Edinburgh Bookshelf

Kay's Originals Vol. 2


BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. 399 who was a shrewd, strong-headed man, liked nothing better than to engage Brown in a discussion ; and the nonsense the latter used to utter was vastly amusing. Here the Doctor was in his element. Xumerous were the encounters he had had with the enemy of mankind and his emissaries ; and repeatedly had he defeated them; nay, he had killed the devil and slaughtered numbers of the imps of darknesshence his soubriquet of “ The Devil Killer.”’ Brown died about the year 1822 ; and we cannot close this sketch of his life more appropriately than by quoting the epitaph or elegy which he composed upon himself- One favourite subject was the power of his Satanic Majeaty. ‘‘ The discoverer of the Perpetual Motion, This cold grave is all his portion. The stars will show you at a glance, The perpetual motion is Omnipotence. Before I was, I did not exist, I now exist no more- Nature has to me been just-I’m what I was before.” No. CCCVI. MISS EURNS, . A CELEBRATED BEAUTY OF LAST CENTURY. MISS BURNSo, r MATHEWS( for she assumed both names), represented herself as a native of the city of Durham, in England, where her father had been at one time a wealthy merchant ; but latterly becoming unfortunate, and having con- 1 About this same time, the Parisians were much amused with a character somewhat resembling Dr. Brown, although still more extravagant in his fancies. M. Berbiguier de Terreneuve du Thym -for that was the Frenchman’s name-published a work in three octavo volumes, with plates, entitled “The :Hobgoblins ; or all the Demons are not in the Other World.” M. Berhiguier’s frenzy wa9 entirely of a religious cast ; and he believed himself commissioned to destroy all the demons, which, according to his faith, still lurk unseen in the nether world. His weapons of warfare were brushes, pins, sponges, and snuff. With these he attacked the unembodied enemies of mankind ; and, according to his own account, he allowed no day to pass without imprisoning in a bottle at least thirty hobgoblins. Thus benefiting mankind, M. Berbiguier held on his course with much self-esteem and satifaction, until his work attracted the notice of the Editor of the I‘ Biographie de8 Contemporaires,” who designated it as the “work of a madman,”and severely castigated the publisher for lending his aid to the birth of such a production. This led the much-offended catcher of hobgoblins into the Tribunal of Correctional Police, with an action for damages against the Editor of the ‘ I Biographie,” where he pleaded his own cause in a manner so ridiculous as to set the gravity of the bench and the audience at defiance. With hie pins, sponges, b~shesa,n d bottles, he was clamorous for an opportunity of showing his power. “Mr. President,” said he, “you see this instrument ; if there be in this assembly a single damned soul, in two minutes you shall see it in thh bottle ?” At length M. Berbiguier was ordered to be silent ; and the Court decided that there was no ground for a charge of libel. Much enraged, the hobgoblin champion threatened to appeal from this decision to the Cow Royale, where he was 8ure there were “ no Satanists amongst ita memben.” He even proposed catching the President himself!
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400 BIO GRAPH T C AL SKETC €I E S. tracted a ruinous second marriage, his elder children’ were in a manner thrown destitute upon the world. This account may not be entitled to much credit j but that the circumstances of her early life had been respectable, was in some degree evinced by a superior education and a personal demeanour, which, notwithstanding her misfortunes, betokened an acquaintance with the better class of society. Miss Burns came to Edinburgh about 17S9, at which period she had scarcely completed her twentieth year. Her youth, beauty, and handsome figuredecked out in the highest style of fashion-attracted very general notice as she appeared on the “ Evening Promenades ;” and the fame of her charms having at length brought her before the Magistrates, on a complaint at the instance of some of her neighbours: the case excited an unusual sensation. Banishment “forth of the city,” under the penalty, in case of return, of being drummed through the streets, besides confinement for six months in the house of correction, was the severe decision of Bailie Creech, who happened to be the sitting Magistrate.’ Against this sentence Miss Burns entered an appeal to the Court of Session, by presenting a bill of suspension to the Lord Ordinary (Dreghorn), which was refused ; but, on a reclaiming petition, the cause came to be advised by the whole Court, when one of the private complainers acknowledged that he had been induced to sign the complaint, for which he was sorry, in ignorance of any ‘‘ riot or disturbance having been committed in the [petitioner’s] house.” This statement had no doubt its due weight, and the Court was pleased to remit to the Lord Ordinary to pass the bill. While the cause was pending, Burns the Poet is said to have written an inimitably humorous letter to his friend the late Peter Hill, bookseller, inquiring the fate of his namesake. In the published works of the Poet, the following ‘‘ Lines ” are given, as having been “ written under the Portrait of the celebrated Miss Burns : ”- “ Cease, ye prudes, your envious railing, Lovely Burns has charms-confess ;’ Had a woman ever less ! ’’ True it is, she had one failing- After a few years of unenviable notoriety, Miss Burns fell into a decline ; Miss Burns had two siuters, both nearly as handsome and pretty as herself. a She lived in Rose Street, directly opposite the back windows of Lord Swinton’s house. 3 Bailie Creech was greatly annoyed in consequence of this decision ; and as his antipathy to the “fair but frail” victim of his magisterial indignation wm well known, various squibs were circulated at his expense. Among others, it was announced in a London journal that “Bailie Creech, of literary celebrity in Edinburgh, was about to lead the beautiful and accomplished Miss Burns to the hymeneal altar.” The Bailie was exceedingly wroth, and only abandoned his threatened action against the editor, on the promise of a counter-statement being given in next publication. The per contra accordingly appeared, but in a way by no means calculated to allay the irritation of the civic functionary. It was to the following effect :-“Iu a former number we noticed the intended marriage between Bailie Creech of Edinburgh, and the beautiful Miss Burns of the same place. We have now the authority of that gentleman to say that the proposed marriage is not to take place, matters having been otherwise arranged to the mutual satisfaction of both parties and their respective friends I ”
Volume 9 Page 535
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