Page:A biographical dictionary of eminent Scotsmen, vol 6.djvu/130

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ROBERT MACFARLANE.


signature of Matthew Bramble, he amused the town almost daily with little humorous and burlesque poems, after the manner of Peter Pindar's (Dr VVolcot), and these were not unfrequently equal in point and satirical allusion to some of the most felicitous effusions of his celebrated prototype.

As a preacher, he was distinguished for neat, classical, and elegant com- position ; qualities which procured a favourable reception for the volume of posthumous sermons published in 1790. A tragedy, which he left in a finished state at his death, was printed and included in a volume of his poetical works, published in 1791.

On the whole, Macdonald's literary talents seem to have been of that unfor- tunate description which attract notice, without yielding profit, which produce a show of blossom, but no fruit, and which, when trusted to by their sanguine possessor as a means of insuring a subsistence, are certain to be found wholly in- adequate to that end, and equally certain to leave their deceived and disap- pointed victim to neglect and misery.

It may be proper, before concluding this brief sketch of Macdonald, to advert to the account given of him by D'Israeli, in his " Calamities of Authors." That account is an exceedingly pathetic one, and is written with all the feeling and eloquence for which its highly distinguished writer is so remarkable ; but unfor- tunately it is inconsistent in many parts with fact. What Mr D'Israeli mentions regarding him from his own knowledge and experience, we do not question ; but in nearly all the particulars which were not so acquired, he seems to have been egregiously misinformed. In that information, however, which is of the description that there is no reason for doubting, the following affecting passage occurs : " It was one evening I saw a tall, famished, melancholy man, enter a bookseller's shop, his hat flapped over his eyes, and his whole frame evi- dently feeble from exhaustion and utter misery. The bookseller inquired how he proceeded with his tragedy ? * Do not talk to me about my tragedy ! Do not talk to me about my tragedy ! I have indeed more tragedy than I can bear at home,' was his reply, and his voice faultered as he spoke. This man was Matthew Bramble Macdonald, the author of the tragedy of Vimonda, at that moment the writer of comic poetry." D'Israeli then goes on, giving the result of his inquiries regarding him, and at this point error begins. He represents him as having seven children. He had, as already noticed, only one. He says he was told, " that he walked from Scotland with no other fortune than the novel of the Independent in one pocket, and the tragedy of Vimonda in the other." The novel alluded to was published four years before he went to Lon- don ; and Vimonda had been brought out at Edinburgh a considerable time before he left that city. D'Israeli speaks of the literary success which the " romantic poet " had anticipated while yet " among his native rocks." The reader need scarcely be reminded that Macdonald was born in the immediate i'icinity of the Scottish capital, and that the whole of his life, previously to his leaving Scotland, was spent in the cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow, and great part of it in what has always been considered the profession of a gentleman.

MACFARLANE, ROBERT, a political and miscellaneous writer, was born in the year 1734, and educated at the university of Edinburgh. At an early period of life he proceeded to London, in search of a livelihood, and for many years kept an academy of considerable reputation at Walthamstow. He engaged warmly in the political disputes which took place during the Bute administra- tion ; and, in 1770, concentrated his sentiments respecting them in a History of the Reign of George III.," 8vo. This work, without possessing any large share of intrinsic merit, had a curious history. The author quarrelled with the publisher, (Mr Evans,) who, in 1782, issued a second, and, in 1794, a third