Edinburgh Bookshelf

Kay's Originals Vol. 1


BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. 247 excellent person spent the best part of his days. Upon a salary of €80 per annum, he lived contented, happy, and universally respected.” No man within the walls of Edinburgh, it has been said, ever passed a more inoffensive life than did “ honest George Paton ;” yet, by the literary services which he rendered to others, he did not escape the displeasure of one or two individuals, whom his critical strictures had offended. The article formerly mentioned-on Scottish topography-gave mighty offence to Martyn John Armstrong, who, in company with his son, had published, in 1774-5, surveys of several counties in Scotland. Armstrong addressed two very ill-natured letters -one to Paton and the other to Gough-on the subject. This philippic appears to have roused the temper of the antiquary. In writing to Gough, ignorant of the counterpart which that gentleman had received, he thus gives vent to his indignation :-(‘ While writing this, the inclosed impertinent, ignorant, scurrilous rhapsody, was brought before me ; forgive my transmitting it for perusal, which be kind enough to return at pleasure. I am diffident of resolution whether such a blundering blockhead of an impostor shall have any answer made him ; horsewhipping would serve him better than a reply, * * * * He is below notice, and despise him, as he is generally so here. The joint tricks of father and son being so well known in this place, they could remain no longer with us.” From this specimen of (‘hard words,” it may be inferred that, however quiet and inoffensive he might be, “ honest George ” by no means lacked spirit to resent injury or insult. From a similar cause he also incurred the displeasure of his irritable countryman and fellow-antiquary, John Pinkerton, from whom he had the honour of a very violent epistle. These petty ebullitions of offended authorship, however, which threatened to disturb the wonted quiet current of the antiquary’s life, evaporated without mischief. His dress was plain and neat; and he always wore a black wig. Besides the etching in the print which precedes this sketch, and which is allowed to be an uncommonly faithful representation, there is a small portrait of him (a private plate) done in 1785 ; a “ beautiful drawing ” of him in chalk is also preserved by the Antiquarian Society, of which he was a member. I The death of Mr. Paton occurred on the 5th March 1807, when he had attained the great age of eighty-seven. His valuable library’ was sold by auction in 1809 ; and his manuscripts, prints, coins, &c., were disposed of in a similar manner in 1811. The first sale occupied a month; the latter about ten days. The personal appearance of Mr. Paton was somewhat peculiar. LORD MONBODDO and DR. HUTTON have already been amply noticed in the preceding pages of this work. The division of the print, entitled “ Demonstration,” represents these celebrated individuals in the discussion of Percy’s Letters to George Paton, etc., p. 87. Crown 8vo. Edinburgh, Stevenson, 1830. Of He also left a very valuable thia volume only a hundred copies were printed. library. a Mr. Paton bad a brother, who was a minister at Ecclefechan.
Volume 8 Page 345
  Enlarge Enlarge  
248 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. some abstruse point, which the Doctor has apparently at his “finger-ends.” The small figure with the tai2, in the back-ground, is in allusion to Monboddo’s eccentric notions as to the original state of the human species. No. c. DAVID ROSS, LORD ANKERVILLE. LORD ANKERVILLE, son of David Ross of Inverchasley, was born in 1727. After following the usual routine of studies, he was admitted to the bar in 1751. In 1756 he obtained the office of Steward-Depute of Kirkcudbright ; and, in 1763, was appointed one of the Principal Clerks of Session. This situation he continued to fill with all due credit till 1776, when, on the death of Lord Alemore, he was promoted to the bench by the title of Lord Anlierville. He sat on the bench for twenty-nine years, during which long period we are not aware that he was distinguished for any thing very extraordinary, either in the line of his profession or out of it. There was, to be sure, one characteristic which he possessed in common with the most profound of his legal brethrenwe mean his unswerving devotion to the ‘‘ pleasures of the table,” and claret he preferred above any other species of wine j nay, so anti-national was his taste, that his own mountain Glenlivet, even when presented in the alluring medium of a flowing bowl, and prepared in the most approved manner of the ‘‘ land 0’ cakes,” held only a secondary place in his estimation. Every year Lord Ankerville travelled north to his seat of Tarlogie, near Tain, in Ross-shire. This long journey be performed in a leisurely manner, by short and easy stages ; and, as he dined and slept all night at the end of each, his hosts of the Highland road were careful always to have a select portion of their best claret set apart for their guest. To choose the line of road-to regulate the distance of each day’s progress, so that he might bivouac to best advantage in the evening, had been an object of great consequence to the judge ; and, it may be supposed, of some difficulty at that time in the north. The acute judgment and good generalship, however, of the propounder of law, after a few experimental journeys, soon enabled him to make the most satisfactory arrangements, The annual migration of the judge from north to south, and from south to north, thus became a matter of as nice regularity as the cuckoo’s song in spring ; and as well did the Highland innkeeper, at half-a-mile’s distance, know the rumbling, creaking chaise of the one, as he did the monotonous note of the other. The quantity of claret drank by his lordship on these annual journeys has been variously estimated ; and, although no satisfactory statement has ever been given, all agree in saying that it must have been immense. The old judge’s love af claret did not abate with his increase of years. A
Volume 8 Page 346
  Enlarge Enlarge