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yet trained in the habit of family prayers." Mr. Irving seems
” to have grown up from his childhood in the faith and fear of God; no mention is made by his biographer of any specific time or act of conversion; and we may put him in the same class with Hooker, and Baxter, and the holy men in all ages in whom the spiritual life has been present in the first beginnings of their consciousness. His own religious experience, it is not improbable, may have strengthened his convictions in regard to the reality and efficacy of baptism, to which, in after life, he attached very great importance as the Sacrament for “engrafting into Christ." There were, indeed, very marked stages in his spiritual history, but we do not gather from anything he has left behind, that there was ever a time when he was consciously without the fear and love of God.
His first teacher was Peggy Paine, a relative of the notorious infidel, from whose humble school he was transplanted into the Annan Academy. He was fond of all athletic exercises, and yet, if we may believe a writer in Frazer's Magazine, soon after his death, he was by no means an idle or unsuccessful scholar. “Before he had attained his thirteenth year, he was a good mathematician, and knew Greek well; we have heard that he read through the first five books of Euclid in four days, and six books of Homer in a still shorter time, at twelve years of age."
At thirteen, he, with his elder brother John, became a student at the University of Edinburgh, where he remained four years, till he had completed the Academical course. Their rooms were in the old town, where they lived in the utmost simplicity, "boarding themselves ” after our New England fashion, with the “oat-meal, cheese, and other homely necessities which were sent to them from time to time from their father's house-a frugal austere life, suited to the poverty of Scotland in those days, and well fitted to produce strong, and resolute, and hardy men. The students do not seem to have been under much restraint or supervision; and the fact that at so tender an age he passed through all the temptations of a University and a city without a stain upon his character, shows how thorough had been his moral and religious training. “Manhood found him," says a writer in Frazer, “with a purity
and freedom from vice which the pupil of no nunnery could excel."
There are not many records or traditions of his University life. He attracted the special notice and regards of two of his Professors, Christison and Sir John Leslie, which shows him to have been a scholar of more than ordinary excellence. Carlyle's testimony is to the same effect : “ The first time I saw Irving was in his native town of Annan. He was fresh from Edinburgh, with college prizes, high character and promise; he had come to see our schoolmaster, who had also been his. We heard of famed Professors, of high matters classical, mathematical, a whole wonderland of knowledge; nothing but joy, health, hopefulness witlıout end, looked out from the blooming young man.” Mathematics and Natural Philosophy were his favorite studies, proving an aptitude for exact research ; but even then the buddings of the theologian and the orator began to be seen. “He used to carry continually in his waistcoat pocket a miniature copy of Ossian, passages from which he read or recited in his walks in the country, or delivered with sonorous elocution and vehement gesticulation." And to this period of his life-probably one of his college vacations—the story told in Frazer must apply, that “when he first purchased Hooker's works, together with some odd folios of the fathers, Homer and Newton, costing nearly the whole stock of money with which he was furnished for a journey across the hills to a distant part, he bore the additional load, with diminished power of sustaining it, with a joy that few can appreciate.”
He took his degree in April, 1800, and after spending one session in the Divinity IIall, became teacher of a school in Haddington, a town lying a few miles east of Edinburgh. He entered on his new duties in the summer of 1810, before he had completed his eighteenth year. Like so many of our New England students, he found it necessary to help himself by teaching; and he bore the drudgery for eight or nine years with manful patience. One of his pupils in Haddington was a daughter of Dr. Welch, a physician in the town, then only six or seven years old, who afterwards became the wife of Thomas Carlyle; and there sprung up between them a warm
friendship which lasted till he died. Many pleasant stories are told by Mrs. Oliphant of the gifted child and her impetuous but sympathizing teacher. His tendency of mind at this time, she thinks to have been critical and almost skeptical, "impatient of superficial “received truths,' and eager for proof and demonstration of every kind. Perhaps mathematics, which then reigned paramount in his mind, were to blame; he was as anxious to discuss, to prove, and disprove, as a Scotch student, fresh from College, is naturally disposed to be.
* This youth will scrape a hole in everything he is called on to believe,'" said the Doctor; "a strange prophecy, looking at it by that light of events which unfold so many unthought-of meanings in all predictions."
We think the prophecy was remarkably fulfilled, for Mr. Irving did certainly subject the received opinions of the religious world to the severest examination, and refused to believe anything merely because he found it floating in the atmosphere of the day. The remark of the acute doctor, who knew him well, shows that he was not naturally credulous, though trustful he certainly was; ready to believe the word of a brother, but "never," as one of his friends has said, “to be deceived the second time by the same person."
After remaining two years at IIaddington, during which he was pursuing what is called the “partial” course in the Divinity Hall, he removed to Kirkcaldy, lying on the north side of the Firth of Forth, about eight miles from Edinburgh, to take charge of a newly-established academy. Here he spent seven years of his early manhood,- froin twenty to seven and twenty,-indefatigable as a teacher, (in which vocation he united great severity of discipline with unusual power of winning the affections of his pupils), diligent at his private studies, going on with his divinity course, and adding Italian and French to his Greek and Latin, while mathematics were by no means forgotten ; fond as ever of out-of-door recreations, in which his scholars were often his companions; and falling in love with one of them, Isabella Martin, the eldest daughter of the minister of his parish, who many years afterwards became his wife.
“She was of a clerical race, an hereditary daughter of the Manse,' according to the affectionate popular designation, and of a name already in some degree known to fame in the person of Dr. Martin,* of Monimail, her grandfather, who survived long enough to baptize and bless his great-grandchildren—who had some local poetical reputation in his day, and whom the grateful painter, entitled in Scotland ‘our immortal Wilkie,' has commemorated as having helped his early struggles into fame by the valuable gift of two lay figures; and of David Martin, his brother, first proprietor of the said lay figures, whose admirable portraits are well known. Her father, the Rev. John Martin, was an admirable type of the class to which he belonged-an irreproachable parish priest, of respectable learning, and talents, and deep piety, living a domestic patriarchal life in the midst of the little community under his charge, fully subject to their observation and criticism, but without any rival in his position or influence; bringing up his many children among them, and spending his active days in all that fatherly close supervision of morals and manners which distinguished and became the old hereditary ministers of Scotland. He was of the party then called 'wild' or 'highflyers,' in opposition to the 'Moderates,' who formed the majority of the Church, and whose flight was certainly low enough to put them in little hazard from any skyey influences. Such a man in those days exercised over the bulk of his people an influence which, perhaps, no man in any position exer cises now, and in which the special regard of the really religious portion of his flock only put a more fervent climax upon the traditionary respect of the uni. versal people, always ready, when he was worthy of it, to yield to the traditionary sway of the minister, though equally ready to jeer at and scorn him when he was not, with a contempt increased by their national appreciation of the import. ance of his office. To the house of this good man Irving had early obtained access, the Manse children in a goodly number being among his scholars, and the Manse itself forming the natural center of all stray professors of literature in a region which had too many sloops and looms on hand to be greatly attracted that way. The family in this Manse of Kirkcaldy, which afterwards became so closely related to him, and the younger members of which understood him all the better that their minds had been formed and developed under his instruction, were, during all his after life, Irving's fast friends, accompanying bim, not with concurrence or agreement certainly, but with faithful affection and kindness to the very edge of the grave.” pp. 56, 57.
* The following Sonnet was written by Mr. Irving about the year 1830, and published in his “ Lectures on the Apocalypse :"
“To the memory of
My venerable grandfather-in-law,
And the 68th of his ministry.”
Thou Sire of Sires ! whose bow in strength hath stood
Men's souls to heaven. In Jesus fallin asleep,
Rear'd on thy knees with wisdom's heav'nly food,
Who in thy footsteps press up Zion's steep,
And let their Father in. O'er his bier wake
And praise uplift to God, who did him make
And of his seed did faithful shepherds take.
While at Kirkcaldy, he completed his course at the Divinity Hall, and was licensed to preach in the early part of the year 1815. But although he was now three and twenty-an age at which many great triumphs of eloquence have been achieved—he acquired no popularity as a preacher, and remained for three years longer in his school. He did, indeed, win a certain success at Annan, where he preached his first sermon, by the cool composure with which he gathered up his manuscript from the floor to which it had accidentally fallen, and thrust it into his pocket, while he went on as fluently as before ;" but at Kirkcaldy, he seems to have been decidedly unpopular; and it is certain that he received no encouragement to give up his work as a teacher.
“Those three years of slow successive Sundays, now and then interrupted by an occasional appearance in the pulpit hailed by no gracious looks, gave the silent listener, whose vocation it was to preach, deep insight into, and deeper impatience of, the common conventionalities of the pulpit. He found out how little the sermons he heard touched his case: to his own mind he represented himself, all glowing with genius and eagerness, as a representative of the educated hearer, and chafed, as many a man has chafed since, over the dead platitudes which were only a weariness. It is probable that this compulsory pause, irksome as it may have been, was of the profoundest importance both to Irving and to his future eloquence. It delivered him entirely from the snare of self-admiration, so far as his pulpit efforts were concerned, and concentrated his powers on the perfection of his style and utterance; while it gave at once to his Christian zeal and human ambition the sharpest of all spurs-the keen stimulus of seeing other men do that work badly or slothfully which he felt it was in him to do well.” p. 61.
IIe left his school in 1818, weary, it would seem, of spending the best years of his life in what he must have felt was not his true vocation, and went to Edinburgh, to pursue his studies with new ardor, and be refreshed by the renewal of his acquaintance with his old College friends. He went on with