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Kay's Originals Vol. 2


BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. 42 1 tions of teaching and farming. He died from the consequences of an injury which he had received inadvertently in the right thumb at dinner. He left a family of three sons and three daughters. Of the former, Louis became the Founder of the Hospital; Joseph was a Writer to the Signet in Edinburgh, and eminent in his profession ;I and Alexander died in his youth. Of the latter, Jean assisted her brother for several years in hearing the lessons of the female pupils; Minny was his housekeeper; whilst Margaret was married to a Mr. Morrison at Milnathort. The subject of this memoir at a very early age made choice of his father’s profession. He was educated at the High School and College of Edinburgh ; and, for some time before his father’s death, had been in the habit of acting as his assistant, When that event took place he decided upon continuing the school for the benefit of the family. Shortly afterwards he went to France, to complete his knowledge of the language and its pronunciation, and prosecuted his studies for two years in the University of Paris, during which time Mr. Moffat taught his classes in Edinburgh. Thus qualified for his task, he commanded, for a series of years, better filled classes than have fallen to the lot of any teacher of French in Edinburgh. Without attempting any delineation of his peculiar mode of imparting instruction, suffice it to say that he possessed such an extraordinary energy of mind and vigour of body, that first-rate teachers of the present day, who have studied under him, acknowledge that, within a similar period of time, no one in their experience ever taught so much, or SO well. The history of his labours in private and public teaching, and of the early difficulties he had to struggle with, contains much that would be both interesting and instructive; but it may be enough to state that his whole time was devoted to his profession-that he laboured in it with the greatest assiduity and industry for the greater part of his lifetime, from eight o’clock in the morning till nine at night, except on Saturdays, the afternoons of which were devoted to relaxation and hospitality-and that he retired from business in 1817 or 1818, after having realised, by his own exertions, a handsome fortune. For nearly twenty years before relinquishing his scholastic labours, he, in imitation of his father, rented a large farm in the parish of Duddingston, which he managed with great skill, and where he resided during summer. In the winter months he resided in town, and regularly visited his farm on the Saturday ; but during the rest of the year he personally directed the operations, morning and evening, rising regularly at four o’clock in the morning. The farm-house, now termed Woodlands, in the immediate vicinity of the Hospital, has been greatly enlarged since he left it, and is at present (1838) occupied by Alexander Smith, Esq., W.S. During Mr. Cauvin’s occupation of the farm, he erected the house of Louisfield, which how forms the centre part of the Hospital. This gentleman married Miss Esther Cunningham, daughter of Dr. Harry Cunningham. This lady mixed a great deal in the fashionable world in Edinburgh at the commencement of the preaent century, and was satirised somewhat severely, under the name of Mra Ravine, in a curious novel, in three volumes, entitled, “A Winter in Edinburgh.” She predeceased her hwband, leaving no children.
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422 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. He had his school-rooms for many years in a wooden land on the north side of the High Street, immediately in front of where the Old Town Guard-House stood. In those days pupils were considerably more advanced in years than at the present time, and indulged in pranks altogether unknown now. In passing from his school-room, through an ill-lighted passage, to an anteroom which served for accommodation to those pupils who were waiting the exit of a class, he was not unfrequently tripped by means of a rope wickedly laid across ; while the “ Vile assassins ! waylaying in the dark,” as he used to mutter, with considerable bitterness, on such occasions, secretly enjoyed the triumph of his fall, and the burst of unavailing passion which the accident never failed to excite. Happily a material improvement has now taken place in the demeanour of teacher and pupil towards each other ; and the narration of scenes enacted in schools some half-century ago is now listened to with incredulity. He exacted, with the utmost rigour, punctuality of attendance at the hour, and not unfrequently refused admission to pupils if late a few minutes, dismissing them with a recommendation to decline “dorrnir” (i.e. to sleep) as they returned home. Though irritable in his temper and eccentric in his habits, he was very kind and charitable to the necessitous-having generally two or three orphans in his employment-and manifested deep displeasure at any marks of injustice, dishonesty, or oppression. He usually rode at a canter, and invariably carried a large whip. As he was riding, on a certain occasion, at his usual rapid rate, he overtook an old infirm villager of Wester Duddingston, who recognised and informed him that a stranger had, but a few minutes before, stript him of a burden of willows, Mr. Cauvin in a short time came up with the culprit ; and receiving of course an unsatisfactory account of the manner in which he had procured the burden, made him aware of his knowledge of the foul transaction. The scoundrel instantly doffed his ill-gotton load, ha,@@ that scores would be thus quietly settled. Not so thought Mr, Cauvin, who plied his whip in his best style, and did not quit the miscreant till he saw him deposit the willows in safety within the door of the poor man’s house. In the prime of life Mi. Cauvin was a fine-looking man, though in his latter days somewhat corpulent, and more rubicund in his visage than was suited to the notion of a “ beau garcon.” He was always dressed well, being more like a nobleman of the “ancienne regime” than a Scotch teacher. His attainments were not very varied ; but he possessed a retentive memory, and the faculty of a quick and accurate discernment of character. His hospitality was widely known, and for many years much taxed ; but during the latter years of his life it was confined to a few select friends. It is worthy of being mentioned that the Poet Burns was an intimate friend, and (which is not generally known) was also a pupil of his. He applied to him, stating his anxiety to learn the French language, but the only hour at which Mr. Cauvin could receive him was at nine o’clock in the evening, when his ordinary labours ceased for the day ; aud this, it may be supposed, was not very agreeable or convenient for either of them. However, Mr. Cauvin agreed
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