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Kay's Originals Vol. 1


. B I 0 GRAPH I CA L SKETCHES. 9 No. 111. FRANCIS WNAB, ESQ. OF M'NAB. SCOTLANaDbo, ut the close of the eighteenth century, contained few men of greater local notoriety than the herculean Highlander, whom Mr. Kay has here represented in the act of reeling along the North Bridge, a little declined from the perpendicular. " The Laird of M'Nab," as he was commonly called, represented his clan at a time when the ancient peculiarities of the manners and ideas of a Highland chief were melting into a union with those of a Lowland gentleman. A strong dash of the primitive character, joined to much natural eccentricity, tended to make him a wonder in the midst of the cultivated society of his day. To complete the effect of his singular manners, his person was cast in one of nature's most gigantic moulds. A volume, and that not a small one, might be filled with the curious sayings and doings of this singular gentleman ; but unfortunately the greater part of them, for reasons which may be guessed, could not, with any degree of propriety, be laid before the public. The Laird was remarkable, above all things, for his notions of the dignity of his chieftainship. A gentleman, who had come from a great distance to pay him a visit, either ignorant of or forgetting the etiquette to be observed in speaking to or of a Highland chieftain, inquired if Nr. M' Nab was within ?-" Mr." being a contemptible Saxon prefix, applied to every one who wears a passable coat, and well enough probably in the case of those ignoble persons who earn their bread by a profession, but not at all fit to be attached to the name of a Highland chief. The consequence Of this error of the Laird's visitor was, that he was refused admittance-a fact the more astonishing to himself, as he distinctly heard the Laird's voice in the lobby. In explanation of his blunder, he was told by a friend that he should have inquired, not for MY. MNab, but for the Laird of M'Nab, or simply M'Nab, by way of 'eminence. Acting on this hint, he called on the following day, and was not only admitted, but received with a most cordial and hearty welcome. Of the Laird's literary attainments some anecdotes have found their way into the jest-books. In one of these he is represented as laying the blame of certain orthographical errors with which he was charged on one occasior, to the badness of his pen, triumphantly asking his accuser, " Wha could spell with sic a pen 0 '' Of a piece with this, and indicating a somewhat similar degree of intellectual culture, was his going to L jeweller to bespeak a ring, similar to one worn by a friend of his which had taken his fancy, and which was set either with the hair of Charles Edward, or some other member of his family, the latter circumstance of course constituting its chief value. " But how soon,11 said the jeweller, whom C
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10 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. he was for binding down to a day for the completion of the work, “will you send me the hair ‘1 ”-“ The hair, sir ! ” replied M‘Nab fiercely ; ‘‘ Py Cot, sir you must give me the hair to the pargain I ” In cases, however, where the Laird is exhibited in the exercise of his own native wit, he by no means cuts the ridiculous figure he is made to do in such stories as the above. The Laird was a regular attendant on the Leith races, at which he bsually appeared in a rather flashy-looking gig. On one of these occasions he had the misfortune to lose his horse, which suddenly dropped down dead. At the races in the following year, a wag who had witnessed the catastrophe rode up to him and said, ‘I M‘Nab, is that the same horse you had last year 1 ” ‘‘ No, py Cot ! ” replied the Laird, (‘ but this is the same whip ;” and he was about to apply it to the shoulders of the querist, when he saved himself by a speedy retreat. On the formation of the Local Militia in 1808, M‘Nab being in Edinburgh, applied for arms for the Breadalbane corps of that force, but which he ought to have called the 4th Perthshire Local Militia. The storekeeper not recognising them by the name given by M‘Nab, replied to his application that he did not know such a corps. “My fine little storekeeper,” rejoined the Laid, highly offended at the contempt implied in this answer, “that may be; but, take my word for it, we do not think a bit the less of ourselves by you^ not knowing us.” This original character, but kind, single-minded man, died unmarried I at Callander, in Perthshire, on the 25th June 1816, in the eighty-second year of his age. THREE GIANTS, WITH A GROUP OF SPECTATORS. THIS Print exhibits Charles Byrne, the Irish giant, and two other giants, also Irishmen, who, although not in Edinburgh at the same time, have been placed by the artist in one group. The spectators are-Lord Monboddo, whose head appears in the background ; William Richardson, solicitor-at-law, on the left behind ; and Mr. Bell, engraver, in front ; on the right, Bailie Kyd, a lady, and a dwarf. Byme, the central of the three principal figures, was eight feet two inches in height, and proportionably thick. He was born in Ireland, of which oountry On one occasion when the opposite counsel, in one of his many causes in the Court of Session, was nnimadvertingon the immoral character of the Laird, he obsemed that it was currently reported that he had no less than twenty-seven natural children in the quarter where he lived. The Laird, being in Court, rose up and said, “ It is a pig lee, my Lord, for I have only four-and-twenty,” One evening, being at a party, a number of young ladies very jocularly asked him why he neyer took a wife. He good-humouredly replied, “ MJ tears, I love you a11 so well that I .Can’t think of marrying any one of you.“
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