« AnteriorContinuar »
Burnett, tells us "he was a grave and eminent divine. My father that knew him long, and, being of counsel for him in his law matters, had occasion to know him well, has often told me that he never saw him but he thought his heart was in heaven."1 "Vir, vita sanctimonia, says Dr. Garden, humilitate cordis, gravitate, niodestia, temperantia, orationis et jejunii frequentia, bonorum operum praxi, industria pauperum cura, clinicorura erebra visitatione et consolatione, et omnifaria virtute Christiana, inter optimos primitive ecclesiee patres annumerandus."2 Bishop Cosin of Durham esteemed Dr. William Forbes's writings so highly that he transeribed with his own hand all his remains.'
Foremost, by common consent, among that body of divines and scholars, was John Forbes, the good Bishop's son. He had studied at King's College, and, after completing his education in the approved manner by a round of foreign Universities, returned to Scotland to take his Doctor's degree, and to be the first professor in the chair of theology, founded and endowed in our University by his father and the clergy of the diocese. Dr. John Forbes's theological works have been appreciated by all eritics and students, and have gone some way to remove the reproach of want of learning from the divines of Scotland. His greatest undertaking, the "Instructions historico-theologicae," which he left unfinished, Bishop Burnett pronounces to be "a work, which, if he had finished it, and had been suffered to enjoy the privacies of his retirement and study to give us the second volume, had been the greatest treasure of theological learning, that, perhaps the world has yet received 4
These were the men whom the Bishop drew into the centre and heart of the sphere which he had set himself to illuminate; and, in
1 Life of Bedell. Preface. 4 Pnface to the Life of Bishop Bedell.
1 Vita Johannis Forbesii, § xli. Of most of these theological authors, I am
s Bishop Cosin's MS. is still preserved obliged to speak in the language of others,
at Durham. Calal. vet. libr. Dunclm. p. I have not, in all cases, even read the works
181. Surteet Soc. on which their reputation is founded.
a short space of time, by their united endeavours, there grew up around their Cathedral and University a society more learned and accomplished than Scotland had hitherto known, which spread a taste for literature and art beyond the academic circle, and gave a tone of refinement to the great commercial city and its neighbourhood.
It must be confessed the cultivation was not without bias. It would seem, that in proportion as the presbyterian and puritan party receded from the learning of some of their first teachers, literature became here, as afterwards in England, the peculiar badge of Episcopacy. With episcopacy went, hand in hand, the high assertion of Royal authority; and influenced, as it had been by Bishop Patrick Forbes and his followers, Aberdeen became, and continued for a century to be, not only a centre of northern academic learning, but a little strong-hold of loyalty and episcopacy—the marked seat of high cavalier politics and anti-puritan sentiments of religion and church government.
That there was a dash of pedantry in the learning of that Augustan age of our University, was the misfortune of the age, rather than peculiar to Aberdeen. The literature of Britain and all Europe, except Italy, was still for the most part scholastic, and still to a great degree shrouded in the scholastic dress of a dead language; and we must not wonder that the Northern University exacted from her divines and philosophers, even from her historians and poets, that they should use the language of the learned. After all, we owe too much to classical learning to grudge that it should for a time have over-shadowed and kept down its legitimate offspring of native literature. "We never ought to forget," writes one worthy to record the life and learning of Andrew Melville, "that the refinement and the science, secular and saered, with which modern Europe is enriched, must be traced to the revival of ancient literature, and that the hid treasures
could not have been laid open and rendered available but for that enthusiasm with which the languages of Greece and Rome were cultivated in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries."1
It is not to be questioned that in the literature of that age, and in all departments of it, Aberdeen stood pre-eminent. Clarendon commemorates the "many excellent scholars and very learned men under whom the Scotch Universities, and especially Aberdeen flourished."2 "Bishop Patrick Forbes," says Burnet, "took such care of the two Colleges in his diocese, that they became quickly distinguished from all the rest of Scotland. • • • They were an honour to the church, both by their lives and by their learning, and with that excellent temper they seasoned that whole diocese, both clergy and laity, that it continues to this very day very much distinguished from all the rest of Scotland, both for learning, loyalty, and peaceableness."3
That this was no unfounded boast, as regards one department of learning, has been already shown, in enumerating the learned divines who drew upon Aberdeen the general attention soon after the death of their Bishop and master. In secular learning it was no less distinguished. No one excelled Robert Gordon of Straloch in all the accomplishments that honour the country gentleman. Without the common desire of fame or any more sordid motive, he devoted his life and talents to illustrate the history and literature of his country. He was the prime assistant to Scotstarvet in his two great undertakings, the Atlas and the collections of Scotch
1 Dr. M'Crie's Life of Melville, II., p. matical education, has, in truth, never beon
445. It is with hesitation that any one who an effort of imagination or fancy; and its
has benefited by this work will express a products, when most successful, hare never
difference of opinion from its author. But, produced the effect of genuine poetry on the
it seems to me that Dr. M'Crie has been mind of the reader.
led by his admiration for Andrew Melville, 2History of the Rebellion. Oxford, 1826,
to rate too highly an exercise in which he /., 145.
excelled. The writing of modern Latin 1 Life of Bishop Bedell—Prtfaee. poetry, however valuable as a part of gram
poetry.1 The maps of Scotland in the Great Atlas (many of them drawn by himself, and the whole "revised" by him at the earnest entreaty of Charles I.) with the topographical deseriptions that accompany them, are among the most valuable contributions ever made by an individual to the physical history of his country. His son, James Gordon, Parson of Rothiemay, followed out his father's great objects with admirable skill, and, in two particulars, he merits our gratitude even more. He was one of the earliest of our countrymen to study drawing, and to apply it to plans and views of places; and, while he could wield Latin easily, he condescended to write the history of his time in excellent Scotch.
While these writers were illustratrating the history of their country in prose, a erowd of scholars were writing poetry, or, at least, pouring forth innumerable copies of elegant Latin verses. While the two Johnstons were the most distinguished of those poets of Aberdeen, John Leech, once Rector of our University,2 David Wedderburn, Rector of the Grammar School, and many others, wrote and published pleasing Latin verse, which stands the test of eriticism. While it cannot be said that such compositions produce on the reader the higher effects of real poetry, they are not without value, if we view them as tests of the cultivation of the society among which they were produced. Arthur Johnston not only addresses elegiacs to the Bishop and his doctors, throwing a charming classical air over their abstruser learning, but puts up a petition to the Magistrates of the City, or celebrates the charms of Mistress Abernethy, or the embroideries of the Lady Lauderdale—all in choice Latin verse, quite as if the persons whom he addressed appreciated the language of the poet.3
1 Delitice poetarum Scotorum hujut cevi il- dini, 1620. Leech was Rector of the Uni
lastrium. Fifth volume of the Great Atlas: versity in 1619.
Both published by John Blaeu at Amster- «" Ad Srnatum Aberdonensem;" " Tu.
darn, the former in 1637, the latter in 1654. mulus Juaunis Colissonii;" "Do Abreno
'" Joannis Lcochaci Seoti musae."—Lon- thaea;" "Do aultris acupiclis D. Isabella;
Intelligent and educated strangers, both foreigners and the gentry of the north, were attracted to Aberdeen; and its Colleges became the place of education for a higher class of students than had hitherto been accustomed to draw their philosophy from a native source.1
If it was altogether chance, it was a very fortunate accident, which placed in the midst of a society so worthy of commemoration, a painter like George Jamiesone, the pupil of Rubens, the first, and, till Raeburn, the only great painter whom Scotland had produced. Though he was a native of Aberdeen, it is not likely that anything but the little court of the Bishop could have induced such an artist to prosecute his art in a provincial town. An academic orator in 1630, while boasting of the erowd of distinguished men, natives and strangers, either produced by the University, or brought to Aberdeen by the Bishop, was able to point to their pictures ornamenting the hall where his audience were assembled. Knowing by whom these portraits were painted, we cannot but regret that so few are preserved.2
Setonae Comitissae Laderdeliie." Epigram. mata Arturi Juialoni, Scoti, Medici Regii. Abredoniat, Exeudebat Edvardut Rabanut, 1632.
1 Strachan's Panegyricxu. Among the strangers he distinguishes Parkins, an Englishman who had, the year before, (1630) obtained a degree of M.U. in our University. The earliest diploma of M.D. 1 have seen, is that noted below ("somewhat out of place) among the Academic prints, and which was granted in 1697.
2 " Patricius . . . supremas dignitates scholasticas in viros omni laude majorcs (quorum voi hie vtdtus videtii) qui vel ipsas dignitates honorarunt, confr-rri curavit. Quid memorem Sandilandios, Rhaetos, Baronios, Scrogios, Sibbaldos, Lcslieos, maxima ilia nomina . • • Dcus mi! quanta dici cclebri
tas, quo tot pileati patres, theologiae, juris et medicinae doctorcs et baccalaurei de gymnasio nostro velut agmine facto prodierunt!" He alludes to the strangers attracted by the fame of the society—to the divines, Forbes, Barron, etc.—to the physicians—" Quantus medicorum grex! quanta claritas! . . . Quantum uterque Jonstonus, ejusdem uteri, ejusdem artis fratres. . . . Mathesi profunda, quantum poesi el impangendis carminibus valeant novistis. Arthurus medicus Regis et divinus poeta elegiae et epigrammatis, quibus non solum suae aetatis homines superat verura antiquissimos quosque aeqnat. Oulielmus rei herbaria! et mathematum, quorum professor mcritissimus est, gloria cluit. De Gulielmo certe idem usurpure possumus . . . 'Delieiae est hnmani generis,' tanta est ejus comitas, tanta urbanitas."