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MISCHIEF OF EARLY VOWS, OR PLEDges.
vented by this imaginary engagement from doing many other things which he could have done with success and alacrity-some one of which it is probable, and all of which it is nearly certain, would have done him more credit, and been of more service to the world, than any constrained and distressful completion he could in any case have given to the other. For our own parts we have already said that we do not think that any man, whatever his gifts and attainments may be, is really bound in duty to leave an excellent Book to posterity; or is liable to any reproach for not having chosen to be an author. But, at all events, we are quite confident that he can be under no obligation to make himself unhappy in trying to make such a book: And that as soon as he finds the endeavour painful and depressing, he will do well, both for himself and for others, to give up the undertaking, and let his talents and sense of duty take a course more likely to promote, both his own enjoyment and their ultimate reputation.
THE following brief notices, of three lamented and honoured Friends, certainly were not contributed to the Edinburgh Review: But, as I am not likely ever to appear again as an author, I have been tempted to include them in this publication-chiefly, I fear, from a fond desire to associate my humble name with those of persons so amiable and distinguished :—But partly also, from an opinion, which has been frequently confirmed to me by those most competent to judge—that, imperfect as these sketches are, they give a truer and more graphic view of the manners, dispositions, and personal characters of the eminent individuals concerned than is yet to be found-or now likely to be furnished, from any other quarter.
(From the "Edinburgh Courant" Newspaper of the 16th of October, 1817.)
THE HONOURABLE HENRY ERSKINE.
DIED, at his seat of Ammondell, Linlithgowshire, on the 8th instant, in the 71st year of his age, the Honourable Henry Erskine, second son of the late Henry David, Earl of Buchan.
Mr. Erskine was called to the Scottish Bar, of which he was long the brightest ornament, in the year 1768, and was for several years Dean of the Faculty of Advocates: He was twice appointed Lord Advocate,-in 1782 and in 1806, under the Rockingham and the Grenville administrations. During the years 1806 and 1807 he sat in Parliament for the Dunbar and Dumfries district of boroughs.
In his long and splendid career at the bar, Mr. Erskine was distinguished not only by the peculiar brilliancy of his wit, and the gracefulness, ease, and vivacity of his eloquence, but by the still rarer power of keeping those seducing qualities in perfect subordination to his judgment. By their assistance he could not only make the most repulsive subject agreeable, but the most abstruse easy and intelligible. In his profession, indeed, all his wit was argument; and each of his delightful illustrations a material step in his reasoning. To himself, indeed, it seemed always as if they were recommended rather for their use than their beauty, and unquestionably they often enabled him to state a fine argument, or a nice distinction, not only in a more striking and pleasing way, but actually with greater precision than could have been attained by the severer forms of reasoning.
HONOURABLE HENRY ERSKINE.
In this extraordinary talent, as well as in the charming facility of his eloquence, and the constant radiance of good humour and gaiety which encircled his manner of debate, he had no rival in his own times, and as yet has had no successor. That part of eloquence is now mute-that honour in abeyance.
As a politician, he was eminently distinguished for the two great virtues of inflexible steadiness to his principles, and invariable gentleness and urbanity in his manner of asserting them. Such indeed was the habitual sweetness of his temper, and the fascination of his manners, that, though placed by his rank and talents in the obnoxious station of a Leader of opposition, at a period when political animosities were carried to a lamentable height, no individual, it is believed, was ever known to speak or to think of him with any thing approaching to personal hostility. In return, it may be said, with equal correctness, that, though baffled in some of his pursuits, and not quite handsomely disappointed of some of the honours to which his claim was universally admitted, he never allowed the slightest shade of discontent to rest upon his mind, nor the least drop of bitterness to mingle with his blood. He was so utterly incapable of rancour, that even the rancorous felt that he ought not to be made its victim.
He possessed, in an eminent degree, that deep sense of revealed religion, and that zealous attachment to the Presbyterian establishment, which had long been hereditary in his family. His habits were always strictly moral and temperate, and in the latter part of his life even abstemious. Though the life and ornament of every society into which he entered, he was always most happy and most delightful at home; where the buoyancy of his spirit and the kindness of his heart found all that they required of exercise or enjoyment; and though without taste for expensive pleasures in his own person, he was ever most indulgent and munificent to his children, and a liberal benefactor to all who depended on his bounty.
He finally retired from the exercise of that profession,
the highest honours of which he had at least deserved, about the year 1812, and spent the remainder of his days in domestic retirement, at that beautiful villa which had been formed by his own taste, and in the improvement and adornment of which he found his latest occupation. Passing thus at once from all the bustle and excitement of a public life to a scene of comparative inactivity, he never felt one moment of ennui or dejection; but retained unimpaired, till within a day or two of his death, not only all his intellectual activity and social affections, but, when not under the immediate affliction of a painful and incurable disease, all that gaiety of spirit, and all that playful and kindly sympathy with innocent enjoyment, which made him the idol of the young, and the object of cordial attachment and unenvying admiration to his friends of all ages.