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Kay's Originals Vol. 1


BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. 123 without an infringement of principle. With this view, during one of his visits to London, he procured singers from the Cathedral of York, by whose aid he. originated an amendment in the conducting of the psalmody, which was at first looked upon as a daring innovation, but is now become pretty general throughout the Establishment. There were some slight defects in the character of the Doctor, which have been admitted by his warmest friends-he was vain, and very susceptible of flattery. A gentleman one day met him on the street, and, in the course of conversation, mentioned that his friend Mr. Donald Smith, banker, was anxious to secure a seat in the High Church, that he might become one of the Doctor’s congregation. “ Indeed,” continued this person, ‘‘ my friend is quite anxious on this subject. He has tried many preachers, but he finds’your sermons, Doctor, so superior in the graces of oratory, and so full of pointed observation of the world, that he cannot think of settling under any other than you.”-“ I am very glad to hear that I am to have Mr. Smith for a hearer,” said the preacher with unconscious self-gratulation-“ he is a very sensible man.” Dr. Blair’s “ taste and accuracy in dress,” continues our authority, “were absolutely ridiculous. There .was a correctness in his wig, for instance, amounting to a hair-breadth exactness. He was so careful about his coat, that, not content with merely looking at himself in the mirror to see how it fitted in general, he would cause the tailor to lay the looking-glass on the floor, and then standing on tiptoe over it, he would peep athwart his shoulder to see how the skirts hung. It is also yet remembered in Edinburgh, with what a self-satisfied and finical air this great divine used to walk between his house and the church every Sunday morning, on his way to perform service. His wig frizzed and powdered so nicely-his gown so scrupulously arranged on his shoulders-his bands so pure and clean-and every thing about him in such exquisite taste and neatness.” Upon one occasion, while sitting for his portrait, he requested the painter to draw his face with a pleasing mile. The painter replied, “Well, then, you must put on a pleasing smile.” The Doctor, in attempting to do this, made a most horrid grin, which, being immediately transferred to the canvas, gave his effigy the appearance of that of a downright idiot. This effect being pointed out to him by a friend, he immediately ordered the painting to be destroyed, and a new one forthwith commenced, the Doctor contenting himself with having it executed without the ‘‘ pleasing smile.” During the latter part of his life almost all strangers of distinction who visited Edinburgh brought letters of introduction to Dr. Blair ; and as he wils quite at ease in point of worldly circumstances, and had then in a great measure ceased to study intensely, he in general entertained them frequently and well. On one of these occasions, when he had collected a considerable party at dinner to meet an English clergyman, a Scotchman present asked the stranger what was thought of the Doctor’s sermons by his professional brethren in the south. To his horror, and to the mortification of Mrs. Blair, who sat near, and who looked upon her husband as a sort of divinity, the Englishman answered, “Why, they are not
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124 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. partial to them at all.”-“How, sir,” faltered out the querist--“how should that be ‘I ”-“ Why,” replied the southron, “ because they are so much read, and so generally known, that our clergymen can’t borrow from them.” The whole company, hitherto in a state of considerable embarrassment, were quite delighted at this ingenious and well-turned compliment. Dr. Blair died in the 83d year of his age, on the 27th December 1800. He was buried in the Greyfriars’ Churchyard-the Westminster Abbey of Scotland -where a tablet to his memory, containing a highly elegant and classical Latin inscription, is affixed to the southern wall of the church. He married, in 1748, his cousin, Katherine Bannatyne, daughter of the Reverend James Bannatyne, one of the ministers of Edinburgh, by whom he had a son and daughter. The former died in infancy, and the latter when about twenty-one years of age. Mrs. Blair also died a few years previous to the demise of her husband. Dr. Blair’s usual place of residence in summer was at Restalrig-in winter in Argyle Square.‘ No. LVIII. THE HONOURABLE HENRY ERSKINE, DEAN OF THE FACULTY OF ADVOCATES. MR. ERSKINE, in consequence of holding an appointment from the Prince of Wales, generally presided at the anniversary meeting of his Royal Highness’s household in Edinburgh on the 12th of August ;’ hence the reason why Kay has placed the Prince’s coronet at the bottom of the Print. The motto, “ Seria mixta jocis,” is in allusion to the uncommon humour and vivacity which characterised his legal pleadings. The Hon. Henry Erskine was the third son of Henry David, tenth Earl of Buchan, by Apes, daughter of Sir James Stewart of Goodtrees, and was born at Edinburgh on the 1st November 1746. His patrimony was trifling, and had it not been for the exemplary kindness of his eldest brother, who took a paternal charge both of Henry and his younger brother Thomas, afterwards Lord Erskine, he would not have been able to defray the expenses attendant upon the course of study requisite to be followed in order to qualify him for the bar. In the year 1765, Mr. Erskine was admitt,ed a member of the Faculty of Advocates. He had previously prepared himself for eztempore speaking, by attending the Forum Near the present Industrial Museum. On one of these occasions, while a gentleman was singing after dinner, the Prince’s tobacconist accompanied the song with his fingers upon the waiwcoting of the room, in a very accurate manner. When the music finished, the chairman said, “He thought the Prince’fl tobacconist would make a capital King’s Counsel.” On being asked I‘ Why?” Harry replied, “Because I never heard a man make so much of a pannel.”
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