Page:A biographical dictionary of eminent Scotsmen, vol 6.djvu/68

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438 JOHN LEYDEN.


James Ballantyne, an early and intimate friend of Leyden, had just then estab- lished in Edinburgh his press, which afterwards became so distinguished. To the critical skill of a valued and learned friend, and to the friendly as well as professional care of Ballantyne, Leyden committed this last memorial of his love to his native land. The last sheets reached him before he left Britain, no more to return.

About the middle of December, John Leyden left Edinburgh, but not exactly at the time he had proposed. He had taken a solemn farewell of his friends, and gone to Roxburghshire to bid adieu to his parents, whom he regarded with the most tender filial affection, and from thence he intended to have taken his departure for London without returning to Edinburgh. Some accident changed his purpose, and flis unexpected arrival in Edinburgh was picturesque and some- what startling. A party of his friends had met in the evening to talk over his merits, and to drink, in Scottish phrase, his Bonallie. While about the witching hour they were crowning a solemn bumper to his health, a figure burst into the room, muffled in a seaman's cloak and travelling cap, covered with snow, and distinguishable only by the sharpness and ardour of the tone with which he exclaimed, " Dash it, boys, here I am again !" The start with which this unexpected apparition was received, was subject of great mirth at the time, and the circumstance was subsequently recalled by most of the party with that mix- ture of pleasure and melancholy which attaches to the particulars of a last meet- ing with a beloved and valuable friend.

In London, the kindness of Mr Heber, his own reputation, and the recom- mendation of his Edinburgh friends, procured Leyden much kindness and at- tention among persons of rank and literary distinction. His chief protector and friend, however, was Mr George Ellis, the well-known editor of the Speci- mens of Ancient English Poetry. To this gentleman he owed an obligation of the highest possible value, in a permission which he kindly granted him to change, on account of illness, from one vessel to another, the former being afterwards unfortunately cast away iu going down the river, when many of the pasrengers were drowned.

After this providential exchange of destination, the delay of the vessel to which he was transferred, permitted his residence in London until the beginning of April, 1803, an interval which he spent in availing himself of the opportuni- ties which he now enjoyed, of mixing in the most distinguished society in the metropolis, where the novelty and good humour of his character made ample amends for the native bluntness of his manners. In the beginning of April, he sailed from Portsmouth, in the Hugh Inglis, where he had the advantage of be- ing on board the same vessel with Mr Robert Smith, the brother of his steady friend, the Rer. Mr Sidney Smith. And thus set forth on his voyage perhaps the first British traveller that ever sought India, moved neither by the love of wealth nor of power, and who, despising alike the luxuries commanded by the one, and the pomp attached to the other, was guided solely by the wish of ex- tending our knowledge of oriental literature, and distinguishing himself as its most successful cultivator. This pursuit he urged through health and through sickness, unshaken by all the difficulties arising from imperfect communication with the natives, from their prejudices and those of their European masters, and from frequent change of residence ; unmoved either by the charms of plea- sure, of wealth, or of that seducing indolence to which many men of literature have yielded after overcoming ail other impediments. To this pursuit he finally fell a sacrifice, as devoted a martyr in the cause of science, as ever died in that of religion. We are unable to trace his Indian researches and travels with accuracy similar to that with which we have followed those which preceded