Page:A biographical dictionary of eminent Scotsmen, vol 6.djvu/129

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Under the pressure of these accumulated evils, he determined on quitting Edinburgh, and on seeking in London that employment for his literary talent? which he could not find in his native capital. Having come to this resolution, he left his mother, for whom he always entertained the most tender regard, in possession of his house and furniture, and proceeded, accompanied by his wife, to the metropolis. Here his reception was such as to compensate in some measure for the treatment which he had experienced at home. The fame of his tragedy had gone before him, and soon after his arrival procured him many sincere and cordial, though it does not appear very powerful, friends. Vimonda was brought out with much splendour by Colrnan, in the summer of 1787, a short time after its author had arrived in London, and was performed to crowded houses. In the following summer, it was again produced, and with similar success. This good fortune, operating on a temperament naturally san- guine, lifted poor Macdonald's hopes beyond all reasonable bounds, and filled his mind with the brightest anticipations of fame and independence. In this spirit he wrote several letters to Mr M. Stewart, music-seller in Edinburgh, the principal, if not indeed the only friend he had left behind him, full of the most splendid ideas regarding his future fortunes. Having left Edinburgh in em- barrassed circumstances, so that neither his house rent nor his furniture had been paid, he promises speedy remittances to defray all his debts, and amongst the rest that which he had incurred to his correspondent, who seems to have man- aged all his affairs for him after he left the Scottish capital, and to have gener- ously made, from time to time, considerable advances of money on his account.

" Thank Heaven," says the ill-fated poet in one of these letters to Stewart, in which he announces the good fortune which he now conceived was to be his for the remainder of his life, " thank Heaven, my greatest difficulties are now over ; and the approaching opening of the summer theatre will soon render me independent and perfectly at ease. In three weeks you will see by the public prints, I shall be flourishing at the Haymarket in splendour superior to last season. I am fixed for the summer in a sweet retirement at Brompton, where, having a large bed, and lying alone, I can accommodate you tolerably, and give you a share of a poet's supper, sallads and delicious fruits from my own garden."

All this felicity, and all these gay visions of the future, were, however, speedily and sadly dissipated. In a few short months thereafter Macdonald sunk into an untimely grave, disappointed in his hopes, and reduced to utter destitution in his circumstances. That he did thus die is certain, but neither the immediate cause, nor the progress of the sudden blight which thus came over his fortunes before his death, is very distinctly traced in any of the memoirs which have been consulted in the composition of this article, unless the following remark, contained in an advertisement prefixed to a volume of posthumous sermons of Macdonald, printed in 1790, can be considered as an explanation : " Having no powerful friends to patronize his abilities, and suffering under the infirmities of a weak constitution, he fell a victim, at the age of thirty-three, to sickness, disappoint- ment and misfortune." Macdonald died in the year 1788, in the thirty-third year of his age, leaving behind him his wife and one child, wholly unprovided for.

Macdonald made several attempts in dramatic composition subsequent to the appearance of Vimonda, but none of them were at all equal in merit to that per- formance, a circumstance which affords, probably, a more satisfactory elucidation of the cause of those disappointments which gathered round and hurried him to his grave, and embittered his dying moments, than those enumerated in the ex- tract employed above. For some time previous to his death, under the fictitious