Page:A biographical dictionary of eminent Scotsmen, vol 6.djvu/344

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138 ROBERT POLLOK.


POLLOK, ROBERT, author of the " Course of Time/' a poem, was born in 1799, of respectable parents, at Muirhouse, in the parish of Eaglesham, Ren- frewshire. After acquiring the rudiments of a classical education in the country, he passed through a regular course of literary and philosophical study at the university of Glasgow. Having sustained the ordinary previous presbyterial examinations, he was admitted to the divinity hall, under the superintendence of the late reverend Dr Dick of Glasgow, who at that time was sole professor of theology in the united secession church. On finishing his course of five years' study under this accomplished tutor, he was, by the united associate presbytery of Edinburgh, licensed to preach the gospel, in the spring of 1827. The only time he ever preached was in the former chapel of Dr John Brown, in Rose Street, Edinburgh.

A short time before receiving license to preach, he had prepared his poem, the " Course of Time," which extends to ten books, in blank verse, and describes the mortal and immortal destiny of man, in language the nearest, perhaps to that of Milton, which has ever been employed by a later bard. It has rarely happened that one so young has completed any work so extensive as this, much less one so successful; and we may be allowed to surmise, that the man who could form and execute such a design, at such a period of life, must have possessed not only an intellect of the first order of power, but a character of the first order of strength. On the recommendation of the late celebrated John Wilson, professor of moral philosophy in the university of Edinburgh, the " Course of Time" was published by Mr Blackwood, early in 1827. Of the earlier attempts of Mr Pollok in prose and verse, little is known. He wrote three tales relative to the sufferings of the persecuted presbyterians of the reign of Charles II., which were published anonymously in his lifetime, and have since been reprinted with his name. They are manifestly juvenile and hasty productions ; but they are the juvenile and hasty productions of a man of genius. The labour of preparing his poem for publication, and carrying it through the press, appears to have fatally impaired a constitution originally vigorous. Soon after his license, symptoms of pulmonary disease having be* come distinctly apparent, he spent the greater part of the summer of that yeai with the reverend Dr Belfrage of Slateford, under whose hospitable roof he en- joyed every advantage which medical skill, called forth into active exertion by cordial friendship, could furnish.

As the disease seemed obviously gaining ground, it was suggested by Dr Abercromby, and other eminent physicians, that a removal to a more genial climate, during the approaching winter, was the only probable means of pro- tracting a life so full of promise. It was therefore resolved on, that he should, with as little delay as possible, set out for Italy ; and the means for prosecuting such a journey were readily supplied by the admirers of his genius.

In the commencement of autumn he left Edinburgh, accompanied by a sister, and travelled by a steam vessel to London. During the short time he remained in that city, he resided at Camberwell, with the late John Pirie, Esq., afterwards Lord Mayor of London, to whom he had been introduced by a common friend, and who, with characteristic generosity, made every exertion to contribute to his comfort ; and ceased not to take a deep interest in his happiness, till he was called on to commit his remains to the grave.

After arrangements had been made for his voyage to Italy, his medical ad- visers in London, fearing that he would never reach that country, recommended his immediate removal to the south-west of England, and the neighbourhood of Southampton was fixed on as a suitable situation. Having arrived there, he