Page:A biographical dictionary of eminent Scotsmen, vol 6.djvu/235

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"WILLIAM MESTON. 29


he found it necessary or agreeable to resign lucrative missions. The portion of his memoirs referring to this period, introduces a vivid description of the machi- nations of the witches to impede the wishes of king James, by which a relation of his own was drowned in crossing the frith of Forth. On the arrival of the queen, Melville was presented to her as her counsellor, and gentleman of her bedchamber. His last public duty appears to have been that of receiving the presents of the ambassadors at the christening of Prince Henry. He declined following James to his new dominions, but afterwards paid him a visit, and was kindly received at the English court. His latter days appear to have been spent in preparing his memoirs, so often quoted as a model of wisdom for the guidance of his descendants. Two mutilated editions of this curious work were published in English, besides a French translation, before the discovery of the original manu- scripts, which had passed through the hands of the Marchmont family, produced the late genuine edition. Sir James died on the 1st November, 1607, 4 in the eighty-second year of his age. In his character there seems little either to re- spect 01 admire ; but it is to be remembered that he lived in an Jige, when those who were not murderers or national traitors, were of a comparatively high stan- dard of morality.

MESTON, WILLIAM, an ingenious and learned poet of the eighteenth century, was born in the parish of Mid-Mar, Aberdeenshire, about the year 1688. His parents were in humble circumstances, but, by submitting to privations them- selves, they contrived to give their son a liberal education. Having acquired the earlier rudiments of learning at a country school, he was sent to the Maris- chal college, Aberdeen, where he made such proficiency, that, on the completion of his studies, he was elected one of the doctors of the high school of New Aberdeen. In this situation he continued for some time, discharging its duties with an assiduity and talent which procured him much respect and considerable popularity as a teacher. While thus employed, his reputation and qualifications attracted the notice of the noble family of Marischal, and he was chosen to be preceptor and governor to the young earl, and his brother, the celebrated Marshal Keith. Of this trust he acquitted himself so well, that, on the occur- rence of a vacancy in 1714, in the office of professor of philosophy in Marischal college, he was appointed to it through the influence of the countess Marischal. This office he also filled with great ability, and with universal approbation ; but he was permitted to retain it only for a very short time. In the following year, 1715, the civil war broke out, and Meston, adhering to the political principles of his patrons, lost his pi'ofessorship. To compensate this depriva- tion, he was made governor of Dunotter castle, by the earl Marischal ; a singu- lar enough change of profession, but sufficiently characteristic of the times.

After the battle of Sheriffmuir, Meston, with several others of his party, fled to the hills, where they skulked till the act of indemnity was passed, when they returned to their homes.

During the time of his concealment, Meston composed, for the amusement of his companions, several of those humorous poetical effusions which he has en- titled Mother Grim's Tales, and which were published in Edinburgh in 1767. Steady to his political principles, he refused, after his return, io yield obedience to the new dynasty, and thus cut himself off from every chance of being restored to his former appointment ; an event which might otherwise have taken place. In these circumstances, destitute of employment, and equally destitute of the means of subsistence, he accepted an invitation from the

  • Wood's Peerage, ii. 112. The introduction to the last edition of his works, says aged 72.

This is inconsistent with his having been 14 years of age in 1549, when lie accompanied IMoniuc to France.