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Monthly Memoranda in Natural His- view, vol. I. ann. 1749, there is a let tory.
ter published, said to be a translation 1809, May 7. AFTER five weeks from the French of one from Racine, of very cold and
of the great poet, to his elder
brother. In this letter there are the ungenial weather, the character of the season has at length begun to change, following
observations :-—“Nor can I and to approach to that of summer.
easily forgive your contemptuous pity -. 8. Warmth, comparatively that does him the greatest honour,
of Socrates, for the passage of his life speaking, now prevails. The Syca where he speaks of the cock that was more is rapidly unfolding its leaves ; and the leaf-buds of the elm are ready to be sacrificed to Esculapius. I am
afraid you have only read this passage to burst.
9. Swallows were this day ob- in Dacier's translation, and then inserved near Edinburgh.
deed it is no wonder that such a tran. 14. Swallows are now common.
slator should have led you into this For the last week, the temperature
mistake. Socrates does not tell Crito has been from 606. to 650. The to sacrifice a cock, but says simply, and foliage of the forest-trees has very ra
without more, Crito, we ow pidly come on. To-day the scales of to Esculapius,” opčinopsv & dexterore. the leaf-bud of the elm are falling.
Do you not plainly discern that this is 16. Swifts and martins both raillery and that Plato, who supseen about Edinburgh.
ports his characters with an Homeri.-17. After more than a fortnightcal exactness, makes him die, as he had of very dry, and rather warm weather, lived, with irony in his mouth? It some refreshing showers have fallen. was a proverbial saying, when any one They were preceded by some thunder had escaped a dangerous disorder, for explosions, the first which we have another to tell him, that, for that bout, observed in our atmosphere this year.
he owed a cock to Esculapius, as we say, 19. The leaf-scales of the lime- Vous devez une belle chandelle, &c,– tree are also falling.
You owe a candle to such a saint, for - 21. More rain and thunder.
your escape. This is all the mystery:
Socrates meant without doubt, It is N.B. Account of Forfar Garden now that we owe a cock to Esculapius ; in our next.
for I have certainly got over all my ills. A thought too, which was perfectly
conformable to the idea he had of On a circumstance attending the death death. Could you allow yourself to of SOCRATES.
imagine that the last words of so great
a man as Socrates turned on a silly suTo the Editor.
perstition ? SIR,
This explication of the words of IT T is generally mentioned as a cir- Socrates appears to be but little known,
cumstance attending the death of for in some late works you may obSocrates, that it was one of his last serve them used in proving that So. acts to order a cock to be offered to crates was an' idelater, and by no Esculapius. Such an act would brand means freed of absurd superstition. I the wisest and best man of antiquity will thank you to insert it in your vaas a gross idolater, and I therefore was luable magazine, and, happy to find that the circumstance
I am, Sir, has been interpreted in a manner per
Yours, &c. fectly opposite. In the Monthly Re, Paisley, Feb. 15th 1808. N.
Biographical Account of the late JOHN ordinary zeal. He entered into a mi
HOME, Esq. Author of the Tragedy litary association formed by the stuof DOUGLAS.
dents of the university, of which Dr
Robertson was also a member. This JOHN HOME was born of a re. association being dissolved by the lukespectable, and formerly illustrious warmness of
of its members, Mr family, near Ancrum, in Roxburgh- Home went and joined the army.shire. He received his first education He was present at the battle of Falat the parish school of that place, kirk, and was there taken prisoner.“ where Dr Buchan, the author of Do- After being confined for some time in mestic Medicine, was one of his school. the castle of Doune, he effected his fellows.
escape ; and soon after, the battle of Mr Home's inclination and the Culloden, and the total rout of the rewishes of his parents coincided in di- bel army, enabled him to return to recting his views to the church. He his studies. On their completion, and accordingly came to pursue his studies after having gone through the customat Edinburgh. The long period of ary examinations, he was licensed to eight years attendance at the univer- preach the gospel. As, however, he sity, which is required previous to ec- bad yet no pastoral charge, he availed clesiastical ordination, tends to secure himself of this leisure to pay a visit to to the members of the church of Scot- London, where it appeårs that he had land a respectable proficiency in litera- spent a considerable time. In this viture. The period of young Home's sit, he met with Collins, and was adearly studies was peculiarly propitious. mitted to a great share of intimacy The love of science and of literary with that exquisite and interesting composition, after having long lain poet. Collins afterwards dedicated to dormant in Scotland, had revived a
him his finę ode on the superstitions of mong the students of that day, with the Highlands, of which the first four peculiar ardour. He enjoyed the
are as follow : ciety and friendship of Robertson, of Home, thox return’st from Thames, whose Blair, of Smith, of David Hume who
Naiads long was his relation, and of a number of Have seen thee lingering, with a fond de other men, who were destined to form 'Midsc those soft friends, whose hearts, an æra in the annals of Scottish-litera- some futare day, ture. While they were cultivating Shall melt, perhaps, to hear thy tragic song. the pursuits of history and philosophy, From these lines it appears, that Mr Mr Home attached himself peculiarly Home had already devoted himself to to poetry, in which pursuit he might the tragic muse. This circumstance probably be animated by the splendid would doubtless form a bond of union example of Thomson, who was then between him and Collins, who is known in the zenith of his fame.
to have formed similar projects, tho' These peaceful studies received an it appears to us very doubtful if he unexpected interruption. The rebel. would have succeeded in that depart. lion in 1745, and the temporary success with which it was attended, called About the year 1750, Mr Home imperiously for the exertions of all was settled in the parish of Atholstonfriends to the civil and religious liber- ford, a beautiful village near Hadties of their country, as established by dington, which had already been renthe revolution, and the accession of dered classical by the residence of Mr the house of Hanover. Mr Home, Robert Blair, author of the “ Grave.” en this occasion, displayed an extra- Dr Robertson was then minister of May 1809.
Gladsmuir, only five or six miles dis- spread throughout all Scotland ; Mr
the polished manners of a man of the had then but imperfectly coalesced, world, his society was very generally led him to change the scene. Soon courted. He was introduced to Lord after appeared the Fatal Discovery, a Bute, the minister of the day, who tragedy, the plot of which was taken was ambitious of patronizing talents, from Ossian. The names were barbaparticularly in natives of Scotland. rous to English ears, and the audience He soon acquired, in an extraordinary declared it might as well have been degree, the’friendship of this noble- written in Erse. Yet the name of man, insomuch, that sometimes, as we the author carried it through nine have been informed, when persons of nights. the first distinction were waiting in Mr Home now made a pause, and vain at his antichamber for admittance, four years after, in 1773, brought out Mr Home was accustomed to pass a new tragedy, called Alonzo, which through them, and enter without cere- was somewhat better received. The mony. Through this powerful inte- story is romantic and improbable, but rest he obtained a pension of 2001, a- the plot appeared to be well connectyear, which was certainly honourable, ed, and some of the situations interestand well merited.
ing. Its reception made some amends After the splendid success which he for the failure of its three predecessors, had already met with, it was natural though it seems now to be if possible that Mr Home should endeavour to still more completely forgotten. reap new laurels in the path of drama- In considering this singular contic composition. Accordingly, in the trast between the reception of Mr winter of the following year (1758) Home's first tragedy, and of every he brought forward Agis, a tragedy, succeeding one, we are naturally led derived from the Spartan history. It to enquire, whether the fault lay on contains some fine poetical passages, the side of the public or of the author. but was considered by the audience as In justification of the former it may entirely destitute of dramatic interest. be observed, that there has been no Gray says of it, in one of his letters, fluctuation, and that posterity seems
to think it should be by the likely to confirm the sentence originauthor of Douglas ; why, it is all mo- ally pronounced. We are able to dern Greek; the story is an antique speak upon a very faint recollection statue, painted white and red, frizzed indeed, of all except Douglas. Yet and dressed in a negligee made by a we are rather inclined to suspect, that Yorkshire mantuamaker." In vain from the peculiar circumstances at. was it assisted by show and decoration, tending its appearance, it has been ra(which were not, it would appear, om- ted somewhat above its merits, and the nipotent then as now ;) in vain did a rest somewhat below. numerous party in the fashionable The tragic muse has been peculiarworld combine in its favour ; the piece ly unpropitious to Scotland. It seems dragged heavily through ten or eleven to thrive amid the storms and temnights, and then sunk into oblivion. pests of life. It takes up its abode in
The continuation of Mr Home's great metropolitan cities, the theatre dramatic career is only a melancholy of political vicissitude, and of those repetition of disaster. Next year ap- violent passions, which are its favourite peared the Siege of Aquileia, which subject. Our Scottish poets, in genewas equally ill received. It is said to ral, are more conversant with nature, have been originally the Siege of Ber- than with man. If Thomson be ada vrick; but a dread of fomenting ani- duced as an exception, we would remosity between the two nations, who mark, that it was not till after a long
residence in London, that he produced opponents of the authenticity of these his tragedies *, which, after all, are productions, that Mr Home, who rather poems
than tragedies. Now it could entertain no suspicion of any really appears to us, that unless in the deception, displayed throughout the plot, which is singularly interesting whole affair, a laudable zeal for the and well-conducted, Douglas displays poetry and literature of his country few of the appropriate merits of tra- Mr Home had now retired to his gedy. There are none of those deep native country, and had married a views of human nature, none of those young lady, a cousin of his own, by sudden turns and fluctuations of pas- whom, however, he had no family.sion, which form the life of this species He purchased a small property in East of composition. The impassioned Lothian, called Kilduff, where he rescenes, not excepting even the celebra- sided for many years. Towards the ted recognition, appear to us cold.— close of his life, he took up his resiThere are in return, indeed, many dence in Edinburgh. His last perpassages displaying the highest pictu- formance was the history of the rebelresque and poetical beauty. This com- lion, a subject extremely interesting bination of a novel and most interesting to him, from the share he had taken in plot, with very fine descriptive poetry, it. This work is generally supposed have buoyed up this tragedy, and will to be drawn from authentic sources ; doubtless continue to buoy it up.
but it is destitute of those graces of Still, however, they seem to have been composition, which are now considerbarely sufficient to atone for the dra- ed as essential to history. It seems matic deficiences. When, therefore, difficult to account for a deficiency so in the succeeding plays, these defi- little to be expected on the part of Mr ciences remained, while the merits Home. It appears not impossible suffered a sensible diminution, the that a fear of his own tendency to a piece, though retaining still consi- too florid and poetical style, may have derable poetical merit, became alto- led him to shun too cautiously every gether unable to support itself as a thing which had that appearance.drama.
The consequence, however, has been, Mr Home was the principal instru- that this work never has attained any ment in impelling Macpherson either degree of popularity. to collect and translate, or (if our In the year 1760, Mr Home pubreaders prefer it) compose, those cele- lished a volume of plays, containing brated poems which bear the name of Agis, Douglas, and the Siege of Aquia Ossian. Happening to meet at Mof- leia, which
he dedicated to his present fat with Macpherson, who was then Majesty, then Prince of Wales. His tutor to Mr Graham of Balgowan, other three tragedies appeared some and learning that the young man had time after. The whole were collected some Gaelic poems in his possession, and edited in three volumes, at Edinhe persuaded him to translate a few as burgh, in 1798, under the inspection ą specimen. Extremely delighted, he of the late Mr Woods. shewed them to his friends in Edin- Some time before Mr Home's death burgh, and introduced Macpherson to his faculties began to decay, till at last them. Mr Home afterwards accom
he was reduced to a state of mere expanied the latter in one of his toursistence. After lingering in this state through the Highlands. It will not, for several years, he died on the 4th we think, be denied by the stoutest of September 1808, in the 85th year
of his age. With the exception of * A similar remark may apply to a
Dr Ferguson, lie was the last of his ilcelebrated tragedian of the present day. lustrious literary contemporaries.