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charmed precincts of the 'Doocot Cave:' these were Hugh's school-boy days.
But what rare times did he have when he went up to visit his uncle in the Highlands! Whether ranging the valley of the Gruids in search of its beautiful crystals of quartz, treading the grassy tomhans with an eye on the picturesque Loch Shin far below him, laboring to preserve the beautiful tower of Dunalscag from the barbarous hands of the iconoclasts, or in company with
Cousin George,' settling the authorship of Ossian's poems, he was ever the same inquisitive lad, intent on knowing all that could be known, upon any subject coming within the range of his observation.
In consequence of disobedience of school-orders, he received a sound drubbing from his teacher, upon whom he revenged himself by writing a pasquinade on the following evening. This, inasmuch as it may be a novelty to most of my readers, I give entire. It was entitled
• With solemn mien and pious air,
Reconcile this and prove your art.
A maxim by the wise denied ;
Whose lives run on in one dull vein,
An ill-bred, silly, awkward creature.' But the school-days of Hugh Miller, like the school-days of all boys now grown to man's estate, passed away, not however, without their world of incident imprinting upon the mind those amaranthine pictures which are to grow more vivid through the countless ages of eternity. Time was preparing for him that world-wide school in which toil and care and hardship are the severe but noble teachers. In his sixteenth year, his mother, having lived a widow about eleven years, contracted a second marriage, and the boy found himself confronting a world of work, a life of labor and of toil. He relished not the prospect before him. Memory carried him back to the home of his Highland uncle. The long winter holidays of his cousin George, and their chances for mental improvement, decided him in the choice of his business for life. True, his uncles were urging him very strongly to devote himself to his education, promising, that although their means lay undeveloped in the wealth of brawny muscles, yet they would assist him through college. But how could he endure the idea! His companions who were preparing to enter college, had already fixed upon some profession which they would pursue after completing their scholastic course.
But Hugh had neither wish nor fitness for the bench or scalpel, and as to the church, that was not to be dreamed of. His uncles, in common with the Scotch people generally, held that a minister should be called to his work, and it would be equivalent to sacrilege, in their eyes, should young Hugh obtrude himself with all his imperfections upon the sacred office. I would to Heaven that there were more men of this stamp, men who would cherish as faith iuviolate, that true and worthy ministers cannot be manufactured out of men of ordinary capacity and character, and in a given number of months, through the agency of the schools, be passed to the community as spiritual advisers worthy of credence. Heartily do I wish that every man at the present day, would believe, and believing, would act upon the principle, that ministers worthy of the name, ministers fit to guide the thirsty way-farer o’er life's toilsome sands to
“Siloa's brook, that flowed
Fast by the oracle of God,' are the real, only genuine and special creations of the grace of God.
Our young hero, solicitous that his life should be usefully employed, regardless of griping poverty and staring want, chose for his occupation in life the business of a stone-mason. Then could he with truth say: 'O noble, upright, self-denying toil! Who that knows thy solid worth and value, would be ashamed of thy hard hands, thy soiled vestments, and thy obscure tasks; thy humble cottage, thy hard couch, and homely fare? Save for thee and thy lessons, man in society would, every where, sink into a sad compound of the fiend and the wild beast, and this sin-stricken world be, as certainly a moral, as now a natural wilderness. But little recked the youthful Hugh Miller of the dignity and excellence of labor, when, with a sad heart and gloomy forebodings, he bent his muscles to heave from their bed of ages the masses of rock in the quarries of sand-stone. Necessity nerved him to labor; and I may truly say, thank God for such necessities! Better that half our race should feel the griping hand of daily toil upon their shoulders, than that one such noble soul as Hugh Miller should corrode through idleness. Wholesome restraint confined him to his task, and an active mind made him an observer, not only of character, as it exhibits itself in various men, but also of the minerals among which he plied the mallet and chisel. Thus he became a geologist! His love for the beautiful and good in nature, was most manifestly fastened, when, with his noon-day meal before him, he sat down in
quarry, his eye resting for the time, upon the numerous rippling currents that, in the calm of the highland atmosphere, resembled streamlets winding through a meadow; at this moment, scanning the distant gray promontories tipped with villages that brightened in the sun-shine, and anon surveying, pale in the back-ground, the mighty hills, still streaked with snow, arising high over bay and headland, giving dignity, beauty, and grandeur to the scene. These were Hugh Miller's surroundings : how could he be other than an ardent admirer, and a truthful delineator of the beauties of nature? What else could have given him that power of description which an eminent writer is said to have coveted, even at the expense of his right arm'?
At the age of seventeen, he commenced that course of excessive physical toil, connected, too, with inordinate mental application, which, in process of time, darted sheet-lightning through his brain, and sent the warm blood thrilling to his manly heart. He became subject to frequent fits of somnambulism, which occasionally troubled him, as his mind and body were overtaxed, through all his afterlife.
Amid the Liasic fossils of Scotland's eastern coast, did young Hugh pass the first season of his apprenticeship, and here was he made a genuine geologist. Though laboring with his hands, he was still studying, reading that great unwritten volume of nature under his hand, compared with which, the Alexandrian Library, with its tomes of wisdom, the accumulations of ages, was but a meagre collection.
But time fails me to speak of the various circumstances and changing fortunes which came over him. Fain would I speak of his sojournings amid the lovely scenery of Cannon-Side ;' his ramblings and studies among its conglomerate deposits; his lingerings by the wild shores of Loch Maree; his investigations among the flora of Gairloch; his Sabbaths in ‘Flowerdale ;' but my daily duties leave me but little time for even the most common amenities of civilized society, much less to trace, in detail, the private character and daily actions of a man whose memory I vere, whose name I love.
Therefore, passing over many years, during which our young hero was not idle, we find him in the spring of 1824, quitting his native Invernesshire, seeking the tiled roofs of 'Auld Reekie,' drawn thither at once by the hope of employment and by longcherished associations. But the building mania of 1824-5, not only provided him with abundant work, but also gave him an opportunity to pursue his geological investigations in a different quarter. It is needless to say that these chances were well improved. Excessive labor in the quarries, however, brought on a disease of the lungs, and for some months, it was thought his life would be a short one.
Then came to him an intense love of life, rendered all the more burning from his consciousness that his eyes might soon close upon all things earthly forever. How deeply did he feel that, 'it was a pleasant thing to behold the sun!' It was during this period of his life, that he wrote some verses to his little sister, the eldest of his mother's children after her second marriage. On account of their beautiful simplicity, I here transcribe them :
*Down the burnie works its way,
*JEANIE, come: the days of play
*Do not think it makes me sad :
Bonny 'll the dreams of my slumbers be.' But passing incident after incident, over which I would fain linger, I must speak of one — no, not a dream in which he
WHOSE soft voice
His marriage was not a dream, but a happy reality, as the events of his subsequent life most plainly developed.
The first Thursday of April has been set apart from time immemorial, by the Presbyterian Church in Scotland, as a day of fast and thanksgiving; and it so happened, that the coronation of Queen Victoria was placed on the same day. This, of necessity, created a difficulty between those, who, on the one side, were anxious to uphold time-sanctioned usages of the Church, and those on the other, who were solicitous to show their loyalty to their new sovereign. This, with some other circumstances happening about this time, so operated upon the Scottish mind, as to make it necessary to establish an organ, whose duty it should be to uphold the interests of the Church, in opposition to the efforts of the * Processionists. Of this, the Witness, à semi-weekly journal, Hugh Miller, then not unknown, from his participation in ecclesiastical controversy, was appointed editor; à post which he filled up to the hour of his death.