Page:A biographical dictionary of eminent Scotsmen, vol 6.djvu/74

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.


444 JOHN LEYDEN.


went to see him when he was very ill, and had been confined lo his bed for many days ; there were several gentlemen in the room ; he inquired if I had .-iny news ; I told him I had a letter from Eskdale ; and what are they about in the borders ? he asked. A curious circumstance, I replied, is stated in my let- ter ; and I read him a passage which described the conduct of our volunteers on a fire being kindled by mistake at one of the beacons. This letter mentioned that the moment the blaze, which was the signal of invasion, was seen, the moun- taineers hastened to their rendezvous, and those of Liddesdale swam the Liddle

river to reach it They were assembled (though several of 'their houses were at a

distance of six and seven miles,) in two hours, and at break of day the party marched Into the town of Hawick (at a distance of twenty miles from the place of assembly,) to the border tune of ' Who, daur meddle wi' me ? ' Ley den's coun- tenance became animated as I proceeded with this detail, and at its close he sprung from his sick-bed, and, with much strange melody, and still stranger gesticulations, sung aloud, ' Who. daur meddle wf me ? wha daur meddle wf me?' Several of those who witnessed this scene looked at him as one that was raving in the delirium of a fever.

" These anecdotes will display more fully than any description I can give, the lesser shades of the character of this extraordinary man. An external man- ner, certainly not agreeable, and a disposition to egotism, were his only defects. How trivial do these appear, at a moment when we are lamenting the loss of such a rare combination of virtues, learning, and genius, as were concentrated in the

late Dr Leyden !

JOHN MALCOLM.

We have little^to add to General Malcolm's luminous and characteristic sketch. The efficient and active patronage of Lord Minto, himself a man of letters, a poet, and a native of Teviotdale, was of the most essential importance to Leyden, and no less honourable to the governor-general. Leyden's first appointment as a professor in the Bengal college might appear the sort of promotion best suited to his studies, but was soon exchanged for that of a judge of the twenty-four Purgunnahs of Calcutta. In this capacity he had a charge of police which "jumped with his humour well ;" for the task of pursuing and dispersing the bands of robbers who infest Bengal had something of active and military duty. He also exercised a judicial capacity among the natives, to the discharge of which he was admirably fitted, by his knowledge of their language, manners, and customs. To this office a very considerable yearly income was annexed. This was neither expended in superfluities, nor even in those ordinary expenses which the fashion of the East has pronounced indispensable ; for Dr Leyden kept no establishment, gave no entertainments, and was, with the receipt of this revenue, the very same simple, frugal, and temperate student, which he had been at Edinburgh. But, exclusive of a portion remitted home for the most honour- able and pious purpose, his income was devoted to the pursuit which engaged his whole soul ; to the increase, namely, of his acquaintance with eastern litera- ture in all its branches. The expense of native teachers, of every country and dialect, and that of procuring from every quarter oriental manuscripts, engrossed his whole emoluments, as the task of studying under the tuition of the interpre- ters, and decyphering the contents of the volumes, occupied every moment of his spare time. " I may die in the attempt," he writes to a friend, ""but if I die without surpassing Sir William Jones a hundred fold in oriental learning, let never a tear for me profane the eye of a borderer." The term was soon ap- proaching when these regrets were to be bitterly called forth, both from his Scottish friends, and from all who viewed with interest the career of his ardent and enthusiastic genius, which, despising every selfish consideration, was only