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beauties of the writers of antiquity, and by illustrating the Poetics of Aristotle and the Treatise of Longinus, could not fail to give a favourable direction to the studies of his pupils; and to these prelections Dr. Robertson considered himself more indebted than to any other circumstance in his academical education. " From this period," says his elegant biographer, "till the year 1759, when by the publication of his Scotish History, he fixed a new era in the literary annals of his country, the habits and occurrences of his life were such as to supply few materials for biography; and the imagination is left to fill up a long interval, spent in the silent pursuit of letters, and enlivened by the secret anticipation of future eminence."
Having completed the usual course of study at the University, he was licensed to preach by the Presbytery of Dalkeith in 1741; and two years after was ordained minister of Gladsmuir in East Lothian. His appointment to this situation was peculiarly seasonable ; as by the death of his father, the charge of six sisters and a younger brother devolved upon himn. The limited income arising from his situation, did not intimidate him from obeying the impulse of nature and of duty; and, with a generosity and tenderness which do as much honour to his heart as his writings give fame to his genius, he devoted his attention to their education nd comfort. While engaged in the faithful discharge of his duties as a pastor and a brother, his attention was roused, and his patriotism called forth, by the breaking out of the rebellion in 1745. He not only exerted himauf ini..culeating sentiments of loyalty and patriotism among the people committed to his charge, but, when the Capital was in danger of falling into the hands of the rebels, he felt that it was his duty to desert for a
time the tranquil babits of his office, and, by joining the volunteers of Edinburgh, to make every active exertion for the security of his country, and the preservation of its liberties and independence. “When, at last, it was determined that the city should be surrendered, he was one of the small band who repaired to Haddington, and offered their services to the Commander of his Majesty's Forces.” This active conduct did not interrupt the exercise of the duties of his sacred office: these were punctually and faithfully discharged: his usefulness as a minister was felt and acknowledged by his parishioners, while his merit as an orator was recognized by his brethren, and opened the path to that eminence in the Church which he so deservedly attained. Of his talents as a preacher, he has left to the world only one solitary specimen; but the ability and eloquence which that sermon discovers, together with the applause it has received wherever it has been read, plainly shew, that, had he chosen this walk of literature for the exercise of his powers, his rank as a preacher would not have been inferior to that whch he occupies as a historian.
Previous to this, he had taken an active share in the debates of the General Assembly of the Scotish Church. The meetings of the Assembly afford a very favourable opportunity of bringing into notice, talents which might be buried in obscurity, and for the exercise of which the ordinary details of clerical duty afford little scope. The power of extemporaneous elocution, of applying the general principles of ecclesiastical polity to particular cases, and of commanding attention amid the frequent noise of a popular assembly, is a talent that falls not to the lot of ordinary men. In the details of business, and the ardour of debate, Dr. Robert
son was fitted to shine ; and in this field he gathered laurels, which nothing but the splendour of his genius as a historian could have excelled. With the merits of the question which first employed the eloquence of Dr. Robertson, and of those which, during his administration (as the period in which he was the leader of his party has been called) successively occupied the attention of the church, the writer of this is not sufficiently acquainted to entitle him to enter on the detail of them, and it would extend this memoir to unnecessary length. It may be sufficient to state, that in the first question in which he took an active part, and in which he was most ably supported, he was left in a minority of eleven; but that such was the persevering ardour of his mind, that instead of giving up his opposition, he returned to the deba'e with undiminished zeal, and the year following had the satisfaction of standing at the head of a majority. From this period may be dated the commencement of Dr. Robertson's influence in the church, and the origin of those principles of ecclesiastical policy which have since guided her decisions. His speeches in the Assembly are said to have been marked by the same manly and persuasive eloquence which distinguishes his historical compositions; and even his most unpremeditated effusions were not unadorned with those harmonious and seemingly measured periods which we admire so much in his works of labour and reflection.
The establishment of the Select Society, opened to Dr. Robertson another field for the display and improvement of his talents. This Society, the object of which was the discussion of literary and philosophical subjects, was instituted in Edinburgh in the year 1754, and numbered among its members some of the first characters of the age. In the debates which occasionally occupied the attention of the Society, Dr. Robertson took an active part, and, by his intimate acquaintance with the subjects of discussion, added to that reputation which was so rapidly increasing.
The first work which extended his fame beyond the walls of the Assembly, and the circle of the Select Society, was the publication of his sermon, (to which we have already alluded), “ On the state of the world at the appearance of Jesus Christ;" and no doubt it contributed to his translation to Edinburgh, which took place in the year 1758.
About the time of his removal to Edinburgh, his History of Scotland was in the press. This work is said to have been planned by him shortly after his set. tlement at Gladsmuir : the composition of it enlivened his retirement, and the publication gave splendour to his entrance on a more public scene. It was published in 1759, and before the close of the year a second edition was called for. The testimonies of approbation which he received from persons of the highest rank and genius, were numerous and flattering. The work is such as could not fail to charm the reader, and, considering the state of literature in this quarter of the island at that time, it must have astonished the learned in the south, to see such precision and purity of expression, and such splendour of diction, coming from the pen of one who had spent his time at a distance from the scenes of courtly refinement. This circumstance, added to the intrinsic and indisputable merit of the work, extended his reputation, and increased the number of his friends. He now saw the path to honour and to affluence open before him ; his preferments multiplied with a rapidity equal to his most sanguine wishes. In 1759 he was appointed chaplain to Stirling Castle; in 1761, one of his Majesty's chaplains in ordinary for Scotland; and in 1762, he was chosen Principal of the University of Edinburgh. Two years afterwards, the office of King's Historiographer for Scotland, (with a salary of 2001. a year), was revived in his favour.
After ten years, Dr. Robertson produced a new claim upon the public admiration, by the publication of his history of the reign of the Emperor Charles V. with a view of the progress of society in Europe, from the subversion of the Roman empire to the beginning of the 16th century. The marks of admiration with which this work was received, were equally flattering with those which he received on the publication of the History of Scotland. The elegance of expression, the depth of discernmeut, and the inimitable clearness of arrangement, which characterize the work, have de. servedly raised it to a very conspicuous rank among the British classics. The importance of the period, the interesting nature of the events which it comprehends, and the high reputation of the author, excited an uncommon degree of public anxiety which was am. ply gratified by the perusal. From every quarter of the country, and from literary men of the highest eminence, letters of congratulation and applause were poured in upon him.
In 1779, Dr. Robertson published his History of America, in two volumes quarto. This work may be regarded as a sequel to the former : indeed he originally intended this portion of history as an episode in the History of Charles V. but the interesting and important nature of the events, entitled them to a separate and more minute detail; and the History of Ame. rica may be regarded as one of the most interesting and philosophical of Dr. Robertson's Works.