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Kay's Originals Vol. 1


286 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. “ His celebrated ancestor, the Marquis of Montrose, scarcely exhibited more devotion to the cause of Charles I. in the field, than his descendant displayed for George the Third in the House of Commons. Nor did he want great energy, as well as activity of mind and body. During the progress of the French Revolution, when the fabric of our constitution was threatened by internal and external attacks, Lord Graham, then become Duke of Montrose, enrolled himself as a private soldier in the City Light Horse. During several successive years he did duty in that capacity, night and day, sacrificing to it his ease and his time ; thus holding out an example worthy of imitation to the British nobility.” His Grace died on December 30, 1836, being, strange to say, the third individual who had held the family honours since the accession of his grandfather to them in 1684, in the reign of Charles 11.-a period of a hundred and fifty-three years. He was twice married, and left two sons and three daughters. He was succmded by James (4th Duke), eldest son of the second marriage. THE EARL OF BUCHAN was born in 1742, and succeeded to the title and estates of the family in 1767. His course of education being completed at the University of Glasgow, he soon after entered the army, in which he rose to the rank of lieutenant ; but, disliking the profession of arms, he did not continue long in the service. In 1’766, he was appointed Secretary to the Eritish Embassy in Spain; but, on the death of his father the year following, he returned to his native land, resolved to prosecute pursuits more congenial to his strong literary bias. The first instance of the Earl’s activity was the formation of the Society of Scottish Antiquaries in 1780.’ The want of such a Society had long been felt j yet it is strange his lordship experienced illiberal oppositim from parties, who In 1792, the first volume of their transactions was published ; and the following discourses by the Earl appear in it :--“Memoirs of the Life of Sir James Stiiart Denham”-“ Account of the Parish of Uphall”-“Account of the Island of 1colmkiln”-and “A Life of Mr. James Short, optician.” Besides various fugitive pieces, in prose and verse, he printed, in conjunction with Dr. Walter Minto, “An Account of the Life, Writings, and Inventions of Napier of Merchiston.” In addition to the other objects of this Society, it was resolved to establish a mwem of natural history, for the better cultivation of that science, and of which museum Mr. Smellie wm appointed curator. He was likewise permitted to deliver the projected course of lectures on the philosophy of natural history in the hall of the museum. The Society at the time having applied for a RoyaLCharter of incorporation, an unexpected opposition arose (already alluded to in our notice of Mr. Smellie) from Dr. Walker, Professor of Natural History in the University, and also from the Senatus Academicus a8 a body, who memorialised the Lord Advocate (Mr. Henry Dundas, afterwards Lord Viscount Melville) against the proposed grant of a charter, alleging that the Society would intercept the communication of many specimens and objects of natural history which would otherwise h d their way to the College Museum, as well as documents tending to illustrate the history, antiquities, and laws of Scotland, which ought to be deposited in the Advocates’ Library. They likewise noticed that the possession of a museum of natural history might induce the Society to institute a lectureship on that science, in opposition to the professorship in the University, The Faculty of Advocates and other public bodies also joined in thia opposition ; but, after an elaborate reply on the part of the Antiquaries, the Lord Advocate signified his approval of their request ; and, on the very next day, the royal warrant passed the privy seal, in which his Majesty voluntarily declared himself Patron of the Society. 1787, 4to.
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BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. 287 afterwards, with much inconsistency, established another, having similar objects in view, called the Royal Society of Edinburgh, Although engaged in literary and antiquarian research, the Earl of Buchan was far from being an indifferent spectator of passing events. He did not enter the political arena ; but when invasion threatened common r&, he not only with his pen endeavoured to create union among his countrymen, but, buckling on his sword, essayed to rouse them by example. The Earl, however, was no adherent of the powers that were ; and when the interference of the Court had completely set aside all semblance of freedom in the election of the Scottish peers, he stood forward in defence of his order; and, although he long fought singly, he at last succeeded in asserting its independence. The residence of Lord Buchan had for many years been in Edinburgh : but, in 1787, he retired on account of his health to Dryburgh Abbey-a property he acquired by purchase. Here he instituted an annual festive commemoration of the author of “ The Seasons,” the first meeting of which was held at Ednam Hill, on the 22d September 1791-on which occasion he crowned a copy of the j k s t collected edition of the Seasons with a wreath of bays. The following may be taken as a sample of the eulogium of the noble Lord on the occasion :- “And the immortal Prussian, standing like a herald in the procession of ages, to mark the beginning of that order of men who are to banish from the earth the delusions of priestcraft, and the monstrous prerogatives of despotic authority ! ” His lordship also took that opportunity of attacking the great English lexicographer, “ by whose rude hands the memory of Thomson has been profanely touched.” Burns wrote his beautiful lines to the shade of the bard of Ednam for the occasion ; and only five years afterwards, at the usual anniversary in 1796, Lord Buchan had the melancholy pleasure of placing an urn of Parian marble beside the bust of Thomson, in memory of the bard of Ayrshire. The copy of the Seasons alluded to, enclosed in a beautifully ornamented case, and enriched with some original autographs of the Poet, was subsequently presented by his lordship to the University of Edinburgh. The political sentiments of the Earl of Buchan were generally known ; but, in a work published in 1792, entitled “Essays on the Lives and Writings of Fletcher of Saltoun, and the Poet Thomson, Biographical and Political,” he embraced the opportunity of enforcing his favourite doctrines. In the same year his lordship presented the President of the United States with an elegantly mounted snuff-box, made from the tree which sheltered Wallace. This magnificent and truly characteristic present,” says a Philadelphia Journal, of January 2, “is from the Earl of Buchan, by the hands of Mr. Archibald Robertson, a Scots gentleman, and portrait painter, who arrived in America some months ago.’’ The box had been presented to Lord Buchan by the goldsmiths of Edinburgh in 1782, from whom he obtained leave to transfer it to the only man in the world to whom he thought it justly due.” The box was made by Robert Hay, might, afterwards in the Edinburgh Vendue.
Volume 8 Page 402
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