« AnteriorContinuar »
election, but before he had learned its result—" It your efforts have been exerted for an unsuccessful candidate, they will not be forgotten-for we have perished in light!”
He was elected on the 8th of July by a majority of two votes;* and a few days after, the Senate of the University unanimously passed a vote of thanks to Dr Baird for bringing his pretensions before the patrons, conferring, at the same time, the degree of Doctor of Divinity upon their new associate. But all these honours came only to make the setting of the luminary more bright. On the 31st of October, Dr Murray entered upon the discharge of his public duties, in a weak state of health, but with an ardour in which all weakness was forgotten. Although declining in strength every day, he continued to teach his classes during the winter, persevering in the preparation and delivery of a course of most learned lectures on oriental literature, which were attended by crowded and admiring audiences; and even carrying an elementary work through the press for the use of his students. A new impression of his edition of Bruce's Travels also appeared in the beginning of February. Engaged in these labours, he could not be persuaded that he was so ill as he really was; and when Mrs Murray, who had been left behind him at Urr, urged him to permit her to come to town, it was with difficulty that he was at last brought to consent to her joining him on the 16th of April. Fortunately, her affection and her fears impelled her to set out on her journey a few days earlier than the appointed time, and she arrived in Edinburgh on the 13th. She found her husband surrounded by his books and papers,
and engaged in dictating to an amanuensis.
But life was
* of twenty-eight members of the Town-Council who voted, fifteen voted for Murray, and thirteen for his opponent.
now ebbing rapidly. He retired that evening to the bed from which he never rose; and before the close of another day he was among the dead.
Thus perished in his thirty-eighth year one who, if he had lived longer, would probably have reared for himself many trophies, and extended the bounds of human learning. His ambition had always been to perform in the field to which he more especially dedicated his powers, something worthy of remembrance; and his latter years had been given to the composition of a work' (his History of European Languages already mentioned)—which, if time had been allowed to finish it, would unquestionably have formed a splendid monument of his ingenuity and learning. It has been published since his death, in so far as it could be recovered from his manuscripts; and although, probably, very far from what it would have been had he lived to arrange and complete it, is still a wonderful display of erudition, and an important contribution to philological literature.
Of Murray's short life scarcely half was passed amidst those opportunities which usually lead to study and the acquisition of knowledge. The earlier portion of it was a continued struggle with every thing that tends most to repress intellectual exertion, and to extinguish the very desire of learning. Yet in all the poverty and the many other difficulties and discouragements with which he had for his first eighteen years to contend, he went on pursuing his work of self-cultivation, not only as eagerly and steadily, but almost as successfully as he afterwards did when surrounded by all the accommodations of study. It is a lesson that ought to teach us how independent the mind really is of circumstances, which tyrannize over us chiefly through our habits of submission, and by terrifying us with a mere show of unconquerable resistance.
The worst are gene
rally more formidable in their appearance than in their reality, and when courageously attacked are more than half overcome. Had there been any obstacles of a nature sufficient to check the onward course of this enterprising and extraordinary boy, how often would he have been turned back in the noble career upon which he had entered!
But one after another, as they met him, he set his foot upon and crushed; and at last, after years of patient, solitary, unremitting labour, and of hoping almost against possibility, he was rewarded with all he had wished and toiled for.
Self-tuition. Shakspeare: Burns.
It is an interesting train of reflection which is excited by the fact, first noticed, we believe, by Mr. Malone, that the father of SHAKSPEARE could not write his own name, a cross remaining to this day as his mark or signature in the records of the town of Stratford-upon-Avon, of which he was an alder
Had the great dramatist himself been born half a century earlier, he probably might have lived and died as ignorant as his father appears to have been ; and a few rudely scrawled crosses might have been the only efforts in the art of writing of that hand to which we owe so many an immortal page. That Shakspeare's own education, however, embraced at least English reading and writing, there can be no doubt.. Dr Farmer, in a well-known essay, distinguished by its ingenuity and learning, has attempted to shew that he never had acquired any knowledge of the ancient languages, and owed his acquaintance with classical literature entirely to translations. Perhaps in this the learned critic goes a little too far. Shakspeare was evidently a great reader, for his poetry abounds with allusions, more or less accurate, to all the learning of his age, of which not even the most curious and abstruse departments seem to have escaped his attention. Of this
any one may convince himself merely by perusing a few pages of the elaborate commentaries that have been written upon his works, and observing how the erudition of succeeding times has exhausted itself, sometimes in vain, in attempting to pursue the excursive range of his memory and his fancy. It
be coriceded, however, that his native tongue was probably the only one which he read with much facility, and that to it he was indebted for nearly all he knew. And it is not to be overlooked, that in writing his plays, in particular, it was probably deliberately, and upon system, that he preferred taking his version of the ancient story rather from the English translation than from the original author. In those days, translations from the ancient tongues appear to have formed, in this country, no small part of the reading of the people, as the numerous performances of this kind which were produced within a few years, some of them by the ablest writers of the time, and the rapid succession of editions of several of them with which the press teemed, may serve to testify. Now it would seem to have been a maxim with Shakspeare always to give his auditors the story which was most familiar to them and with which they had been longest acquainted, rather than one, the novelty of which they would not so easily comprehend, or with which their old impressions and affections were not so likely to sympathise. Hence although the most original of all writers in every thing else, he seldom has recourse to his own invention for the plot or story of his drama, but seizes merely upon the popular tale.
Several peculiarities in his style would rather indicate that he knew something, at least, of the vocabulary of the Latin language, and its common forms of phraseology ; or about as much as is retained of their school learning by the greater number of those who study the ancient tongues in their youth. This perhaps is, after all, the view of the matter most consistent with the expression of his friend, Ben Johnson, who, in the verses he has written to his memory, represents