Page:A biographical dictionary of eminent Scotsmen, vol 6.djvu/128

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living for him ; but through the interest of his patron, the worthy divine just named, he procured the appointment of preceptor in the family of Mr Oliphant of Gask, as a temporary employment and means of support, until a vacancy in the church should present itself. In this situation he remained about a year, when he was chosen pastor of the episcopal congregation at Glasgow, in room of Mr Wood, who had gone to St Petersburg. His appointment took place in the year 1777. His patron, bishop Forbes, having in the mean time died, he was put into priest's orders by bishop Falconer. Although much addicted to literary pursuits, Macdonald made no public appearance as an author for five years after this period, when he made a debut in the character of a poet, by publishing a poem, or rather part of a poem, entitled " Velina, a Poetical Fragment Neither this work, nor a novel which he subsequently published under the title of the " Independent," met with any remarkable degree of success. He therefore resolved to try his talents in dramatic composition ; and his first effort was the tragedy of Vimonda, which was brought out at the Edinburgh theatre royal, for the benefit of Mr Wood, with a prologue by Henry Mackenzie, and was received with marked applause by the public, though, like all the other works of its unfortunate author, it is now scarcely known to exist

In the mean time, Macdonald, who still resided at Glasgow, was making but little progress in worldly prosperity. His fortunes, notwithstanding the success of his play, which does not seem to have yet yielded him any considerable pecuni- ary remuneration, were rather retrograding than advancing. The episcopal church of Scotland was at this period in a very depressed state. The old members were fast dying out, and there were none to replace them. The result was that Macdonald's congregation was speedily reduced to a number so trifling, that he could no longer live by his charge. Thus situated, he resolved on re- signing it; and as no better prospects presented themselves elsewhere in the Scottish episcopal church, he denuded himself altogether of his ecclesiastical functions, and finally threw aside even the outward sign of his calling, the clerical dress, and became at all points entirely secularized. On throwing up his ministry, he came to Edinburgh, with, it would seem, pretty confident hopes of being able to make a living by his pen ; an idea in which he was en- couraged by the success of his tragedy. He had, however, before leaving Glasgow, taken a step which his friends thought fit to consider as at once im- prudent and degrading. This was his marrying the maid servant of the house in which he had lodged. His reception, therefore, on his return to Edinburgh, from these friends and those of his acquaintances who participated in their feel- ings on the subject of his marriage, had much in it to annoy and distress him, although no charge could be brought against the humble partner of his fortune, but the meanness of her condition. Whatever question, however, might have been made of the prudence or imprudence of his matrimonial connexion, there could be none regarding the step which he next took. This was his renting an expensive house, and furnishing it at a cost which he had no immediate means of defraying, although with all that sanguine hope which is but too frequently found associated with literary dispositions, he fully expected to be enabled to do so by the exertion of his talents. The result was such as might have been looked for. His literary prospects, as far as regarded Edinburgh, ended in total disappoint- ment His creditors became pressing, and the neglect of his friends, proceed- ing from the circumstance already alluded to, and which in some cases amounted to direct insult, continued as marked as when he first returned amongst them, and added greatly to the distress of mind with which the unfortunate poet was now overwhelmed,