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He was born in 1742, the son of the tenth Earl of Buchan and Agnes, daughter of Sir James Steuart of Coltness. The poverty of his family must have been great, though Lord Campbell, in his 'Lives of the Chancellors,' seems to have exaggerated. As a child, judging from his later character, he must have been an intolerable prig. He picked up his education at random, partly under a private tutor, partly at the universities of Glasgow and Leyden. At Glasgow he was the pupil of Foulis the printer, where he added etching and designing to his already numerous hobbies. But we know little of those early years. The family seem to have kept to themselves in their poverty, and the most we hear of the boy is in a charming letter from his younger brother, Thomas Erskine, at St Andrews, who writes with a simplicity and vigour which the head of the house would have done well to imitate.

ness, which redeems him from of his rank. It would ill beinsignificance, and gives the come him, he said, to serve story of his life the quaintness under Sir James Gray, who of a moral fable. was only a baronet. Dr Johnson once applauded this folly. "Sir, had he gone secretary while his inferior was ambassador, he would have been a traitor to his rank and his family." But it may very well be that he was traduced, for at that time his thoughts were far above mundane rank. The family had removed to Bath, and the old Earl had become a Methodist. The young Cardross followed his father's example, and for a time was the darling of devout ladies. The Erskine stock had before this bred a religious enthusiast. His great-great-grandfather had suffered in the Covenanting cause, and Ralph and Ebenezer Erskine, those pioneers of Nonconformity, were far-away cousins. In Edinburgh his mother had given him a strict Presbyterian up-bringing, and now at Bath a bevy of pious women of the Lady Huntingdon school hailed him as a youthful Timothy. After his father's death in 1767 he had "the courage to make public profession of his opinions, which drew upon him the laugh and lash of all the witlings of the Rooms." Three ministers were nominated as his chaplains, and one wonders if the poor gentlemen were paid. But the dévot was not the part which he aspired long to play, and with his return to Scotland, we find that the secular speedily triumphs over the religious.

At Leyden he had met Lord Chatham, and struck up a friendship with him. Meantime he failed to gain a commission in the Guards, and served for a few years in the 32nd Cornwall regiment of foot. In 1766 Chatham offered to make him secretary to the Embassy at Lisbon (a post which, two years later, was given to the future Lord Malmesbury), but he is said to have declined it on the ground

For the rest of his long life Buchan was content to remain

a Scots magnate and confine his energies to his own corner of the land. At first he lived in Edinburgh at a house in St Andrew Square; but in 1786 he bought the estate of Dryburgh and retired to Tweedside. His ambition was to be a Scots Mæcenas, and for this he must have his country villa. Here he filled the part of a great man in retreat, cultivating his hobbies, maintaining a huge correspondence, and issuing now and then to patronise Edinburgh society. To begin with, he was wretchedly poor; but by a parsimony which seems scarcely indigenous to his nature, he paid off his father's debts and raised his own income in half a century from £200 to £2000.


The habit of economy in time became disease, and the "Maecenas à bon marché," as Scott called him, won a reputation for meanness. Yet the quality hardly deserves the name, for it was far indeed from ordinary avarice. He had in the highest degree the instinct of spending; he loved to figure as a philanthropist ; but he must do everything with a stint and get the best value for his money. He is the opposite of Aristotle's Magnificent Man, for he spoils his parade of magnanimity by a comic littleness in its details. He would encourage the humanities, so he presented a silver pen for competition among the students in Aberdeen. The unhappy boys were to be examined all night, and the happy winner was not to receive the pen, but merely

have his name inscribed on a small medallion to be hung on the prize.

His home was Scotland, and he affected a patriotism; but he was too great for a province, and must needs be a citizen of the world. If we are to believe his letters, his countrymen, like the inhabitants of Tomi to Ovid, were not altogether to his liking.

"I have been ungenerously requited by my countrymen," he wrote, "for endeavouring to make them happier and more respectable. This

is the common lot of men who have a spirit above that of the age and country in which they act, and I appeal to posterity for my vindication. I would have passed my time much more agreeably among Englishmen, whose character I preferred to that of my own countryman-in a charming country too, where my alliance with the noblest and best families in it, and my political sentiments, would have added much to my domestic, as well as civil, enjoyments; but I chose rather to forgo my own happiness for the improvement of my native country, and expect hereafter that the children of those who have not known me, or received me as they ought to have done, will express their concern and blush on account of the conduct of their parents."

And he concludes in proud Latin:

"Præclara conscientia igitur sustentor, cum cogito me de republica aut meruisse quum potuerim, aut certe nunquam nisi divine cogitasse."

The Buchan family was Whig, and in this poor nobleman was a strain of genuine Radical independence, which in his greater brothers made the Lord Chancellor Erskine the friend of the Revolution and the foe of prerogative, and Harry Erskine the "advocate of the people."

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He did his best to reform the method of electing Scots peers, and in 1780 published a "Speech intended to be spoken at the Meeting of the Peers for Scotland for the General Election of their Representatives, in which a plan is proposed for the better Representation of the Peerage of Scotland." His thoughts on the matter seem indeed to have wavered. Sometimes he pleases to talk of himself as a "discarded courtier with a little estate." He apologises for not making more of his "insatiable thirst of knowledge and genius prone to the splendid sciences and the fine arts by calling himself "a nobleman, a piece of ornamental china, as it were." But he claimed kinship with Washington, whom he called "the American Buchan,' and sent him a snuff-box made from the oak which sheltered Wallace after the battle of Falkirk. In return Washington sent him his portrait, and "accepted the significant present of the box with sensibility and satisfaction." An intense pride in his own order and his long descent was joined with a contempt for others of the same persuasion. "I dined two days ago tête-à-tête with Lord Buchan," writes Scott. "Heard a history of all his ancestors, whom he has hung round his . chimney-piece. From counting of pedigrees, good Lord deliver us!" But he had also not a little of the proud humility of his brother the Chancellor, who, when a young man, used to declare, "Thank fortune, out of my own family, I don't know a lord!"

The first and most earnest of the Earl's hobbies was the cultivation of his own domains. He published in the 'Bee' some curious essays on the art of idleness, in which the hero is invariably a gentleman of good family, who, after racketing in town, repents of his ways, and returns to respectability and agriculture. From the world of Brooks' and Almack's our hero flies to the planting of timber and the culture of fruittrees, till "he becomes so much master of the principles, practice, and duties of husbandry, that he is soon able to originate and direct in all the operations, as the paterfamilias of Columella, and becomes quite independent of his land-steward, bailiffs, and old experienced servants." He has essays on country life, with a far-away hint of Gilbert White, essays in an absurd rococo style, but now and then full of real observation and genuine feeling. One piece, "To the daughters of Sophia on the Dawning of Spring," begins: "Alathea, Isabella, Sophia, my dear girls, the daughters of my dearest friends! the delightful season of verdure is come. Rise up, my fair ones, and come away; for, lo! the winter is past, the rain is over and gone, the flowers appear on the earth, the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in the land." Then comes a vivid little piece of genre painting, though to be sure the style is execrable, and the essay concludes with a kind of farmer's diary, exactly in the Selborne manner. His "Letters in imita

tion of the Ancients" have the same honest country note amid their sham classicalism. Dryburgh and Melrose and the Eildons are strangely unrecognisable, but the good Tweedside birds and flowers and skies are there, though he calls a planting a "vernal thicket," and the Cheviots" undulatory forms of mountain."

After agriculture, antiquities were his special province. In 1780 he founded the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland at a meeting held in the house in St Andrew Square. The first idea was a sort of Académie Ecossaise, to be called the Caledonian Temple of Fame, which, through a complex system of balloting, was to canonise the names of famous Scots, living or dead. The University authorities and the Advocates' Library saw their occupation gone, and opposed the petition for a royal charter of incorporation; but the charter was granted through Buchan's influence at Court. The Earl's own antiquarian studies are numerous a memoir of Sir James Steuart Denham, an account of the parish of Uphall, an account of the Abbey of Dryburgh in Grose's 'Antiquities, and sketches of George Heriot, Lord Mar, the son of the Regent, and Drummond of Hawthornden. He kept up a lengthy correspondence on antiquarian matters with Nichols, and sent him "Some Remarks on the Progress of the Roman Arms in Scotland during the Sixth Campaign of Africanus," which was published in vol. xxxv. of

the 'Topographia Britannica. Sometimes the poor man was sadly duped. John Clerk of Eldin had a great passion for curiosities, and his unprincipled son, who was afterwards the famous judge, used to amuse himself with manufacturing mutilated heads, which he buried in the ground. Then some time or other they would be accidentally discovered, and added to the ancestral museum. In an evil hour Lord Buchan came along, saw one of the heads, and, filled with admiration, carried it off and presented it to his new Society. It is said that it remained for long in the collection of that excellent body.

But while he valued his agricultural and antiquarian achievements at their proper worth, it was as a patron of letters that my Lord hoped to appeal to the admiration of posterity.

His was the task to bring forth retiring merit and to seal the fame of the great with his approbation. He appointed himself the special trumpeter of the poet Thomson, and he would fain have done the same for Burns and Scott. He erected at Dryburgh an Ionic temple, with a statue of Apollo inside and a bust of Thomson on the dome; and in 1791 he instituted an annual festival in commemoration of the poet, at which he solemnly crowned his bust with a wreath of bays. He asked Burns to attend, but the poet was harvesting, and sent a frigid Sixth frigid "Address to the Shade of Thomson," in imitation of Collins. Buchan distinguished

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The unveiling was disastrous.

'To whom hae much, more shall be The Earl appeared before


Is every great man's faith; But he, the helpless, needful wretch, Shall lose the mite he hath."

Which is perhaps scarcely fair, for in all Buchan's folly there was little of this vulgarity. The Erskines had learned the lessons of adversity too well in their own lives to be mere patrons of success. Later Burns seems to have forgot his bitterness, for he sends a copy of "Scots Wha Hae," and a respectful and somewhat dithyrambic letter on the beauties of liberty-which must indeed have charmed our gentleman's heart, -for such fine sentiments were meat and drink to the dilettante Radical. When the poet died the Earl added his bust (in Parian marble!) to his Ionic temple.

His essays in statuary were not all equally fortunate. The worst performance was the erection of a colossal statue of Wallace on a bank above the Tweed on the anniversary day of Stirling Bridge, a mon

the statue with his speech in his hand and destiny on his brow; and at the discharge of a cannon the curtain was dropped. But to the horror of the honest enthusiast and the delight of the audience, the peerless knight of Ellerslie was revealed smoking a huge German tobacco - pipe, which some humourist had stuck in his mouth.


His relations with Sir Walter extended over many years, and were on the whole the most pleasing we have to record. Once, when he examined a High School class, he praised the young Scott's recitation, which the poet remembered to the end as the first commendation he ever received. 1819, when Scott lay seriously ill, Buchan hurried to the house in Castle Street, found the knocker tied up, and concluded that the great man was on the point of death. He succeeded in elbowing his way upstairs to the sick chamber, and was only dissuaded from entering by a shove downstairs from

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