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Old and New Edinburgh Vol. IV


294 OLD AND NEW EDINBURGH. [The Second High School. behind the class in which I was placed both in years and progress. This was a real disadvantage, and one to which a boy of lively temper ought to be as little exposed as one who might be less expected to make up his leeway, as it is called. The situation has the unfortunate effect of reconciling a boy of the former character (which in a posthumous work I may claim for my own) to holding a subordinate station among his class-fellows, to which he would otherwise aflix disgrace. There is also, from the constitution of the High School, a certain danger not sufficiently attended to. The boys take precedence in their pZaces, as they are called, according to their merit, and it requires a long while, in general, before even a clever boy (if he falls behind the class, or is put into one for which he is not quite ready) can force his way to the situation which his abilities really entitle him to hold. . . , . It was probablyowing to this circumstance that, although at a more advanced period of life I have enjoyed considerable facility in acquiring languages, I did not make any great figure at the High School, or, at least, any exertions which I made were desultory, and little to be depended upon.? In the class with Scott, at this time, were several clever boys among whom he affectionately enumerates, the first dux, who retained that place without a day?s interval during ?all the while we were at the High School ?- James Buchan, afterwards head of the medical staff in Egypt, where amid the wards of the plague-hospitals, ?he displayed the same well-regulated and gentle, yet determined perseverance, which placed him most worthily at the head of his class-fellows ; ? his personal friends were David Douglas, and John Hope, W.S., who died in 1842. ?? As for myself,? he continues, ? I glanced like a meteor from one end of the class to the other, and commonly disgusted my master as much by negligence and frivolity, as I occasionally pleased him by flashes of intellect and talent. Among my companions my good nature and a flow of ready imagination rendered me very popular. Boys are uncommonly just in their feelings, and at least equally generous. I was also, though often negligent of my own task, always ready to assist my friends, and hence I had a little party ofstaunch partisans and adherents, stout of heart and hand, though somewhat dull of head-the very tools for raising a hero to eminence. So, on the whole, I made a brighter figure in the Yards than in the CZms.? After being three years in Luke Fraser?s class, Scott, with other boys of it, was turned over to that of the Rector Adam?s, under whose tuition he benefited greatly in the usual classic course ; and in the years to come he never forgot how his heart swelled with pride when the learned Rector announced that though many boys ? understood the Latin better, GuaZteyus Scott was behind few in following and enjoying the author?s meaning, Thus encouraged, I distinguished myself by some attempts at poetical versions from Horace and Vigil. Dr. Adam used to invite his scholars to write such essays, but never made them tasks. I gained some distinction on these occasions, and the Rector in future took much notice of me, and his judicious mixture of censure and praise went far to counterbalance my habits of indolence and inattention. I saw that I was expected to do well, and I was piqued in honour to vindicate my master?s favourable opinion. . . . . . Dr. Adam, to whom I owe so much, never failed to remind me of my obligations when I had made some figure in the literary world.? In 1783 Scott quitted the High School, intent -young though he was-on entering the army ; but this his lameness prevented. His eldest son, Lieut.-Col. Sir Walter Scott, who died in 1847,.on board the WeZZesZey, near the Cape of Good Hope, was also a High School pupil, under Irwin and Pillans, between 1809 and 1814. In the spring of 1782, Uavid, Earl of Buchan, the active founder of the Scottish Society of Antiquarians, paid a formal visit to the school, and harangued the teachers and assembled scholars, after which Dr. Adam made an extempore reply in elegant Latin ; and nine years subsequently the latter gave to the world one of his most important works, ? The Roman Antiquities,? which has been translated into many languages, and is now used as a class book in many English schools, yet for which he only received the sum of A600. In 1795 we find among the joint writingkmasters at the High School the name of Allan Masterton, who was on such terms of intimacy with Robert Bums, and composed the music for his famous bacchanalian song, ? Oh, Wil& brewed a peck 0? maut, And Rab and Allan cam? to prie ; Three blyther lads that lee kng nicht, Ye wadna find in Christendie ! ? ?( Willie ? was William Nicol, M.A., another schoolmaster and musical amateur, afterwards a private teacher in Jackson?s Land, on the north side of the High Street, in 1795. ?? The air is Masterton?s,? says Burns; the song is mine. . . . . We had such a joyous meeting that Mr. Masterton and I agreed, each in our own way, to celebrate the business.?
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I The Second High School.] JAMES PILLANS. 295 Of the Rector and other teachers we have the following description by Mr. B. Mackay, M.A., in Steven?s work :-? I first saw the High School in 1803. I was then a youth of sixteen, and had come from Caithness, my native county, with a view to prosecute the study ofmedicine . . . . . The first master to whom I was introduced was the celebrated Dr. Adam. He was sitting at his study table with ten or twelve large old volumes spread out before him. He received us with great kindness, invited me to visit his class, and obligingly offered to solve any difficulties that might present themselves in the course of my classical reading, but held out no prospect of private teaching. His appearance was that of a fresh, strong, healthy old man, with an exceedingly benevo!ent countenance. Raeburn?s portrait of him, hung up in the school, is an admirable likeness, as well as the print engraved from it. He wore a short threadbare spencer, or jacket, which gave him rather a droll appearance, and, as I then thought, indicated economical habits. I was successively introduced to all the other masters, and visited their classes. The first day I entered Dr. Adam?s class he came forward to meet me, and said, ? Come away, sir ! You will see more done here in an hour than in any other school in Europe.? I sat down on one of the cross benches. The Doctor was calling up pupils from all parts of it ; taking sometimes the head, sometimes the foot of the forms ; sometimes he examined the class downwards from head to ioot, and sometimes from foot to head. . . . . The next class I visited was that of Mr. Alexander Christison, afterwards Professor of Humanity. He was seated quite erect in his desk, his chin resting on his thumb, and his fore-finger turned up towards his temple, and occasionally pressed against his nose. When we entered he.took no notice of us. He was giving short sentences in English, and requiring the boys to turn them extmfore into Latin, and vary them through all the moods and tenses, which they did with great readiness and precision. His class was numerous, but presented the stillness of death. You might have heard a pin drop. . . . . . The next master to whom I was introduced was Mr. Luke Fraser, whom we found standing on the floor examining his class. He was, I think, the strongest built man I ever beheld. He was then old, and wore a scratch wig. The class, like the rest, was numerous and in fine order. In changing books, however, the boys made a little noise, which he checked by a tremendous stamp on the floor that made both them and me quake, and enveloped his own legs in a cloud of dust.?? During all the years of his rectorship Adam was contributing from time to time to the classical literature of the country. The least popular of his many works is the ?Classical Biography,? published in 1800 ; and the last and most laborious of his useful compilations was his abridged ? h i c o n Lingue mine Compendiarium,? 8v0, published in 1805. Through life he had been a hard student and an early riser. On leaving his class at three pm., his general walk was round by the then tree-shaded Grange Loan ; but in earlier years his favourite ramble was up the green slopes of Arthur?s Seat. Having been seized in school with an apoplectic attack, he languished for five days, and as death was approaching, fancying himself during the wanderings of his mind, as the light faded from his eyes, still among his pupils, he said, ?But it grows dud-boys, you may go ! ?? and instantly expired, in the 68th year of liis age, on the 18th December, 1809. His remains were laid in the gloomy little ground attached to St. Cuthbert?s chapel of ease, where a monument was erected to his memory with a Latin inscription thereon, written by Dr. James Gregory of the Edinburgh University. He was among the last who adhered to the old-fashioned dress, breeches and silk stockings, with knee and shoebuckles and the queue, though he had relinquished the use of hair-powder. A successor was found to him in the person of Mr. James Pillans, M.A. (the ?paltry Pillans? of Byron?s ? English Bards and Scotch Reviewers ?), who was elected rector on the 24th of January, 1810. As one of the Doctor?s early pu~ils, and ranking next to Francis Homer, who had borne off the highest honours, he entered upon his duties with enthusiasm, and the ardour with which he was received in the hall of the High School on his a, karance there, augured well for the future. In 1811 he published a selection from the school exercises of his best pupils, a volume, which, excepting imperfections, was most honourable to the boyish authors, the oldest of whom had not reached his fifteenth year. A favourable critique of this unique work-which was in Latin metre-appeared in the Quarter& Review from the pen of the then poet laureate, Southey. To the cultivation of Greek literature great attention was now paid, and the appearance made by the pupils at their periodical examinations was so brilliant, that on the motion of Sir John Marjoribanks, Bart., the Ldrd Provost, the Town Council unanimously resolved on the 27th July, 1814, ?that there be annually presented by the City of Edinburgh to the boy at the head of the Greek class, taught by the Rector of the High
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