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If tender sympathies are felt above,
"In pensive mood, with awful tread I come,
"Oh! if He wisdom give, I'll ne'er complain
JOHN LEYDEN, M.D.'
THE subject of the present brief memorial will be long distinguished among those whom the elasticity and ardour of genius have raised to distinction from an obscure and humble origin. John Leyden was descended from a family of small farmers long settled upon the estate of Cavers, in the vale of Teviot, a few miles from Hawick. He loved to mention some traditional rhymes, which one of his ancestors had composed, and to commemorate the prowess of another, who had taken arms with the insurgent Cameronians, about the time of the Revolution, and who distinguished himself by his gallantry at the defence of the churchyard of Dunkeld, 21st August, 1689, against a superior body of Highlanders, when Colonel Cleland, the leader of these rustic enthusiasts, was slain at their head. John Leyden, residing in the village of Denholm, and parish of Cavers, Roxburghshire, and Isabella Scott, his wife, were the parents of Dr Leyden, and still survive to deplore the irreparable loss of a son, the honour alike of his family and country. Their irreproachable life, and simplicity of manners, recommended them to the respect and kindness of their neighbours, and to the protection of the family
1 [This Memoir was first published in The Edinburgh Annual Register, vol. iv., for 1811.]
of Mr Douglas of Cavers, upon whose estate they resided.
John Leyden, so eminent for the genius which he displayed, and the extensive knowledge which he accumulated during his brief career, was born at Denholm, on the 8th September, 1775, and bred up, like other children in the same humble line of life, to such country labour as suited his strength.
"About a year after his birth," says his relative and biographer, Mr Morton, "his parents removed to Henlawshiel, a lonely cottage, about three miles from Denholm, on the farm of Nether Tofts, which was then held by Mr Andrew Blythe, his mother's uncle. Here they lived for sixteen years, during which his father was employed, first as shepherd, and afterwards in managing the whole business of the farm, his relation having had the misfortune to lose his sight. ' The cottage, which was of very simple construction, was situated in a wild pastoral spot near the foot of Ruberslaw, on the verge of the heath which stretches down from the sides of that majestic hill. The simplicity of the interior corresponded with that of its outward appearance. But the kind affections, cheerful content, intelligence, and piety, that dwelt beneath its lowly roof, made it such a scene as poets have imagined in their descriptions of the innocence and happiness of rural life.
"Leyden was taught to read by his grandmother, who, after her husband's death, resided in the family of her son. Under the care of this venerable and affectionate instructress his progress was rapid. That insatiable desire of knowledge, which afterwards formed so remarkable a feature in his character, soon began to show itself. The historical passages of the Bible first caught his attention; and it was not long before he made himself familiarly
1 [Mr Morton adds, in a post note-"It is remarkable, that though a man of uncommon intelligence, and possessing great knowledge and skill in every branch of rural economy, the father of Leyden never could be prevailed upon to undertake the charge of a farm on his own account. In this he acted from a firm and uniform persua sion, that the trouble and anxiety frequently attendant upon the pursuit of gain are very poorly compensated by the comforts it brings."-P. 87.]
acquainted with every event recorded in the Old and New Testaments." 1
Thus Leyden was ten years of age before he had an opportunity of attending a public place of education; and as the death of his first teacher, Thomas Wilson, schoolmaster at Kirktown, soon after took place, the humble studies of the future poet, antiquary, and orientalist, were adjourned till the subsequent year (1786), when a Mr Walter Scott taught the same school. But the sacred fire had already caught to the ready fuel which nature had adjusted for its supply. The ardent and unutterable longing for information of every description, which characterised John Leyden as much as any man who ever lived, was now roused and upon the watch. The rude traditionary tales and ballads of the once warlike district of Teviotdale were the readiest food which offered itself to this awakening appetite for knowledge. These songs and legends became rooted in his memory, and he so identified his feelings with the wild, adventu
1 Memoirs of Leyden, by the Reverend James Morton, prefixed to his Poetical Remains. London, 1819. 8vo.-[Mr Morton adds," One or two popular works on Scottish History next fell into his hands; and he read with enthusiasm the history of the heroic deeds of Wallace and Bruce, and of the brave resistance of his countrymen to the ecclesiastical tyranny of the last kings of the house of Stuart. After he had read all the books in his father's possession, the shelves of the neighbouring peasants were laid under contribution; and, amongst other works which they furnished him with, he was greatly delighted to find the Arabian Night's Entertainments, Sir David Lindsay's Poetical Works, Milton's Paradise Lost, and Chapman's Translation of Homer."]
rous, and daring characters which they celebrate, that the associations thus formed in childhood, and cherished in youth, gave an eccentric and romantic tincture to his own mind, and many, if not all the peculiarities of his manner and habits of thinking may be traced to his imitating the manners and assuming the tone of a Borderer of former times. To this may be ascribed his eager admiration of adventurous deeds and military achievement, his contempt of luxury, his zealous and somewhat exclusive preference of his native district, and affected dislike to the southron, as the "auld enemies of Scotland," an earnest desire to join to the reputation of high literary acquirements the praise of an adept at all manly exercises, and the disregard of ceremony, and bold undaunted bearing in society, which might be supposed to have characterised an ancient native of the Border. In his early days, also, he probably really felt the influence of those superstitious impressions, which at a later period he used sometimes to assume, to the great amusement of his friends, and astonishment of strangers. It was indeed somewhat singular, when he got upon this topic, to hear Leyden maintain powerfully, and with great learning, the exploded doctrines of demonology, and sometimes even affect to confirm the strange tales with which his memory abounded, by reference to the ghostly experiences of his childhood. Even to those most intimate with him, he would sometimes urge such topics, in a manner which made it impossible to determine whether he was serious or jocular; and most probably his fancy