Page:A biographical dictionary of eminent Scotsmen, vol 6.djvu/61

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JOHN LEYDEN. 431


the libraries of its colleges, gave him additional opportunity and impulse to pursue his favourite plans of study.

About the time he resided at St Andrews, the renown of Mungo Park, and Leyden's enthusiastic attachment to all researches connected with oriental learning, turned his thoughts towards the history of Africa, in which he found much to enchant an imagination which loved to dwell upon the grand, the mar- vellous, the romantic, and even the horrible, and which was rather fired than appalled by the picture of personal danger and severe privation. Africa indeed had peculiar charms for Leyden. He delighted to read of hosts, whose arrows intercepted the sunbeams ; of kings and soldiers, who judged of the numberless number of their soldiers by marching them over the trunk of a cedar, and only deemed their strength sufficient to take the field when such myriads had passed as to reduce the solid timber to impalpable dust : the royal halls also of Daho- mey, built of sculls and cross-bones, and moistened with the daily blood of new victims of tyranny, all, in short, that presented strange, wild, and romantic views of human nature, and \\hldi furnished new and unheard-of facts in the history of man, had great fascination for his ardent imagination. And about this time he used to come into company, quite full of these extraordinary stories, garnished faithfully with the unpronounceable names of the despots and tribes of Africa, which any one at a distance would have taken for the exorcism of a conjurer. The fruit of his researches he gave to the public in a small volume, entitled, " An Historical and Philosophical Sketch of the Discoveries and Settle- ments of the Europeans in Northern and Western Africa at the close of the 1 8th century," crown 8vo, 1799. It is written on the plan of Raynal's celebrated work, and, as it contains a clear and lively abridgment of the information af- forded by travellers whose works are of rare occurrence, it was favourably re- ceived by the public.

On Leyden's return to Edinburgh from St Andrews, he resided with his pupils in the family of Mr Campbell, where he was treated with that respect and kindness which every careful father will pay to him whose lessons he ex- pects his children to receive with attention and advantage. His hours, except- ing those of tuition, were at his own uncontrolled disposal, and such of his friends as chose to visit him at Mr Campbell's, were sure of a hospitable re- ception. This class beyan now to extend itself among persons of an older standing than his contemporaries, and embraced several who had been placed by fortune, or had risen by exertions, to that fixed station in society, to which his college intimates were as yet only looking forwards. His acquaintance with Mr Richard Heber was the chief means of connecting him with several families of the former description, and it originated in the following circumstances.

John Leyden's feelings were naturally poetical, and he was early led to ex- press them in the language of poetry. Before he visited St Andrews, and while residing there, he had composed both fragments and complete pieces of poetry in almost every style and stanza which our language affords, from an unfinished tragedy on the fate of the Darien settlement, to songs, ballads, and comic tales. Many of these essays afterwards found their way to the press through the medium of the Edinburgh Magazine, at that time under the management or the patronage of Dr Robert Anderson, editor of the British poets, with whom Ley- den was on terms of intimacy. In this periodical miscellany appeared from time to time poetical translations from the Greek Anthology, from the Norse, from the Hebrew, from the Arabic, from the Syriac, from the Persian, and so forth, with many original pieces, indicating more genius than taste, and an ex- tent of learning of most unusual dimensions. These were subscribed J. L- About this time also Mr Archibald Constable was opening business chiefly as a