Edinburgh Bookshelf

Kay's Originals Vol. 1


BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. 127 He had an inveterate propensity for puns. A person once said to him that punning was the lowest species of wit, to which he replied, ‘‘ Then it must be the best species, since it is the foundation of the whole.” Mr. Erskine meeting an old friend one morning returning from St. Bernard’s Well, which he knew he was in the habit of daily visiting, exclaimed, “Oh, U ! Being told that Knox, who had long derived his’livelihood by keeping the door of the Parliament-House, had been killed by a shot from a small cannon on the King’s birthday, he observed that “it was remarkable a man should live by the civil and die by the cannon law.” Lord Kellie was once amusing his company with an account of a sermon he had heard in a church in Italy, in which the priest related the miracle of St. Anthony, when preaching on shipboard, attracting the fishes, which, in order to listen to his pious discourse, held their heads out of the water. “ I can well believe the miracle,” said Mr. Henry Erskine. “How so’?”-‘‘When your lordship was at church, there was at least one fish out of the water.” Mr. Erskine of Alva, a Scotch Advocate, afterwards one of the Senators of the College of Justice, and who assumed the title of Lord Barjarg, a man of diminutive stature, was retained as counsel in a very interesting cause, wherein the Hon. Henry Erskine appeared for the opposite party. The crowd in court being very great, in order to enable young Alva to be seen and heard more advantageously, a chair was brought him to stand upon. Mr. Erskine quaintly remarked, “That is one way of Thing at the bar.” An English nobleman, walking through the New Town in company with Mr. Erskine, remarked how odd it was that St. Andrew’s Church should so greatly project, whilst the Physicians’ Hall, immediately opposite, equally receded. Mr. Erskine admitted that George Street would have been, without exception, the finest street in Europe, if the forwardness of the clergy, and the backwardness of the physicians, had not marred its unqormity. One day Mr. Erskine was dining at the house of Mr. William Creech, bookseller, who was rather penurious, and entertained his guests on that occasion with a single bottle of Cape wine, though he boasted of some particularly fine Madeira wine he happened to possess. Mr, Erskine made various attempts to induce his host to produce a bottle of his vaunted Madeira, but to no purpose ; at length he said, with an air of apparent disappointment, “Well, well, since we can’t get to Madeira, we must just double the Cape.” In his latter years Mr. Erskine was very much annoyed at the idea that his witticisms might be collected together in a volume. Aware of this, a friend of his resolved to tease him, and having invited him to dinner, he, in the course of the evening, took up a goodly-looking volume, and, turning over the pages, began to laugh heartily. “What is the cause of your merriment?” exclaimed the guest. ‘‘ Oh, it’s only one of your jokes, Harry.”-“ Where did you get it ?”- “Oh, in the new work just published, entitled The Nezo Complete Jester, or I see you never weary in well-doing.” 7
Volume 8 Page 184
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