Edinburgh Bookshelf

Kay's Originals Vol. 1


BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. 219 was executed upon Patrick Ogilvie,’ in the Gmsmarket of Edinburgh; but Catherine Nairne, whose sentence had been delayed in consequence of pregnancy, made her escape from the tolbooth soon after her accouchement. She effected this by assuming the garb and demeanour of the midwife, Mrs. Shiells, who had for several days previously attended on her patient with her head muffled up, under pretence of a violent attack of toothache. There is every reason to believe that the stratagem was matured under the connivance of her uncle Sir William, then Mr. Nairne; and at least some of the prison guards were not ignorant of what was to take place. There have been various conjectures as to the precise time Catherine Nairne quitted the city-some asserting that she remained concealed in Edinburgh for some days prior to her fight to the Continent. It, appears almost certain, however, that she left the city the same night (Saturday the 15th March 1766) on which she escaped from the jail;-a carriage was in waiting at the foot of the Horse Wynd; in which was Mr. Nairne’s clerk-the late Mr. James Bremner, afterwards Solicitor of Stamps-who accompanied Mrs. Ogdvie as far as Dover, on her way to France. Notwithstanding her very criticalIsituation, Mr. Bremner was in momentary dread all the way of a discovery, in consequence of her extreme frivolity of behaviour, as she was continually putting her head out of the window and laughing immoderately. She was, as previously noticed, very young, and had only been married in January 1765 j and the crime for which she was tried was completed, by the death of’ her husband, in the month of June following. She was described, in the proclamation issued for her apprehension by the magistrates of Edinburgh, as attired in ‘‘ an officer’s habit, with a hat slouched in the cocks, and a cockade in it j ” and “ about twenty-two years of age, middle-sized and strong made; has a high nose, black eyebrows, and a pale complexion.” Two rewards were offered for her apprehension,-one by Government, and another by the city of Edinburgh, of one hundred pounds each. It is said she was afterwards very fortunate, having been married to a Dutch gentleman, by whom she had a numerous family. Rumour also represents her as having ultimately retired to a convent and taken the veil ; and adds, that she survived the French Revolution, and died in England in the present century. * He was 8 great player on the violin ; and the interval between his condemnation and execution wa almost exclusively devoted to his performance on that instrument. Great influence waa used to save him ; but the feeling waa 80 strong against him, that the efforts of his friends were wholly ineffectual. It is now enclosed, and used &B a furniture waiwroom. 9 The principal entrance, at that period, to Minto House, waa from the Horse Wynd.
Volume 8 Page 309
  Enlarge Enlarge  
2 20 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. No. XCII. MR. RALPH RYLANCE. ME. RYLANCEw as by profession a Iiterary man-a veritable “scribbler of all work,” in prose or in verse- “From grave to gay, from lively to severe.” Whether in the penny-a-line department of a newspaper-the compilation of a preface or index-the getting up of a pamphlet for the nonce-a review-or the redaction of goodly quarto volumes of voyages and travels originally written by others ’-the licking into harmony and grace the confusion of language and ideas in manuscripts on any given subject-Ralph was a ready and “ universal penman.” And perhaps no man of this age has written so much and so well, with so slender a memorial for posthumous fame ; for his rich fund of intellect may be said to have been expended in sixpenny-worths, upon the temporalities of the passing hour, while others wore the laurels which he planted and nourished. Mr. Rylance owes his chance for immortality in this collection to the following circumstances :-Under the auspices of one of his patrons and employers, (Mr., afterwards Lord Brougham), he engaged in the compilation of the general index to the first twenty volumes of the Edidurgh Review. This led to his first and only visit to Scotland, during the summer of 18 13. Under the charge of his publishers, Messrs. Constable and Co., he remained some months in Edinburgh, superintending the progress of that index through the press. !t’he varied extent of his literary acquirements-the modest, good-natured simplicity of his character, mixed with a deal of eccentricity-his unaffected and gentle demeanour-his convivial powers, and his love of fun, were qualities certain of attracting the attention and securing the hospitality of Mr. Constable, whose keen appreciation of literary merit always kept pace with his well-known character of a humorist; and hence Mr. Rylance became a frequent guest at the table of that eminent publisher. Mr. Constable was occasionally in the habit of getting a sketch taken of the persons of such characters as afforded him amusement, from any peculiar gait or trait of humour ; and, in the indulgence of this whim, he, as in the case of others to follow in this collection, employed Mr. Kay to watch the person of Bylance, and steal a few side glances of his form and features ; and thus was produced the portraiture annexed, which we can vouch for as a very correct likeness of honest Ralph. e.g. “Mawe’s Travels in Brazil,” 4to.-Lond. 1812. Written by Mr. Rylance.
Volume 8 Page 310
  Enlarge Enlarge