knew the poet? He answered in the negative, but that he had often read and admired the poems. That evening at five I appointed to meet with him and the poet in a tavern, Parliament Close. We did so, and I introduced him. The painter was much pleased, both with his figure and conversation. I intimated to Ferpsson the nature of the business on which we met. He agreed to sit next forenoon.. I accompanied him for that purpose; and in a few days the picture strikingly exhibited the bard in the character of a prodigal, sitting on a grassy bank, surrounded by swine, some of which were sleeping, and others feeding ; his right leg over his left knee ; eyes uplifted ; At his own desire I called to see it.
Volume 9 Page 317
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