Page:A biographical dictionary of eminent Scotsmen, vol 6.djvu/66

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436 JOHN LEYDEN.

he had walked between forty and fifty miles and back again, for the sole pur-, pose of visiting an old person who possessed this precious remnant of antiquity. His antiquarian researches and poetic talents were also liberally exerted for the support of this undertaking. To the former, the reader owes in a great mea- sure the Dissertation - on Fairy Superstition, which, although arranged and digested by Mr Scott, abounds with instances of such curious reading as Leyden alone had read, and was originally compiled by him ; and to the latter the spirited ballads entitled Lord Soulis and the Gout of Keeldar.

Leyden's next publication was " The Complaynt of. Scotland, a new edition of an ancient and singularly rare tract bearing that title, written by an uncer- tain author, about the year 1548." This curious work was published by Mr Constable in the year 1801. As the tract was itself of a diffuse and comprehen- sive nature, touching upon many unconnected topics, both of public policy and private life, as well as treating of the learning, the poetry, the music, and the arts of that early period, it gave Leyden an opportunity of pouring forth such a profusion of antiquarian knowledge in the preliminary dissertation, notes, and glossary, as one would have thought could hardly have been accumulated during so short a life, dedicated too to so many and varied studies. The intimate ac- quaintance which he has displayed with Scottish antiquities of every kind, from manuscript histories and rare chronicles, down to the tradition of the peasant, and the rhymes even of the nursery, evince an extent of research, power of ar- rangement, and facility of recollection, which has never been equalled in this department.

Meanwhile other pursuits were not abandoned in the study of Scottish anti- quities. The Edinburgh Magazine was united in 1802 with the old Scots Ma- gazine, and was now put under the management of Leyden by Mr Constable the publisher. To this publication, during the period of his management, which was about five or six months, he contributed several occasional pieces of prose and poetry, in all of which he was successful, excepting in those where humour was required, which, notwithstanding his unvaried hilarity of temper, Leyden did not possess. He was also, during this year, engaged with his " Scenes of In- fancy," a poem which was afterwards published on the eve of his leaving Britain ; and in which he has interwoven his own early feelings and recollections with the description and traditional history of his native vale of Teviot.

The friends of Leyden began now to be anxious for his present settlement in life. He had been for two years in orders, and there was every reason to hope that he might soon obtain a church, through the numerous friends and powerful interest which he now possessed. More than one nobleman of high rank ex- pressed a wish to serve him, should any church in their gift become vacant ; and, from the recommendation of other friends to those possessed of political interest, he was almost assured of being provided for, by a crown presentation, on some early opportunity. But his eager desire of travelling, and of extending the bounds of literary and geographical knowledge, had become, as he expressed himself to an intimate friend, " his thought by day and his dream by night, and the discoveries of Mungo Park haunted his very slumbers." When the risk was objected to him, he used to answer in a phrase of Ossian, " Dark Cuchullin will be renowned or dead ;" and it became hopeless to think that this eager and aspiring spirit could be confined within the narrow sphere, and limited to the humble, though useful duties of a country clergyman. It was therefore now the wish of his friends to turn this irresistible thirst for discovery, into some channel which might at once gratify the predominant desire of his heart, and be attended with some prospect of securing his fortune. It was full time to take such steps ; for in 1 802 Leyden had actually commenced overtures to the African Society, for undertaking a jour-