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lady to whom he was married. * Webster was employed by a gentleman of his acquaintance to gain Miss Erskine, a young lady of fortune related to the Dundonald family. He urged the suit of his friend with uncommon eloquence, but received a decided refusal, to which the lady naïvely added: ‘Had you spoken as well for yourself, perhaps you might have succeeded better. Upon this hint the minister spake, and became the husband of the heiress. Mr. Chambers, in his Traditions of Edinburgh,' relates various anecdotes of this energetic clergymen, characterising him as 'a man eminent in his day on many accounts—a leading evangelical clergymen in Edinburgh, a statist and calculator of extraordinary talent, and a distinguished figure in festive scenes.' He is reported to have drawn up the first plan of the New Town of Edinburgh.
DR. JOHN ERSKINE-DR. HUGH BLAIR.
The Rev. DR. JOHN ERSKINE (1721-1803) was united with Dr. Robertson, the historian, in the collegiate charge of the Old Greyfriars parish, Edinburgh. They were opposed to each other in the church courts, but were cordial personal friends. Dr. Erskine was a learned and able divine, who maintained an extensive correspondence with eminent men at home and abroad, and wrote numerous ‘Discourses' and “Theological Dissertations' adapted to the times.
One of the most popular and influential of the Scottish clergy was DR. Hugu BLAIR, born in Edinburgh in 1718. He was at first minister of a country church in Fifeshire, but, being celebrated for his pulpit eloquence, he was successively preferred to the Canongate, Lady Yester's, and the High Church in Edinburgh. In 1759 he commenced a course of lectures on rhetoric and belles-lettres, which extended his literary reputation ; and in 1763 he published his ‘Dis
* This song seems worthy of quotation as unique in its history and style:
O how could I venture to love one like thee,
sertation on the Poems of Ossian,' a production evincing both critical taste and learning. In 1777 appeared the first volume of his “Sermons,' which was so well received that the author published three other volumes, and a fifth which he had prepared was printed after his death. A royal pension of £200 per annum further rewarded its author. Blair next published his · Rhetorical Lectures,' and they also met with a favourable reception. Though somewhat hard and dry in style and manner, this work forms a useful guide to the young student ; it is carefully arranged, contains abundance of examples in every department of literary composition, and has also detailed criticisms on ancient and modern authors. The sermons are the most valuable of Blair's works. They are written with taste and elegance, and by inculcating Christian morality without any allusion to controversial topics, are suited to all classes of Christians. Profound thought, or reasoning, or impassioned eloquence they certainly do not possess, and in this respect they must be considered inferior to the posthumous sermons of Logan the poet, which, if occasionally irregular and faulty in style, have more of devotional ardour and vivid description. In society, Dr. Blair was cheerful and polite, the friend of literature as well as of virtue. His predominant weakness seems to have been vanity, which was soon discovered by Burns, in his memorable residence in Edinburgh in 1787. Blair died on the 27th of December 1800. We subjoin two short extracts from his ‘Lectures.'
On the Cultivation of Taste. Such studies have this peculiar advantage, that they exercise our reason without fatiguing it. They lead to inquiries acute, but not painful; profound, but not dry or abstruse. They sirew flowers in the path of science; and while they keep the mind bent in some degree and active, they relieve it at the same time from that more toilsome labour to which it must submit in the acquisition of necessary erudition, or the investigation of abstract truth.
The cultivation of taste is further recommended by the happy effects which it naturally tends to produce on human life. The most busy man in the most active sphere cannot be always occupied by business. Men of serious professions canuot always be on the stretch of serious thought. Neither can the most gay and flourishing situations of fortune afford any man the power of filling all his hours with pleasure. Lite must always languish in the hands of the idle. It will frequently sanguish even in the hands of the busy, if they have not some employment subsidiary to that which forms their main pursuit. How, then, shall these vacant spaces, those unemployed intervals, which more or less occur in the life of every one, be filled up? How can we contrive to dispose of them in any way that shall be more agreeable in itself, or more consonant to the dignity of the human mind, than in the entertainments of taste, and the study of polite literature ? He who is so happy as to have acquired a relish for these has always at hand an innocent and irreproachable amusement for his leisure hours, to save him from the danger of many a pernicious passion. He is not in bazard of being a burden to himself. He is not obliged to fly to low company, or to court the riot of loose pleasures, in order to cure the tediousness of existence.
Providence seems plainly to have pointed ont this useful purpose to which the pleasures of taste may be applied, by interposing them in a middle station between the pleasures of sense and those of pure intellect. We were not designed to grovel always among objects so low as the former; nor are we capable of dwelling constantly in so high a region as 'the latter. The pleasures cf tuste refresh the mind after the toils of the intellect and the labours of abstract study; and they gradually raise it above the attachments of sense, and prepare it for the enjoyments of virtue.
So consonant is this to experience, that, in the education of youth, no object has in every age appeared more important to wise men than to tincture them early with a relish for the entertaininents of taste. The transition is commonly made with ease from these to the discharge of the higher and more important duties of life. Good hopes may be entertained of those whose minds have this liberal and elegant turn. It is favourable to inany virtues. Whereas, to be entirely devoid of relish for eloquence, poetry, or any of the fine arts, is justly construed to be an unpromising symptom of youth; and raises suspicions of their being prone to low gratifications, or destined to drudge in the more vulgar and illiberal pursuits of life.
There are indeed few good dispositions of any kind with whico the improvement of taste is not more or less connected. A cultivated taste increases sensibility to all the tender and humane passions, by giving them frequent exercise; while it tends to weaken the more violent and fierce emotions.
Ingenuas didicisse fideliter artes
Emollit mores, nec sinit esse feros.
Softened the rude, and calmed the boisterous mind.] The elevated sentiments and high examples which poetry, eloquence, and history are often bringing under our view, naturally tend to nourish in our minds public spirit, the love of glory, contempt of external fortune, aud the admiration of what is truly illustrious and great.
I will not go so far as to say that the improvement of taste and of virtue is the same, or that they may always be expected to coexist in an equal degree. More powerful correctives than taste can applý are necessary for reforming the corrupt propen. sities which too fr. qnently prevail among mankind. Elegant speculations are sometimes found to float on the surface of the mind, while bad passions possess the interior regions of the heart. At the same time, this cannot but be admitted, that the exercise of taste is, in its native tendency, moral and purifying. From reading the most admired productions of genius, whether in poetry or prose, almost every one rises with some good impressions left on his inind; and though these may not always be durable, they are at least to be ranked among the means of disposing the heart to virtue. One thing is certain, th:t without possessing the virtuous affections in a strong degree, no man can attain eminence in the sublime parts of eloquence. He must feel what a good man fels, if he expects greatly to move or to interest mankind. They are the ardent sentiments of honour, virtue, magnanimity, and public spirit, that only can kindlo that fire of genius, and call up into the mind those high ideas, which attract the admiration of ages; and if this spirit be necessary to produce the most distinguished efforts of eloquence, it must be necessary also to our relishing them with proper taste and feeling.
Difference between Taste and Genius. Taste and genius are two words frequently joined together, and therefore, by inaccurate thinkers, confounded. They signify, however, two quite different things. The difference between them can be clearly pointed out, and it is of importance to remember it. Taste consists in the power of judging; genius, in the power of executing. One may have a considerable degree of taste in poetry, eloquence, or any of the fine arts, who has little or hardly any genius for composition or execution in any of these arts; but genius cannot be found without including taste also. Genius therefore, deserves to be considered as a higher power of the inind than taste. Genius, always imports something inventive or creative, which does not rest in mere sensibility to beauty where it is perceived, but which can, moreover, produce new beauties, and exhibit them in such a manner as strongly to impress the minds of others. Refined taste forms a good critic; but genius is further necessary to form the poet or the orator.
It is proper also to observe, that genius is a word which, in common acceptation, extends much further than to the objects of taste. It is used to signify that talent or aptitude which we receive from nature for excelling in any one thing whatever. Thus, we speak of a genius for mathematics, as well as a genius for poetry-of a genius for war, for politics, or for any mechanical employment.
This talent or aptitude for excelling in some one particular is, I have said, what we receive from nature. By art and study. no doubt, it may be greatly improved, but by them alone it cannot be acquired. As genius is a higher faculty thau taste, it is ever, according to the usual frugality of nature, more limited in the sphere of its operations. It is not uncommon to meet with persons who have an excellent taste in several of the polite arts, such as music, poetry painting, and eloquence, all together; but to find one who is an excellent performer in all these arts, is much more rare, or r:ther, indeed, such a one is not to be looked for. A sort of universal genius or one who is equally and indifferently turned towards several different professions and arts, is not likely to excel in any: although there may be some few exceptions, yet in general it holds, that when the bent of the mind is wholly directed towards some one object, exclusive in a manner of others, there is the fairest prospect of eminence in that, whatever it be. The rays must converge to a point, in order to glow intensely.
DR. PHILIP DODDRIDGE. DR. PHILIP DODDRIDGE, a distinguished nonconformist divine and author, was born in London, June 26, 1702. His grandfather had been ejected from the living of Shepperton, in Middlesex, by the act of uniformity in 1662; and his father, a man engaged in mercantile pursuits in London, married the only daughter
of a German, who had fled from Prague to escape the persecution which raged in Bohemia, after the expulsion of Frederick, the Elector Palatine, when to abjure or emigrate were the only alternatives. In 1712, Doddridge was sent to school at Kingston-upon-Thames; but both his parents dying within three years afterwards, he was removed to St. Albans, and whilst there, was solemnly admitted, in his sixteenth year, a member of the nonconforming congregation. His religious impressions were ardent and sincere; and when, in 1718, the Duchess of Bedford made him an offer to educate him for the ministry in the Church of England, Doddridge declined, from conscientious scruples, to avail himself of this advantage. A generous friend, Dr. Clarke of St. Albans, now stepped forward to patronise the studious youth, and in 1719 he was placed at an academy established at Kibworth, Leicestershire, for the education of dissenters. Here he resided three years, pursuing his studies for the ministry, and cultivating a taste for elegant literature. To one of his fellow-pupils who had condoled with him on being buried alive, Doddridge writes in the following happy strain: 'Here I stick close to those delightful studies which a favourable Providence has made the business of my life. One day passeth away after another, and I only know that it passeth pleasantly with me. As for the world about me, I have very little concern with it. I live almost like a tortoise shut up in its shell, almost always in the same town, the same house, the same chamber; yet ! live like a prince-not, indeed, in the pomp of greatness, but th pride of liberty; master of my books, master of my time, and, I hope I may add, master of myself. So that, instead of lamenting it as my misfortune, you should congratulate me upon it as my happiness, that I am confined in an obscure village, seeing it gives me so many valuable advantages to the most important purposes of devir tion and philosophy, and, I hope I may add, usefulness too.'
The obscure village had alsu further attractions. It appears fro a the correspondence of Dodidridge (published by his great-grandson ia 1829), that the young divine was of a susceptible temperament, an i was generally in love with some fair one of the neighbourhood, with whom he kept up a constant and lively interchange of letters. The levity or gaiety of some of these epistles is remarkable in one of so staid and devout a public character. His style is always excellent correct and playful like that of Cowper, and interesting from the very egotism and carelessness of the writer. To one of his femalo correspondents he thus describes his situation:
You know I love a country life, and here we have it in perfection. I am roused in the morning with the chirping of sparrows, the cooing of pigeons, the lowing of kine, the bleating of sheep, and, to complete the concert, the grunting of swine and neighing of horses. W. have a mighty pleasant garden and orchard, and a fine arbour under some tall shady limes, that form a kind of lofty dome, of which, as a native of the great city, you may perhaps catch a glimering idea, if I name the cupola of St. Paul's. And then, on the other side of the house, there is a large space which we call a wilderness, and which I fancy would please you extremely. The ground is a dainty greensward; a brook runs sparkling through the middle, and there are two large fish ponds at one end; both the ponds and the brook are surrounded with willows; and there are several shady walks under the trees, besides little knots of young willows interspersed at convenient distances. This is the nursery of our lambs and calves, with whom I have the honour to be intimately acquainted. Here I generally spend the evening, and pay my respects to the setting sun, when the variety and the beauty of the prospect inspire a pleasure that I know not how to express
I am sometimes so transported with these inanimate beauties, that I fancy I am like Adam in Paradise; and it is my only misfortune that I want an Eve, and have none but the birds of the air, and the beasts of the field, for my companions.'
From his first sermon, delivered at the age of twenty, Doddridge became a marked preacher among the dissenters, and had calls to various congregations. In 1729, he settled at Northampton, and became celebrated. He first appeared as an author in 1730, when he published a pamphlet on the Means of Reviving the Dissenting Interest.' He afterwards applied himself to the composition of practical religious works. His Sermons on the Education of Children' (1732), "Sermons to Young People' (1735), and “Ten Sermons on the Power and Grace of Christ, and the Evidences of his Glorious Gospel' (1736), were all well received by the public. In 1741 appeared his * Practical Discourses on Regeneration, and in 1745 «The Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul.' The latter forms a body of practical divinity and Christian experience which has never been surpassed