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Kay's Originals Vol. 1


208 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. In these nine volumes he comprehended all that was contained in the original, which consisted of sixteen large quarto volumes. The method he pursued of rendering it into the English language was somewhat unusual. Instead of translating literally, paragraph by paragraph, and sentence by sentence, he deliberately read over six or eight pages at a time, making himself perfectly master of their substance, and then wrote down the whole in English, in his own words and arrangement. The greater part of this task he performed in a small correctingroom connected with his printing-office, amidst the continual interruption farising from the introduction of proof-sheets of other works for his professional revisal, and the almost perpetual calls of customers, authors, and idle acquaintances. Yet kuch was his self-possession, that, as usual with almost everything he wrote, he gave it out to his compositors page by page, as fast as it was written, and hardly ever found it necessary to alter a single word after the types were set up from his first uncorrected manuscript. In'Aupst 1781, Mr. Smellie drew up the first regular plan for procuring a statistical account of the parishes of Scotland. This plan was printed and distributed by order of the Society of Antiquaries ; and although no other result followed at the time than a st,atistical report, by the Earl of Buchan, of the parish of Uphall, in which his lordship then resided, along with three or four others, which were printed in the Society's Transactions, yet it is proper to mention the circumstance, as it was the precursor of the scheme which the late Sir John Sinclair afterwards brought to maturity. On the death of Dr. Ramsay in 1775, Mr. Smellie became a candidate for the Chair of Natural History in the University of Edinburgh. The patronage being in the gift of the Crown, his friends made strong and ardent applications in his favour to Lord Suffolk ; but from the superior political influence of his opponent, Dr. Walker, these exertions were unsuccessful, Mr. Smellie was one of the original founders of the Society of Antiquaries. In 1781 he was appointed Superintendent of its Museum of Natural History ; and in 1793 he was elected Secretary. It is not intended here to give a history of that Society ; yet, as a considerable portion of the strange and inexplicable opposition which that Association encountered, in their application for a royal charter, from two highly respectable public bodies, originated out of circuinstances intimately connected With Mr. Smellie's history, a short account of these transactions may be given. Mr. Smellie having announced his intention of giving a course of lectures, at the request of the 'Society, on the Philosophy of Natural History, to be delivered in their hall, this proposal gave great dissatisfaction to Dr. Walker, the recently elected Professor of Natural History, already mentioned ; although every attempt was made by the Earl of Enchan to satisfy him that Mr. Smellie's lectures would not interfere with those of the University, and although Dr, Walker had not given even L single lecture for nearly seven years after his appointment. Nothing, however, would satisfy him ; and his answer to the Earl's pacific endeavours was-'' In the professorship P am soon to undertake I have foreseen many difficulties, which I yet hope to surmount ;
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BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. 209 but the lectures of Mr. Smellie, under the auspices of the Antiquarian Society, is a new discouragement which I did not expect.” This discontent was communicated to the Senatus Academicus, and, through that respectable body, an unexpected opposition arose when the Society of Antiquaries transmitted a petition to the King praying for a charter. The Curators of the Advocates’ Library likewise objected to the grant, under the idea that the institution of the Society might prove injurious to their magnificent Library, by intercepting ancient manuscripts and monuments illustrative of Scottish history and antiquities, which would be more useful if collected into one repository. All this opposition, however, proved of no avail. Much to the honour of the late Lord Melville-who was at that time Lord Advocate for Scotland-his lordship signified, by a note to the Secretary of the Society, that he saw no reason for refusing the prayer of the petition, and at the same time transmitted the draft of such a charter as he considered was proper to be granted. In consequence, therefore, of his lordship’s favourable interposition, the royal warrant, in which his Majesty was pleased voluntarily to declare himself patron of the Society, passed the Privy Seal next day. As soon as it was received in Edinburgh, a charter was extended under the Great Seal. The gentlemen of this public office, sensible of the many advantages likely to accrue from the establishment of the Society, generously refused to accept their accustomed fees; and the royal charter, which is dated the 29th March, was finally ratified, by passing through all the customary forms, on the 5th and 6th of May 1783. During the time Mr. Smellie attended the class of Botany in the University, the Professor, Dr. Hope, having met with an accident which confined him to the house for a long time, requested Mr. Smellie, of whose knowledge and abilities he was highly sensible, to carry on his lectures during his necessary absence. This was done by Mr. Smellie for a considerable time-(his widow has stated during six weeks)-to the entire satisfaction of his fellow-students. Mr. Smellie was about the middle size, and had been in his youth wellproportioned and active ; but, when rather past the middle of life, he acquired a sort of lounging gait, and had become careless and somewhat slovenly in his dress and appearance. These peculiarities are well described in the following lines, produced by Burns at the meeting of the Crochallan club alluded to in our notice of Lord Newton :- “ To Crochallan came, The old cocked hat, the brown surtout the aame : His bristling beard just rising in its might, ( ’Twsa four long nights and day8 to shaving-night) ; His uncombed grisly locks, wild-staring, thatched A head for thought profound and clear unmatched : And, though his caustic wit waa biting rude, His heart waa warm, benevolent, and good.” In grave and philosophical discourse Mr. Smellie was clear, candid, and communicative, as well as thoroughly informed, He never withheld his judg- 2E
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