Page:A biographical dictionary of eminent Scotsmen, vol 6.djvu/64

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434 JOHN LEYDEN.


ceremony, he never trespassed upon tlie essentials of good breeding, and was himself the first to feel hurt and distressed if he conceived that he had, by any rash or hasty expression, injured the feelings of the most inconsiderable member of the company. In all the rough play of his argument too, he was strictly g-ood-humoured, and was the first to laugh if, as must happen occasionally to those who talk much, and upon every subject, some disputant of less extensive but more accurate information, contrived to arrest him in his very pitch of pride, by a home fact or incontrovertible argument. And, when his high and independent spirit, his firm and steady principles of religion and virtue, his constant good humour, the extent and variety of his erudition, and the liveli- ness of his conversation, were considered, they must have been fastidious indeed who were not reconciled to the foibles or peculiarities of his tone and manner.

Many of those whose genius baa raised them to distinction, have fallen into the fatal error of regarding their wit and talents as an excuse for the un- limited indulgence of their passions, and their biographers have too frequently to record the acts of extravagance, and habits of immorality, which disgraced and shortened their lives. From such crimes and follies John Leyden stood free and stainless. He was deeply impressed with the truths of Christianity, of which he was at all times a ready and ardent asserter, and his faith was attested by the purity of morals which is its best earthly evidence. To the pleasures of the table he was totally indifferent, never exceeded the bounds of temperance in wine, though frequently in society where there was temptation to do so, and seemed hardly to enjoy any refreshment excepting tea, of which he sometimes drank very large quantities. 3 When he was travelling or studying, his temper- nnce became severe abstinence, and he often passed an entire day without any other food than a morsel of bread. To sleep he was equally indifferent, and \vhen, during the latter part of his residence in Edinburgh, he frequently spent the day in company, he used, upon retiring home, to pursue his studies till a late hour in the morning, and satisfy himself with a very brief portion of repose. It was the opinion of his friends, that his strict temperance alone could have en- abled him to follow so hard a course of reading as he enjoined himself. His pecuniary resources were necessarily much limited ; but he knew that indepen- dence, and the title of maintaining a free and uncontrolled demeanour in society can only be attained by avoiding pecuniary embarrassments, and he managed his funds with such severe economy, that he seemed always at ease upon his very narrow income. We have only another trait to add to his character as a member of society. With all his bluntness and peculiarity, and under disadvan- tages of birth and fortune, Leyden's reception among females of rank and ele- gance was favourable in a distinguished degree. Whether it is that the tact of the fair sex is finer than ours, or that they more readily pardon peculiarity in favour of originality, or that an uncommon address and manner is in itself a re- commendation to their favour, or that they are not so readily offended as the male sex by a display of superior learning ; in short, whatever were the cause, it is certain that Leyden was a favourite among those whose favour all are am- bitious to attain. Among the ladies of distinction who honoured him with their regard, it is sufficient to notice the late duchess of Gordon and lady Charlotte Campbell (now Bury), who were then leaders of the fashionable society of Edin- burgh. It is time to return to trace the brief events of his life.

In 1800, Leyden was ordained a preacher of the gospel, and entered upon the functions then conferred upon him, by preaching in several of the churches

8 A lady whose house he frequented, mentioned to a friend of the editor that she had filled him out eighteen cups in one evening.