Page:A biographical dictionary of eminent Scotsmen, vol 6.djvu/236

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30 WILLIAM MESTON.


countess Marischal to reside in her family, and availed himself of her hospitality till her death ; contributing largely to the entertainment of all her guests by bis nit, and by the exercise of a singularly happy vein of pleasantry which he possessed.

On the denth of the countess, Meston was again left destitute, and for some years continued in very straitened circumstances. At the end of this period he opened an academy at Elgin, in conjunction with his brother, Mr Samuel Mes- IJH, who was eminently skilled in the Greek language. For some years the academy throve well, and yielded its teachers a comfortable living. Meston gave instructions in all the branches of learning taught at universities, became popular as a teacher, and by his assiduity acquired the unlimited confidence of his employers. His success, however, in place of operating as an incitement to further exertion, seems to have thrown him off his guard. Always of a social disposition, he now became a thorough-paced boon companion; and betook himself with a devotion and cordiality to his book, his bottle, and his friend, which was wholly incompatible with his success as a teacher. The consequence was, that in a few years the academy fell so much away that he gave it up, and removed to Tureff, a village on the northwest limits of Aberdeenshire, to which he had been invited by the countess of Errol, who knew and appreciated his talents. From this lady Meston received, after his removal, much kind- ness. She allowed him the use of the family lodging in the village rent-free, and sent him many presents from time to time to better his housekeeping. The academy also succeeded well, and continued to improve during several years, until an unfortunate occurrence suddenly terminated its existence.

Two of Meston's young gentlemen having quarrelled while playing at shut- tle-cock, one of them drew a knife and stabbed the other in the breast. The wound was not fatal, but the parents of the other children became alarmed for their safety ; and though no blame whatever could attach to the master in what had happened, they were all removed, and poor Meston was left without a pupil.

Driven from Tureff, Meston went next to Montrose, where he attempted to open another academy, but without success. From Montrose he removed to Perth, and here found some employment in his profession of teaching, but was in a short time afterwards taken into the family of Mr Oliphant of Gask as a private preceptor. In this situation he remained for several years, when, falling into a bad state of health, he resigned it, and removed to Peterhead for the benefit of its mineral waters. The unfortunate poet was now once more re- duced to utter destitution, with the aggravation of a debilitated frame and failing constitution. For this luckless hour he had made no provision. With the true spirit of a poet, he had always entertained a most sublime contempt for money, and for all habits of economy ; spending to-day what he had acquired to-day, and boldly leaving to-morrow to provide for itself. The comforts, how- ever, which he was unable to procure for himself in his sickness, were liberally supplied to him by a generous friend. His old patroness, the countess of Errol, furnished him with every necessary and comfort which his infirmities and for- lorn condition required, even to the fitting out of his apartment Finding no benefit to his health from his residence at Peterhead, he removed to Aberdeen, where he died in the spring of 1745, and was buried in the Spittal churchyard of Old Aberdeen.

Meston was esteemed one of the best classical scholars of his time. He was also an excellent mathematician. As a poet his fame is now reduced to very narrow limits. His poetry is, we believe, scarcely known to the present generation ; and yet it would seem to merit a better fate, were it not perhaps