Page:A biographical dictionary of eminent Scotsmen, vol 6.djvu/358

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152 ALLAN RAMSAY.


in life. He had the benefit of the parish school till he was in his fifteenth year ; an extent of education not yet common in Scotland, except when at- tendance on the university is included. Of the progress he had made in his studies, we hare unfortunately no particular account ; it certainly made him ac- quainted with Horace, as is abundantly evident in his poems.

In the year 1700, Ramsay lost his mother; and in the following year his step-father carried him into Edinburgh, and apprenticed him to a periwig-maker, which appears to have been at that time a flourishing profession. Ramsay him- self, it is said, wished to have been a painter; and his step-father has been re- flected on as acting with niggardly sharp-sightedness, in refusing to comply with his wishes. There is not, however, in the numerous writings of Ramsay, one single hint that any violence was, on this occasion, done to his feelings ; and we think the reflection might well have been spared. Those who have borne the burden of rearing a family upon li-mited means, know the impossibility of indulging either their own wishes, or those of their children in this respect, being often obliged to rest satisfied, not with what they would have wished, but with what they have been able to attain. There can be no doubt that Allan Ramsay served out his apprenticeship honourably, and afterwards for a number of years practised his trade as a master successfully ; circumstances that, in our opinion, justify the discretion and good sense of his step-father, more powerfully than any reasoning could do. It is to be regretted that of this period of his life no accounts have been handed down to us ; and the more so, that we have no doubt they would show his general good sense, and the steady character of his genius, more powerfully than even the later and more flourish- ing periods of his history. Unlike the greater number of men of poetical talent, Ramsay had the most perfect command over himself; and the blind gropings of the cyclops of ambition within, led him to no premature attempts to attain distinction. Though he must have entertained day-dreams of immortality, he enjoyed them with moderation ; and, without indulging either despondency or dejection, he waited with patience for their realization. Prosecuting his business with diligence, he possessed independence ; and, while, in the com- pany of respectable fellow citizens, he indulged and improved his social quali- ties, he, by taking to wife an excellent woman, Christian Ross, the daughter of a writer in Edinburgh, laid the foundation of a lifetime of domestic felicity.

It was in the year 1712, and in the twenty-sixth year of his age, that he entered into the state of matrimony ; and the earliest of his productions that can now be traced, is an epistle to the most happy members of the Easy Club, dated the same year. This club originated, as he himself, who was one of its members, informs us, " in the antipathy we all seemed to have at the ill humour and contradiction which arise from trifles, especially those that constitute Whig and Tory, without having the grand reason for zY." This club was in fact formed of Jacobites, and the restoration of the Pretender was the "grand reason " here alluded to. In the club every member assumed a fictitious name, generally that of some celebrated writer. Ramsay, probably from the Tatler, which must hare been a book much to his taste, pitched upon that of Isaac Bickerstaff, but afterwards exchanged it for that of Gawin Douglas. In the presence of this club, Ramsay was in the habit of reading his first productions, which, it would appear, were published by or under the patronage of -the fraternity, probably in notices of its sittings, which would tend to give it cele- brity and add to its influence. The elegy on Maggy Johnston seems to have been one of the earliest of his productions, and is highly characteristic of his genius. An Elegy on the death of Dr Pitcairne in 1715, was likewise read be- fore, and published by, the club : but being at once political and personal, it