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the family of the Latouches, which had a soul superior to the rest of mankind; the second was Richmond the dancing-master, who was famous in Dublin for the capture of burglars. This toast he would preface with the words: "I give you the health of a hero, Richmond the dancing-master.' With Skelton's approval he must needs have been a hero, and at least he professed an art which the parson practised with skill and sympathy. But Skelton's familiar discourse was always free, and never smacked of his cloth. To a girl who came to him for counsel he exclaimed: "Marry a soldier, my girl, for you will find more honest soldiers than honest parsons." When a gentleman of Fermanagh told him that he expected to represent the county in Parliament, "Ay," he said, with a directness worthy of the Doctor, "they are all a parcel of rascals, and a rascal is fittest to represent them." Yet in spite of his energy and strength he suffered from the horrors, like Borrow and many another strong and energetic man. In his own thought, he trembled for fifty years upon the brink of the grave. He would rise at night to rush in timid search for a doctor, and half an hour's jogging on horseback would restore him to confidence. His parishioners, sympathetic in most things, tired of this perpetual anxiety, and one among them, bolder than the rest, said, "Make a day, sir, and keep it, and don't be always disappointing us. But he refused to make a day, and disappointed



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them until he was past eighty and the pompous prebendary of Donacavey. Moreover, he had a simple faith in omens and dreams. Once upon a time a great lady fell in love with him, and offered him the tutelage of her sons, as a step to matrimony. Although perplexed, he might have looked upon the suit with favour, but in the night “he saw the appearance of a wigblock, which, rising by degrees out of the floor of the room, and then moving back and forward, said in a solemn voice: 'Beware of what you are about." He did beware, and procured the appointment for a friend. The lady married her tutor in two years; "in half a year after," says Skelton, "she cuckhold him, and then I saw her with my eyes a beastly drunkard." Truly the wig-block gave a just and timely warning.

Such was the man whom Burdy drew, and in drawing Skelton he perforce drew himself. So he is revealed to us a simple friend and faithful biographer. His own career, as we have said, was merely commonplace. He attempted, ineffectually, to marry Bishop Percy's daughter, and he printed a volume of poems, one of which boasted the ingenious title: "On being refused the Loan of an Umbrella by a certain Lady." But the work of his life was Skelton's biography, and it is a curiosity of literature that, while Burdy and Boswell were inspired by a similar talent, they were working at the same time, and that their masterpieces were published within the limit of a single year.

3 M


OH, maybe it was yesterday, or fifty years ago!
Meself was risin' early on a day for cuttin' rushes;
Walkin' up the Brabla' burn, still the sun was low,

Now I'd hear the burn run an' then I'd hear the thrushes. Young, still young!-an' drenchin' wet the grass,

Wet the golden honeysuckle hangin' sweetly down;

Here, lad, here! will ye follow where I pass,

An' find me cuttin' rushes on the mountain.

Then was it only yesterday, or fifty years or so?

Rippin' round the bog pools high among the heather,

The hook it made me hand sore, I had to lave it go; "Twas he that cut the rushes then for me to bind together. Come, dear, come !-an' back along the burn

See the darlin' honeysuckle hangin' like a crown. Quick, one kiss! Sure, there' some one at the turn! "Oh, we're afther cuttin' rushes on the mountain."

Yesterday, yesterday, or fifty years ago

I waken out o' dreams when I hear the summer thrushes. Oh, that's the Brabla' burn, I can hear it sing an' flow,

For all that's fair, I'd sooner see a bunch o' green rushes. Run, burn, run! Can ye mind when we were young? The honeysuckle hangs above, the pool is dark an' brown: Sing, burn, sing! Can ye mind the song ye sung

The day we cut

the rushes on the mountain?



AN autobiography, or a confidential diary, affords an opportunity for the display of many attractive and engaging qualities. It may be instructive,

amusing, and ingenious. It may contain interesting facts not hitherto revealed to the world, or valuable judgments passed by the writer upon his contemporaries, or vivid descriptions of choses vues. But there is one virtue without the presence of which all other excellences are as naught, and that virtue is candour. Any attempt to pose, any tendency to strike an attitude, is fatal. It is notorious how apt autobiographers are to be lacking in this one essential. In analysing his own character

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other fellow" (to wit himself), as Laurence Lockhart used to say-a man, consciously or unconsciously, sets down what he desires to set down. In discussing the motives which prompted a particular action, he colours his picture with tints borrowed from subsequent experience and reflection. Thus he never comes to close quarters with his readers, who are quick to detect the ring of insincerity. Whatever merits or defects this remarkable volume1 may possess, no one can deny its absolute straightforwardness. You feel instinctively that the writer is in good faith; and, whether approve or disapprove,



whether you censure or plaud, you cannot help acknowledging the frankness of the record. Not one line is written for mere effect; not one sentence but is stamped with the unmistakable hall-mark of the writer's mind and heart.

Mrs Oliphant had originally designed her autobiography for a legacy to her sons; but after their death she continued the work, avowedly with a view to posthumous publication.

"How strange it is to me," she exeffort of making light reading of it, claims, "to write all this with the and putting in anecdotes that will do to quote in the papers and make the It is a sober narrative book sell!

enough, heaven knows! and when I wrote it for my Cecco [her younger son] to read, it was all very different; but now that I am doing it consciously for the public, with the aim (no evil aim) of leaving a little more money, I feel all this to be so vulgar, so common, so unnecessary, as if I were making pennyworths of myself."

It is difficult to believe that the narrative could have been more free from affectation and pretence, more open and more intimate, if the original purpose of the writer had not been altered by the crushing blow which made her once happy home "empty, cold, and silent," and left her waiting, longing, in earnest expectation, for "the one event to come, which will, I hope and believe, do away with all the suffering past, and

Arranged and

1 The Autobiography and Letters of Mrs M. O. W. Oliphant. Edited by Mrs Harry Coghill. William Blackwood & Sons, Edinburgh and

London: 1899.

carry me back a happy woman to my family." We will not call this book a human document; we will not say that it echoes with the true cri du cœur. Such phraseology would have moved Mrs Oliphant to just indignation and disgust. She detested all cant, and none more than that of introspection-the jargon of the "psychologues." But here is, no question, that combination of qualities which those slang terms so inadequately express. He who seeks an elaborate exposition of changes of belief -a pompous recital of how a first reading of Hegel made the writer think this, and a prolonged study of Mr Herbert Spencer made her think that will, indeed, go empty away. Those who care for complacent whimperings over the loss of a creed never seriously held, or who love the lucubrations of such as brood, with a self-pitying, self-satisfied melancholy, upon the ruins of a faith which has yielded to the "pressure of the German historical movement (Mesopotamic phrase!) such persons may be directed to go elsewhere. To them this must needs appear the eminently "prosaic little narrative" which Mrs Oliphant avows it to be. But over the more ordinary members of the human race, who have little taste for reasoning high on such matters, it will cast an irresistible spell. Its power and attraction are not to be gauged by mere extracts. It must be read as a whole the correspondence (so admirably selected and arranged by Mrs Coghill) illustrating Mrs

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Oliphant's own story; and, so read, it cannot, we should imagine, appeal in vain to any save the most stolid or the most supercilious of mankind.

Mrs Oliphant's was not a life of incident or adventure. Chance brought her acquainted with a certain number of celebrities, and made her intimate with a very few; but she was no lion-hunter, and she admits, with great good-humour and enjoyment, the justice of the complaint made by a Jewish patroness of the fine arts, who used to ask her to her parties, that "she never did herself any ustice" in general society. Her father had a small place in the Customs; his means permitted him to live only in the quietest way; and he nourished a strong and ever-growing dislike to the company of people outside his family circle. Hence, though by no means bred in a "mental greenhouse" (for her mother seems to have been a typical Scotswoman of the best school) Margaret Wilson's sole amusement in youth was found in books, newspapers, and magazines; and hence, no doubt, the habit of writing, which she formed early in life, became to her almost a second nature. "I always disliked paying visits," she says, "and felt myself a fish out of water when I was not in my own house.” During the last thirty years of her life, when her position in the world of letters was assured, she resided principally at Windsor, and this effectually precluded the possibility of dining-out in London. Luncheons and afternoon parties in

town were, of course, practicable, and these she sometimes attended, much against her will. In spite, however, of her distaste for the commerce of society, she had considerable knowledge of the world, acquired, no doubt, partly from natural shrewdness, and partly from frequent travel. That she was a keen judge of character the present volume alone makes abundantly plain. She possessed the faculty of making people talk, and with it (one may conjecture) the more dangerous art of "pulling people's legs," as it is elegantly termed nowadays. True, she repudiates with some warmth the impeachment of having been " a student of human nature," or of having acted as a spy upon her friends in any way. But, both in the autobiography and in the letters, there are thumbnail sketches which disclose the same gifts of observation and humour as characterise her best novels. Such a sketch, for example, is her account of Mrs Duncan Stewart's entertainments in Sloane Street, or her description of the people whom she came across when in pursuit of information about Edward Irving-people who were eager to impart much, if not all, about themselves, but were quite oblivious of the object of her inquiries. There are also many charming vignettes of men and women of Mr Story, now Principal of Glasgow University, of the Tullochs, of Montalembert, of John Ruffini, of Mr and Mrs Blackett, of Robert Macpherson and his wife, of Lord Tennyson, and,

above all, of Miss Isabella Blackwood, a constant correspondent and intimate friend of Mrs Oliphant's, and a woman of singular ability. The picture of the Carlyles, "that much maligned and much misunderstood pair," is charming. From the Sage she received nothing but "perfect courtesy and kindness. He praised her 'Life of Edward Irving' in very handsome terms-terms so gratifying that, as she writes herself to Mr John Blackwood, "for the space of a night and a day I was uplifted and lost my head." "I was never more delighted with any man," she continues; "I am ready henceforth to stand up for all those peculiarities which other people think defects, and to do battle for him whenever I hear him assailed." To his wife Mrs Oliphant became strongly attached, recognising in her something of the strong sense and ready wit which had distinguished her own mother. But admirable as these interludes are, and excellent as are the anecdotes (not "put in to quote in the papers") with which many of the letters are enlivened, it is upon Mrs Oliphant's own personality that the interest is chiefly concentrated, and it is the development of her character that the reader watches most attentively.

Mrs Oliphant was born on the 10th of June 1828, and was married on the 4th of May 1852. On the morning of her marriage she received the proofsheets of Katie Stewart': an outward and visible sign, as it were, of the beginning of a con

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