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day after day and month after month, long after hope had died in every breast save his own, be seen climbing that grassy knoll from which was beheld the most glorious of prospects stretching away into infinitude, yet utterly oblivious of every marvel of nature with which he is surrounded; his eye sweeping the farthest verge of the horizon, intent only on discovering amid that yeast of waves the bark which has borne his father from him never to return. Hugh Miller mourning his sire reminds us of the first great sorrows of Cowper, of Kitto, and of De Quincey, all of whom were early taught in the deaths of dearest friends how soon shades of the prison-house begin to close around the growing boy.” It was the death of Kitto's good grandmother that constituted his first great sorrow. A sister's death was De Quincey's earliest grief. Kitto's impressions upon receiving the tidings that his grandame was no more, recorded in his workhouse journal, remind us, in their dirge-like plaint, of De Quincey's wail by his sister's bier, with only this difference, that while the expression of anguish is in both cases nearly equal, the sorrow of Kitto has in it less of the fantastic and imaginative. There is a pomp of woe—an affluence of grief about the wail of the child of fortune--wanting in the plaint of the workhouse-boy. Cowper, fifty years after the event, dedicated one of the noblest of his minor poems to the memory of a mother lost in childhood. Hugh Miller, in opening manhood, embalmed in verse the record of the catastrophe which so early made him acquainted with grief; but poetry was not Hugh's province, and though not destitute of a certain rugged force, and vigour, and sensibility, the stanzas on his father's death have about them little of the true minstrel fire. That sorrow was too deep to find adequate utterance in any verse which 66
a journeyman stone-mason” could write; and probably it had been better he had never attempted the theme. The painter who could not express the excess of grief, covered with a veil the face of Agamemnon.
THE DAME'S AND GRAMMAR SCHOOLS.
Young Miller's loss of his father, so keenly mourned, was supplied, as far as the best earthly friends could make up a bereavement so sad, by his two maternal uncles; types of a class of men that, from age to age, have been the ornament of the peasantry of Scotland, but who, generation after generation, are permitted to pass away without any adequate memorial of their many virtues. We, therefore, gladly pause to read the in. scription on the stone of remembrance, which, in his “Schools and Schoolmasters,” Hugh Miller has erected to that pair of noble brothers. “My elder uncle, James, added to a clear head and much native sagacity, a singularly retentive memory, and great thirst of information. He was a harness-maker, and wrought for the farmers of an extensive district of country; and as he never engaged either a journeyman or apprentice, but executed all his work with his own hands, his hours of labour, save that he indulged in a brief pause as the twilight came on, and took a mile's walk or so, were usually protracted from six o'clock in the morning till ten at night. Such incessant occupation, of course, left him little time for reading ; but he often found some one to read beside him during the day ; and in the winter evenings, his portable bench used to be brought from his shop at the other end of the dwelling, into the family sitting room, and placed beside the circle round the hearth, where his brother Alexander, my younger uncle, whose occupation left his evenings free, would read aloud from some interesting volume for the general benefit-placing himself always at the opposite end of the bench, so as to share in the light of the worker. Occasionally the family circle would be widened by the accession of from two to three intelligent neighbours, who would drop in to listen ; and then the book, after a space, would be laid aside, in order that its contents might be discussed in conversation.
In the summer months, uncle James always spent some time in the country, in looking after and keeping in repair the harness of the farmers for whom he wrought; and during his journeys and twilight walks on these occasions, there was not an old castle, or hillfoot, or ancient encampment, or antique ecclesiastical edifice within twenty miles of the town, which he had not visited and examined over and over again. He was a keen local antiquary ; knew a good deal about architectural styles of the various ages, at a time when the subjects were very
little studied or known ; possessed more traditionary lore, picked up chiefly in his country journeys, than any man I ever knew. What he once heard he never forgot; and the knowledge which he had acquired, he could communicate pleasingly and succinctly, in a style which, had he been a writer of books, instead of merely a reader of them, would have had the merit of being clear and terse, and more laden with meaning than words. From his reputation for sagacity, his advice used to be much sought after by the neighbours in every little difficulty that came in their way; and the counsel given was always shrewd and honest. I never knew a man more entirely just in his dealings than uncle James, or who regarded every species of meanness with a more thorough contempt.”
Uncle Alexander was of a different caste from his brother both in intellect and temperament, but he was characterized by the same strict integrity; and his religious feelings, though quiet and unobtrusive, were perhaps more deep. James was somewhat of a humorist, and fond of a joke ; Alexander, grave and serious. An old sailor, he had served under Nelson at Camperdown, taken part in the campaign under Abercrombie in Egypt; and though wanting his brother's fluency, yet by his descriptions of foreign plants and animals, he succeeded in inoculating his nephew with his own special tastes. In his lengthened rambles on