Edinburgh Bookshelf

Kay's Originals Vol. 2


CIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. 5 9’ Water-of-Leith. His dress continued of the same fashion for nearly half-acentury; and he wore the garters and flapped waistcoat to the last. The only change he latterly adopted was a curiously formed flat round hat. He was a tall, stout man, and particularly fond of walking. Every morning, and in all weathers, he walked to the Hawes Inn, at Queensferry, where breakfast was waiting him at his stated hour. He rang no bell-gave no orders-and seldom saw a waiter. After breakfast, he turned up a plate, put his money in payment upon it, and then walked back in the same solitary manner to Drumsheugh. Like many gentlemen of his day, Erskine indulged occasionally at cards, and he was particularly partial to the game of whist. He was, notwithstanding, no great player, and generally came off the loser. It is supposed that an unlucky run at his favourite game was the cause of his melancholy end. He was discovered drowned in the Forth. (1793), opposite Caroline Park. Besides the works previously enumerated, Mr. Erskine was the author of “ Town Eclogues :” 1. The Hangman-2. The Harlequins-3. The Street Walkers-4. The Undertakers ; London, no date, with a curious plan of Edinburgh prefixed. The object was to expose the false taste for florid description which then and still prevails in poetry. These satirical effusions possess great merit. phe late Archibald Constable at one time projected a complete collection of Erskine’s works, and actually advertised it ; but his other numerous speculations came in the way, and the project fell to the ground. This is much to be regretted, as the book, if well edited, could not have failed to have been attractive. SIR JOHN WHITEFOORD, the third figure, and the Hon. Andrew Erskine, were on terms of the closest intimacy, and walked so frequently together, that, the one being tall and the other of short stature, they were somewhat wittily termed-“ the gowk and the titling.” Sir John was at one period a pretty extensive landed proprietor, and possessed the estates of Whitefoord and Ballochmyle, in Ayrshire. In consequence of the mismanagement of his predecessor, who is said to have “ supplied the groundwork of the character of Sir Arthur Wardour in the Antipuary,” Sir John was involved in difficulties; although perhaps not so deeply but that, with care and prudence, he might have overcome them. The failure of the wellknown banking establishment of Douglas, Heron, and Co., however, compelled him to dispose of the estate of Ballochmyle, delightfully situated on the Waterof- Ayr, where he and his forefathers had long resided. Maria Whitefoord, afterwards Mrs. Cranston, the eldest daughter of Sir John, was the heroine of the plainti1.e lines by Burns, entitled the ‘‘ Braes of Ballochmyle,” composed on the eventful occasion of her leaving the family inheritance :- ‘‘ Through faded groves Maria sang, Hemel’ in beauty’s bloom the while ; An’ aye the wild-wood echoes rang- . Farewell the Braes 0’ Ballochmyle !” Sir John was one of the early patrons of Burns, the poet having beeu
Volume 9 Page 80
  Enlarge Enlarge  
60 B I 0 G RA P H I CA L S K E T C 13 E S. introduced to him by the late Dr. Mackenzie, shortly after the publication of the first edition of his poems. The bard never forgot the kind attentions extended to him. In his correspondence he frequently alludes to Sir John ; and, in the lines addressed to him, enclosing a copy of the “Lament for James Earl of Glencairn,”’ he pays him’a very marked compliment :- “ Thou who thy honour aa thy God rever’st ; Who, save thy mind’s reproach, nought earthly fear’st ; To thee this votive offering I impart, The tuneful tribute of a broken heart. The friend thou valued’st, I, the patron, lov’d ; His worth, his honour, all the world approv’d. We’ll mourn till we too go as he has gone, And tread the dreary path to that dark world unknown.” After leaving Ballochmyle, Sir John resided at Whitefoord House in the Canongate of Edinburgh. He was a remarkably smart, active, little man ; and having been some time in the army, he retained much of the military air in his appearance. His manners were affable, and his address that of a gentleman. He died at his house in Edinburgh in 1803: and his son, resident in England, inherits the title. The females figured in the Print were well known in their day. The eldest of the two-“ MEG MURRAY,”a s she was familiarly called-kept lodgings in Shakspeare Square, and realised a fortune of several thousand pounds. The other, MISS BURNS,w ho was much celebrated for her beauty, will be described under her own proper Portrait. Why these ladies have been introduced into the group the artist has not stated. The scene, well calculated to strike the fancy of the artist, was most likely a real occurrence, The meeting between Major Fraser and Erskine seems to have been accidental ; while Sir John, who generally walked a few paces behind his friend, is represented in his usual position in the rear. The females are passing in the opposite direction, apparently at some distance. 1 The heir of lime of the family of Glencairn was Sir William Don of Newton, whose grandmother waa sister to the last Earl. The late Sir Alexander Don inherited the estate of Ochiltree, which belonged to the Earl of Glencairn, in right of his mother Lady Henrietta. Caleb Whitefoord, Esq., who died in London in 1809, aged ninety, waa uncle to Sir John. ‘‘ He was well known in the first polite and literary circles, and possessed great talents and information. He was the author of many works of approved merit, though he never put his name to any of his productions. He struck out a new species of humour, which was known by the name of cross-readings; and when he first communicated it to the public, he added the apt signature of Papyriw CUTSW. He was a man of talent-a zealous friend to his country-a loyal subject-and a respectable member of society. His friend Goldamith winds up his character, in Retaliation, with the following appropriate lines :- ‘Merry Whitefoord, farewell I for thy sake I admit, That a Scot may have humour-I had almost said wit : This debt to thy memory I cannot refuse, Thou best natured man, with the worst humour’d muse.”’
Volume 9 Page 81
  Enlarge Enlarge