Page:A biographical dictionary of eminent Scotsmen, vol 6.djvu/60

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430 JOHN LEYDEN.


of which it was the supposed scene ; and to which Leyden, partly to indulge his humour, and partly to secure his retirement, contrived to make some modern additions. The nature of his abstruse studies, some specimens of natural his- tory, as toads and adders, left exposed in their spirit vials, and one or two practical jests played off upon the more curious of the peasantry, rendered his gloomy haunt not only venerated by the wise, but feared by the simple, of the parish, who began to account this abstracted student, like the gifted person de- scribed by Wordsworth, as possessing


Waking empire wide as dreams,

An ample sovereignly of eye and ear ; Rich are his walks with supernatural cheer ; The region of his inner spirit teems With vital sounds, and monitory gleam? Of high astonishment and pleasing fear.

This was a distinction which, as we have already hinted, he was indeed not unwilling to affect, and to which, so far as the visions existing in the high fancy of the poet can supply those ascribed to the actual ghost-seer, he had indeed no slight pretensions.

Books as well as retirement were necessary to the progress of Leyden's studies, and not always attainable. But his research collected from every quar- ter such as were accessible by loan, and he subjected himself to the utmost pri- vations to purchase those that were not otherwise to be procured. The reputation also of his prosperous career of learning obtained him occasional ac- cess to the library of Mr Douglas of Cavers ; an excellent old collection, in which he met, for the first time, many of those works of the middle ages which he studied with so much research and success. A Froissart in particular, trans- lated by lord Berners, captivated his attention with all those tales " to savage virtue dear," which coincided with his taste for chivalry, and with the models on which it had been formed; and tales of the Black Prince, of the valiant Chandos, and of Geoffrey Tete-Noir, now rivalled the legends of Johnnie Arm- strong, Walter the Devil, and the Black Douglas.

In the country, Leyden's society was naturally considerably restricted, but while at college it began to extend itself among such of his fellow students as were distinguished for proficiency in learning. Among these we may number the celebrated author of the Pleasures of Hope ; the Rev. Alexander Murray united with Leyden in the kindred pursuit of oriental learning, and whose lamp, like that of his friend, was extinguished at the moment when it was placed in the most conspicuous elevation ; William Erskine, author of a poetical epistle from St Kilda, with whom Leyden renewed his friendship in India; the ingenious Dr Thomas Brown, distinguished for his early proficiency in the science of moral philosophy, of which he was afterwards professor in the Edin- burgh college ; the Rev. Robert Lundie, minister of Kelso, and several othei young men of talent, who at that time pursued their studies in the university of Edinburgh.

In the year 1796, the recommendation of professor Dalzell procured Leyden the situation of private tutor to the sons of Mr Campbell of Fail-Held, a situation which he retained for two or three years. During the winter of 1 7 9 8, he attended the two young gentlemen to their studies at the college of St Andrews. Here he had the advantage of the acquaintance of professor Hunter, an admirable classical scholar, and to whose kind instructions he professed much obligation. The secluded situation also of St Andrews, the monastic life of the students, the fragments of antiquity with which that once metropolitan town is surrounded, and