Sivut kuvina
PDF
ePub

WILLIAM ROSCOE.

NORTHERN WORTHIES.

WILLIAM ROSCOE.

HITHERTO we have spoken of men whose lives were history,-flowers, or medicinal plants (for as yet we have encountered no weeds), preserved in a Hortussiccus, to which we have done our best to restore the lively hue and appropriate aroma.

We have now a more delicate task to perform. We speak of a man whose death is a recent sorrow; whose image lives in eyes that have wept for him. The caution and reserve which honour and duty exact from the biographer of a living contemporary, are more especially required of him who essays to collect the scattered lineaments of one who no longer lives to confute or approve the portrait, which yet may give pain or pleasure to many, who compare the likeness with their own authentic memory.

I never saw Roscoe. I have heard much of him, both from the many who delighted in his praise, and from some who reluctantly assented to it. Unseen, yet not quite unknown of me, he performed his earthly pilgrimage, and went to his reward. If his life were not a theme of commendation,-if, however

VOL. III.

B

[ocr errors]

or

told, it were not a bright example and an argument of hope to all, who, amid whatever circumstances, are striving to develope the faculties which God has given them, for the glory of the Giver, and the benefit of his creatures,-if there were anything to tell, anything to leave untold, which those who knew him best would rather have forgotten, his life would never have been written by me. I am not ignorant that one who has an hereditary right to be his Biographer is even now performing that office. With his filial labours I presume not to interfere. Let the son tell of his father what the son knows of the father. Roscoe, as a scholar, an author, a politician, and a philanthropist, is public : his praise, and if censure were due, his censure, is as much a public property as Westminster Abbey should be. With his more familiar privacy I meddle no otherwise than as he who treats of fruits and flowers must necessarily say something of the soil in which they were grown, and the culture by which they were reared to perfection.

Among those men who have attained to literary eminence without the ordinary assistance from their elders, Roscoe was especially distinguished by the variety and by the elegance of his acquirements. Most of the self-taught have been men of one talent and one idea-one exclusive passion for one sort of knowledge. Their bias has been much more frequently to the mathematics, physics, or mechanics, than to general literature. The poor scholars of Scotland and Germany, such as Adams, Heyne, and Winkelman, are not fairly cases in point; for though they underwent great toil and privation in obtaining tuition, they did obtain it, therefore were not selftaught. As little to the purpose are the instances of uneducated poets. For we are not speaking of men who have displayed great genius with little culture,

« EdellinenJatka »