Sivut kuvina



approved by all. We should now look on it as a proof of innate delicacy and gentlemanly spirit, if there could possibly arise an occasion to provoke it-which, with the tone that now rules in university life, is, I believe, impossible. In truth, there has been a great improvement in the standard of public feeling within the last twenty-five years, and I hope we should now make better use of his genius than of old.

It was not till the end of my fourth year at College that I first knew Minto, and our acquaintance began in connection with the recently founded Literary Society, to which, after a time, I had the honor of proposing that he should be admitted as an honorary member. His name was already familiar to me, for in the course of my third year he had matriculated as a student, and had taken an active part in the re-election of Sir M. E. Grant Duff as Lord Rector. I was sometimes quoted as a sad example of the students whom he had perverted to vote against the cause of Classics ; but, in reality, I never to my knowledge saw him during that year, much less listened to his alluring speeches in public or in private. “Bitter constraint and sad occasion dear” impelled me even then, when I had only vague blind yearnings after ancient literature, to vote as I have always done against the misdirection of classical studies, debasing them to be fetters, instead of wings, for the free modern spirit. It was our common study of modern literature that first brought us together as lovers of the “romantic” side in that literature, as believers that the aim and crown of all literary education is to understand and appreciate the spirit of our own age. We approached literature from quite opposite sides, and we differed widely on many points of thought and life,-not points of mere detail, but ideas which we believed with our whole heart to be of infinite importance, and on behalf of which he at least was ready to die,-yet our differences of view never interfered with our friendship ; and when we met, after years of separation, the old feelings remained as strong

as ever.

Very soon after he joined the Literary Society, we elected him to the office of President, which fell vacant opportunely ; and there can be no doubt that the success of the young society was greatly due to the skill and knowledge which he brought to our aid.

After seeing a great deal of him in 1871 I lost sight of him for years, till we met accidentally on a London steam-boat pier in 1879; and we continued to meet during my occasional visits to London, until I disappeared into the wilds of Asiatic Turkey in the spring of 1880. Before I went out he offered to do his best to procure the acceptance of letters from Turkey by the great London morning paper with which he was at the time connected. I fully intended to avail myself of his

. advocacy, but time was too short and life too busy for letter-writing, and only one or two brief notes passed between us, until the spring of 1886, when I received a letter from him telling that the Humanity Chair here would shortly be vacant, and advising me to be a candidate. I am glad now to say publicly, as I have often said to him, that I owe my appointment to this letter, and to the timely information which it gave me. But for his letter I should have been ignorant, till it was too late, about the impending vacancy, and about various other facts which it was essential to know.

In the abundant opportunities I have since then had of observing Minto the quality that most struck me was his thoroughness. Every thing I have ever seen him do was done with the same devotion : he brought his whole powers of mind, and often (as I saw with alarm) his whole powers of body, to the work. The minute estimate of the capacities and faults of all his students which I have seen noted down in his books-apparently as a regular practice—astonished me; they resembled the sketches which professional readers of character are



ready to supply to customers. He did not merely estimate numerically the value of each examination paper, he also estimated it qualitatively as an index of the candidate's moral and intellectual character.

That he persistently overworked himself I often observed, and often remonstrated with him about it, always to be met with the laughing reply that I was myself a worse instance of the fault. The chill which brought on the last illness was, I think, attributed by him to a game at curling during the Christmas vacation ; but it seemed to me that quite as great mischief was done in December at a meeting of Faculty in the icy Senatus-room, where he sat for more than two hours at the head of the table, till he was obviously chilled to the marrow. When the meeting was over, he came to the fire, saying: “I might as well go to my grave as do this sort of thing again." I have often pitied the wretched candidates for Honors and Scholarships, who are compelled to shiver for three hours at a time in that room, which is generally as cold as a Roman Church on the Aventine in winter. By the time a few more have suffered from it a new Senatus-room may be ready in Marischal College.

There is one quality which beyond all others rouses my admiration, and that quality Minto had in a remarkable degree-I mean courage. I can worship even mere physical courage, which it is nowadays the fashion to despise (especially among those who have never needed or seen or felt it) ; but the splendid moral courage which he showed seems to me almost the greatest quality in human nature. He never flinched a hair's-breadth from the opinion he believed in, however unpopular, or even dangerous, it might be : he always supported a friend if the world was against him.

As a critic and scholar he was only coming to full consciousness of his powers and freedom in using them; and there is good reason to think that the future work which (had fate been kinder to us) he would have done as the first Professor of English in this University would have been his best work, and, I think, would have taken permanent rank among the finest in its kind. His genius matured slowly, partly from its natural character, partly from the distractions and variations of occupation in which his life had been spent. Truly, I think the University might have gained by wise treatment much more from him than it did.

The Faculty of Arts has lost him who was not merely the titular head, but also by a combination of fine qualities the mainstay of its reputation, both in Aberdeen and before the world. The University has lost its clearest headed and ablest administrator : in every question that emerged he recognized at a glance what was the solution, and urged it with unhesitating energy. His quick insight was due to the fact that he never was governed by a calculation of selfish or narrow advantages : in every case he judged upon the same general principles. He lived and fought for an ideal of freedom and honesty, in the ultimate triumph of which he had the most unfaltering confidence. In this lay his strength, and the secret of his perfect frankness and freedom from affectation. He worked, not for himself, not even for his family, but for his cause. He had nothing to conceal, but rather gloried in openly stating his real aims ; and many believe, as I do, that, had not his policy been so often thwarted, our University would be to-day far stronger than it is.

In The Bookman of April, 1893, Mr. A. T. Quiller-Couch wrote:

Were I to confess how seldom we met and how slight was our correspondence, your readers would think it highly presumptuous of me to write about Professor Minto, and that to call him a friend was almost inde



cent. Yet on one point, at any rate, they would be wrong. It is a fact that we never wrote a line to each other ; yet from time to time, and by every common friend, he sent messages that were valuable beyond telling to a young man just beginning to write. But Minto's sympathies were always with the young ; and, indeed, on the first occasion that we met this was rather trying. In my father's house the talk might run on statesmen, divines, or men of science ; but men of letters were the great men. Other callings were well enough, but writers were a class apart, and to belong to it was the choicest of ambitions. I had grown up in this habit of mind, and have not yet entirely outgrown it ; so that the prospect of seeing Minto and listening to him fluttered me, as no doubt it flutters a young curate to dine with his bishop. He would not let me worship, however ; would not even let me listen ; but

1; seemed only anxious to hear about my own endeavors and prospects. I think this forgetfulness of self was native in him and incurable. Certainly, though I admired him as much as ever, he had won a very much warmer feeling in the inside of half an hour ; and from that time was constantly adding to the load of kindness which now can only be repaid by mourning his loss, and remembering his wise counsel and encouragement. No other critic has given me the tithe of that counsel or a hundredth part of that encouragement. And when I say that all this was bestowed at every opportunity from the date of our first and only intimate conversation to the time of his death, that even on his deathbed he tried to do me a last service in the old fashion, it will be allowed that my burden of obligation is heavy indeed.

I cannot believe that the newspapers and reviews have done justice to his memory. They praise him as a good man and a sincere lover of letters ; but the quality of his work, and especially of his critical work, has

« EdellinenJatka »