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In pensive mood, with awful tread I come,
Though dormant lie the honours, once our boast,
By Time's strong hand impell'd, forsake their course;
Oh! if He wisdom give, I'll ne'er complain
R. V. S.
JOHN LEYDEN, M.D.
THE HE subject of the present brief memorial will be long distinguished among those whom the elasticity and ardour of genius have raised to distinction from an obscure and humble origin. John Leyden was descended from a family of small farmers, long settled upon the estate of Cavers, in the vale of Teviot, a few miles from Hawick. He loved to mention some traditional rhymes, which one of his ancestors had composed, and to commemorate the prowess of another, who had taken arms with the insurgent Cameronians, about the time of the Revolution, and who distinguished himself by his gallantry at the defence of the church-yard of Dunkeld, 21st August 1689, against a superior body of Highlanders, when Colonel Cleland, the leader of these rustic enthusiasts, was slain at their head. John Leyden, residing in the village of Denholm, and parish of Cavers, Roxburghshire, and Isabella Scott, his wife, were the parents of Dr Leyden, and still survive to deplore the irreparable loss of a son,
the honour alike of his family and country. Their irreproachable life, and simplicity of manners, recommended them to the respect and kindness of their neighbours, and to the protection of the family of Mr Douglas of Cavers, upon whose estate they resided.
John Leyden, so eminent for the genius which he displayed, and the extensive knowledge which he accumulated during his brief career, was born at Denholm, on 8th September 1775, and bred up, like other children in the same humble line of life, to such country labour as suited his strength.
"About a year after his birth," says his relative and biographer, Mr Morton, "his parents removed to Henlawshiel, a lonely cottage, about three miles from Denholm, on the farm of Nether Tofts, which was then held by Mr Andrew Blythe, his mother's uncle. Here they lived for sixteen years, during which his father was employed, first as shepherd, and afterwards in managing the whole business of the farm, his relation having had the misfortune to lose his sight. The cottage, which was of very simple construction, was situated in a wild pastoral spot near the foot of Ruberslaw, on the verge of the heath which stretches down from the sides of that majestic hill. The simplicity of the interior corresponded with that of its outward appear
ance. But the kind affections, cheerful content, intelligence, and piety, that dwelt beneath its lowly roof, made it such a scene as poets have imagined in their descriptions of the innocence and happiness of rural life.
Leyden was taught to read by his grandmother, who, after her husband's death, resided in the family of her son. Under the care of this venerable and affectionate instructress his progres was rapid. That insatiable desire of knowledge, which afterwards formed so remarkable a feature in his character, soon began to show itself. The historical passages of the Bible first caught his attention; and it was not long before he made himself familiarly acquainted with every event recorded in the Old and New Testaments."*
Thus Leyden was ten years of age before he had an opportunity of attending a public place of education; and as the death of his first teacher, William Wilson, school-master at Kirktown, soon after took place, the humble studies of the future poet, antiquary, and orientalist, were adjourned till the subsequent year, (1786,) when a Mr W. Scott taught the same school. But the sacred fire
* Memoirs of Leyden, by the Reverend James Morton, prefixed to his Poetical Remains. London, 1819. 8vo.
had already caught to the ready fuel which nature had adjusted for its supply. The ardent and unutterable longing for information of every description, which characterized John Leyden as much as any man who ever lived, was now roused and upon the watch. The rude traditionary tales and ballads of the once warlike district of Teviotdale were the readiest food which offered itself to this awakening appetite for knowledge. These songs and legends became rooted in his memory, and he so identified his feelings with the wild, adventurous, and daring characters which they celebrate, that the associations thus formed in childhood, and cherished in youth, gave an eccentric and romantic tincture to his own mind, and many, if not all the peculiarities of his manner and habits of thinking may be traced to his imitating the manners and assuming the tone of a borderer of former times. To this may be ascribed his eager admiration of adventurous deeds and military achievement, his contempt of luxury, his zealous and somewhat exclusive preference of his native district, an affected dislike to the southron, as the "auld enemies of Scotland," an earnest desire to join to the reputation of high literary acquirements the praise of an adept at all manly exercises, and the disregard of ceremony, and bold undaunted bearing in society,