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Kay's Originals Vol. 1


Volume 8 Page 181
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BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. 125 Debating Society established in Edinburgh, in which he gave promise of that eminence as a pleader which he afterwards attained. The brilliant talents of Mr. Erskine soon placed him at the head of his profession. His legal services were as much at the command of the poor as of the wealthy, and he gratuitously devoted his abilities in behalf of any individual whom he believed to be ill-used, with greater zeal than if he had been amply remunerated for his exertions. So well was this benevolent trait in his character known, that it was said of him by a poor man who lived in a remote district of Scotland, when a friend would have dissuaded him from entering into a ceeain lawsuit, ‘‘ There’s no a pub man in a’ Scotland need to want a friend or fear an enemy, sae lang as Harry Erskine’s to the fore.” During the Coalition Administration Mr. Erskine held the office of Lord Advocate of Scotland, He succeeded Henry Dundas (afterwards Lord Melville). On the morning of the appointment he had an interview with Dundas in the Outer-House; when, obsening that the latter gentleman had already resumed the ordinary stuff gown which advocates are in the custom of wearing, he said gaily that he “ must leave off talking, to go and order his silk gown ” (the official costume of the Lord Advocate and Solicitor-General).-“ It is hardly worth while,” said Mr. Dundas, drily, “ for the time you will want it-you had better borrow mine.” Erskine’e reply was exceedingly happy-“ From the readiness with which you make the offer, Mr. Dundas, I have no doubt that the gown is a gown made to Jit anyparty; but however short my time in office may be, it shall ne’er be said of Henry Erskine that he put on the abandoned habits of his predecessor.” The prediction ‘of Mr. Dundas proved true, however j for Erskine held office only for a very short period, in consequence of a sudden change of Ministry. He was succeeded by Ilay Campbell, Esq., afterwards Lord President of the Court of Session, to whom he said, upon resigning his gown, “My Lord, you must take nothing of it, far I’ll soon need it again.” To which Mr, Campbell replied, “It will be bare cnolcgh, Harry, before you get it.” On the return of the Whigs to power in 1806, Mr. Erskine once more became Lord Advocate, and was at the same time returned member for the Dumfries district of burghs. But this Administration being of short duration, he was again deprived of office. After a long, laborious, and brilliant professional career, extending over aperiod of forty-four years, Mr. Erskine retired from public life to his villa of Almonddell in West Lothian, where he died on the 8th of October 1817, in the seventy-first year of his age. In person Mr. Erskine was above the middle size, and eminently handsome. His voice was powerful-his manner of delivery peculiarly graceful-his enunciation accurate and distinctqualities which greatly added to the effect of his oratory, Mr, Erskine’s first wife (Miss Fullerton) was a lady of somewhat eccentric habits-she not unfrequently employed half of the night in examining the family wardrobe, to see that nothing was missing. On one of these occasions she
Volume 8 Page 182
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