Imagens das páginas

Greek of Scottish Universities which the younger man had brought red-hot from the Continent, so that the two fell into a sympathetic intimacy, which served to cherish the vigorous saplings of scholastic ambition and educational reform planted by Göttingen and watered at Rome.

It is clear, however, that the Voltairianism which Dr Adams professed was beneficial in rousing to a militant attitude that dormant faith in the spiritual life which had latterly lain low in John Blackie's mind. It had been smothered by the conclusions of critical research, those premature conclusions of an incomplete research ; but these had only succeeded in extinguishing dogmas of men, which ranked then, as they rank still, in divers creeds devised by divers Churches, on the same level as the Word which was from the beginning

In confirming his hold of the latter, the minister of Banchory proved of timely value. Mr Anderson, who belonged rather to the Evangelical than to the Moderate party of the Church of Scotland, was both a scholar and a man of wide culture at a time when general culture was rare in Scotland. He took an interest in philology, and welcomed at first approach the light which Sanscrit threw upon that study, and his talk was full of matters hitherto outside John Blackie's ken.



Eager to learn, the latter was attracted into an intimacy with the minister, whose “ fine harmony of intellectual and moral gifts” gave him a wholesome ascendancy, and he proved able to convince his


friend of many a crude conclusion, as well as to recognise his power and promise. It was this quiet candour, at once sympathetic and critical, which gave him influence over the fervid mind accustomed to snubs from the Moderates and Evangelicals. Upon these parties plunged in the blinding fray John Blackie was apt to retort with derisive laughter, for their polemics testified to neither wisdom nor charity. But Mr Anderson took no part in the controversy, and kept his even way, doing his proper work at Banchory, an Evangelical in heart and life, and when the great split of 1843 filled the air with its rancours, leaving the Church for a chair in the College at Agram.

Only one incident, initiating a new departure for John Blackie, occurred during his six months' stay at home. This was the visit of Lord Brougham to Belhelvie and Aberdeen in the spring of 1832. The Blackies met him on several occasions, and at a banquet given by the Aberdonians in his honour, John Blackie was put forward to make one of the after-dinner speeches. The subject allotted to him was the part which Lord Brougham was taking in spreading intelligence among the people. It was his first public speech, but no further record of its matter remains. Of its manner he wrote in the “ Notes”

I recollect only that it was fervid and hasty and violent. The words came rushing through my throat like a number of disorderly persons pushing through the narrow entrance to the pit on a benefit night at the theatre. I was fluent, however, and did not stick. One sentence begat another in a rough, hasty sort of way. No doubt the violent hurry which I displayed was partly from fervour of temperament, but partly also from the embarrassment which I felt at opening my mouth before a large audience of persons much my superior in years and experience.




In the spring of 1832 John Blackie established himself in Edinburgh, and began to read for the Scottish Bar. His lodgings were in Lauriston during the first year of his legal studies, but later he removed to more convenient quarters in Dublin Street. His wooing of the legal muse was both distasteful and unsuccessful in the preliminary stages.

He found Bell and Erskine the driest and least intelligible of reading. Gifted and brilliant, his head a very beehive of ambitious fancies, theories, and reforms in active competition with sentiment, and all clamorous for articulate expression, he felt stupefied in the presence of the stereotyped and ancient Themis. To persevere at all needed a courage stimulated


by intervals of dalliance with the more attractive Muses. But he made manful efforts, and sought admission into a lawyer's office, that he might the better conquer the dull terminology of the law.

The gentleman who helped him through the perplexities of bonds and bills was a Mr Alexander, a Writer to the Signet, well versed in their dreary details. His first valuable lesson was to reduce his pupil to a salutary sense of his own ignorance. This incident is told in the


[ocr errors]

I remember shortly after I entered his office he brought me in a bundle of law papers, and ordered me to read them and give a legal opinion on the merits of the case. I did so with great speed, took my view with decision, and on being asked, gave a distinct deliverance that the law of the case was quite clear-there could not possibly be two opinions on the point.” This was exactly the kind of answer that he expected, so, looking me sharply in the face, he said, “Mr Blackie, whenever I hear a young advocate declare that there is no difficulty in the case, I have no difficulty in declaring that he knows nothing about his business."

This plain speaking was most wholesome for the head a little turned by attainments and speculations which were unusual in the Edinburgh of that time, and which gained for him not merely a very marked social success, but also the auguries of experienced seniors that he

« AnteriorContinuar »