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Kay's Originals Vol. 2


114 BIOGRA’PHICAL SKETCHES. pensities, have become popular. He had some pretensions to the character of a wit, and was withal a person well fitted for rendering himself agreeable at the table of those in the upper ranks of life, while he possessed various qualities equally calculated to gain the esteem of the rudest and most uncultivated among the numerous miners of his parish. He was a man of great muscular power, and of a disposition not easily to be intimidated. On returning home one evening from a party, he was insulted by a band of colliers, one of whom swore that, if it were not for “his coat,” he would give him a sound beating. Lapslie, who was in no mood to be trifled with, immediately doffed the sable habiliment, saying, as he threw it into the ditch, “ Lie you there, divinity-here stands Jamie Lapslie ! The belligerents instantly set to work, and the collier was severely chastised for his impertinence.‘ ’ From circumstances, as to the origin of which we shall not speculate, Mr. Lapslie appeared always to be in a condition more ready to receive than to bestow. In settling accounts he was ranked amongst the dreighest of the dreigh, and nothing in the shape of a gift came amiss to him. He held his incumbency upwards of forty years, having been presented to the living, which is in the gft of the Crown, in 1783, in the room of the Rev. William Bell, who had been thirty-six years minister of the parish. In the pulpit Mr. Lapslie possessed a very energetic style of delivery, and was, at least externally, a perfect enthusiast in religion. In Peter’s Letters to his Kinsfolk, the oratory and personal appearance of Mr. Lapslie, abaut the year 181 6, are graphically described. Peter is detailing the procedure of the General Assembly, and the case under consideration was that of a minister from the Hebrides, who had been accused of illicit intercourse with his housekeeper :-- “The more conspicuous of the clerical orators mere Dr. Skene Keith, a shrewd, bitter, sarcastic humorist from Aberdeenshire, and Mr. Lapslie, an energetic rhapsodist from the West of Scotland. The last mentioned individual is undoubtedly the most enthusiastic speaker I ever heard. He is a fine, tall, bony man, with a face full of fire, and a bush of white locks, which he shakes about him like the thymus of a bacchanal. He tears his waistcoat open-he bares his breast, as if he had scars to show-he bellows-he sobs-he weeps-and sits down at the end of his harangue, trembling all to the fingers’ ends, like an exhausted Pythoness. . . . The poor minister was at last found innocent; and for how much of his safety he might be indebted to the impassioned defence of Mr. Lapslie, I shall not pretend to guess.” He was succeeded by the Rev. Dr. Norman M‘Leod, of Glasgow, Mr. Lapslie died on the 1 lth of December 1824.’ 1 The collier had been refused baptism to his child, Mr. Lapslie accusing him of drunkenness. a Of his family, we have heard that a son is still alive, somewhere in the West Indies. From a letter in the possession of the Publisher of this Work, addressed to his father, it appears that Mr. Lapslie had been very anxiouq to have one of his 8ons indentured with him to a mechanical profession.
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116 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. Whether he had taken the giant’s altitude by his shadow, as geometricians were wont to measure steeples,’ or had recourse to the less scientific assistance of chairs and stools, we know not; but to this day the secret has never been disclosed. From what the taciturn tailor inadvertently disclosed, it appeared that the great man was much tickled by the process, as he jocularly said to his little friend-“ You and I may yet grace the windows of the print-shops.” O’Brien was not far wrong in his conjecture ; and he perhaps spoke from some knowledge he had of the caricaturist. Kay endeavoured by every means to catch a likeness of the foreman. He sent for him to various “houffs” to coax him with strong drink, but the important little man had no notion of being handed down to posterity j and, the more securely to conceal his precious person, he constantly kept a screen on the shop window, that the artist might not espy him at the board. Thus defeated in his endeavours to catch the real “Simon Pure,” the artist conferred the honour on Convener Ranken, who, opportunely enough, had rendered himself somewhat conspicuous in city matters. AIR. PATRICK COTTER O’BRIEN-“ the wonder of the age,” and one of the tallest men seen in Scotland since the days of Dunnnm, in the somewhat fabulous reign of Eugene II., who measured eleven feet and a half-was born at Kinsale in 1760. Of his history little more is known than that he travelled the country for many years, exhibiting himself to all who chose to gratify their curiosity at a trifling expense. He was eight feet one inch in height, and weighed five hundredweight ; but, judging from the portraiture, he appears to have been deficient in symmetry.’ “This man,” says a notice in an old magazine, “when he first began to derive a subsistence from an exposure of his person to the public, was deeply affected by a sense of humiliation ; and often shed tears when, among the crowd whom curiosity attracted, any spectator treated him with respect. In time, however, all these tender feelings were entirely subdued ; and he was latterly as much distinguished for his pride as he was before for modesty. Such transitions, however,” concludes the notice, ‘‘ are not uncommon in great men.” As an instance of his capricious temper, it is said that when the tailor went home with his greatcoat, the giant found innumerable faults with it-“By St. Patrick it wasn’t a coat at all, at all, at all !” The little foreman, much discomfited, was in the act of retiring with “ the greatcoat under his arm,” when O’Brien’s servant, tapping him gently on the shoulder, gave a word of consolation. “ Och, botheration, I see ye arn’t up to the great man. Just keep the coat beside you till I let you know when he is in good 1 In that strange collection of advertisements preserved by Captain Grose, in his “Guide to Health, Wealth, Riches, and Honour,” London, 8v0, a tailor announces the important fact that he makes breeches by geometry I Perhaps O’Brien’s schemer may have studied under this scientific artificer. An eye-witness thus describes his appearance :-“ He was in fact a perfect excrescence. His hand was precisely like a shoulder of mutton. He had double knuckles-prodigious lumps at his hip bones-and when he rose off the table, on which he always sat, his bones were distinctly heard as if crashing against one another. To support himself, he always placed the top of the door under his oxtel. [arm-pit].”
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