Edinburgh Bookshelf

Kay's Originals Vol. 1


BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. 211 No. LXXXVII. THE RIGHT HONOURABLE DAVID EARL OF LEVEN AND MELVILLE. DAVID, sixth EARL of LEVEN and fifth of MELVILLE, was the only son of Alexander, fifth Earl of Leven, by Mary, daughter of Colonel Erskine of Carnock, and was born in 1722. His lordship entered the army in 1744, and held a company in the 16th Regiment of Foot ; but he left the military service on succeeding to the family titles and estates, by the demise of his father, in 1751. For a series of years his lordship seems to have interfered little in public matters. In 1773 he was appointed one of the Lords of Police-an office which he held till the abolition of that Board in 1782. In the following year he became Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly. In those days the “pomp and circumstance” of the Commissioner’s office were matters of much greater moment than they are at present. The levees ’ were then numerously attended by the nobility ; and the opening procession to the Assembly, in particular, created feelings of great excitement : the streets were thronged with people, and the windows crowded with all the beauty and fashion of the town, while the retinue of the Commissioner was generally numerous and imposing. The Sunday processions to church were also very attractive. In addition to the usual attendance of the military on such occasions, bands of music were in requisition, which, to the great annoyance of many a sturdy Presbyterian, struck up the moment the procession issued from the place where his Grace held his levee, and while it proceeded towards the High Church. The Commissioner was always preceded by the heralds, and followed by a long train of noblemen and gentlemen, both lay and clerical, besides ladies in full court dress.’ The Earl continued to act as Commissioner for nearly twenty years, and took much pleasure in the annual display of official greatness. The leader of the Assembly, during the greater part of that time, was the celebrated Principal Robertson, on the moderate side; his opponent being his own colleague in the Old Greyfriars’ Church, Dr. John Erskine of Carnock (cousin to the Earl), who led what was then called the dZd party. In 1801, the Earl (then in his 80th year) was succeeded in the Commissionership by Lord Napier ; and it may be mentioned, as an instance of the enthu- They were held in Fortune’s Tavern, Old Stamp-Office Close ; and when Fortune removed to . Princes Street, the levees took place in the King’s Arms Tavern, New Assembly Close, where the public dancing assemblies were held-afterwards the site of the Commercial Bank. The old Town Guard, who were always furnished with new unifoims for the occaaion, were allowed the honour of precedency, by takiug the right-hand side of the procession, in preference to the military.
Volume 8 Page 297
  Enlarge Enlarge  
212 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. siastic spirit of the ex-representative of Majesty, that he came to Edinburgh in May 1802, to attend the levee of the new Commissioner. On the 4th of June following, being the King's birth-day, he also attended the " grand collation " given on the occasion by the Magistrates in the Parliament House. This was the last public appearance of his lordship. He died at his house, in Edinburgh, five days afterwards, aged 81. Lord Leven married, in 1747, Wilhelmina, posthumous daughter, and nineteenth child, of William Nisbet of Dirleton. The great degree of domestic felicity with which this union was crowned, is, perhaps, the best proof of the Earl's rectitude of private conduct. Lady Leven was not less distinguished for her amiable qualities of mind than she was for comeliness of person. Her wit was lively and pleasant-her heart affectionate and liberal. She had a habitual and fervent piety, and a regular and constant regard to divine institutions and the offices of devotion. Uninterrupted conjugal affection and felicity, sweetened and heightened by the exercise of parenta.1 duties, marked the union of the Earl and Countess. The fiftieth anniversary of their marriage was celebrated at Melville House, 29th January 1797 ; and she died there, 10th May 1798, aged 74. The town residence of the Earls of Leven, during the early part of last century, was at the head of Skinner's Close. The subject of this sketch resided many years in a house at the north-west corner of Nicolson Square, and latterly occupied KO. 2 St. Andrew Square. Her ladyship had a family of five sons and three daughters. No. LXXXVIII. THE RIGHT HONOURABLE LORD ADAM G0RDON.l ' LORD ADAM GORDON, fourth son of Alexander, second Duke of Gordon, and grand-uncle to the late Duke, entered the 18th Regiment of Foot in 1746- from whence he was transferred to the 3d Regiment of Foot Guards in 1755. He accompanied this regiment in the expedition to the coast of France, under General Bligh, in 1758 ; undertaken, in conjunction with the fleet under Lord Howe, for the purpose of creating a diversion in favour of the allies. The General succeeded in effecting a landing at St. Lunaire, on the 4th September, and in destroying a few vessels at St. Briac ; but his courage soon began to " ooze out at his finger-ends " on learning that the French camp was only a few miles distant, and that some fresh reinforcements had lately been received. On the 10th of the same month he summoned a council of war, when, with only one dissentient voice (Lieutenant-colonel Clerk) a re-embarkation was resolved upon. Lord Howe was immediately made acquainted with this determination ; but, for the safety of the fleet, the Admiral found it necessary to go to St. Cas Bay. The troops were thus under the disagreeable necessity of Print of Lord Adam Gordon on horseback as peculiarly striking. A gentleman, who was intimately acquainted with the subject of this sketch, describes the
Volume 8 Page 298
  Enlarge Enlarge