Page:A biographical dictionary of eminent Scotsmen, vol 6.djvu/91

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WILLIAM LITHGOW. 461


of rather mean condition, and poor circumstances, though evidently possessed of an education very far surpassing what was common among the vulgar at the pe- riod when he lived. The motives which induced him to leave his native coun- try, to perform a painful and dangerous pilgrimage through foreign lands, are not more obvious than some of the other particulars of his early life. He him- self, in the strange and almost unintelligible jargon in which he frequently in- dulges in the work which records his adventures, obscurely assigns two : the oppression of enemies, but who they were, or what was the cause of their enmity, he does not say and an irresistible desire to visit strange lands. It would, indeed, appear that this last was the ruling passion of his life, and that, together with a roving, unsettled, and restless disposition, it was the principal agent in compelling him to undertake the formidable journeys which he accom- plished, and enabled him to bear up with such a series of hardships and bodily sufferings, as perhaps no man ever before or since has endured.

From the obscurity in which his early life is involved, it is not, therefore, until he has assumed the character which has procured him celebrity, namely, that of a traveller, that Lithgow is introduced to us.

In his youth, while he was, as he himself says, yet a stripling, he made two voynges to the " Orcadian and Zetlandian Isles." Shortly after this, he pro- ceeded on a tour through Germany, Bohemia, Helvetia, and the Low countries. From the latter he went to Paris, where he remained for ten months. William Lithgow nowhere gives the slightest hint regarding the source whence he derived the funds necessary to defray the expenses of these journeys ; but there seems to be some reason for believing that he trusted in a great measure to chance, and to the casual assistance which he might receive from any of his countrymen whom he might encounter, in the different places he visited. This: applies only, however, to the first part of his career ; the latter was provided for by a piece of good fortune which shall be noticed in its proper place.

On the 9th of March, 1609, Lithgow again started from Paris on another roving expedition, and, on this occasion, proceeded, in the first instance, directly to Rome. He was escorted several miles on his way by three or four of his countrymen, with whom he had picked up an acquaintance while in Paris, and who, not improbably, supported him during the time of his residence in that city. These persons he describes as gentlemen, and one of them, at any rate, certainly had a claim to this character on the score of rank. This was Hay of Smithfield, esquire, of the king of France's body guard.

Although thus associating himself, however, with these gentlemen, Lith- gow does not speak of them as equals, but in a marked tone of inferiority ; leaving altogether an impression that their kindness and attention proceeded from the circumstances of his being a countryman, a man of talent, and of a singular, bold, and adventurous disposition. Having bid adieu to his compan- ions, he trudged onwards to Rome on foot; for such was his usual mode of tra- velling. He made it a rule, and strictly adhered to it, never to avail himself of any conveyance during a journey when he could accomplish it on foot, and his only deviation was in the cases of crossing seas, rivers, or lakes. During all his travels he never mounted a horse, or put his foot into a carriage, or any de- scription of vehicle whatever.

While in Rome he made a narrow escape from the inquisition ; the most sanguinary and ferocious of whose members were at that time, singular to say, Scotsmen. Two of these were from St Andrews. There were besides, one of the name of Gordon, one Cunningham, born in the Canongate of Edinburgh, and several others, and it was from the eager pursuit of these, his own countrymen, that poor Lithgow found the greatest difficulty in escaping:. This, however, he