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JOHN STUART BLACKIE.
PARENTAGE AND CHILDHOOD.
In England the middle classes can rarely boast of connection with a romantic past. Their progenitors may have been worthy, capable, useful in their day and generation, but how seldom have they left traditions stranded on the flats of present provincialism. Whatever their local worth, the grandfathers of a middle-class Englishman inspired no ballad, as warriors on the moorland in the wake of a ruined dynasty-as martyrs in the lowland singing the psalms of the Covenant while Episcopal bullets whizzed about their ears.
In Scotland, the blue blood
of a squandered loyalty, of a faithfulness unto death, whatever the cause, fills the veins of the middle classes. Their ancestors were Jacobites or Covenanters, and so, even unto this generation, men are to be found inheriting their strong individuality, refusing the dull canals of conventional life, and working their way in self-worn channels, through obstacles as unrelenting as their granite rocks.
Perhaps for lack of “causes” the Scotchmen of to-day are growing tame, but the men born within the first quarter of this century were still endowed with free gesture and plain speech, and through their hearts ran rills of poetry from the springs of ancestral suffering.
From a stock of solid Borderers John Stuart Blackie took his name and something of his nature. He says himself :
I desire to thank God for the good stock-in-trade, so to speak, which I inherited from my parents for the business of life. My father was a man of great vigour both mental and bodily, made mainly for action and enjoyment, but with a discursive habit of thought, a turn for philosophical speculation, and freedom from all narrow ideas. He had great sagacity and knowledge of the world. My mother died when I was ten years old, and I remember her only as everything that was womanly and motherly. I have no doubt I owe much of what is best in my moral and emotional nature to her.
His great-grandfather was a native of Kelso in
A STUART RACE OF DOCTORS.
Roxburghshire, and cultivated a strip of ground, his own property, which stretched between the Tweed and the high-road on the eastern outskirts of the town. He married the daughter of Mr Stevenson, who lived at Galalaw, an extensive farm tenanted by himself and his forebears for a century and a half. Three sons and three daughters grew up in the Tweedside home, and found callings and husbands within Kelso and its neighbourhood. The eldest took to business, and became a wine-merchant in the town. A muchrespected family of Stuarts was resident in Kelso. Father and son were doctors, and were descended from a line of doctors. An old lady of the family used to say that thirty-two Stuarts of her race were doctors. A current of Highland blood ran in their veins, they could relate exploits of Jacobite forefathers, and they held their heads high. The Dr Stuart of something more than a century ago was assisted by his son Archibald, and had a daughter called Alison. Some kinship existed between them and the Blackies, and the winemerchant fell in love with his cousin. Old Dr Stuart forbade the marriage, but the lovers braved his ire and made a runaway match. Their married life was shadowed by straitened circumstances, and by estrangement from disapproving relatives; but Mr Blackie died, and as Dr Archibald Stuart had succeeded to his father, also dead, he offered a home to his widowed sister and her two children. The widow soon died, but Dr Stuart brought up the little Alexander and his sister with his own children.
Alexander was clever, and took kindly to Latin at the Kelso Grammar-School, whose boys played under the shadow of King David's stately abbey. He was possessed of fitful energy, and took interest in many matters, in antiquities and gardening as well as in his lessons. His cousin John, the doctor's son, was his companion and playmate; but although gifted with a vein of caustic humour, and of sterling rectitude and ability, he was sobersided compared to the mercurial Sandy.
When school-days were at an end, Dr Stuart found an opening for his nephew in a Glasgow house of business, and he was despatched thither to learn the mysteries of manufacture, although tradition tells not in what kind. But his temperament recoiled from the unrelieved drudgery, and he accepted a situation in the Commercial Bank, where shorter toil left him leisure for other pursuits, and where he acquitted himself so, well that he was made an agent before he was twenty years old. Stern Presbyterianism prevailed both in the Stuart household and in that of his Blackie cousins, who were useful
AN OLD BORDER FAMILY.
Kelsonians and growing in consideration amongst their fellows. But the wilful Sandy had moulted some feathers of that sober plumage, and vexed his cousins with bold questioning of the minor observances and with untoward whistling on the Sabbath day. These signs of licence ruffled somewhat the peace of his holiday visits to the Blackies, but they were ready to grant that he was a pleasant fellow and did them otherwise no discredit.
Having reached a modest position, it is not wonderful to find that he promptly took to himself a wife. The lady was Miss Helen Stodart, and she was twenty-two years old when Mr Blackie married her in 1805. She was the eldest of three sisters, and the daughter of Mr William Stodart, an architect at Hamilton, who designed two of the bridges over the Clyde, one at Glasgow and one near Hamilton. This Mr Stodart was descended from a branch of the Border family of Stoutheart, which had settled in Lanarkshire early in the seventeenth century. Its kinship with the Selkirkshire branch is evidenced by the singular likeness between the descendants of both branches-a likeness maintained in mental and moral characteristics, as well as in stature, complexion, and other physical features, to this day.
A succession of Stodarts, christened James,