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Kay's Originals Vol. 1


BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. 3 a genteel annuity upon him. This, however, from his debilitated habit of body, was delayed from time to time, till death put it out of his power. But, to the honour of his heir, he was so sensible of Mr. Ray’s good offices to his father, as well as of his father’s intentions, that he voluntarily made a settlement of $20 per annum for life upon him. After the death of his patron, our author attempted to etch in aquafortis, and having published some of his Prints executed in this way, he met with so much unexpected success, that he at last determined to drop his old profession altogether, which he did accordingly in 1785. (‘ Our Author has drawn himself in this Print, sitting in a thoughtful posture, in an antiquated chair (whereby he means to represent his love of antiquities), with his favourite cat (the largest it is believed in Scotland) sitting upon the back of it ; several pictures hanging behind him ; a bust of Homer with his painting utensils on the table before him, a scroll of paper in his hand, and a volume of his works upon his knee.” Mr. Kay continued from the above period till about the year 1817 to exercise his talents in engraving. For a period of nearly half a century, few persons of any notoriety who figured in the Scottish capital have escaped his notice, and he has occasionally indulged himself in caricaturing such local incidents as might amuse the public. In this wa.y he has formed a collection altogether unique ; and we concur with Mr. Chambers’ in thinking that “it may with safety be affirmed that no city in the empire can boast of so curious a chronicle.” It is right, in addition to this, to mention that his etchings are universally admitted to possess one merit, which of itself stamps them with value, namely that of being exact and faithful likenesses of the parties intended to be represented. The emoluments derived from his engravings and painting miniature likehesses in water colours, together with the annuity from the Dirleton family, regularly paid by Sir Henry Jardine, rendered him tolerably independent. He had a small print-shop on the south side of the Parliament Square, in which he sold his productions, and the windows of which, being always filled with his more recent works, used to be a great attraction to the idlers of the time. It was, with the rest of the old buildings in the square, destroyed by the great fire in November 1824. In his outward appearance he was a slender, straight old man, of middle size, and usually dressed in a garb of antique cut, of simple habits, and quiet unassuming manners. He died at his house, No. 227 High Street, Edinburgh, 21st February 1826, in the eighty-fourth year of his age. His widow survived him upwards of nine years; her death took place in November 1835. The son alluded to by Mr. Kay in his biography predeceased his father. “ Biographical Dictionary of Illustrious Scotsmen.”
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4 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. THE DAFT HIGHLAND LAIRD. JOHN DHU, OR DO'CV, ALIAS 'MACDONALD, AND JAMIE DUFF, AN IDIOT. THE first of these worthies, who is in the act of holding up a staff surmounted by the representation of a human head and face, was a gentleman by birth, his proper name and title being James Robertson of Kincraigie, in Perthshire. He was a determined Jacobite, and had been engaged in the Rebellion of 1745, for which he was confined in the Tolbooth of Edinburgh. It was during this incarceration that the Laird exhibited those symptoms of derangement which subsequently caused him to obtain the sobriquet of the " Daft Highland Laird." His lunacy was first indicated by a series of splendid entertainments to all those who chose to come, no matter who they were. His insanity and harmlessness having become known to the authorities, they discharged him from the jail, from which, however, he was no sooner ejected than he was pounced upon by his friends, who having cognosced him in the usual manner, his younger bother was, it is understood, appointed his curator or guardian. By this prudent measure his property was preserved against any attempts which might be made by designing persons, and an adequate yearly allowance was provided for his support. A moderate income having in this way been secured to the Laird, he was enabled to maintain the character of a deranged gentleman with some degree of respectability, and he enjoyed, from this time forward, a total immunity from all the cares of life. When we say, however, that the Laird was freed from all care and anxiety, we hazarded something more than the facts warrant. Tilere was one darling wish of his heart that clung to him for many a day, which certainly it was not very easy to gratify. This was his extreme anxiety to be hanged, drawn, and quartered, as a rebel partisan of the house of Stuart, and a sworn and deadly foe to the reigning dynasty. He was sadly annoyed that nobody would put him in jail as a traitor, or attempt to bring him to trial. It would have been a partial alleviation of his grief, if he could have got any benevolent person to have accused him of treason. It was in vain that he drank healths to the Pretender-in vain that he bawled treason in the streets ; there was not one who would lend a helping-hand to procure him the enjoyment of its pains and penalties. The Laird, although he uniformly insisted on being a martyr to the cause of the Chevalier, seemed to feel that there was something wanting to complete his pretensions to that character-that it was hardly compatible with the unrestrained liberty he enjoyed, the ease and comfort in which he lived, and the total immunity from any kind of suffering which was permitted him j and hence his anxiety to bring down upon himself t,he vengeance of the law.
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