Page:A biographical dictionary of eminent Scotsmen, vol 6.djvu/208

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.


debted for this fortunate peculiarity in his education to a Frenchman of the name of Marsilliers, who had been established as a teacher of Greek in the school of Montrose, by John Erskine of Dun.

The great progress which young Melville had made in learning, excited the astonishment and attracted the attention of the various teachers in the univer- sity ; particularly Mr John Douglas, the rector, who, on one occasion having taken the young and weakly boy between his knees, was so delighted with his replies, when questioned on the subject of his studies, that he exclaimed, " My silly fatherless and motherless boy, it's ill to witt [to guess] what God may make of thee yet"

The reputation which Melville acquired soon after entering the college, in- creased with his stay there ; and he left it, on finishing the usual course of study, with the character of being " the best philosopher, poet, and Grecian, of any young master in the land." Having acquired all the learning which his native country afforded, he resolved to proceed to the continent to complete his education ; and, accordingly, with the consent of his brothers, set out for France in the autumn of 1564, being still only in the nineteenth year of his age. At the university of Paris, whither he repaired, he acquired a similar reputation for general talent, and particularly for his knowledge of Greek, with that which he had secured at St Andrews. Here he remained for two years, when he removed to Poictiers. On his arrival at the latter place, such \vas the celebrity already attached to his name, lie was made regent in the col- lege of St Maroeon, although yet only twenty-one years of age. From Poic- tiers, lie went some time afterwards to Geneva, where he was presented with the humanity chair in the academy, which happened fortunately to be then va- cant. In 1574, he returned to his native country, after an absence altogether of ten years. On his arrival at Edinburgh, he was invited by the regent Mor- ton to enter his family as a domestic instructor, with a promise of advancement when opportunity should offer. This invitation he declined, alleging that he preferred an academical life, and that the object of his highest ambition was to obtain an appointment in one of the universities. He now retired to Baldovy, where he spent the following three months, enjoying the society of his elder brother, and amusing himself by superintending the studies of his nephew, James Melville.

At the end of this period, he was appointed principal of the college of Glas- gow by the General Assembly, and immediately proceeded thither to assume the duties of his office. Here the learning and talents of Melville were eminently serviceable, not only to the university over which he presided, but to the whole kingdom. He introduced improvements in teaching and in disci- pline, which at once procured a high degree of popularity to the college, and greatly promoted the cause of general education throughout Scotland. Melville possessed a considerable share of that intrepidity for which his great prede- cessor, Knox, was so remarkable. At an interview, on one occasion, with the re- gent Morton, who was highly displeased with some proceedings of. the General Assembly, of which Melville was a member, the former, irritated by what he conceived to be obstinacy in the latter, exclaimed, " There will never be quietness in this country, till half-a-dozen of you be hanged or banished." " Hark, sir," said Melville, " threaten your courtiers after that manner. It is the same to me, whether I rot in the air or in the ground. The earth is the Lord's. Patria est ubicunque est bene. I have been ready to give my life where it would not have been half so well wared [expended], at the pleasure of my God. I have lived out of your country ten years, as well as in it. Let God be glori- fied : it will not be in your power to hang or exile his truth." It is not said