Page:A biographical dictionary of eminent Scotsmen, vol 6.djvu/127

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merits to devote himself to a work of a very elaborate character, which appeared in 1803, in two volumes 8vo, under the title of " An Inquiry into the System of Military Defence of Great Britain." He aimed at exposing the defects of the volunteer system, as well as of all temporary expedients, and asserted the supe- riority of a regular army. His next work was an " Inquiry into the Nature of Civil and Military Subordination," 1804, 8vo, perhaps the fullest disquisition which the subject has received. Being thus favourably introduced to public notice as a general writer, he began to aim at higher objects, but, it would appear, without properly calculating his own physical capabilities. Mr D'Israeli, who saw him at this, time, and who had afterwards the melancholy task of intro- ducing his case into the work called " The Calamities of Authors," describes him as " of a tender frame, emaciated, and study-worn, with hollow eyes, where the mind dimly shene, like a lamp in a tomb. With keen ardour," says the historian of literary disaster, " he opened a new plan of biographical politics. When, by one who wished the author and his style were in better condition, the dangers of excess in study were brought to his recollection, he smiled, and, with something of a mysterious air, talked of unalterable confidence in the powers of his mind of the indefinite improvement in our faculties ; and although his frame was not athletic, he considered himself capable of trying it to the extremity. His whole life, indeed, was one melancholy trial : often the day passed cheerfully without its meal, but never without its page." Undr the impulse of this incontrollable enthusiasm, Mr Macdiarmid composed his " Lives of British Statesmen," beginning with Sir Thomas More. For the publication, he was indebted to a friend, who, when the author could not readily procure a publisher, could not see even the dying author's last hopes disap- pointed. The work has obtained a reputation of no mean order. " Sonus research and reflection," says Mr D'Israeli, " are combined in this literary and civil history of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries." " The style," according to another critic, " is perspicuous and unaffected ; authorities are quoted for every statement of consequence, and a variety of curious information is extracted from voluminous records, and brought for the first time into public view. His political speculations were always temperate and liberal. He was indeed in all respects qualified for a work of this description, by great power of research and equal impartiality." The poor author was destined to enjoy, for a short time only, the approbation with which his work was received. His health sustained, in November, 1807, an irreparable blow by a paralytic stroke; and a second attack in February, 1808, proved fatal, April 7.

MACDONALD, ANDREW, a dramatic and miscellaneous writer, was born about the year 1755. His father, George Donald, was by profession a gardener, and resided at the foot of the broad way which connects Leith with Edinburgh, called Leith Walk ; the place also of young Macdonald's nativity.

The subject of this memoir received the early part of his education at Leith, and went through the usual initiatory course of classical learning in the gram- mar school of that town. Having exhibited early indications of superior parts, his parents and friends entertained the most sanguine hopes of his success in the world, and especially anticipated his attaining eminence in literature. With a view to his becoming a minister of the Scottish episcopal communion, in which he was born and educated, they entered him a student in the university of Edin- burgh, where he remained till 1775, when he was put into deacon's orders by bishop Forbes of Leith, who became also his chief patron. On this occasion, at the bishop's recommendation he prefixed the syllable Mac to his name, though for what reason is not stated.

Although now invested with the clerical character, there was yet no vacant

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