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Kay's Originals Vol. 1


BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. 387 the (‘Daft Captain ;” while others, affecting greater knowledge, supposed him, like Franklin, to be engaged in making experiments on electricity-a sad mistake, for, although he had a taste for literature, he had no fancy whatever for scientific pursuits. Among other odd contrivances about Pendreich Cottage was a barrel summer-seat, erected in the garden, and which moved on a pivot. Here Mr. Edgar used to sit frequently for hours together, perusing the pages of some favourite author, and calmly enjoying the rural sweets of a summer evening. While thus employed, some of the neighbouring colliers, thinking to make game of the Captain, on one occasion came unperceived behind, and began to whirl him rapidly round and round, in expectation that he would sally forth and hobble after them ; but in this they were disappointed ; the Captain sat still in perfect good humour, till they were completely tired, when they went away, very much chagrined at the Commissioner’s philosophical patience. In gastronomy the Captain’s knowledge was undoubted. His fame in this particular is thus noticed by the late Lord Dreghorn, in a short poetical effusion :- “ 0 thou, whatever title please thine ear, Captain, Collector, or the beau Dinneur.” No inconsiderable portion of the Commissioner’s time was devoted to the pleasures of the table ; and he always kept an experienced ‘( man cook,” who had been with him while abroad, in order that his viands might be dressed on the most approved principles, There was no scarcity of the good things of life at Pendreich Cottage-the very trees in front of the house occasionally groaned under the weight of accumulated legs of mutton, undergoing a process of curing peculiar to the establishment. As his fences were much destroyed by nocturnal depredators, in their anxiety to participate in this new production of Pomona, the Commissioner caused the following notice to be put up:- (( All thieves are in future to enter by the gate, which will be left open eve1.y night for the purpose.” While the well-stocked kitchen of the Commissioner was by no means inaccessible to the poor of the neighbourhood, and especially to his friends the colliers, he seldom entertained any company at the cottage. On one occasion, Mr. Dundas, afterwards Lord Melville, accompanied by Commissioner Reid, met the Captain on his walk before dinner, and asked him to take pot-luck with them at Melville Castle; but the Captain was not to be prevailed on, and continued his walk. The two gentlemen, strongly suspecting that something attractive was to be found at Pendreich Cottage, called there in his absence, and learned from the housekeeper that the Commissioner proposed regaling on stewed piieons-a very favourite dish, and one which he could not think of relinquishing for Melville Castle. The two visitors found ways and means to pounce upon and carry off the savoury viands, leaving the astonished cook to apologise as he best could to his master on his return. The Commissioner could relish a joke-and was in the habit both to take and give-but in no
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388 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. case was his philosophy so likely to break down, as on such an occurrence as this, Presuming on a slight acquaintance, two or three farmers of the neighbourhood called one day, just in the nick of time to sit down to dinner, in expectation of receiving a familiar welcome. The Commissioner was not to be done. He received them in such a high-bred style of formality, that his unwelcome visitors felt completely nonplussed, and were glad to escape from his presence. Having thus bowed, his intruders, first out of countenance, then out of doors, he sat down solus to enjoy his refection. At a very advanced period of life, and after enduring much pain, he submitted to the operation of lithotomy, which he bore with his wonted fortitude. This was performed by the well-known Sandy Wood, who, with the kindest anxiety remained in the house many hours afterwards, swearing he would shoot the servants through the head if they made the smallest noise, or even approached the patient's room. His great fear was that the Captain might fever, which, happily, he did not. Soon afterwards, Mr. Reid called ; and the Captain, though extremely weak, drew out the stone from his pillow, and holding it up in triumph-" Here !" said he, " here is the scoundrel that has been torturing me for years." Mr. Edgar recovered his health, and lived to enjoy his harmless recreations for several years afterwards. He died in 1799, much regretted, especially about Lasswade, where his singularities were best known. No. CLIV. REV. DR THOMAS DAVIDSON, LATE OF THE TOLBOOTH CHURCH, EDINBURGH. THIS gentleman's own name was Randall, Davidson having been assumed by him on his accession to his uncle's' property of Muirhouse, situated in the parish of Cramond, and shire of Edinburgh. He was the son of the Bey. Thomas Randall, minister of Inchture (afterwards one of the ministers of Stirling), whose father and grandfather were also clergymen of the Church of Scotland. MR. DAVIDSOwNa s born at Inchture in 1747, and passed through the academical classes at the College of Glasgow. He afterwards studied for a short time at the University of Leyden, where his attention was more particularly devoted to Biblical criticism. i William Davidson, for many years a considerable merchant in Rotterdam. He bought the property of Muirhouse in 1776 from Robert Watson, whose ancestor, an Edinburgh trader, had acquired the estate towards the end of the seventeenth century.
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