Page:A biographical dictionary of eminent Scotsmen, vol 6.djvu/310

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


say how universally, or with what avidity, not to mention incredulity by many, they were read. For the latter contingency, Mr Park himself was pre- pared, and with a judicious caution, which few of his rivals in discovery, either before or since, have had the prudence or self-denial, as it may aptly be termed, to adopt, omitted the relation of many real incidents and adventures, which he feared might shake the probability of his narrative in the public estimation. This fact has been proved beyond doubt, by the testimony of many of his inti- mate friends and relatives, to whom, although by no means of a communicative disposition, he freely mentioned many singular anecdotes and particulars, which he scrupled to submit to the jealous eye of the critical public. Amongst those friends to whom Mr Park frequently communicated in a colloquial way many most interesting and remarkable circumstances which did not appear in his printed travels, was Sir Walter Scott, between whom and Mr Park a strong intimacy was contracted subsequent to the return of the latter from Africa, and who tells us, that having once noticed to his friend the omissions in question (which appeared to one of his romantic temperament and ardent imagination to be unaccountable), and asked an explanation, Mr Park re- plied, " that in all cases where he had information to communicate, which he thought of importance to the public, he had stated the facts boldly, leaving it to his readers to give such credit to his statements as they might appear justly to deserve ; but that he would not shock their credulity, or render his travels more marvellous, by introducing circumstances, which, however true, were of little or no moment, as they related solely to his own personal adventures and escapes." If this scrupulousness on the part of the traveller is to be regretted in one sense, as consigning to oblivion many curious and interesting facts, it cer- tainly raises him as a man and an author incalculably in our estimation, and be- speaks the most implicit belief and confidence in what he has promulgated to the world.

After the publication of his travels, he returned to Scotland, and in August the same year married Miss Anderson, the eldest daughter of his old master at Selkirk. For some time after his marriage, and before he set out on his second expedition, Mr Park appears to have been quite undecided as to his pros- pects in life ; and perhaps the comparative independence of his circumstances, from the profits of his publication, and the remuneration he obtained from the African Association, rendered him somewhat indifferent to any immediate per- manent situation. But it was likewise strongly suspected by his intimate friends, that he entertained hopes of being soon called upon to undertake another mission to the Niger, although he kept perfectly silent on the subject.

As time continued to elapse, without any such proposition from the expected quarter being made, Mr Park perceived the imprudence of remaining in idle- ness, and in 1801, removed to Peebles, where he commenced practice as a sur- geon. But it would appear he was not very successful in this speculation ; and this fact, together with the natural restlessness of his disposition, seems to have rendered his situation peculiarly irksome to him. In answer to a friend, who suspected his design of again proceeding abroad, and earnestly remonstrated with him against it, he writes, " that a few inglorious winters of practice at Peebles was a risk as great, and would tend as effectually to shorten life, as the journey he was about to undertake." In the mean time, his ennui, or im- patience, was much relieved by the enjoyment of the best society in the neigh- bourhood, and by being honoured with the friendship of many of the most dis- tinguished characters in Scotland at that time. Amongst these were the venerable Dr Adam Ferguson, then resident at Kailyards, near Peebles; colonel Murray of Cringletie ; and professor Dugald Stewart As before men