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and even that we do not now recollect any and the singular thing in his case was, not one of his contemporaries who was so great a only that he left this most material part of his master of composition. There is a certain work to be performed after the whole outline mellowness and richness about his style, had been finished, but that he could proceed which adorns, without disguising the weight with it to an indefinite extent, and enrich and and nervousness which is its other great char- improve as long as he thoughi fit, without any acteristic, -a sedate gracefulness and manly risk either of destroying the proportions of simplicity in the more level passages, -and a that outline, or injuring the harmony and unity mild majesty and considerate enthusiasm of the original design. He was perfectly where he rises above them, of which we aware, too, of the possession of this extraorscarcely know where to find any other exam- dinary power; and it was partly, we presume, ple. There is great equability, too, and sus- in consequence of it that he was not only at tained force in every part of his writings. He all times ready to go on with any work in never exhausts himself in flashes and epi- which he was engaged, without waiting for grams, nor languishes into tameness or in- favourable moments or hours of greater alacsipidity: At first sight you would say that rity, but that he never felt any of those doubts plainness and good sense were the predomi- and misgivings as to his being able to get crenating qualities; but by and bye, this sim- ditably through with his undertaking, to which plicity is enriched with the delicate and vivid we believe most anthors are occasionally liable. colours of a fine imagination,—the free and As he never wrote upon any subject of which forcible touches of a most powerful intellect, he was not perfectly master, he was secure --and the lights and shades of an unerring and against all blunders in the substance of what harmonising taste. In comparing it with the he had to say; and felt quite assured, that if styles of his most celebrated contemporaries, he was only allowed time enough, he should we would say that it was more purely and finally come to say it in the very best way of peculiarly a written style,-and, therefore, re- which he was capable. He had no anxiety, jected those ornaments that more properly therefore, either in undertaking or proceeding belong to oratory. It had no impetuosity, with his tasks; and intermitted and resumed hurry, or vehemence, --no bursts or sudden them at his convenience, with the comfortable turns or abruptions, like that of Burke; and certainty, that all the time he bestowed on though eminently smooth and melodious, it them was turned to account, and that what was not modulated to an uniform system of was left imperfect at one sitting might be solemn declamation, like that of Johnson, nor finished with equal ease and advantage at spread out in the richer and more voluminous another. Being thus perfectly sure both of elocution of Stewart; nor, still less, broken his end and his means, he experienced, in the into that patchwork of scholastic pedantry and course of his compositions, none of that little conversational smartness which has found its fever of the spirits with which that operation admirers in Gibbon. It is a style, in short, of is so apt to be accompanied. He had no great freedom, force, and beauty; but the de- capricious visitings of fancy, which it was liberate style of a man of thought and of necessary to fix on the spot or to lose for ever, learning; and neither that of a wit throwing -no casual inspirations to invoke and to wait out his extempores with an affectation of care for,--no transitory and evanescent lights to less grace,-nor of a rhetorician thinking more catch before they faded. All that was in his of manner than his matter, and deter- mind was subject to his control, and amenamined to be admired for his expression, what- ble to his call, though it might not obey at the ever may be fate of his sentiments.
moment; and while his taste was so sure, His habits of composition were not perhaps that he was in no danger of orer-working any exactly what might have been expected from thing that he had designed, all his thoughis their results. He wrote rather slowly; -and and sentiments had that unity and congruity, his first sketches were often very slight and that they fell almost spontaneously into har. imperfect,—like the rude chalking for a mas- mony and order; and the last added, incorterly picture. His chief effort and greatest porated, and assimilated with the first, as if pleasure was in their revisal and correction; they had sprung simultaneously from the same and there were no limits to the improvement happy conception. which resulted from this application. It was
But we need dwell no longer on qualities not the style merely, nor indeed chiefly, that that may be gathered hereafter from the works gained by' it: The whole reasoning, and sen- he has left behind him. They who lived with timent, and illustration, were enlarged and him mourn the most for those which will be new modelled in the course of it; and a naked traced in no such memorial! And prize far outline became gradually informed with life, above those talents which gained him his high colour, and expression. It was not at all like name in philosophy, that Personal Characier the common finishing and polishing to which which endeared him to his friends, and shed careful authors generally subject the first a grace and a dignity over all the society in draughts of their compositions, - nor even which he moved. The same admirable taste like the fastidious and tentative alterations which is conspicuous in his writings, or rather with which some more anxious writers assay the higher principles from which that taste iheir choicer passages. It was, in fact, the was but an emanation, spread a similar charm great filling in of the picture,—the working up over his whole life and conversation; and gave of the figured weft, on the naked and meagre to the most learned Philosopher of his day woof that had been stretched to receive it; the manners and deportment of the most per
fect Gentleman. Nor was this in him the never failed to manifest the most open scorn result merely of good sense and good temper, and detestation. Independent, in short, of his assisted by an early familiarity with good high attainments, Mr. Playfair was one of the company, and a consequent knowledge of his most amiable and estimable of men : Delightown place and that of all around him. His ful in his manners, inflexible in his principles, good breeding was of a higher descent; and and generous in his affections, he had all that his powers of pleasing rested on something could charm in society or attach in private; better than mere companionable qualities. — and while his friends enjoyed the free and With the greatest kindness and generosity of unstudied conversation of an easy and intel. nature, he united the most manly firmness, ligent associate, they had at all times the and the highest principles of honour, -and proud and inward assurance that he was a the most cheerful and social dispositions, with Being upon whose perfect honour and genethe gentlest and steadiest affections.
rosity they might rely with the most implicit Towards Women he had always the most confidence, in life and in death, -and of whom chivalrous feelings of regard and attention, it was equally impossible, that, under any cirand was, beyond almost all men, acceptable cumstances, he should ever perform a mean, and agreeable in their society,—though with a selfish, or a questionable action, as that his out the least levity or pretension unbecoming body should cease to gravitate or his soul to his age or condition: And such, indeed, was live! the fascination of the perfect simplicity and If we do not greatly deceive ourselves, there mildness of his manners, that the same tone is nothing here of exaggeration or partial feeland deportment seemed equally appropriate ing, and nothing with which an indifferent in all societies, and enabled him to delight the and honest chronicler would not heartily conyoung and the gay with the same sort of con- Nor is it altogether idle to have dwelt versation which instructed the learned and so long on the personal character of this disthe grave. There never, indeed, was a man tinguished individual: For we are ourselves of learning and talent who appeared in society persuaded, that this personal character has so perfectly free from all sorts of pretension done almost as much for the cause of science or notion of his own importance, or so little and philosophy among us, as the great talents solicitous to distinguish himself, or so sincerely and attainments with which it was combined, willing to give place to every one else. Even -and has contributed in a very eminent deupon subjects which he had thoroughly studied, gree to give to the better society of this our he was never in the least impatient to speak, city that tone of intelligence and liberality by and spoke at all times without any tone of which it is so honourably distinguished. It is authority; while, so far from wishing to set not a little advantageous to philosophy that it off what he had to say by any brilliancy or is in fashion, and it is still more advantaemphasis of expression, it seemed generally geous, perhaps, to the society which is led to as if he had studied to disguise the weight confer on it this apparently trivial distinction. and originality of his thoughts under the It is a great thing for the country at large, plainest forms of speech and the most quiet for its happiness, its prosperity, and its reand indifferent manner: so that the profound- nown,—that the upper and influencing classes est remarks and subtlest observations were of its population should be made familiar, often dropped, not only without any solicitude even in their untasked and social hours, with that their value should be observed, but with sound and liberal information, and be taught out any apparent consciousness that they to know and respect those who have distinpossessed any.
guished themselves for great intellectual alThough the most social of human beings, tainments. Nor is it, after all, a slight or and the most disposed to encourage and sym- despicable reward for a man of genius, to be pathise with the gaiety and even joviality of received with honour in the highest and most others, his own spirits were in general rather elegant society around him, and to receive in cheerful than gay, or at least never rose to his living person that homage and applause any turbulence or tumult of merriment; and which is too often reserved for his memory: while he would listen with the kindest indul. Now, those desirable ends can never be efgence to the more extravagant sallies of his fectually accomplished, unless the manners Founger friends, and prompt them by the of our leading philosophers are agreeable, heartiest approbation, his own satisfaction and their personal habits and dispositions enmight generally be traced in a slow and tem-gaging and amiable. From the time of Hume perate smile, gradually mantling over his and Robertson, we have been fortunate, in benevolent and intelligent features, and light- Elinburgh, in possessing a succession of dising up the countenance of the Sage with the tinguished men, who have kept up this saluexpression of the mildest and most genuine tary connection between the learned and the philanthropy. It was wonderful, indeed, con- fashionable world; but there never, perhaps, sidering the measure of his own intellect
, and was any one who contributed so powerfully to the rigid and undeviating propriety of his own confirm and extend it, and that in times when conduct, how tolerant he was of the defects it was peculiarly difficult, as the lamented in and errors of other men. He was too indul- dividual of whom we are now speaking: And gent, in truth, and favourable to his friends! they who have had most opportunity to ob--and made a kind and liberal allowance for serve how superior the society of Edinburgh the faults of all mankind-except only faults is to that of most other places of the same of Baseness or of Cruelty, -against which he size, and how much of that superiority is
owing to the cordial combination of the two the importance of the service he has thus aristocracies, of rank and of letters,*-of both rendered to its inhabitants, and through them, of which it happens to be the chief pro- and by their example, to all the rest of the vincial seat,-will be best able to judge of country.
* In addition to the two distinguished persons Dr. Adam Fergusson, Mr. John Home, Mr. John mentioned in the text, (the first of whom was, no Robison, Mr. Dugald Stewart, Sir James Hall, doubt, before my time) I can, from my own recol. Lord Meadowbank, Mr. Henry Mackenzie, Dr. lection, and without referring to any who are still James Gregory, Rev. A. Alison, Dr. Thomas living-give the names of the following residents in Brown, Lord Webb Seymour, Lord WoodhouseEdinburgh, who were equally acceptable in polite lee, and Sir Walter Scott;—without reckoning society and eminent for literary or scientific aitain. Mr. Horner, the Rev. Sydney Smith, and Mr. ments, and alike at home in good company and George Wilson, who were settled in Edinburgh in learned convocations :-Lord Hailes and Lord for several years, in the earlier part of the period Monboddo, Dr. Joseph Black, Dr. Hugh Blair, 1 referred to.
NOTICE AND CHARACTER
JAMES WAT T.*
MR. JAMES WATT, the great improver of the It was our improved Steam-engine, in short, steam-engine, died on the 25th of August, that fought the battles of Europe, and exalted 1819, at his seat of Heathfield, near Birming- and sustained, through the late tremendous ham, in the 84th year of his age.
contest, the political greatness of our land. It This name fortunately needs no commemo- is the same great power which now enables ration of ours; for he that bore it survived to us to pay the interest of our debt, and to see it crowned with undisputed and unenvied maintain the arduous struggle in which we honours; and many generations will probably are still engaged, (1819), with the skill and pass away, before it shall have gathered "all capital of countries less oppressed with taxaits fame.' We have said that Mr. Watt was tion. But these are poor and narrow views the great Improver of the steam-engine; but, of its importance. It has increased indein truth, as to all that is admirable in its finitely the mass of human comforts and enstructure, or vast in its utility, he should joyments; and rendered cheap and accessirather be described as its Inventor. It was ble, all over the world, the materials of wealth by his inventions that its action was so regu- and prosperity. It has armed the feeble hand lated, as to make it capable of being applied of man, in short, with a power to which no to the finest and most delicate manufactures, limits can be assigned ; completed the doand its power so increased, as to set weight minion of mind over the most refractory quaand solidity at defiance. By his admirable lities of matter; and laid a sure foundation contrivance, it has become a thing stupendous for all those future miracles of mechanic alike for its force and its flexibility,—for the power which are to aid and reward the laprodigious power which it can exert, and the bours of after generations. It is to the genius ease, and precision, and ductility, with which of one man, too, that all this is mainly owing! that power can be varied, distributed, and ap- And certainly no man ever bestowed such a plied. The trunk of an elephant, that can gift on his kind. The blessing is not only pick up a pin or rend an oak, is as nothing to universal, but unbounded; and the fabled init. It can engrave a seal, and crush masses ventors of the plough and the loom, who were of obdurate metal before it-draw out, with. Deified by the erring gratitude of their rude out breaking, a thread as fine as gossamer, cotemporaries, conferred less important beneand lift a ship of war like a bauble in the air. fits on mankind than the inventor of our preIt can embroider muslin and forge anchors,— sent steam-engine. cut steel into ribands, and impel loaded ves- This will be the fame of Watt with future sels against the fury of the winds and waves. generations: And it is sufficient for his race
It would be difficult to estimate the value and his country. But to those to whom he of the benefits which these inventions have more immediately belonged, who lived in his conferred upon this country. There is no society and enjoyed his conversation, it is branch of industry that has not been indebted not, perhaps, the character in which he will to them; and, in all the most material, they be most frequently recalled—most deeply have not only widened most magnificently lamented or even most highly admired. Inthe field of its exertions, but multiplied a dependently of his great attainments in methousand-fold the amount of its productions. chanics, Mr. Watt was an extraordinary, and
in many respects a wonderful man. Perhaps First published in an Edinburgh newspaper no individual in his age possessed so much p. The Scotsman''), of the 4th September, 1819. and such varied and exact information,-had read so much, or remembered what he had rich and instructive in no ordinary degree: read so accurately and well. He had infinite But it was, if possible, still more pleasing quickness of apprehension, a prodigious me- than wise, and had all the charms of familimory, and a certain rectifying and methodis- arity, with all the substantial treasures of ing power of understanding, which extracted knowledge. No man could be more social something precious out of all that was pre- in his spirit, Jess assuming or fastidious in his sented to it. His stores of miscellaneous manners, or more kind and indulgent towards knowledge were immense,—and yet less as- all who approached him. He rather liked to tonishing than the command he had at all talk—at least in his latter years: But though times over them. It seemed as if every sub- he took a considerable share of the conversaject that was casually started in conversation tion, he rarely suggested the topics on which with him, had been that which he had been it was to turn, but readily and quietly took last occupied in studying and exhausting ;- up whatever was presented by those around such was the copiousness, the precision, and him; and astonished the idle and barren prothe admirable clearness of the information pounders of an ordinary theme, by the treas. which he poured out upon it, without effort or ures which he drew from the mine they had hesitation. Nor was this promptitude and unconsciously opened. He generally seemed, compass of knowledge confined in any degree indeed, to have no choice or predilection for to the studies connected with his ordinary one subject of discourse rather than another; pursuits. That he should have been minutely but allowed his mind, like a great cyclopædia, and extensively skilled in chemistry and the to be opened at any letter his associates might arts, and in most of the branches of physical choose to turn up, and only endeavoured to science, might perhaps have been conjectur- select from his inexhaustible stores, what ed; But it could not have been inferred from might be best adapted to the taste of his his usual occupations, and probably is not present hearers. As to their capacity he gave generally known, that he was curiously learn- himself no trouble; and, indeed, such was his ed in many branches of antiquity, metaphys- singular talent for making all things plain, ics, medicine, and etymology, and perfectly clear, and intelligible, that scarcely any oue at home in all the details of architecture, could be aware of such a deficiency in his music, and law. He was well acquainted, presence. His talk, too, though overflowing too, with most of the modern languages—and with information, had nó resemblance to lecfamiliar with their most recent literature. Nor turing or solemn discoursing, but, on the conwas it at all extraordinary to hear the great trary, was full of colloquial spirit and pleasmechanician and engineer detailing and 28 intry. He had a certain quiet and grave pounding, for hours together, the metaphys- humour, which ran through most of his conical theories of the German logicians, or criti- versation, and a vein of temperate jocularity, cising the measures or the matter of the Ger- which gave infinite zest and effect to the conman poetry.
densed and inexhaustible information, which His astonishing memory was aided, no formed its main staple and characteristic. doubt, in a great measure, by a still higher There was a little air of affected testiness, too, and rarer faculty—by his power of digesting and a tone of pretended rebuke and contraand arranging in its proper place all the infor- diction, with which he used to address his mation he received, and of casting aside and younger friends, that was always felt by them rejecting, as it were instinctively, whatever as an endearing mark of his kindness and was worthless or immaterial. Every concep- familiarity,—and prized accordingly, far betion that was suggested to his mind seemed yond all the solemn compliments that ever instantly to take its proper place among its proceeded from the lips of authority. His other rich furniture; and to be condensed into voice was deep and powerful,—though he the smallest and most convenient form. He commonly spoke in a low and somew hai never appeared, therefore, to be at all encum- monotonous tone, which harmonised admirabered or perplexed with the verbiage of the bly with the weight and brevity of his obserdull books he perused, or the idle talk to vations; and set off to the greatest advantage which he listened; but to have at once ex- the pleasant anecdotes, which he delivered tracted, by a kind of intellectual alchemy, all with the same grave brow, and the same calm that was worthy of attention, and to have re- smile playing soberly on his lips. There duced it, for his own use, to its true value and was nothing of effort indeed, or impatience, to its simplest form. And thus it often hap- any more than of pride or levity, in his depened, that a great deal more was learned meanour; and there was a finer expression from his brief and vigorous account of the of reposing strength, and mild self-possession theories and arguments of tedious writers, in his manner, than we ever recollect to have than an ordinary student could ever have de- met with in any other person. He had in his rived from the most painful study of the ori- character the utmost abhorrence for all sorts ginals, -and that errors and absurdities be- of forwardness, parade, and pretensions; and, came manifest from the mere clearness and indeed, never failed to put all such impostures plainness of his statement of them, which out of countenance, by the manly plainness might have deluded and perplexed most and honest intrepidity of his language and of his hearers without that invaluable assist. deportment.
In his temper and dispositions he was nol It is needless to say, that, with those vast only kind and affectionate, but generous, and wysorrces, his conversation was at all times I considerate of the feelings of all around him
and gave the most liberal assistance and en- This happy and useful life came, at last, 10 couragement to all young persons who showed a gentle close. He had suffered some inconany indications of talent, or applied to him venience through the summer; but was not for patronage or advice. His health, which seriously indisposed till within a few weeks was delicate from his youth upwards, seemed from his death. He then became perfectly to become firmer as he advanced in years; aware of the event which was approaching; and he preserved, up almost to the last mo- and with his usual tranquillity and benevoment of his existence, not only the full com- lence of nature, seemed only anxious to point mand of his extraordinary intellect, but all the out to the friends around him, the many alacrity of spirit, and the social gaiety which sources of consolation which were affordel had illumined his happiest days. His friends by the circumstances under which it was in this part of the country never saw him about to take place. He expressed his sinmore full of intellectual vigour and colloquial cere gratitude to Providence for the length animation,-never more delightful or more of days with which he had been blessed, and instructive,--than in his last visit to Scotland his exemption from most of the infirmities of in autumn 1817. Indeed, it was after that age; as well as for the calm and cheerful time that he applied himself, with all the evening of life that he had been permitted to ardour of early life, to the invention of a enjoy, after the honourable labours of the machine for mechanically copying all sorts day had been concluded. And thus, full of of sculpture and statuary ;-and distributed years and honours, in all calmness and tranamong his friends some of its earliest per-quillity, he yielded up his soul, without pang formances, as the productions of "a young or struggle, –and passed from the bosom of artist, just entering on his eighty-third year!» his family to that of his God.