Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 54.djvu/291

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

of Brisbane, Ayrshire. She was a woman of cultivated intellect and great social charm. Burns sent a song by her, ‘The tears I shed must ever fall,’ to Johnson's ‘Museum,’ adding to it the first four lines of the last stanza. A set of verses attributed to her in Stenhouse's ‘Notes to Johnson's “Museum”’—‘Returning spring with lessening ray’—has less merit. Stewart submitted all his writings to her judgment, and she helped materially to make his house the centre of the best society in Edinburgh. His liberal opinions, however, gave some offence to the dominant party. Jeffrey was apparently forbidden by his father to attend the lectures of so dangerous a teacher (Cockburn, Jeffrey, i. 51). Though the young whigs regarded him as the especial glory of their party, Cockburn (Memorials, p. 103) says that for some years he was not cordially received elsewhere.

In a chapter of his first book, published in 1792, he had, in the course of remarks upon the use of abstract principles in politics, referred approvingly to some of the French ‘philosophes’ (Works, ii. 219 &c.). Though his remarks were very moderate, two of the lords of session (W. Craig and A. Abercromby), who, he says, ‘spent three evenings a week at my house,’ suggested to him that he ought, in an ‘open and manly manner,’ to retract every word he had said on behalf of French philosophy. Stewart, while repudiating any sympathy with revolutionary excesses, declared that he had nothing to retract. He gave a separate course of lectures on political economy, principally following Adam Smith, but with some reference to general politics, in 1800. In 1805 he took an active part in support of John Leslie (1766–1832) [q. v.], who, upon becoming professor of mathematics, was attacked for approving Hume's theory of causation. The whigs took Leslie's side; and Stewart published a pamphlet, and spoke in the general assembly in a ‘fine spirit,’ according to Cockburn (Memorials, p. 200), ‘of scorn and eloquence.’ In a letter to Horner soon afterwards, he expresses his hope that the Scottish universities will be less ‘priest-ridden’ hereafter, and says that the fall of Lord Melville, which was becoming probable, would be ‘synonymous with the emancipation and salvation of Scotland.’ When the whigs came into power in 1806, Stewart was appointed to the writership of the Edinburgh ‘Gazette,’ a sinecure of 300l. a year. He held it for life, and it was continued to his family after his death. In the summer he accompanied Lord Lauderdale, who, like his pupil, Lord Henry Petty, held office under the new government, on his diplomatic mission to Paris.

Stewart's health, never very strong, had been failing, and he was much affected by the death of a son in 1809. He requested Brown to act as his substitute in the following session, and finally retired from lecturing. Brown, at the end of the session, was appointed his coadjutor, but was to undertake the whole duty. Stewart canvassed the town council, and used all his influence to obtain his appointment, though he was afterwards greatly dissatisfied with Brown's teaching.

From 1809 Stewart lived in retirement at Kinneil House, Linlithgowshire, lent to him by the Duke of Hamilton. He occupied himself in preparing the substance of his lectures for publication. Upon Brown's death, in 1820, Stewart became again the sole professor. Though invited by some of his friends to lecture, he felt himself too infirm to discharge the duties, and resigned on 20 June. He approved of the candidature of his friend Macvey Napier, and afterwards of Sir William Hamilton. He was unable to take an active part in canvassing, and the election was carried by the tories in favour of John Wilson, ‘Christopher North.’

In January 1822 Stewart had a stroke of paralysis. His mind was not seriously affected, and he was able to prepare his work for the press, with the help of his daughter as amanuensis. He died at Edinburgh on 11 June 1828, while on a visit to a friend. Cockburn describes Stewart as slight and feeble, with a large bald forehead, bushy eyebrows, grey, intelligent eyes with very changeable expression, and flexible lips. A portrait, in his seventy-first year, painted by Wilkie, and a bust by Joseph are engraved in the collective edition of his works (vols. i. and x.) A portrait was painted by Raeburn about 1808, for A. Fraser-Tytler, lord Woodhouselee. Soon after his death a meeting was held by his friends, by whom a monument was erected upon the Calton Hill.

Stewart by his first wife had one son Matthew, who entered the army, and went to India in 1807 as aide-de-camp to Lord Minto. He rose to the rank of colonel, and retired on half-pay some years after the peace. There was a strong mutual attachment between him and his father. He had collected many of his father's papers and journals, and had prepared an account of his life and writings. He burnt them all under a delusion, due, it was supposed, to a sunstroke in India (see letter in preface to vol. viii. of Stewart's Works). Colonel Stewart died in 1851. Stewart had two