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Title: An Edinburgh Eleven - Pencil Portraits from College Life
Author: Barrie, J. M. (James Matthew), 1860-1937
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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AN EDINBURGH ELEVEN

Pencil Portraits from College Life

by

J. M. BARRIE

Author of
"The Little Minister," "A Window in Thrums," "When a Man's
Single," "Auld Licht Idylls," etc.



New York
Lovell, Coryell & Company
5 And 7 East Sixteenth Street



CONTENTS.

                                       PAGE

      I. LORD ROSEBERY,                   7

     II. PROFESSOR MASSON,               19

    III. PROFESSOR BLACKIE,              31

     IV. PROFESSOR CALDERWOOD,           41

      V. PROFESSOR TAIT,                 53

     VI. PROFESSOR FRASER,               67

    VII. PROFESSOR CHRYSTAL,             77

   VIII. PROFESSOR SELLAR,               91

     IX. MR. JOSEPH THOMSON,            105

      X. ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON,        115

     XI. REV. WALTER C. SMITH, D.D.,    129



LORD ROSEBERY.



I.

LORD ROSEBERY.


The first time I ever saw Lord Rosebery was in Edinburgh when I was a
student, and I flung a clod of earth at him. He was a peer; those were
my politics.

I missed him, and I have heard a good many journalists say since then
that he is a difficult man to hit. One who began by liking him and is
now scornful, which is just the reverse process from mine, told me the
reason why. He had some brochures to write on the Liberal leaders, and
got on nicely till he reached Lord Rosebery, where he stuck. In vain he
walked round his lordship, looking for an opening. The man was
naturally indignant; he is the father of a family.

Lord Rosebery is forty-one years of age, and has missed many
opportunities of becoming the bosom friend of Lord Randolph Churchill.
They were at Eton together and at Oxford, and have met since. As a boy,
the Liberal played at horses, and the Tory at running off with other
boys' caps. Lord Randolph was the more distinguished at the university.
One day a proctor ran him down in the streets smoking in his cap and
gown. The undergraduate remarked on the changeability of the weather,
but the proctor, gasping at such bravado, demanded his name and
college. Lord Randolph failed to turn up next day at St. Edmund Hall to
be lectured, but strolled to the proctor's house about dinner-time.
"Does a fellow, name of Moore, live here?" he asked. The footman
contrived not to faint. "He do," he replied, severely; "but he are at
dinner." "Ah! take him in my card," said the unabashed caller. The
Merton books tell that for this the noble lord was fined ten pounds.

There was a time when Lord Rosebery would have reformed the House of
Lords to a site nearer Newmarket. As politics took a firmer grip of
him, it was Newmarket that seemed a long way off. One day at Edinburgh
he realized the disadvantage of owning swift horses. His brougham had
met him at Waverley Station to take him to Dalmeny. Lord Rosebery
opened the door of the carriage to put in some papers, and then turned
away. The coachman, too well bred to look round, heard the door shut,
and, thinking that his master was inside, set off at once. Pursuit was
attempted, but what was there in Edinburgh streets to make up on those
horses? The coachman drove seven miles, until he reached a point in the
Dalmeny parks where it was his lordship's custom to alight and open a
gate. Here the brougham stood for some minutes, awaiting Lord
Rosebery's convenience. At last the coachman became uneasy and
dismounted. His brain reeled when he saw an empty brougham. He could
have sworn to seeing his lordship enter. There were his papers. What
had happened? With a quaking hand the horses were turned, and, driving
back, the coachman looked fearfully along the sides of the road. He met
Lord Rosebery travelling in great good humor by the luggage omnibus.

Whatever is to be Lord Rosebery's future, he has reached that stage in
a statesman's career when his opponents cease to question his capacity.
His speeches showed him long ago a man of brilliant parts. His tenure
of the Foreign Office proved him heavy metal. Were the Gladstonians to
return to power, the other Cabinet posts might go anywhere, but the
Foreign Secretary is arranged for. Where his predecessors had clouded
their meaning in words till it was as wrapped up as a Mussulman's head,
Lord Rosebery's were the straightforward despatches of a man with his
mind made up. German influence was spoken of; Count Herbert Bismarck
had been seen shooting Lord Rosebery's partridges. This was the
evidence: there has never been any other, except that German methods
commended themselves to the minister rather than those of France. His
relations with the French government were cordial. "The talk of
Bismarck's shadow behind Rosebery," a great French politician said
lately, "I put aside with a smile; but how about the Jews?" Probably
few persons realize what a power the Jews are in Europe, and in Lord
Rosebery's position he is a strong man if he holds his own with them.
Any fears on that ground have, I should say, been laid by his record at
the Foreign Office.

Lord Rosebery had once a conversation with Prince Bismarck, to which,
owing to some oversight, the Paris correspondent of the _Times_ was not
invited. M. Blowitz only smiled good-naturedly, and of course his
report of the proceedings appeared all the same. Some time afterward
Lord Rosebery was introduced to this remarkable man, who, as is well
known, carries Cabinet appointments in his pocket, and complimented him
on his report. "Ah, it was all right, was it?" asked Blowitz, beaming.
Lord Rosebery explained that any fault it had was that it was all
wrong. "Then if Bismarck did not say that to you," said Blowitz,
regally, "I know he intended to say it."

The "Uncrowned King of Scotland" is a title that has been made for Lord
Rosebery, whose country has had faith in him from the beginning. Mr.
Gladstone is the only other man who can make so many Scotsmen take
politics as if it were the Highland Fling. Once when Lord Rosebery was
firing an Edinburgh audience to the delirium point, an old man in the
hall shouted out, "I dinna hear a word he says, but it's grand, it's
grand!" During the first Midlothian campaign Mr. Gladstone and Lord
Rosebery were the father and son of the Scottish people. Lord Rosebery
rode into fame on the top of that wave, and he has kept his place in
the hearts of the people, and in oleographs on their walls, ever since.
In all Scottish matters he has the enthusiasm of a Burns dinner, and
his humor enables him to pay compliments. When he says agreeable things
to Scotsmen about their country, there is a twinkle in his eye and in
theirs to which English scribes cannot give a meaning. He has unveiled
so many Burns statues that an American lecturess explains: "Curious
thing, but I feel somehow I am connected with Lord Rosebery. I go to a
place and deliver a lecture on Burns; they collect subscriptions for a
statue, and he unveils it." Such is the delight of the Scottish
students in Lord Rosebery that he may be said to have made the
triumphal tour of the northern universities as their lord-rector; he
lost the post in Glasgow lately through a quibble, but had the honor
with the votes. His address to the Edinburgh undergraduates on
"Patriotism" was the best thing he ever did outside politics, and made
the students his for life. Some of them had smuggled into the hall a
chair with "Gaelic chair" placarded on it, and the lord-rector
unwittingly played into their hands. In a noble peroration he exhorted
his hearers to high aims in life. "Raise your country," he exclaimed
[cheers]; "raise yourselves [renewed cheering]; raise your university
[thunders of applause]." From the back of the hall came a solemn voice,
"Raise the chair!" Up went the Gaelic chair.

Even Lord Rosebery's views on imperial federation can become a
compliment to Scotland. Having been all over the world himself, and
felt how he grew on his travels, Lord Rosebery maintains that every
British statesman should visit India and the colonies. He said that
first at a semi-public dinner in the country--and here I may mention
that on such occasions he has begun his speeches less frequently than
any other prominent politician with a statement that others could be
got to discharge the duty better; in other words, he has several times
omitted this introduction. On his return to London he was told that his
colleagues in the Administration had been seeing how his scheme would
work out. "We found that if your rule were enforced, the Cabinet would
consist of yourself and Childers." "This would be an ideal cabinet,"
Lord Rosebery subsequently remarked in Edinburgh, "for it would be
entirely Scottish," Mr. Childers being member for a Scottish
constituency.

The present unhappy division of the Liberal party has made enemies of
friends for no leading man so little as for Lord Rosebery. There are
forces working against him, no doubt, in comparatively high places, but
the Unionists have kept their respect for him. His views may be wrong,
but he is about the only Liberal leader, with the noble exception of
Lord Hartington, of whom troublous times have not rasped the temper.
Though a great reader, he is not a literary man like Mr. Morley, who
would, however, be making phrases where Lord Rosebery would make laws.
Sir William Harcourt has been spoken of as a possible prime minister,
but surely it will never come to that. If Mr. Gladstone's successor is
chosen from those who have followed him on the home-rule question, he
probably was not rash in himself naming Lord Rosebery.

Lord Rosebery could not now step up without stepping into the
premiership. His humor, which is his most obvious faculty, has been a
prop to him many a time ere now, but, if I was his adviser, I should
tell him that it has served its purpose. There are a great many
excellent people who shake their heads over it in a man who has become
a power in the land. "Let us be grave," said Dr. Johnson once to a
merry companion, "for here comes a fool." In an unknown novel there is
a character who says of himself that "he is not stupid enough ever to
be a great man." I happen to know that this reflection was evolved by
the author out of thinking over Lord Rosebery. It is not easy for a
bright man to be heavy, and Lord Rosebery's humor is so spontaneous
that if a joke is made in their company he has always finished laughing
before Lord Hartington begins. Perhaps when Lord Rosebery is on the
point of letting his humor run off with him in a public speech, he
could recover his solemnity by thinking of the _Examiner_.



PROFESSOR MASSON.



II.

PROFESSOR MASSON.


Though a man might, to my mind, be better employed than in going to
college, it is his own fault if he does not strike on some one there
who sends his life off at a new angle. If, as I take it, the glory of a
professor is to give elastic minds their proper bent, Masson is a name
his country will retain a grip of. There are men who are good to think
of, and as a rule we only know them from their books. Something of our
pride in life would go with their fall. To have one such professor at a
time is the most a university can hope of human nature; so Edinburgh
need not expect another just yet. These, of course, are only to be
taken as the reminiscences of a student. I seem to remember everything
Masson said, and the way he said it.

Having, immediately before taken lodgings in a crow's nest, my first
sight of Masson was specially impressive. It was the opening of the
session, when fees were paid, and a whisper ran round the quadrangle
that Masson had set off home with three hundred one-pound notes stuffed
into his trouser pockets. There was a solemn swell of awestruck
students to the gates, and some of us could not help following him. He
took his pockets coolly. When he stopped it was at a second-hand
bookstall, where he rummaged for a long time. Eventually he pounced
upon a dusty, draggled little volume, and went off proudly with it
beneath his arm. He seemed to look suspiciously at strangers now, but
it was not the money but the book he was keeping guard over. His
pockets, however, were unmistakably bulging out. I resolved to go in
for literature.

Masson, however, always comes to my memory first knocking nails into
his desk or trying to tear the gas-bracket from its socket. He said
that the Danes scattered over England, taking such a hold as a nail
takes when it is driven into wood. For the moment he saw his desk
turned into England; he whirled an invisible hammer in the air, and
down it came on the desk with a crash. No one who has sat under Masson
can forget how the Danes nailed themselves upon England. His desk is
thick with their tombstones. It was when his mind groped for an image
that he clutched the bracket. He seemed to tear his good things out of
it. Silence overcame the class. Some were fascinated by the man; others
trembled for the bracket. It shook, groaned, and yielded. Masson said
another of the things that made his lectures literature; the crisis was
passed; and everybody breathed again.

He masters a subject by letting it master him; for though his critical
reputation is built on honesty, it is his enthusiasm that makes his
work warm with life. Sometimes he entered the class-room so full of
what he had to say that he began before he reached his desk. If he was
in the middle of a peroration when the bell rang, even the back benches
forgot to empty. There were the inevitable students to whom literature
is a trial, and sometimes they call attention to their sufferings by a
scraping of the feet. Then the professor tried to fix his eyeglass on
them, and when it worked properly they were transfixed. As a rule,
however, it required so many adjustments that by the time his eye took
hold of it he had remembered that students were made so, and his
indignation went. Then, with the light in his eye that some
photographer ought to catch, he would hope that his lecture was not
disturbing their conversation. It was characteristic of his passion for
being just that, when he had criticised some writer severely he would
remember that the back benches could not understand that criticism and
admiration might go together, unless they were told so again.

The test of a sensitive man is that he is careful of wounding the
feelings of others. Once, I remember, a student was reading a passage
aloud, assuming at the same time such an attitude that the professor
could not help remarking that he looked like a teapot. It was exactly
what he did look like, and the class applauded. But next moment Masson
had apologized for being personal. Such reminiscences are what make
the old literature class-room to thousands of graduates a delight to
think of.

When the news of Carlyle's death reached the room, Masson could not go
on with his lecture. Every one knows what Carlyle has said of him; and
no one who has heard it will ever forget what he has said of Carlyle.
Here were two men who understood each other. One of the Carlylean
pictures one loves to dwell on shows them smoking together, with
nothing breaking the pauses but Mrs. Carlyle's needles. Carlyle told
Masson how he gave up smoking and then took to it again. He had walked
from Dumfriesshire to Edinburgh to consult a doctor about his health,
and was advised to lose his pipe. He smoked no more, but his health did
not improve, and then one day he walked in a wood. At the foot of a
tree lay a pipe, a tobacco pouch, a match-box. He saw clearly that this
was a case of Providential interference, and from that moment he smoked
again. There the professor's story stops. I have no doubt, though,
that he nodded his head when Carlyle explained what the pipe and
tobacco were doing there. Masson's "Milton" is, of course, his great
work, but for sympathetic analysis I know nothing to surpass his
"Chatterton." Lecturing on Chatterton one day, he remarked, with a
slight hesitation, that had the poet mixed a little more in company
and--and smoked, his morbidness would not have poisoned him. That
turned my thoughts to smoking, because I meant to be a Chatterton, but
greater. Since then the professor has warned me against smoking too
much. He was smoking at the time.

This is no place to follow Masson's career, nor to discuss his work. To
reach his position one ought to know his definition of a man of
letters. It is curious, and, like most of his departures from the
generally accepted, sticks to the memory. By a man of letters he does
not mean the poet, for instance, who is all soul, so much as the
strong-brained writer whose guardian angel is a fine sanity. He used to
mention John Skelton, the Wolsey satirist, and Sir David Lindsay, as
typical men of letters from this point of view, and it is as a man of
letters of that class that Masson is best considered. In an age of many
whipper-snappers in criticism, he is something of a Gulliver.

The students in that class liked to see their professor as well as hear
him. I let my hair grow long because it only annoyed other people, and
one day there was dropped into my hand a note containing sixpence and
the words: "The students sitting behind you present their compliments,
and beg that you will get your hair cut with the enclosed, as it
interferes with their view of the professor."

Masson, when he edited _Macmillan's_, had all the best men round him.
His talk of Thackeray is specially interesting, but he always holds
that in conversation Douglas Jerrold was unapproachable. Jerrold told
him a good story of his seafaring days. His ship was lying off
Gibraltar, and for some hours Jerrold, though only a midshipman, was
left in charge. Some of the sailors begged to get ashore, and he let
them, on the promise that they would bring him back some oranges. One
of them disappeared, and the midshipman suffered for it. More than
twenty years afterward Jerrold was looking in at a window in the Strand
when he seemed to know the face of a weatherbeaten man who was doing
the same thing. Suddenly he remembered, and put his hand on the other's
shoulder. "My man," he said, "you have been a long time with those
oranges!" The sailor recognized him, turned white, and took to his
heels. There is, too, the story of how Dickens and Jerrold made up
their quarrel at the Garrick Club. It was the occasion on which Masson
first met the author of "Pickwick." Dickens and Jerrold had not spoken
for a year, and they both happened to have friends at dinner in the
strangers' room, Masson being Jerrold's guest. The two hosts sat back
to back, but did not address each other, though the conversation was
general. At last Jerrold could stand it no longer. Turning, he
exclaimed, "Charley, my boy, how are you?" Dickens wheeled round and
grasped his hand.

Many persons must have noticed that, in appearance, Masson is becoming
more and more like Carlyle every year. How would you account for it? It
is a thing his old students often discuss when they meet, especially
those of them who, when at college, made up their minds to dedicate
their first book to him. The reason they seldom do it is because the
book does not seem good enough.



PROFESSOR JOHN STUART BLACKIE.



III.

PROFESSOR JOHN STUART BLACKIE.


Lately I was told that Blackie--one does not say Mr. Cromwell--is no
longer professor of Greek in Edinburgh University. What nonsense some
people talk! As if Blackie were not part of the building! In his class
one day he spoke touchingly of the time when he would have to join
Socrates in the Elysian fields. A student cheered--no one knows why.
"It won't be for some time yet," added John Stuart.

Blackie takes his ease at home, in a dressing-gown and straw hat. This
shows that his plaid really does come off. "My occupation nowadays," he
said to me recently, "is business, blethers, bothers, beggars, and
backgammon." He has also started a profession of going to public
meetings, and hurrying home to write letters to the newspapers about
them. When the editor shakes the manuscript, a sonnet falls out. I
think I remember the professor's saying that he had never made five
shillings by his verses. To my mind they are worth more than that.

Though he has explained them frequently, there is still confusion about
Blackie's politics. At Manchester they thought he was a Tory, and
invited him to address them, on that understanding. "I fancy I
astonished them," the professor said to me. This is quite possible.
Then he was mistaken for a Liberal. The fact is that Blackie is a
philosopher, who follows the golden mean. He sees this himself. A
philosopher who follows the golden mean is thus a man who runs zig-zag
between two extremes. You will observe that he who does this is some
time before he arrives anywhere.

The professor has said that he has the strongest lungs in Scotland. Of
the many compliments that might well be paid him, not the least worthy
would be this: that he is as healthy mentally as physically. Mrs.
Norton begins a novel with the remark that one of the finest sights
conceivable is a well-preserved gentleman of middle age. It will be
some time yet before Blackie reaches middle age, but there must be
something wrong with you if you can look at him without feeling
refreshed. Did you ever watch him marching along Princes Street on a
warm day, when every other person was broiling in the sun? His head is
well thrown back, the staff, grasped in the middle, jerks back and
forward like a weaver's shuttle, and the plaid flies in the breeze.
Other people's clothes are hanging limp. Blackie carries his breeze
with him.

A year or two ago Mr. Gladstone, when at Dalmeny, pointed out that he
had the advantage over Blackie in being of both Highland and Lowland
extraction. The professor, however, is as Scotch as the thistle or his
native hills, and Mr. Gladstone, quite justifiably, considers him the
most outstanding of living Scotsmen. Blackie is not quite sure himself.
Not long ago I heard him read a preface to a life of Mr. Gladstone that
was being printed at Smyrna in modern Greek. He told his readers to
remember that Mr. Gladstone was a great scholar and an upright
statesman. They would find it easy to do this if they first remembered
that he was Scottish.

The _World_ included Blackie in its list of "Celebrities at Home." It
said that the door was opened by a red-headed lassie. That was probably
meant for local color, and it amused every one who knew Mrs. Blackie.
The professor is one of the most genial of men, and will show you to
your room himself, talking six languages. This tends to make the
conversation one-sided, but he does not mind that. He still writes a
good deal, spending several hours in his library daily, and his talk is
as brilliant as ever. His writing nowadays is less sustained than it
was, and he prefers flitting from one subject to another, to evolving a
great work. When he dips his pen into an ink-pot, it at once writes a
sonnet--so strong is the force of habit. Recently he wrote a page about
Carlyle in a little book issued by the Edinburgh students' bazaar
committee. In this he reproved Carlyle for having "bias." Blackie
wonders why people should have bias.

Some readers of this may in their student days have been invited to the
Greek professor's house to breakfast, without knowing why they were
selected from among so many. It was not, as they are probably aware,
because of their classical attainments, for they were too thoughtful to
be in the prize-list; nor was it because of the charm of their manners
or the fascination of their conversation. When the professor noticed
any physical peculiarity about a student, such as a lisp, or a glass
eye, or one leg longer than the other, or a broken nose, he was at once
struck by it, and asked him to breakfast. They were very lively
breakfasts, the eggs being served in tureens; but sometimes it was a
collection of the maimed and crooked, and one person at the table--not
the host himself--used to tremble lest, making mirrors of each other,
the guests should see why they were invited.

Sometimes, instead of asking a student to breakfast, Blackie would
instruct another student to request his company to tea. Then the two
students were told to talk about paulo-post futures in the cool of the
evening, and to read their Greek Testament and to go to the pantomime.
The professor never tired of giving his students advice about the
preservation of their bodily health. He strongly recommended a cold
bath at six o'clock every morning. In winter, he remarked genially, you
can break the ice with a hammer. According to himself, only one
enthusiast seems to have followed his advice, and he died.

In Blackie's class-room there used to be a demonstration every time he
mentioned the name of a distinguished politician. Whether the
demonstration took the professor by surprise or whether he waited for
it, will never perhaps be known. But Blackie at least put out the gleam
in his eye, and looked as if he were angry. "I will say Beaconsfield,"
he would exclaim (cheers and hisses). "Beaconsfield" (uproar). Then he
would stride forward, and, seizing the railing, announce his intention
of saying Beaconsfield until every goose in the room was tired of
cackling. ("Question.") "Beaconsfield." ("No, no.") "Beaconsfield."
("Hear, hear," and shouts of "Gladstone.") "Beaconsfield." ("Three
cheers for Dizzy.") Eventually the class would be dismissed as--(1)
idiots, (2) a bear garden, (3) a flock of sheep, (4) a pack of
numskulls, (5) hissing serpents. The professor would retire, apparently
fuming, to his anteroom, and five minutes afterward he would be playing
himself down the North Bridge on imaginary bagpipes. This sort of thing
added a sauce to all academic sessions. There was a notebook also,
which appeared year after year. It contained the professor's jokes of a
former session, carefully classified by an admiring student. It was
handed down from one year's men to the next; and thus, if Blackie began
to make a joke about haggis, the possessor of the book had only swiftly
to turn to the H's, find what the joke was, and send it along the class
quicker than the professor could speak it.

In the old days the Greek professor recited a poem in honor of the end
of the session. He composed it himself, and, as known to me, it took
the form of a graduate's farewell to his alma mater. Sometimes he
would knock a map down as if overcome with emotion, and at critical
moments a student in the back benches would accompany him on a penny
trumpet. Now, I believe, the Hellenic Club takes the place of the
class-room. All the eminent persons in Edinburgh attend its meetings,
and Blackie, the Athenian, is in the chair. The policeman in Douglas
Crescent looks skeered when you ask him what takes place on these
occasions. It is generally understood that toward the end of the
meeting they agree to read Greek next time.



PROFESSOR CALDERWOOD.



IV.

PROFESSOR CALDERWOOD.


Here is a true story that the general reader may jump, as it is
intended for Professor Calderwood himself. Some years ago an English
daily paper reviewed a book entitled "A Handbook of Moral Philosophy."
The professor knows the work. The "notice" was done by the junior
reporter, to whom philosophical treatises are generally intrusted. He
dealt leniently, on the whole, with Professor Calderwood, even giving
him a word of encouragement here and there. Still the criticism was
severe. The reviewer subsequently went to Edinburgh University, and
came out 144th in the class of moral philosophy.

That student is now, I believe, on friendly terms with Professor
Calderwood, but has never told him this story. I fancy the professor
would like to know his name. It may perhaps be reached in this way: He
was the young gentleman who went to his classes the first day in a
black coat and silk hat, and was cheered round the quadrangle by a body
of admiring fellow-students, who took him for a professor.

Calderwood contrives to get himself more in touch with the mass of his
students than some of his fellow-professors, partly because he puts a
high ideal before himself, and to some extent because his subject is
one that Scottish students revel in. Long before they join his class
they know that they are moral philosophers; indeed, they are sometimes
surer of it before they enrol than afterward. Their essays begin in
some such fashion as this: "In joining issue with Reid, I wish to take
no unfair advantage of my antagonist;" or, "Kant is sadly at fault when
he says that----" or, "It is strange that a man of Locke's attainments
should have been blind to the fact----" When the professor reads out
these tit-bits to the class, his eyes twinkle. Some students, of
course, are not such keen philosophers as others. Does Professor
Calderwood remember the one who was never struck by anything in moral
philosophy until he learned by accident that Descartes lay in bed till
about twelve o'clock every morning? Then it dawned on him that he, too,
must have been a philosopher all his life without knowing it. One year
a father and son were in the class. The father got so excited over
volition and the line that divides right from wrong that he wrenched
the desk before him from its sockets and hit it triumphantly, meaning
that he and the professor were at one. He was generally admired by his
fellow-students, because he was the only one in the class who could cry
out "Hear, hear," and even "Question," without blushing. The son, on
the other hand, was _blasé_, and would have been an agnostic, only he
could never remember the name. Once a week Calderwood turns his class
into a debating society, and argues things out with his students. This
field-day is a joy to them. Some of them spend the six days previous in
preparing posers. The worst of the professor is that he never sees that
they are posers. What is the use of getting up a question of the most
subtle kind, when he answers it right away? It makes you sit down quite
suddenly. There is an occasional student who tries to convert liberty
of speech on the discussion day into license, and of him the professor
makes short work. The student means to turn the laugh on Calderwood,
and then Calderwood takes advantage of him, and the other students
laugh at the wrong person. It is the older students, as a rule, who are
most violently agitated over these philosophical debates. One with a
beard cracks his fingers, after the manner of a child in a village
school that knows who won the battle of Bannockburn, and feels that he
must burst if he does not let it out at once. A bald-headed man rises
every minute to put a question, and then sits down, looking stupid. He
has been trying so hard to remember what it is that he has forgotten.
There is a legend of two who quarrelled over the Will and fought it out
on Arthur's Seat.

One year, however, a boy of sixteen or so, with a squeaky voice and a
stammer, was Calderwood's severest critic. He sat on the back bench,
and what he wanted to know was something about the infinite. Every
discussion day he took advantage of a lull in the debate to squeak out,
"With regard to the infinite," and then could never get any further. No
one ever discovered what he wanted enlightenment on about the infinite.
He grew despondent as the session wore on, but courageously stuck to
his point. Probably he is a soured man now. For purposes of exposition,
Calderwood has a blackboard in his lecture-room, on which he chalks
circles that represent the feelings and the will, with arrows shooting
between them. In my class there was a boy, a very little boy, who had
been a dux at school and was a dunce at college. He could not make
moral philosophy out at all, but did his best. Here were his complete
notes for one day: "Edinburgh University; Class of Moral Philosophy;
Professor Calderwood; Lecture 64; Jan. 11. 18--You rub out the arrow,
and there is only the circle left."

Professor Calderwood is passionately fond of music, as those who visit
at his house know. He is of opinion that there is a great deal of
moral philosophy in "The Dead March in Saul." Once he said something to
that effect in his class, adding enthusiastically that he could excuse
the absence of a student who had been away hearing "The Dead March in
Saul." After that he received a good many letters from students, worded
in this way: "Mr. McNaughton (bench 7) presents his compliments to
Professor Calderwood, and begs to state that his absence from the class
yesterday was owing to his being elsewhere, hearing 'The Dead March in
Saul.'" "Dear Professor Calderwood: I regret my absence from the
lecture to-day, but hope you will overlook it, as I was unavoidably
detained at home, practising 'The Dead March in Saul.' Yours truly,
Peter Webster." "Professor Calderwood: Dear Sir,--As I was coming to
the lecture to-day, I heard 'The Dead March in Saul' being played in
the street. You will, I am sure, make allowance for my non-attendance
at the class, as I was too much affected to come. It is indeed a grand
march. Yours faithfully, John Robbie." "The students whose names are
subjoined thank the professor of moral philosophy most cordially for
his remarks on the elevating power of music. They have been encouraged
thereby to start a class for the proper study of the impressive and
solemn march to which he called special attention, and hope he will
excuse them, should their practisings occasionally prevent their
attendance at the Friday lectures." Professor Calderwood does not
lecture on "The Dead March in Saul" now.

The class of moral philosophy is not for the few, but the many. Some
professors do not mind what becomes of the nine students, so long as
they can force on every tenth. Calderwood, however, considers it his
duty to carry the whole class along with him; and it is, as a
consequence, almost impossible to fall behind. The lectures are not
delivered, in the ordinary sense, but dictated. Having explained the
subject of the day with the lucidity that is this professor's peculiar
gift, he condenses his remarks into a proposition. It is as if a
minister ended his sermon with the text. Thus: "Proposition 34: Man is
born into the world--(You have got that? See that you have all got
it.) Man is born into the world with a capacity--with a capacity----"
(Anxious student: "If you please, professor, where did you say man was
born into?") "Into the world, with a capacity to distinguish----"
("With a what, sir?")--"with a capacity to distinguish----" (Student:
"Who is born into the world?") "Perhaps I have been reading too
quickly. Man is born into the world, with a capacity to distinguish
between--distinguish between----" (student shuts his book, thinking
that completes the proposition)--"distinguish between right and
wrong--right--and wrong. You have all got Proposition 34, gentlemen?"

Once Calderwood was questioning a student about a proposition, to see
that he thoroughly understood it. "Give an illustration," suggested the
professor. The student took the case of a murderer. "Very good," said
the professor. "Now give me another illustration." The student pondered
for a little. "Well," he said at length, "take the case of another
murderer."

Professor Calderwood has such an exceptional interest in his students
that he asks every one of them to his house. This is but one of many
things that makes him generally popular; he also invites his ladies'
class to meet them. The lady whom you take down to supper suggests
Proposition 41 as a nice thing to talk about, and asks what you think
of the metaphysics of ethics. Professor Calderwood sees the ladies into
the cabs himself. It is the only thing I ever heard against him.



PROFESSOR TAIT.



V.

PROFESSOR TAIT.


Just as I opened my desk to write enthusiastically of Tait, I
remembered having recently deciphered a pencil note about him, in my
own handwriting, on the cover of Masson's "Chronological List," which I
still keep by me. I turned to the note to see if there was life in it
yet. "Walls," it says, "got 2s. for T. and T. at Brown's, 16 Walker
Street." I don't recall Walls, but T. and T. was short for "Thomson and
Tait's Elements of Natural Philosophy" (elements!), better known in my
year as the "Student's First Glimpse of Hades." Evidently Walls sold
his copy, but why did I take such note of the address? I fear T. and T.
is one of the "Books Which Have Helped Me." This somewhat damps my
ardor.

When Tait was at Cambridge, it was flung in the face of the
mathematicians that they never stood high in Scriptural knowledge.
Tait and another were the two of whom one must be first wrangler, and
they agreed privately to wipe this stigma from mathematics. They did it
by taking year about the prize which was said to hang out of their
reach. It is always interesting to know of professors who have done
well in Biblical knowledge. All Scottish students at the English
universities are not so successful. I knew a Snell man who was sent
back from the Oxford entrance exam., and he always held himself that
the Biblical questions had done it.

Turner is said by medicals to be the finest lecturer in the university.
He will never be that so long as Tait is in the natural philosophy
chair. Never, I think, can there have been a more superb demonstrator.
I have his burly figure before me. The small twinkling eyes had a
fascinating gleam in them; he could concentrate them until they held
the object looked at; when they flashed round the room he seemed to
have drawn a rapier. I have seen a man fall back in alarm under Tait's
eyes, though there were a dozen benches between them. These eyes could
be merry as a boy's, though, as when he turned a tube of water on
students who would insist on crowding too near an experiment, for
Tait's was the humor of high spirits. I could conceive him at marbles
still, and feeling annoyed at defeat. He could not fancy anything much
funnier than a man missing his chair. Outside his own subject he is
not, one feels, a six-footer. When Mr. R. L. Stevenson's memoir of the
late Mr. Fleeming Jenkin was published, Tait said at great length that
he did not like it; he would have had the sketch by a scientific man.
But though scientists may be the only men nowadays who have anything to
say, they are also the only men who can't say it. Scientific men out of
their sphere know for a fact that novels are not true. So they draw
back from novelists who write biography. Professor Tait and Mr.
Stevenson are both men of note, who walk different ways, and when they
meet neither likes to take the curbstone. If they were tied together
for life in a three-legged race, which would suffer the more?

But if Tait's science weighs him to the earth, he has a genius for
sticking to his subject, and I am lost in admiration every time I bring
back his lectures. It comes as natural to his old students to say when
they meet, "What a lecturer Tait was!" as to Englishmen to joke about
the bagpipes. It is not possible to draw a perfect circle, Chrystal
used to say, after drawing a very fine one. To the same extent it was
not possible for Tait never to fail in his experiments. The atmosphere
would be too much for him once in a session, or there were other
hostile influences at work. Tait warned us of these before proceeding
to experiment, but we merely smiled. We believed in him as though he
were a Bradshaw announcing that he would not be held responsible for
possible errors.

I had forgotten Lindsay--"the mother may forget her child." As I write,
he has slipped back into his chair on the professor's right, and I
could photograph him now in his brown suit. Lindsay was the
imperturbable man who assisted Tait in his experiments, and his father
held the post before him. When there were many of us together, we could
applaud Lindsay with burlesque exaggeration, and he treated us
good-humoredly, as making something considerable between us. But I once
had to face Lindsay alone, in quest of my certificate; and suddenly he
towered above me, as a waiter may grow tall when you find that you have
not money enough to pay the bill. He treated me most kindly; did not
reply, of course, but got the certificate, and handed it to me as a
cashier contemptuously shovels you your pile of gold. Long ago I pasted
up a crack in my window with the certificate, but it said, I remember,
that I had behaved respectably--so far as I had come under the eyes of
the professor. Tait was always an enthusiast.

We have been keeping Lindsay waiting. When he had nothing special to
do, he sat indifferently in his chair, with the face of a precentor
after the sermon has begun. But though it was not very likely that
Lindsay would pay much attention to talk about such playthings as the
laws of nature, his fingers went out in the direction of the professor
when the experiments began. Then he was not the precentor; he was a
minister in one of the pews. Lindsay was an inscrutable man, and I
shall not dare to say that he even half-wished to see Tait fail. He
only looked on, ready for any emergency; but if the experiment would
not come off, he was as quick to go to the professor's assistance as a
member of Parliament is to begin when he has caught the Speaker's eye.
Perhaps Tait would have none of his aid, or pushed the mechanism for
the experiment from him--an intimation to Lindsay to carry it quickly
to the ante-room. Do you think Lindsay read the instructions so? Let me
tell you that your mind fails to seize hold of Lindsay. He marched the
machine out of Tait's vicinity as a mother may push her erring boy away
from his father's arms, to take him to her heart as soon as the door is
closed. Lindsay took the machine to his seat, and laid it before him on
the desk, with well-concealed apathy. Tait would flash his eye to the
right to see what Lindsay was after, and there was Lindsay sitting with
his arms folded. The professor's lecture resumed its way, and then out
went Lindsay's hands to the machine. Here he tried a wheel; again he
turned a screw; in time he had the machine ready for another trial. No
one was looking his way, when suddenly there was a whizz--bang, bang.
All eyes were turned upon Lindsay, the professor's among them. A cheer
broke out as we realized that Lindsay had done the experiment. Was he
flushed with triumph? Not a bit of it; he was again sitting with his
arms folded. A Glasgow merchant of modest manners, when cross-examined
in a law court, stated that he had a considerable monetary interest in
a certain concern. "How much do you mean by a 'considerable monetary
interest'?" demanded the contemptuous barrister who was cross-examining
him. "Oh," said the witness, humbly, "a maiter o' a million an' a
half--or, say, twa million." That Glasgow man in the witness-box is the
only person I can think of, when looking about me for a parallel to
Lindsay. While the professor eyed him and the students deliriously beat
the floor, Lindsay quietly gathered the mechanism together and carried
it to the ante-room. His head was not flung back nor his chest forward,
like one who walked to music. In his hour of triumph he was still
imperturbable. I lie back in my chair to-day, after the lapse of years,
and ask myself again, How did Lindsay behave after he entered the
ante-room, shutting the door behind him? Did he give way? There is no
one to say. When he returned to the class-room he wore his familiar
face; a man to ponder over.

There is a legend about the natural philosophy class-room, the period
long antecedent to Tait. The professor, annoyed by a habit students had
got into of leaving their hats on his desk, announced that the next hat
placed there would be cut in pieces by him in presence of the class.
The warning had its effect, until one day when the professor was called
for a few minutes from the room. An undergraduate, to whom the natural
sciences, unrelieved, were a monotonous study, slipped into the
ante-room, from which he emerged with the professor's hat. This he
placed on the desk, and then stole in a panic to his seat. An awe fell
upon the class. The professor returned, but when he saw the hat he
stopped. He showed no anger. "Gentlemen," he said, "I told you what
would happen if you again disobeyed my orders." Quite blandly he took a
pen-knife from his pocket, slit the hat into several pieces, and flung
them into the sink. While the hat was under the knife, the students
forgot to demonstrate; but as it splashed into the sink, they gave
forth a true British cheer. The end.

Close to the door of the natural philosophy room is a window that in my
memory will ever be sacred to a janitor. The janitors of the university
were of varied interest, from the merry one who treated us as if we
were his equals, and the soldier who sometimes looked as if he would
like to mow us down, to the Head Man of All, whose name I dare not
write, though I can whisper it. The janitor at the window, however, sat
there through the long evenings while the Debating Society (of which I
was a member) looked after affairs of state in an adjoining room. We
were the smallest society in the university and the longest-winded,
and I was once nearly expelled for not paying my subscription. Our
grand debate was, "Is the policy of the government worthy the
confidence of this society?" and we also read about six essays yearly
on "The Genius of Robert Burns"; but it was on private business that we
came out strongest. The question that agitated us most was whether the
meetings should be opened with prayer, and the men who thought they
should would not so much as look at the men who thought they should
not. When the janitor was told that we had begun our private business,
he returned to his window and slept. His great day was when we could
not form a quorum, which happened now and then.

Gregory was a member of that society--what has become of Gregory? He
was one of those men who professors say have a brilliant future before
them, and who have not since been heard of. Morton, another member, was
of a different stamp. He led in the debate on "Beauty of the Mind v.
Beauty of the Body." His writhing contempt for the beauty that is only
skin-deep is not to be forgotten. How noble were his rhapsodies on the
beauty of the mind! And when he went to Calderwood's to supper, how
quick he was to pick out the prettiest girl, who took ten per cent in
moral philosophy, and to sit beside her all the evening! Morton had a
way of calling on his friends the night before a degree examination to
ask them to put him up to as much as would pull him through.

Tait used to get greatly excited over the rectorial elections, and, if
he could have disguised himself, would have liked, I think, to join in
the fight round the Brewster statue. He would have bled for the
Conservative cause, as his utterances on university reform have shown.
The reformers have some cause for thinking that Tait is a greater man
in his class room than when he addresses the graduates. He has said
that the less his students know of his subject when they join his
class, the less, probably, they will have to unlearn. Such views are
behind the times that feed their children on geographical biscuits in
educational nurseries with astronomical ceilings and historical
wall-papers.



PROFESSOR CAMPBELL FRASER.



VI.

PROFESSOR CAMPBELL FRASER.


Not long ago I was back in the Old University--how well I remember
pointing it out as the jail to a stranger, who had asked me to show him
round. I was in one of the library ante-rooms, when some one knocked,
and I looked up, to see Campbell Fraser framed in the doorway. I had
not looked on that venerable figure for half a dozen years. I had
forgotten all my metaphysics. Yet it all came back with a rush. I was
on my feet, wondering if I existed strictly so called.

Calderwood and Fraser had both their followings. The moral philosophers
wore an air of certainty, for they knew that if they stuck to
Calderwood he would pull them through. You cannot lose yourself in the
back garden. But the metaphysicians had their doubts. Fraser led them
into strange places, and said he would meet them there again next day.
They wandered to their lodgings, and got into difficulties with their
landlady for saying that she was only an aggregate of sense phenomena.
Fraser was rather a hazardous cure for weak intellects. Young men whose
anchor had been certainty of themselves went into that class floating
buoyantly on the sea of facts, and came out all adrift--on the sea of
theory--in an open boat--rudderless--one oar--the boat scuttled. How
could they think there was any chance for them, when the professor was
not even sure of himself? I see him rising in a daze from his chair and
putting his hands through his hair. "Do I exist," he said,
thoughtfully, "strictly so called?" The students (if it was the
beginning of the session) looked a little startled. This was a matter
that had not previously disturbed them. Still, if the professor was in
doubt, there must be something in it. He began to argue it out, and an
uncomfortable silence held the room in awe. If he did not exist, the
chances were that they did not exist either. It was thus a personal
question. The professor glanced round slowly for an illustration. "Am
I a table?" A pained look travelled over the class. Was it just
possible that they were all tables? It is no wonder that the students
who do not go to the bottom during their first month of metaphysics
begin to give themselves airs strictly so called. In the privacy of
their room at the top of the house, they pinch themselves to see if
they are still there.

He would, I think, be a sorry creature who did not find something to
admire in Campbell Fraser. Metaphysics may not trouble you, as it
troubles him, but you do not sit under the man without seeing his
transparent honesty and feeling that he is genuine. In appearance and
in habit of thought he is an ideal philosopher, and his communings with
himself have lifted him to a level of serenity that is worth struggling
for. Of all the arts professors in Edinburgh, he is probably the most
difficult to understand, and students in a hurry have called his
lectures childish. If so, it may be all the better for them. For the
first half of the hour, they say, he tells you what he is going to do,
and for the second half he revises. Certainly he is vastly explanatory,
but then he is not so young as they are, and so he has his doubts. They
are so cock-sure that they wonder to see him hesitate. Often there is a
mist on the mountain when it is all clear in the valley.

Fraser's great work is his edition of Berkeley, a labor of love that
should live after him. He has two Berkeleys, the large one and the
little one, and, to do him justice, it was the little one he advised us
to consult. I never read the large one myself, which is in a number of
monster tomes, but I often had a look at it in the library, and I was
proud to think that an Edinburgh professor was the editor. When Glasgow
men came through to talk of their professors, we showed them the big
Berkeley, and after that they were reasonable. There was one man in my
year who really began the large Berkeley, but after a time he was
missing, and it is believed that some day he will be found flattened
between the pages of the first volume.

The "Selections" was the text-book we used in the class. It is
sufficient to prove that Berkeley wrote beautiful English. I am not
sure that any one has written such English since. We have our own
"stylists," but how self-conscious they are after Berkeley! It is seven
years since I opened my "Selections," but I see that I was once more of
a metaphysician than I have been giving myself credit for. The book is
scribbled over with posers in my handwriting about dualism and primary
realities. Some of the comments are in short-hand, which I must at one
time have been able to read, but all are equally unintelligible now.
Here is one of my puzzlers: "Does B here mean impercipient and
unperceived subject or conscious and percipient subject?" Observe the
friendly B. I dare say further on I shall find myself referring to the
professor as F. I wonder if I ever discovered what B meant. I could not
now tell what I meant, myself.

As many persons are aware, the "Selections" consist of Berkeley's text
with the professor's notes thereon. The notes are explanatory of the
text, and the student must find them an immense help. Here, for
instance, is a note: "Phenomenal or sense dependent existence can be
substantiated and caused only by a self-conscious spirit, for otherwise
there could be no propositions about it expressive of what is
conceivable; on the other hand, to affirm that phenomenal or sense
dependent existence, which alone we know, and which alone is
conceivable, is, or even represents, an inconceivable non-phenomenal or
abstract existence, would be to affirm a contradiction in terms." There
we have it.

As a metaphysician I was something of a disappointment. I began well,
standing, if I recollect aright, in the three examinations, first,
seventeenth, and seventy-seventh. A man who sat beside me--man was the
word we used--gazed at me reverently when I came out first, and I could
see by his eye that he was not sure whether I existed properly so
called. By the second exam. his doubts had gone, and by the third he
was surer of me than of himself. He came out fifty-seventh, this being
the grand triumph of his college course. He was the same whose key
translated _cras donaberis hædo_ "To-morrow you will be presented with
a kid," but who, thinking that a little vulgar, refined it down to
"To-morrow you will be presented with a small child."

In the metaphysics class I was like the fountains in the quadrangle,
which ran dry toward the middle of the session. While things were still
looking hopeful for me, I had an invitation to breakfast with the
professor. If the fates had been so propitious as to forward me that
invitation, it is possible that I might be a metaphysician to this day,
but I had changed my lodgings, and, when I heard of the affair, all was
over. The professor asked me to stay behind one day after the lecture,
and told me that he had got his note back with "Left: no address" on
it. "However," he said, "you may keep this," presenting me with the
invitation for the Saturday previously. I mention this to show that
even professors have hearts. That letter is preserved with the
autographs of three editors, none of which anybody can read.

There was once a medical student who came up to my rooms early in the
session, and I proved to him in half an hour that he did not exist. He
got quite frightened, and I can still see his white face as he sat
staring at me in the gloaming. This shows what metaphysics can do. He
has recovered, however, and is sheep-farming now, his examiners never
having asked him the right questions.

The last time Fraser ever addressed me was when I was capped. He said,
"I congratulate you, Mr. Smith," and one of the other professors said,
"I congratulate you, Mr. Fisher." My name is neither Smith nor Fisher,
but no doubt the thing was kindly meant. It was then, however, that the
professor of metaphysics had his revenge on me. I had once spelt Fraser
with a "z."



PROFESSOR CHRYSTAL.



VII.

PROFESSOR CHRYSTAL.


When Chrystal came to Edinburgh, he rooted up the humors of the
class-room as a dentist draws teeth. Souls were sold for keys that
could be carried in the waistcoat pocket. Ambition fell from heights,
and lay with its eye on a certificate. By night was a rush of ghosts,
shrieking for passes. Horse-play fled before the Differential Calculus
in spectacles.

I had Chrystal's first year, and recall the gloomy student sitting
before me who hacked "All hope abandon, ye who enter here" into a desk
that may have confined Carlyle. It took him a session, and he was
digging his own grave, for he never got through; but it was something
to hold by, something he felt sure of. All else was spiders' webs in
chalk.

Chrystal was a fine hare for the hounds who could keep up with him. He
started off the first day with such a spurt that most of us were left
behind mopping our faces, and saying, "Here's a fellow," which is what
Mr. Stevenson says Shakespeare would have remarked about Mr. George
Meredith. We never saw him again. The men who were on speaking
acquaintance with his symbols revelled in him as students love an
enthusiast who is eager to lead them into a world toward which they
would journey. He was a rare guide for them. The bulk, however, lost
him in labyrinths. They could not but admire their brilliant professor;
but while their friend the medallist and he kept the conversation to
themselves, they felt like eavesdroppers hearkening to a pair of
lovers. It is "beautiful," they cried, "but this is no place for us;
let us away."

A good many went, but their truancy stuck in their throats like Otway's
last roll. The M.A. was before them. They had fancied it in their
hands, but it became shy as a maiden from the day they learned
Chrystal's heresy that Euclid is not mathematics, but only some riders
in it. This snapped the cord that had tied the blind man to his dog,
and the M.A. shot down the horizon. When Rutherford delivered his first
lecture in the chair of institutes of medicine, boisterous students
drowned his voice, and he flung out of the room. At the door he paused
to say, "Gentleman, we shall meet again at Philippi." A dire bomb was
this in the midst of them, warranted to go off, none able to cast it
overboard. We too had our Philippi before us. Chrystal could not be
left to his own devices.

I had never a passion for knowing that when circles or triangles
attempt impossibilities it is absurd; and _x_ was an unknown quantity I
was ever content to walk round about. To admit to Chrystal that we
understood _x_ was only a way he had of leading you on to _y_ and _z_.
I gave him his chance, however, by contributing a paper of answers to
his first weekly set of exercises. When the hour for returning the
slips came round, I was there to accept fame--if so it was to be--with
modesty; and if it was to be humiliation, still to smile. The professor
said there was one paper, with an owner's name on it, which he could
not read, and it was handed along the class to be deciphered. My
presentiment that it was mine became a certainty when it reached my
hand; but I passed it on pleasantly, and it returned to Chrystal, a
Japhet that never found its father. Feeling that the powers were
against me, I then retired from the conflict, sanguine that the
teaching of my mathematical schoolmaster, the best that could be, would
pull me through. The Disowned may be going the round of the class-room
still.

The men who did not know when they were beaten returned to their seats,
and doggedly took notes, their faces lengthening daily. Their
note-books reproduced exactly the hieroglyphics of the blackboard, and,
examined at night, were as suggestive as the photographs of persons one
has never seen. To overtake Chrystal after giving him a start was the
presumption that is an offshoot from despair. There was once an elderly
gentleman who for years read the _Times_ every day from the first page
to the last. For a fortnight he was ill of a fever; but, on recovering,
he began at the copy of the _Times_ where he had left off. He
struggled magnificently to make up on the _Times_, but it was in vain.
This is an allegory for the way these students panted after Chrystal.

Some succumbed and joined the majority--literally; for to mathematics
they were dead. I never hear of the old university now, nor pass under
the shadow of the walls one loves when he is done with them, without
seeing myself as I was the day I matriculated, an awestruck boy,
passing and repassing the gates, frightened to venture inside,
breathing heavily at sight of janitors, Scott and Carlyle in the air.
After that I see nothing fuller of color than the meetings that were
held outside Chrystal's door. Adjoining it is a class-room so little
sought for that legend tells of its door once showing the notice,
"There will be no class to-day, as the student is unwell." The crowd
round Chrystal's could have filled that room. It was composed of
students hearkening at the door to see whether he was to call their
part of the roll to-day. If he did, they slunk in; if not, the crowd
melted into the streets, this refrain in their ears:

     "I'm plucked, I do admit;
       I'm spun, my mother dear:
     Yet do not grieve for that
       Which happens every year.
     I've waited very patiently,
       I may have long to wait;
     But you've another son, mother,
       And he will graduate."

A professor of mathematics once brought a rowdy student from the back
benches to a seat beside him, because: "First, you'll be near the
board; second, you'll be near me; and, third, you'll be near the door."
Chrystal soon discovered that students could be too near the door, and
he took to calling the roll in the middle of the hour, which insured an
increased attendance. It was a silent class, nothing heard but the
patter of pencils, rats scraping for grain, of which there was
abundance, but not one digestion in a bench. To smuggle in a novel up
one's waistcoat was perilous, Chrystal's spectacles doing their work.
At a corner of the platform sat the assistant, with a constable's
authority, but, not formed for swooping, uneasy because he had legs,
and where to put them he knew not. He got through the hour by shifting
his position every five minutes; and, sitting there waiting, he
reminded one of the boy who, on being told to remain so quietly where
he was that he could hear a pin drop, held his breath a moment, then
shouted, "Let it drop!" An excellent fellow was this assistant, who
told us that one of his predecessors had got three months.

A jest went as far in that class as a plum in the midshipmen's pudding,
and, you remember, when the middies came on a plum they gave three
cheers. In the middle of some brilliant reasoning, Chrystal would stop
to add 4, 7, and 11. Addition of this kind was the only thing he could
not do, and he looked to the class for help--"20," they shouted, "24,"
"17," while he thought it over. These appeals to their intelligence
made them beam. They woke up as a sleepy congregation shakes itself
into life when the minister says, "I remember when I was a little
boy----"

The daring spirits--say, those who were going into their father's
office, and so did not look upon Chrystal as a door locked to their
advancement--sought to bring sunshine into the room. Chrystal soon had
the blind down on that. I hear they have been at it recently, with the
usual result. To relieve the monotony, a student at the end of bench
ten dropped a marble, which toppled slowly downward toward the
professor. At every step it took, there was a smothered guffaw; but
Chrystal, who was working at the board, did not turn his head. When the
marble reached the floor, he said, still with his back to the class,
"Will the student at the end of bench ten, who dropped that marble,
stand up?" All eyes dilated. He had counted the falls of the marble
from step to step. Mathematics do not obscure the intellect.

Twenty per cent was a good percentage in Chrystal's examinations;
thirty sent you away whistling. As the M.A. drew nigh, students on
their prospects might have been farmers discussing the weather. Some
put their faith in the professor's goodness of heart, of which
symptoms had been showing. He would not, all at once, "raise the
standard"--hated phrase until you are through, when you write to the
papers advocating it. Courage! was it not told of the Glasgow Snell
competition that one of the competitors, as soon as he saw the first
paper, looked for his hat and the door; that he was forbidden to
withdraw until an hour had elapsed, and that he then tackled the paper
and ultimately carried off the Snell? Of more immediate interest,
perhaps, was the story of the quaking student, whose neighbor handed
him in pencil, beneath the desk, the answer to several questions. It
was in an M.A. exam., and the affrighted student found that he could
not read his neighbor's notes. Trusting to fortune, he inclosed them
with his own answers, writing at the top, "No time to write these out
in ink, so inclose them in pencil." He got through: no moral.

A condemned criminal wondering if he is to get a reprieve will not feel
the position novel if he has loitered in a university quadrangle
waiting for the janitor to nail up the results of a degree exam. A
queer gathering we were, awaiting the verdict of Chrystal. Some
compressed their lips, others were lively as fireworks dipped in water;
there were those who rushed round and round the quadrangle; only one
went the length of saying that he did not want to pass. H. I shall call
him. I met him the other day in Fleet Street, and he annoyed me by
asking at once if I remembered the landlady I quarrelled with because
she wore my socks to church of a Sunday: we found her out one wet
forenoon. H. waited the issue with a cigar in his mouth. He had
purposely, he explained, given in a bad paper. He could not understand
why men were so anxious to get through. He had ten reasons for wishing
to be plucked. We let him talk. The janitor appeared with the fateful
paper, and we lashed about him like waves round a lighthouse, all but
H., who strolled languidly to the board to which the paper was being
fastened. A moment afterward I heard a shriek: "I'm through! I'm
through!" It was H. His cigar was dashed aside, and he sped like an
arrow from the bow to the nearest telegraph office, shouting "I'm
through!" as he ran.

Those of us who had H.'s fortune now consider Chrystal made to order
for his chair, but he has never, perhaps, had a proper appreciation of
the charming fellows who get ten per cent.



PROFESSOR SELLAR.



VIII.

PROFESSOR SELLAR.


When one of the distinguished hunting ladies who chase celebrities
captured Mr. Mark Pattison, he gave anxious consideration to the
quotation which he was asked to write above his name. "Fancy," he said
with a shudder, "going down to posterity arm in arm with _carpe diem_!"
Remembering this, I forbear tying Sellar to _odi profanum vulgus_. Yet
the name opens the door to the quotation. Sellar is a Roman senator. He
stood very high at Oxford, and took a prize for boxing. If you watch
him in the class, you will sometimes see his mind murmuring that
Edinburgh students do not take their play like Oxford men. The
difference is in manner. A courteous fellow-student of Sellar once
showed his relatives over Balliol. "You have now, I think," he said at
last, "seen everything of interest except the master." He flung a
stone at a window, at which the master's head appeared immediately,
menacing, wrathful. "And now," concluded the polite youth, "you have
seen him also."

Mr. James Payn, who never forgave the Scottish people for pulling down
their blinds on Sundays, was annoyed by the halo they have woven around
the name "professor." He knew an Edinburgh lady who was scandalized
because that mere poet, Alexander Smith, coolly addressed professors by
their surnames. Mr. Payn might have known what it is to walk in the
shadow of a Senatus Academicus could he have met such specimens as
Sellar, Fraser, Tait, and Sir Alexander Grant marching down the Bridges
abreast. I have seen them: an inspiriting sight. The pavement only held
three. You could have shaken hands with them from an upper window.

Sellar's treatment of his students was always that of a fine gentleman.
Few got near him; all respected him. At times he was addressed in an
unknown tongue, but he kept his countenance. He was particular about
students keeping to their proper benches, and once thought he had
caught a swarthy north countryman straying. "You are in your wrong
seat, Mr. Orr." "Na, am richt eneuch." "You should be in the seat in
front. That is bench 12, and you are entered on bench 10." "Eh? This is
no bench twal, [counting] twa, fower, sax, aucht, ten." "There is
something wrong." "Oh-h-h, [with sudden enlightenment] ye've been
coontin' the first dask; we dinna coont the first dask." The professor
knew the men he had to deal with too well to scorn this one, who turned
out to be a fine fellow. He was the only man I ever knew who ran his
medical and arts classes together, and so many lectures had he to
attend daily that he mixed them up. He graduated, however, in both
faculties in five years, and the last I heard of him was that, when
applying for a medical assistantship, he sent his father's photograph
because he did not have one of himself. He was a man of brains as well
as sinew, and dined briskly on a shilling a week.

There was a little fellow in the class who was a puzzle to Sellar,
because he was higher sitting than standing: when the professor asked
him to stand up, he stood down. "Is Mr. Blank not present?" Sellar
would ask. "Here, sir," cried Blank. "Then, will you stand up, Mr.
Blank?" (Agony of Blank, and a demonstration of many feet.) "Are you
not prepared, Mr. Blank?" "Yes, sir. _Pastor quum traharet_----" "I
insist on your standing up, Mr. Blank." Several students rise to their
feet to explain, but subside. "Yes, sir. _Pastor quum traharet
per_----" "I shall mark you 'Not prepared,' Mr. Blank." (Further
demonstration, and then an indignant squeak from Blank.) "If you
please, sir, I am standing." "But, in that case, how is it? Ah, oh, ah,
yes; proceed, Mr. Blank." As one man was only called upon for
exhibition five or six times in a year, the professor had always
forgotten the circumstances when he asked Blank to stand up again.
Blank was looked upon by his fellow-students as a practical jest, and
his name was always received with the prolonged applause which greets
the end of an after-dinner speech.

Sellar never showed resentment to the students who addressed him as
Professor Sellars.

One day the professor was giving out some English to be translated into
Latin prose. He read on--"and fiercely lifting the axe with both
hands----" when a cheer from the top bench made him pause. The cheer
spread over the room like an uncorked gas. Sellar frowned, but
proceeded--"lifting the axe----" when again the class became demented.
"What does this mean?" he demanded, looking as if he, too, could lift
the axe. "Axe!" shouted a student in explanation. Still Sellar could
not solve the riddle. Another student rose to his assistance.
"Axe--Gladstone!" he cried. Sellar sat back in his chair. "Really,
gentlemen," he said, "I take the most elaborate precautions against
touching upon politics in this class, but sometimes you are beyond me.
Let us continue--'and fiercely lifting his weapon with both hands----'"

The duxes from the schools suffered a little during their first year,
from a feeling that they and Sellar understood each other. He liked to
undeceive them. We had one, all head, who went about wondering at
himself. He lost his bursary on the way home with it, and still he
strutted. Sellar asked if we saw anything peculiar in a certain line
from Horace. We did not. We were accustomed to trust to Horace's
reputation, all but the dandy. "Eh--ah! professor," he lisped; "it
ought to have been so and so." Sellar looked at this promising plant
from the schools, and watered him without a rose on the pan. "Depend
upon it, Mr.--ah, I did not catch your name, if it ought to have been
so and so, Horace would have made it so and so."

Sellar's face was proof against wit. It did not relax till he gave it
liberty. You could never tell from it what was going on inside. He read
without a twitch a notice on his door: "Found in this class a
gold-headed pencil case; if not claimed within three days will be sold
to defray expenses." He even withstood the battering-ram on the day of
the publication of his "Augustan Poets." The students could not let
this opportunity pass. They assailed him with frantic applause; every
bench was a drum to thump upon. His countenance said nothing. The drums
had it in the end, though, and he dismissed the class with what is
believed to have verged on a smile. Like the lover who has got his
lady's glance, they at once tried for more, but no.

Most of us had Humanity our first year, which is the year for
experimenting. Then is the time to join the university library. The
pound, which makes you a member, has never had its poet. You can
withdraw your pound when you please. There are far-seeing men who work
the whole thing out by mathematics. Put simply, this is the notion. In
the beginning of the session you join the library, and soon you forget
about your pound; you reckon without it. As the winter closes in, and
the coal-bunk empties; or you find that five shillings a week for
lodgings is a dream that cannot be kept up; or your coat assumes more
and more the color identified with spring; or you would feast your
friends for once right gloriously; or next Wednesday is your little
sister's birthday; you cower, despairing, over a sulky fire. Suddenly
you are on your feet, all aglow once more. What is this thought that
sends the blood to your head? That library pound! You had forgotten
that you had a bank. Next morning you are at the university in time to
help the library door to open. You ask for your pound; you get it. Your
hand mounts guard over the pocket in which it rustles. So they say. I
took their advice and paid in my money; then waited exultingly to
forget about it. In vain. I always allowed for that pound, in my
thoughts. I saw it as plainly, I knew its every feature as a schoolboy
remembers his first trout. Not to be hasty, I gave my pound two months,
and then brought it home again. I had a fellow-student who lived across
the way from me. We railed at the library-pound theory at open windows
over the life of the street; a beautiful dream, but mad, mad.

He was an enthusiast, and therefore happy, whom I have seen in the
Humanity class-room on an examination day, his pen racing with time,
himself seated in the contents of an ink bottle. Some stories of exams.
have even a blacker ending. I write in tears of him who, estimating his
memory as a leaky vessel, did with care and forethought draw up a crib
that was more condensed than a pocket cyclopædia, a very Liebig's
essence of the classics, tinned meat for students in the eleventh hour.
Bridegrooms have been known to forget the ring; this student forgot his
crib. In the middle of the examination came a nervous knocking at the
door. A lady wanted to see the professor at once. The student looked
up, to see his mother handing the professor his crib. Her son had
forgotten it; she was sure that it was important, so she had brought it
herself.

Jump the body of this poor victim. There was no M.A. for him that year;
but in our gowns and sashes we could not mourn for a might-have-been.
Soldiers talk of the Victoria cross, statesmen of the Cabinet, ladies
of a pearl set in diamonds. These are pretty baubles, but who has
thrilled as the student that with bumping heart strolls into
Middlemass' to order his graduate's gown? He hires it--five
shillings--but the photograph to follow makes it as good as his for
life. Look at him, young ladies, as he struts to the Synod Hall to have
M.A. tacked to his name. Dogs do not dare bark at him. His gait is
springy; in Princes Street he is as one who walks upstairs. Gone to me
are those student days forever, but I can still put a photograph before
me of a ghost in gown and cape, the hair straggling under the cap as
tobacco may straggle over the side of a tin when there is difficulty in
squeezing down the lid. How well the little black jacket looks, how
vividly the wearer remembers putting it on. He should have worn a
dress-coat, but he had none. The little jacket resembled one with the
tails off, and, as he artfully donned his gown, he backed against the
wall so that no one might know.

To turn up the light on old college days is not always the signal for
the dance. You are back in the dusty little lodging, with its battered
sofa, its slippery tablecloth, the prim array of books, the picture of
the death of Nelson, the peeling walls, the broken clock; you are
again in the quadrangle with him who has been dead this many a year.
There are tragedies in a college course. Dr. Walter Smith has told in a
poem mentioned elsewhere of the brilliant scholar who forgot his
dominie; some, alas! forget their mother. There are men--I know it--who
go mad from loneliness; and medallists ere now have crept home to die.
The capping-day was the end of our springtide, and for some of us the
summer was to be brief. Sir Alexander, gone into the night since then,
flung "I mekemae" at us as we trooped past him, all in bud, some small
flower to blossom in time, let us hope, here and there.



MR. JOSEPH THOMSON.



IX.

MR. JOSEPH THOMSON.


Two years hence Joseph Thomson's reputation will be a decade old,
though he is at present only thirty years of age. When you meet him for
the first time you conclude that he must be the explorer's son. His
identity, however, can always be proved by simply mentioning Africa in
his presence. Then he draws himself up, and his eyes glisten, and he is
thinking how glorious it would be to be in the Masai country again,
living on meat so diseased that it crumbled in the hand like
short-bread.

Gatelaw-bridge Quarry, in Dumfriesshire, is famous for Old Mortality
and Thomson, the latter (when he is at the head of a caravan) being as
hardheaded as if he had been cut out of it. He went to school at
Thornhill, where he spent great part of his time in reading novels, and
then he matriculated at Edinburgh University, where he began to
accumulate medals. Geology and kindred studies were his favorites
there. One day he heard that Keith Johnston, then on the point of
starting for Africa, wanted a lieutenant. Thomson was at that time
equally in need of a Keith Johnston, and everybody who knew him saw
that the opening and he were made for each other. Keith Johnston and
Thomson went out together, and Johnston died in the jungle. This made a
man in an hour of a stripling. Most youths in Thomson's position at
that turning-point of his career would have thought it judicious to
turn back, and in geographical circles it would have been considered
highly creditable had he brought his caravan to the coast intact.
Thomson, however, pushed on, and did everything that his dead leader
had hoped to do. From that time his career has been followed by every
one interested in African exploration, and by his countrymen with some
pride in addition. When an expedition was organized for the relief of
Emin Pacha, there was for a time some probability of Thomson's having
the command.

He and Stanley differed as to the routes that should be taken, and
subsequent events have proved that Thomson's was the proper one.

Thomson came over from Paris at that time to consult with the
authorities, and took up his residence in the most overgrown hotel in
London. His friends here organized an expedition for his relief. They
wandered up and down the endless stairs looking for him, till, had they
not wanted to make themselves a name, they would have beaten a retreat.
He also wandered about looking for them, and at last they met. The
leader of the party, restraining his emotion, lifted his hat, and said,
"Mr. Thomson, I presume?" This is how I found Thomson.

The explorer had been for some months in Paris at that time, and France
did him the honor of translating his "Through Masailand" into French.
In this book there is a picture of a buffalo tossing Thomson in the
air. This was after he had put several bullets into it, and in the
sketch he is represented some ten feet from the ground, with his gun
flying one way and his cap another. "It was just as if I were
distributing largess to the natives," the traveller says now, though
this idea does not seem to have struck him at the time. He showed the
sketch to a Parisian lady, who looked at it long and earnestly. "Ah, M.
Thomson," she said at length, "but how could you pose like that?"

Like a good many other travellers, including Mr. Du Chaillu, who says
he is a dear boy, Thomson does not smoke. Stanley, however, smokes very
strong cigars, as those who have been in his sumptuous chambers in Bond
Street can testify. All the three happen to be bachelors, though;
because, one of them says, after returning from years of lonely travel,
a man has such a delight in female society that to pick and choose
would be invidious. Yet they have had their chance. An African race
once tried to bribe Mr. Du Chaillu with a kingdom and over eight
hundred wives--"the biggest offer," he admits, "I ever had in one day."

Among the lesser annoyances to which Thomson was subjected in Africa
was the presence of rats in the night-time, which he had to brush away
like flies. Until he was asked whether there was not danger in this, it
never seems to have struck him that it was more than annoying. Yet
though he and the two other travellers mentioned (doubtless they are
not alone in this) have put up cheerfully with almost every hardship
known to man, this does not make them indifferent to the comforts of
civilization when they return home. Du Chaillu was looking very
comfortable in a house-boat the other day, where his hosts thought they
were "roughing it"--with a male attendant; and in Stanley's easy-chairs
you sink to dream. The last time I saw Thomson in his rooms in London
he was on his knees, gazing in silent rapture at a china saucer with a
valuable crack in it.

If you ask Thomson what was the most dangerous expedition he ever
embarked on, he will probably reply, "Crossing Piccadilly." The finest
thing that can be said of him is that during these four expeditions he
never once fired a shot at a native. Other explorers have had to do so
to save their lives. There were often occasions when Thomson could have
done it, to save his life to all appearance, too. The result of his
method of progressing is that where he has gone--and he has been in
parts of Africa never before trod by the white man--he really has
"opened up the country" for those who care to follow him. Civilization
by bullet has only closed it elsewhere. Yet though there is an
abundance of Scotch caution about him, he is naturally an impulsive
man, more inclined personally to march straight on than to reach his
destination by a safer if more circuitous route. Where only his own
life is concerned, he gives you the impression of one who might be
rash; but his prudence at the head of a caravan is at the bottom of the
faith that is placed in him. According to a story that got into the
papers years ago, M. de Brazza once quarrelled with Thomson in Africa,
and all but struck him. Thomson was praised for keeping his temper. The
story was a fabrication, but I fear that if M. de Brazza had behaved
like this, Thomson would not have remembered to be diplomatic till
some time afterward. A truer tale might be told of an umbrella,
gorgeous and wonderful to behold, that De Brazza took to Africa to
impress the natives with, and which Thomson subsequently presented to a
dusky monarch.

The explorer has never shot a lion, though he has tracked a good many
of them. Once he thought he had one. It was reclining in a little
grove, and Thomson felt that it was his at last. With a trusty native
he crept forward till he could obtain a good shot, and then fired. In
breathless suspense he waited for its spring, and then when it did not
spring he saw that he had shot it through the heart. However, it turned
out only to be a large stone.

The young Scotchman sometimes thinks of the tremendous effect it would
have had on the natives had he been the possessor of a complete set of
artificial teeth. This is because he has one artificial tooth.
Happening to take it out one day, an awe filled all who saw him, and
from that hour he was esteemed a medicine man. Another excellent way of
impressing Africa with the grandeur of Britain was to take a
photograph. When the natives saw the camera aimed at them, they fell to
the ground vanquished.

When Thomson was recently in this country, he occasionally took a walk
of twenty or thirty miles to give him an appetite for dinner. This he
calls a stroll. One day he strolled from Thornhill to Edinburgh, had
dinner, and then went to the Exhibition. In appearance he is tall and
strongly knit rather than heavily built, and if you see him more than
once in the same week you discover that he has still an interest in
neck-ties. Perhaps his most remarkable feat consisted in taking a
bottle of brandy into the heart of Africa, and bringing it back
intact.



ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON.



X.

ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON.


Some men of letters, not necessarily the greatest, have an
indescribable charm to which we give our hearts. Thackeray is the young
man's first love. Of living authors, none perhaps bewitches the reader
more than Mr. Stevenson, who plays upon words as if they were a musical
instrument. To follow the music is less difficult than to place the
musician. A friend of mine, who, like Mr. Grant Allen, reviews 365
books a year, and 366 in leap years, recently arranged the novelists of
to-day in order of merit. Meredith, of course, he wrote first, and then
there was a fall to Hardy. "Haggard," he explained, "I dropped from the
Eiffel Tower; but what can I do with Stevenson? I can't put him before
'Lorna Doone.'" So Mr. Stevenson puzzles the critics, fascinating them
until they are willing to judge him by the great work he is to write
by and by when the little books are finished. Over "Treasure Island" I
let my fire die in winter without knowing that I was freezing. But the
creator of Alan Breck has now published nearly twenty volumes. It is so
much easier to finish the little works than to begin the great one, for
which we are all taking notes.

Mr. Stevenson is not to be labelled novelist. He wanders the byways of
literature without any fixed address. Too much of a truant to be
classified with the other boys, he is only a writer of fiction in the
sense that he was once an Edinburgh University student because now and
again he looked in at his classes when he happened to be that way. A
literary man without a fixed occupation amazes Mr. Henry James, a
master in the school of fiction which tells, in three volumes, how
Hiram K. Wilding trod on the skirt of Alice M. Sparkins without
anything's coming of it. Mr. James analyzes Mr. Stevenson with immense
cleverness, but without summing up. That "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde"
should be by the author of "Treasure Island," "Virginibus Puerisque"
by the author of "The New Arabian Nights," "A Child's Garden of Verses"
by the author of "Prince Otto," are to him the three degrees of
comparison of wonder, though for my own part I marvel more that the
author of "Daisy Miller" should be Mr. Stevenson's eulogist. One
conceives Mr. James a boy in velveteens looking fearfully at Stevenson
playing at pirates.

There is nothing in Mr. Stevenson's sometimes writing essays, sometimes
romances, and anon poems to mark him versatile beyond other authors.
One dreads his continuing to do so, with so many books at his back,
lest it means weakness rather than strength. He experiments too long;
he is still a boy wondering what he is going to be. With Cowley's
candor he tells us that he wants to write something by which he may be
forever known. His attempts in this direction have been in the nature
of trying different ways, and he always starts off whistling. Having
gone so far without losing himself, he turns back to try another road.
Does his heart fail him, despite his jaunty bearing, or is it because
there is no hurry? Though all his books are obviously by the same hand,
no living writer has come so near fame from so many different sides.
Where is the man among us who could write another "Virginibus
Puerisque," the most delightful volume for the hammock ever sung in
prose? The poems are as exquisite as they are artificial. "Jekyll and
Hyde" is the greatest triumph extant in Christmas literature of the
morbid kind. The donkey on the Cevennes (how Mr. Stevenson belabored
him!) only stands second to the "Inland Voyage." "Kidnapped" is the
outstanding boy's book of its generation. "The Black Arrow" alone, to
my thinking, is second class. We shall all be doleful if a marksman who
can pepper his target with inners does not reach the bull's-eye. But it
is quite time the great work was begun. The sun sinks while the climber
walks round his mountain, looking for the best way up.

Hard necessity has kept some great writers from doing their best work,
but Mr. Stevenson is at last so firmly established that if he
continues to be versatile it will only be from choice. He has attained
a popularity such as is, as a rule, only accorded to classic authors or
to charlatans. For this he has America to thank rather than Britain,
for the Americans buy his books, the only honor a writer's admirers are
slow to pay him. Mr. Stevenson's reputation in the United States is
creditable to that country, which has given him a position here in
which only a few saw him when he left. Unfortunately, with popularity
has come publicity. All day the reporters sit on his garden wall.

No man has written in a finer spirit of the profession of letters than
Mr. Stevenson, but this gossip vulgarizes it. The adulation of the
American public and of a little band of clever literary dandies in
London, great in criticism, of whom he has become the darling, has made
Mr. Stevenson complacent, and he always tended perhaps to be a thought
too fond of his velvet coat. There is danger in the delight with which
his every scrap is now received. A few years ago, when he was his own
severest and sanest critic, he stopped the publication of a book after
it was in proof--a brave act. He has lost this courage, or he would
have rewritten "The Black Arrow." There is deterioration in the essays
he has been contributing to an American magazine, graceful and
suggestive though they are. The most charming of living stylists, Mr.
Stevenson is self-conscious in all his books now and again, but
hitherto it has been the self-consciousness of an artist with severe
critics at his shoulder. It has become self-satisfaction. The critics
have put a giant's robe on him, and he has not flung it off. He
dismisses "Tom Jones" with a simper. Personally Thackeray "scarce
appeals to us as the ideal gentleman; if there were nothing else [what
else is there?], perpetual nosing after snobbery at least suggests the
snob." From Mr. Stevenson one would not have expected the revival of
this silly charge, which makes a cabbage of every man who writes about
cabbages. I shall say no more of these ill-considered papers, though
the sneers at Fielding call for indignant remonstrance, beyond
expressing a hope that they lie buried between magazine covers. Mr.
Stevenson has reached the critical point in his career, and one would
like to see him back at Bournemouth, writing within high walls. We want
that big book; we think he is capable of it, and so we cannot afford to
let him drift into the seaweed. About the writer with whom his name is
so often absurdly linked we feel differently. It is as foolish to rail
at Mr. Rider Haggard's complacency as it would be to blame Christopher
Sly for so quickly believing that he was born a lord.

The key-note of all Mr. Stevenson's writings is his indifference, so
far as his books are concerned, to the affairs of life and death on
which their minds are chiefly set. Whether man has an immortal soul
interests him as an artist not a whit: what is to come of man troubles
him as little as where man came from. He is a warm, genial writer, yet
this is so strange as to seem inhuman. His philosophy is that we are
but as the light-hearted birds. This is our moment of being; let us
play the intoxicating game of life beautifully, artistically, before we
fall dead from the tree. We all know it is only in his books that Mr.
Stevenson can live this life. The cry is to arms; spears glisten in the
sun; see the brave bark riding joyously on the waves, the black flag,
the dash of red color twisting round a mountain-side. Alas! the drummer
lies on a couch beating his drum. It is a pathetic picture, less true
to fact now, one rejoices to know, than it was recently. A common
theory is that Mr. Stevenson dreams an ideal life to escape from his
own sufferings. This sentimental plea suits very well. The noticeable
thing, however, is that the grotesque, the uncanny, holds his soul; his
brain will only follow a colored clew. The result is that he is chiefly
picturesque, and, to those who want more than art for art's sake, never
satisfying. Fascinating as his verses are, artless in the perfection of
art, they take no reader a step forward. The children of whom he sings
so sweetly are cherubs without souls. It is not in poetry that Mr.
Stevenson will give the great book to the world, nor will it, I think,
be in the form of essays. Of late he has done nothing quite so fine as
"Virginibus Puerisque," though most of his essays are gardens in which
grow few weeds. Quaint in matter as in treatment, they are the best
strictly literary essays of the day, and their mixture of tenderness
with humor suggests Charles Lamb. Some think Mr. Stevenson's essays
equal to Lamb's, or greater. To that I say, no. The name of Lamb will
for many a year bring proud tears to English eyes. Here was a man, weak
like the rest of us, who kept his sorrows to himself. Life to him was
not among the trees. He had loved and lost. Grief laid a heavy hand on
his brave brow. Dark were his nights; horrid shadows in the house;
sudden terrors; the heart stops beating waiting for a footstep. At that
door comes Tragedy, knocking at all hours. Was Lamb dismayed? The
tragedy of his life was not drear to him. It was wound round those who
were dearest to him; it let him know that life has a glory even at its
saddest, that humor and pathos clasp hands, that loved ones are drawn
nearer, and the soul strengthened in the presence of anguish, pain, and
death. When Lamb sat down to write, he did not pull down his blind on
all that is greatest, if most awful, in human life. He was gentle,
kindly; but he did not play at pretending that there is no cemetery
round the corner. In Mr. Stevenson's exquisite essays one looks in vain
for the great heart that palpitates through the pages of Charles Lamb.

The great work, if we are not to be disappointed, will be fiction. Mr.
Stevenson is said to feel this himself, and, as I understand, "Harry
Shovel" will be his biggest bid for fame. It is to be, broadly
speaking, a nineteenth-century "Peregrine Pickle," dashed with
Meredith, and this in the teeth of many admirers who maintain that the
best of the author is Scottish. Mr. Stevenson, however, knows what he
is about. Critics have said enthusiastically--for it is difficult to
write of Mr. Stevenson without enthusiasm--that Alan Breck is as good
as anything in Scott. Alan Breck is certainly a masterpiece, quite
worthy of the greatest of all story-tellers, who, nevertheless, it
should be remembered, created these rich side characters by the score,
another before dinner-time. English critics have taken Alan to their
hearts, and appreciate him thoroughly; the reason, no doubt, being that
he is the character whom England acknowledges as the Scottish type. The
Highlands, which are Scotland to the same extent as Northumberland is
England, present such a character to this day, but no deep knowledge of
Mr. Stevenson's native country was required to reproduce him. An
artistic Englishman or American could have done it. Scottish religion,
I think, Mr. Stevenson has never understood, except as the outsider
misunderstands it. He thinks it hard because there are no colored
windows. "The color of Scotland has entered into him altogether," says
Mr. James, who, we gather, conceives in Edinburgh Castle a place where
tartans glisten in the sun, while rocks re-echo bagpipes. Mr. James is
right in a way. It is the tartan, the claymore, the cry that the
heather is on fire, that are Scotland to Mr. Stevenson. But the
Scotland of our day is not a country rich in color; a sombre gray
prevails. Thus, though Mr. Stevenson's best romance is Scottish, that
is only, I think, because of his extraordinary aptitude for the
picturesque. Give him any period in any country that is romantic, and
he will soon steep himself in the kind of knowledge he can best turn to
account. Adventures suit him best, the ladies being left behind; and so
long as he is in fettle it matters little whether the scene be Scotland
or Spain. The great thing is that he should now give to one ambitious
book the time in which he has hitherto written half a dozen small ones.
He will have to take existence a little more seriously--to weave
broadcloth instead of lace.



REV. WALTER C. SMITH, D.D.



XI.

REV. WALTER C. SMITH, D.D.


During the four winters another and I were in Edinburgh, we never
entered any but Free churches. This seems to have been less on account
of a scorn for other denominations than because we never thought of
them. We felt sorry for the "men" who knew no better than to claim to
be on the side of Dr. Macgregor. Even our Free kirks were limited to
two, St. George's and the Free High. After all, we must have been
liberally minded beyond most of our fellows, for, as a rule, those who
frequented one of these churches shook their heads at the other. It is
said that Dr. Whyte and Dr. Smith have a great appreciation of each
other. They, too, are liberally minded.

To contrast the two leading Free Church ministers in Edinburgh as they
struck a student would be to become a boy again. The one is always
ready to go on fire, and the other is sometimes at hand with a jug of
cold water. Dr. Smith counts a hundred before he starts, while the
minister of Free St. George's is off at once at a gallop, and would
always arrive first at his destination if he had not sometimes to turn
back. He is not only a Gladstonian, but Gladstonian; his enthusiasm
carries him on as steam drives the engine. Dr. Smith being a critic,
with a faculty of satire, what would rouse the one man makes the other
smile. Dr. Whyte judges you as you are at the moment; Dr. Smith sees
what you will be like to-morrow. Some years ago the defeated side in a
great Assembly fight met at a breakfast to reason itself into a belief
that it had gained a remarkable moral victory. Dr. Whyte and Dr. Smith
were both present, and the former was so inspiriting that the breakfast
became a scene of enthusiasm. Then Dr. Smith arose and made a remark
about a company of Mark Tapleys--after which the meeting broke up.

I have a curious reminiscence of the student who most frequently
accompanied me to church in Edinburgh. One Sunday when we were on our
way up slushy Bath Street to Free St. George's he discovered that he
had not a penny for the plate. I suggested to him to give twopence next
time; but no, he turned back to our lodgings for the penny. Some time
afterward he found himself in the same position when we were nearing
the Free High. "I'll give twopence next time," he said cheerfully. I
have thought this over since then, and wondered if there was anything
in it.

The most glorious privilege of the old is to assist the young. The two
ministers who are among the chief pillars of the Free Church in
Edinburgh are not old yet, but they have had a long experience, and the
strength and encouragement they have been to the young is the grand
outstanding fact of their ministries. Their influence is, of course,
chiefly noticeable in the divinity men, who make their Bible classes so
remarkable. There is a sort of Freemasonry among the men who have come
under the influence of Dr. Smith. It seems to have steadied them--to
have given them wise rules of life that have taken the noise out of
them, and left them undemonstrative, quiet, determined. You will have
little difficulty, as a rule, in picking out Dr. Smith's men, whether
in the pulpit or in private. They have his mark, as the Rugby boys were
marked by Dr. Arnold. Even in speaking of him, they seldom talk in
superlatives: only a light comes into their eye, and you realize what a
well-founded reverence is. I met lately in London an Irishman who, when
the conversation turned to Scotland, asked what Edinburgh was doing
without Dr. Smith (who was in America at the time). He talked with such
obvious knowledge of Dr. Smith's teaching, and with such affection for
the man, that by and by we were surprised to hear that he had never
heard him preach nor read a line of his works. He explained that he
knew intimately two men who looked upon their Sundays in the Free High,
and still more upon their private talks with the minister, as the
turning-point in their lives. They were such fine fellows, and they
were so sure that they owed their development to Dr. Smith, that to
know the followers was to know something of the master. This it is to
be a touchstone to young men.

There are those who think Dr. Smith the poet of higher account than Dr.
Smith the preacher. I do not agree with them, though there can be no
question that the author of "Olrig Grange" and Mr. Alexander Anderson
are the two men now in Edinburgh who have (at times) the divine
afflatus. "Surfaceman" is a true son of Burns. Of him it may be said,
as it never can be said of Dr. Smith, that he sings because he must.
His thoughts run in harmonious numbers. The author of "Olrig Grange" is
the stronger mind, however, and his lines are always pregnant of
meaning. He is of the school of Mr. Lewis Morris, but an immeasurably
higher intellect if not so fine an artist: indeed, though there are
hundreds of his pages that are not poetry, there are almost none that
could not be rewritten into weighty prose. Sound is never his sole
object. Good novels in verse are a mistake, for it is quite certain
they would be better in prose. The novelist has a great deal to say
that cannot be said naturally in rhythm, and much of Dr. Smith's blank
verse is good prose in frills. It is driven into an undeserved
confinement.

The privilege of critics is to get twelve or twenty minor poets in a
row, and then blow them all over at once. I remember one who despatched
Dr. Smith with a verse from the book under treatment. Dr. Smith writes
of a poet's verses, "There is no sacred fire in them, Nor much of
homely sense and shrewd;" and when the critic came to these lines he
stopped reading: he declared that Dr. Smith had passed judgment on
himself. This is a familiar form of criticism, but in the present case
it had at least the demerit of being false. There is so much sacred
fire about Dr. Smith's best poetry that it is what makes him a poet;
and as for "homely sense and shrewd," he has simply more of it than any
contemporary writer of verse. It is what gives heart to his satire, and
keeps him from wounding merely for the pleasure of drawing blood. In
conjunction with the sacred fire, the noble indignation that mean
things should be, the insight into the tragic, it is what makes "Hilda"
his greatest poem. Without it there could not be pathos, which is
concerned with little things; nor humor, nor, indeed, the flash into
men and things that makes such a poem as "Dr. Linkletter's Scholar" as
true as life, as sad as death. If only for the sake of that noble piece
of writing, every Scottish student should have "North-Country Folk" in
his possession. The poem is probably the most noteworthy thing that has
been said of northern university life.



       *       *       *       *       *



Transcriber's note:

Minor punctuation errors were corrected.

The following typographical errors were corrected:

Page 50: Changed Calderwod to Calderwood.

Page 111: Changed civiliaztion to civilization.

Page 128: Changed litle to little.





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