Edinburgh Bookshelf

Kay's Originals Vol. 1


BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. 141 The letter from which the foregoing extract is taken is dated June 2, 1782, and directed to “ Mrs. Martin, relict of Captain Martin, to the care of Mr. William Pagan, merchant, New York.” The nephew, for whom he expresses so much anxiety, arrived safe in Scotland, and continued with him for several years, but returning to America, died not long after. His wife, also, whose bad health he mentions, did not long survive. Amid these severe domestic aflictions, Martin’s business continued to flourish. Finding his old place of business too small, he removed to more commodious apartments in Gourlay’s Land, Old Bank Close, in one of the large rooms of which he held his auction-mart. Here he seems to have been eminently successful. In 1789 he purchased these premises from the trustee for the creditors of the well-known William Brodie, cabinet-maker; and in 1792 the fame of his prosperity was so great as to attract the notice of a perpetrator of verses, of the name of Galloway, by whom he is associated with “ King Lackington” of London, in the following immortal epistle :l “ TO MEESRS.L ACKINGTOANND MARTINB, OOKSELLERS.” ‘‘ Honour and fame from no condition rise, Act well thy part, there all thy honoar lies.”-PopE. “ Whiie booksellers jog in Newmarket haste, Racing with Crispins for the bankrupt list ; Hail ! then, King LACKINQTOaNnd, brother MARTIE, Fate‘s doom’d thee to survive the wreck for certain. When you relinquished being shoe-retaikm, You shunn’d the dangerous rocks of leather-dealers ; Now, now, your BURNS,y our MORRISSEaSn, d PINDAM, The product of their brain to you surrenders. For which, one word, you’ve often sworn and said it, You utterly abhor what fools givecredit 3 Thus, you’re the blades who can extract the honey, For all your creed’s in two words, ‘ ready money.’ Now eunuch-built a booksellers all conivell, And with thee tumbled headlong to the devil. Sell, brother Crispins, sell (and spurn their clamour), Quick as your welt-eye, or the auction hammer ; While authors write, t i eyes drop from their sockets, 1 The sllbject of this exquisite [email protected] of genius will be sufficient apology for its insertion. The author, GEORQGE ALLOWAwYa, s born in Scotland on the 11th of October 1757. He was bred a mechanic-then turned musician-next went to sea, and was taken prisoner by the Spaniards. After a lapse of many years he returned to London, and there set about courting the Muses, having been rendered unfit for mechanical labour, owing to weakness of vision caused by long confinement abroad While living in the capital he produced material for the volume from which the epistle is selected. In justice to George, we must say that his address to “Lackington and brother Martin” is the worst in the collection. He was the author of two plays, “ The Admirable Cdchton; a tyagedy in five acts. The Battle of Luncarty, or the Valiant Hays Iriuvnphant over the Danbh Invaders; a drama in five acts. Edin. 1804, lZnw.”-the perusal of which will afford a treat to those who have any perception of the ludicrous. The last production from his pen that we have seen is an L( Elegy on the Death of Hmwy Duke of Buccleuch. Edin. 1812, 8vo. ; ’’ which is stated “to be printed for and sold by the Author.” Edin. 1802, 12mo. J” and a A vulgar allusion to Bailie Creech.
Volume 8 Page 201
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142 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. Racking their brain for gold to line your pockets. Since Heav’n ha8 cut and form’d thee out for gain, And fate haa fixed thee in the &chest vain ; Led by Dame Fortune, that blind fickle L h , Who’s smit you with the whilie silver itch, Selling what hungry authors coin in heaps, Supporting printers’ pressecl, and their types. Now since you’ve rais’d yourselves by your own nurit, Ddl lake them who envy what you inherit.” About 1793 Mr. Martin sold his premises in Gourlay’s Land to the Bank of Scotland, when he removed to 94 South Bridge, where he continued for a number of years. Not long after this he bought the Golf-House, at the east end of Bruntsfield Links, as a private residence, where he resided for several years. In 1806 Martin moved to No. 2 Lothian Street, but in a year or two after retired altogether from business, and died in the month of February 1820, nearly eighty years of age. He was twice married, and by his first i f e had several children j but as he mentions himself, in the letter already alluded to, they died in infancy. His second wife (to whom he was married in December 1788) was a Miss Katherine Robertson, daughter of Mr. Robertson, schoolmaster in Ayr. She had a brother many years surgeon in the 42d Highlanders. Mrs. Martin survived her husband about seven years; and at her death his nephews in America received a sum equal to the half of his estate, and her brother received the remainder. While in his auction-room, Martin was full of anecdote and humour, but somewhat fond of laughing at his own jokes. “ He is apt,” says Mr. Kay, ‘‘ to grin and laugh at his own jests, and the higher that prices are bid for his prints, the more he is observed to laugh and the wider to grin.” Martin (nothing to his discredit, considering his humble origin), was somewhat illiterate-at least he was no classical scholar-and perhaps in the course of his business he frequently suffered by his ignorance of the dead languages.’ If the book he was about to sell happened to be Greek, his usual introduction was-‘‘ Here comes waw-taes, or whatever else you like to call it ;” and on other occasions, if the volume happened to be in a more modern language, but the title of which he was as little able to read, he would say to the students, after a blundering attempt, “Gentlemen, I am rather rusty in my French, but were it Hehew, ye ken I would be quite at hame !‘Is 1 Owing to ignorance, he sold many valuable Greek and Latin books for mere trifles. Sometimes when at a loss to read the title of a Latin or French book, he would, if he could find a young student near him, thrust the book before him, saying, “ Read that, my man ; it’s sae lang since I was at the College I hae forgotten a’ my Latin.” a Having one night made even a more blundering attempt than usual to unriddle the title of a French book, a young dandy, wishing to have another laugh at Martin’s expense, desired him to read the title of the book again, a8 he did not know what it was about. ‘‘Why,’’ said Martin, ‘‘it’g something about mnners, and that’s what neither you nor me has ower muckle o’.”
Volume 8 Page 202
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