Изображения страниц

some memorial of him placed in the public library, he sat again, a few months before his death, to Mr. Raeburn; at a time when his altered and sickly aspect rendered the task of the artist peculiarly difficult. The picture, however, is not only worthy, in every respect, of Mr. Raeburn's high and deserved reputation, but to those who were accustomed to see Dr. Robertson at this interesting period, derives an additional value from an air of languor and feebleness, which strongly marked his appearance during his long decline.

I should feel myself happy, if, in concluding this memoir, I could indulge the hope, that it may be the means of completing and finishing that picture which his writings exhibit of his mind. In attempting to delineate its characteristic features, I have certainly possessed one advantage; that I had long an opportunity of knowing and studying the original; and that my portrait, such as it is, is correctly copied from my own impressions. I am sensible, at the same time, that much more might have been accomplished by a writer whose pursuits were more congenial than mine to Dr. Robertson's nor would any thing have induced me to depart, so far as I have now done, from the ordinary course of my own

pronounced annually before the university, in compliance with the established practice among his predecessors in office. The first of these was read on the 3d of February, 1763. Its object was to recommend the study of classical learning; and it contained, among a variety of other splendid passages, a beautiful panegyric on the Stoical philosophy. His second discourse (9th of February, 1764) consisted chiefly of moral and literary observations, adapted to the particular circumstances of youth. My friend, Mr. Dalzel, who has lately perused these Latin Manuscripts with care, observes of this oration" that the style is uncommonly elegant and impressive, and possesses all the distinguishing characteristics of Dr. Robertson's English compositions." A third discourse was pronounced on February 14th, 1765; and a fourth on February 20th, 1766. The subject of both is the same; the question concerning the comparative advantages of public and private education. The execution is such as might be expected from the abilities of the author, exerted on a topic on which he was so eminently fitted to decide, not only by his professional situation and habits, but by an extensive and discriminating knowledge of the world.

These annual discourses (which never failed to produce a strong and happy impression on the minds of his young hearers) he was compelled, after this period, to discontinue by his avocations as an author, and by other engagements which he conceived to be of still greater importance. It is indeed astonishing that he was able to devote so much time as he did to his academical duties; particularly when we consider that all his works were at first committed to writing in his own hand, and that he seldom, if ever, attempted to dictate to an amanuensis. It may be gratifying to those to whom the literary habits of authors are an object of curiosity to add, that his practice in composition was (according to his own statement in a letter to Mr. Strahan) "to finish as near perfection as he was able, so that his subsequent alterations were inconsiderable."



studies, but my respect for the last wish of a much lamented friend, expressed at a moment when nothing remained for me but silent acquiescence.

It might be considered by some as a blameable omission, if I were to overlook, in this memoir, the marks of regard which Dr. Robertson received from different literary academies on the continent. I have already taken notice of the honor conferred on him by the Royal Academy of history at Madrid; but I forgot to mention, in the proper place, that in 1781, he was elected one of the foreign members of the Academy of Sciences at Padua ; and in 1783, one of the foreign members of the Imperial Academy of Sciences at St. Petersburg.

From the last of these cities, he was honored with another very flattering distinction; the intelligence of which was conveyed to him by his friend Dr. Rogerson, in a letter, from which the following passage is transcribed:

"Your History of America was received and perused by her Imperial Majesty with singular marks of approba, tion. All your historical productions have been ever favorite parts of her reading. Not long ago, doing me the honor to converse with me upon historical composition, she mentioned you with particular distinction, and with much admiration of that sagacity and discernment displayed by you in painting the human mind and character, as diversified by the various causes that operated upon it, in those eras and states of society which your subject led you to treat. She assigned you the place of first model in that species of composition. As to the History of Charles V., she was pleased to add, 'C'est le compagnon constant de tous mes voyages; je ne me lasse jamais à le lire, et particulièrement le premier volume.'

"She then presented a very handsome gold enamelled snuff-box, richly set with diamonds, ordering me to transmit it to you, and to desire your acceptance of it as a mark of her esteem; observing at the same time, most graciously, that a person whose labors had afforded her so much satisfaction, merited some attention from her."

The active part which Dr. Robertson took in the foundation of the society before which the foregoing memoir was read, is so well known to all the members, that it did not appear necessary to recall it to their recollection. For the information of others, however, it may be proper to mention, that the first idea of this establishment, and of the plan adopted in its formation, was suggested by him; and that, without his zealous cooperation, there is little probability that the design would ever have been carried into execution.

[ocr errors]


[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]
« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »