Page:A biographical dictionary of eminent Scotsmen, vol 6.djvu/190

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SCO SIR RICHARD MAITLAND.

much natural hilarity, he closed his days on the 20th of March, 1586, at tho venerable age of ninety. Living in an age, marked, perhaps more strongly than any other in our history, by treachery and every vice which can debase mankind, he lived uncontaminated by the moral atmosphere by which he was surrounded, and has had the happiness, certainly not the lot of every good man, of being uniformly noticed, whether by friends or enemies, by his con- temporaries or by posterity, with the highest respect. There is but one excep- tion to this general tribute to his virtues, the accusation in John Knox's His- tory, of his having been bribed to allow cardinal Beatoun to escape from imprisonment. The foundation of this charge is, however, doubtful; for, although the candour and accuracy of Knox's History cannot be impeached, it may still be admitted,' from the peculiar position of the parties, that the historian's roiud was liable to receive an erroneous impression of Maitland's conduct.

The works of Sir Richard Maitland exhibit him in the characters of a law- yer, a poet, and an historian. Of the work belonging to the first of these classes it is only necessary to say, that it consists of " Decisions from the 15th December 1550, to the penult July 1565 ;" being a continuation of the body of decisions known by the title of Sinclair's Practicks, and that a copy of it, with the additions of the viscount Kingston, is preserved in MS. in the library of the Faculty of Advocates. His poetical collections consist of two kinds, those works which were merely collected by him, and specimens of which have long been before the public, and his own poems, the greater portion of which have not been printed till a very late date.

If it be true, as has been often asserted, that the habits and feelings of a peo- ple are best known by their poetry, surely the collectors in that department of a nation's literature are entitled to no inconsiderable portion of its gratitude. The labours of Asloan, Maitland, and Bannatyne have especial claims on our at- tention, as in them are to be found nearly all that remains of the Scottish poetry composed before their times. Of the first, John Asloan, whose collec- tions are preserved in the Auchinleck library, but unfortunately in a mutilated state, little or nothing can be ascertained ; and of George Bannatyne a notice has already been given in this work. Our attention must therefore be directed to the collections of the subject of this memoir.

Sir Richard Maitland appears to have been engaged in forming his collec- tions of poetry before he became blind, probably about the year 1555, and although one of the volumes is dated 1585, it is conjectured that it was the arrangement of them only that could have been the work of his later years. The collections consist of two volumes, a folio, comprehending 176 articles, and a quarto of 96 pieces; the latter in the handwriting of Mary Maitland, Sir Richard's daughter. They are now preserved in the Pepysian library, Mag- dalene college, Cambridge ; but, from the regulations prescribed by the founder of that institution, they cannot be consulted except within its walls, and al- though its officers aftbrd every facility which their duty permits, it must be a subject of regret to every lover of Scottish poetry that they are not in a more accessible situation. It is true, indeed, that in 1784 or 1785, the late Mr Pinkerton was furnished by Dr Peckhard with all the means of consulting them with advantage, and that he published selections from them in his Ancient Scottish Poems ; but the charges of interpolation which have been brought against him, must make his work a subject of doubt and suspicion.

Sir Richard Maitland did not produce any of his own poems at the period when ardour of mind or ambition for distinction may be supposed to prompt men to enter that walk of literature. They were all written after his sixtieth year. They are the tranquil productions of age, and of a mind regulated by