« PreviousContinue »
present the case in every loch in these parts. When the spinningschool was erected here eight months ago, it met with the greatest opposition from the people. No young women could be brought to it till they were compelled. To avoid this, great numbers of them got themselves married, which was the case with several but of twelve years old. But finding that this was to be no protection, they at length submitted, and ever since the school has continued full. They now And it both easy and profitable, and pursue it with a degree of spirit and cheerfulness which is very,agreeable. I saw about fifty of them. from nine to twenty-five years of age, at their wheels, in one room, where a wheel was scarce ever known before. They seemed quite happy at their work, and all joined in a highland song, which gave me more pleasure, if it be safe to own such an unpolite notion, than any concert I was ever present at.' '
Dr. Franklin, who had returned to America in 1762, after residing in London for some years as agent for several of the colonies, revisited this country in 1765 ; and on June 2, of that year, we find a very interesting letter from him to Lord Kames, from which we feel a pleasurein extracting the following judicious observations.
• In my passage to America, I read your excellent work, the Elements of Criticism, in which I found great entertainment: much to admire and nothing to reprove. I only wished you had examined more fully the subject of music, and demonstrated, that the pleasure which artists feel in hearing much of that composed in the modern taste, is not the natural pleasure arising from melody or harmony of sounds, but of the same kind with the pleasure we feel on seeing the surprising feats of tumblers and rope-dancers, who execute dif. ficult things. For my part I take this to be really the case, and suppose it the reason why those, who being unpractised in music, and therefore unacquainted with those difficulties, have liule or no pleasure in hearing this music. Many pieces of it are mere compositions of tricks. I have sometimes at a concert, attended by a common audience, placed myself so as to see all their faces, and observed no signs of pleasure during the performance of much that was admired by the performers themselves ; while a plain old Scotch tune, which they disdained, and could scarcely be prevailed on to play, gave manifest and general delight. Give me leave on this occasion to extend a little the sense of your position that “ melody and harmony are separately agreeable, and in union delightful,' avel to give it as my opinion, that the reason why the Scotcb tunes have lived so long, and will probably live for ever, (if they escape being stified in modern affected ornament,) is merely this, that they are really compositions of melody and harmony united, or rather that their melody is harmony. I mean the simple tunes sung by a sinigle vcice. As This will appear paradoxical, I must explain my meaning. In commun acceptation, indeed, only au agreeable succession of sounds is called melody ; and only the co-existence of agreeing sounds harmony. But since the memory is capable of retaining for some moments a perfect idea of the pitch of a past sound, so as to compare with it the pitch of a succeeding sound, and judge truly of their agreement, or disagreement, there may, and does arise from thence a sense of barmony between present and past sounds equally pleasing with that between two present sounds. Now the construction of the old.Scotch tunes is this, that almost every succeeding emphatical note, is a third, a fifth, an octave, or in short some noie ihat is in concord with the preceding note. Thirds are chiefly used, which are very pleasing concords.' I use the word emphatical, to distinguish those notes which have a stress laid on them in singing the tune, from the lighter connecting notes, that serve merely, like grammar articles, to tack the others together.'
* The connoisseurs in modern music,' adds Dr. Franklin, will say I have no taste,--but I cannot help adding, that I believe our ancestors, in hearing a good song listinctly articulated, sung to one of those tunes, and accompanied by the harp, felt more real pleasure than is communicated by the generality of modern operas, exclusive of that arising from the scenery and dancing.'
In 1766 Lord Kames received a great accession to his income by the death of George Drummond, Esq. brother to lady Kanes. Lord K. now passed his vacations at BlairDrummond, where he prosecuted his agricultural im. provements with great spirit and success. One of his plans of improvement was of so much importance, both on account of the consequences and the example, that it ought not to be passed unnoticed. Part of his new estate included a level swamp, called the Moss of Kincardine, about four miles in length, and from one to two miles in breadth,situated immediately above the confluence of the Forth and the Frith, The moss formed a stratum of from eight to nine feet thick; but covered a soil of rich clay and vegetable mould. The enterprising mind of Lord Kames projected the removal of this immense body of moss by floating it into the Forth by means of channels cut through the moss into that river. He lived to see about one-third of this great tract of land perfectly cleared, and yielding a rent in proportion to the value of the soil brought into tillage.' This large tract, which was once an uninhabitable morass, contains at present 169 houses and 720 inhabitants.
We read with pleasure the elegant and ingenious letters of Mrs. Montage to the author of the Elements of Criti. cism. Lord Kames had informed Mrs. M. that he intended so forni a winter-garden at his seat al Blair-Drummond.
'I approve,' says Mrs. Moritugue, 'greatly of your lordship's
scheme of making a winter-garden. We are apt to do in our gardens as we do in our minds; to cultivate the gay ornaments of the suminer season, and aim at having all those things which flourish by mild sunshine and gracious dews; forgetful of the rude elements of human life, and regardless of the seasons of unfriendly and churlish winter, when sun-beams warm no more, and chilling hoar-frosts fall.'
We soon after find Mrs. Montagu writing to Lord Kames in this airy and jocular strain.
I am convinced that we have been acquainted in a state of pre. existence; I do not know when, nor indeed where : whether we first met on the orb of this earth, had a short coquetry in the planet Venus, or a sober platonic love in Saturn; but I am sure we did not first meet at Edinburgh in the year 1766; therefore those doubts that would be pardonable in a new friendship, cannot become us. Your lordship may remember our souls did not stand like strangers at a distance making formal obeisances the first evening we supped together at our friend Dr. Gregory's; we took up our story, where it had perhaps ended some thousand years before the creation of this globe : if we gave it a presatory compliment, it was only the customary form to the new edition of a work before pube lished.'
In 1765 Lord Kames, whose mind was incessantly occu. pied with some scheme of national advantage, published a small pamphlel on the progress of the flax-husbandry in Scotland, in order to encourage the culture of thal useful material of manufacture in his native country. The following letter to the Duchess of Gordon is not only a pleasing specimen of his epistolary style, but evinces in a striking degree his desire to augment the industry and the happiness of his fellow-creatures.
• To the Duchess of Gordon, Avgust, 1770. -"As I never incline to visit my favourite pupil, or to write to her, but when I am at ease and in good spirits, which has not been the case for ihis last fortnighi, worn out as I am with the business of the court, I delayed to acknowledge her last kind letter, till I should be restored to iny spirits in the country, by the wood-nymphs, the water-nymphs, and all the train of smiling rural deities. Your grace could not do me a greater favor than in communicating the little family anecdote about lady C, than which nothing can shex a more charming disposition. Dissocial passions are inore painful to ourselves than lo those who are the objects of them. Selfish passions are disagreeable to others, and very little pleasant to ourselves : but as for the generous and benevolent affections, if they make others happy, they double that blessing upon ourselves, There is no other part of our nature that advances us so near the Author of all good. Cherish, my dear Jady, that disposition in your daughter, because it is highly amiable; but double your diligence to cherish it in your son, who, I hope, will one day have it in his power to do much good, and to find his own chief happiness in mak. ing multitudes happy around him. The duke of G. may justly be reckoned the greatest subject in Britain; not from the extent of his rent-roll, but from a much more valuable property, the number of people whom Providence has put under his government and protection. God forbid the duke should imbibe the sentiments of too many of his elevated rank, that these people are merely beasts of burden, and that it is allowable to squeeze out of them all that can be got! In point of morality, I consider that the people upon our estates are trusted by Providence to our care, and that we are accountable for our management of them, to the great God, their Creator as well as ours. But observe and admire the benevolence of Providence. What else does it require of us, but to introduce industry among our people, the sure way to make ihem virtuous and happy, and the way not less sure oi improving our estates, and increasing our revenues!'
. Now, my dear pupil, I insist upon this topic with the more satisfaction, that I figure your grace taking an active part in this useful work, and going hand in hand with your husband ; if, indeed, it be not better that each of you should take a separate department. , I will explain what part I allot to your grace, after a short pretace. Travelling through the counties of Aberdeen and Bamff, with any sort of equipage, it is pleasant to see the young creatures turning out every where from their little cottages, full of curiosity, but not less full of industry; for every one of them is employed; and in knitring stockings, they lose not all the while a single motion of their fingers. This sight I have never beheld-without delight. Now,mark what I am going to say. There is indeed the same curiosity to be observed upon your banks of the Spay, and through the county of Moray; but alas! the industry is wanting ; for the young people go about there perfeci!y idle.
'I fear you will ihink I am growing a little tedious this evening ; for I wish to prolong conversation with your grace : but now I come to the point. The part I allot for the Duchess of Gordon, is to train the young creatures about her to industry; and she will exes cute it with self satisfaction ard success ; for in tender years, the strongest impressions are made, and once giving children a habit of industry, it will last with them for life. What I would therefore propose as her first essay, is to introduce the kvitting of siuckings among the young folk of both sexes, which will be easily done, as that art is so far advanced jy her neighbourhood. If your grace relishes this proposal, signify it only to your old mentor, and it shall be his business not only to lay down a plan for carrying it into ele fect, but to ir.terest our trustees for the manufactures, who will most cordially second your operations. In the mean time you may order a fit person to be secured for teaching the children to spin and to
knit ; and the only thing !hat will be expected from your grace, besides your countenance (which is all in all,) is to encourage the children to exert. themselves, by some small premiums to those who are the most deserving.
So much for serious matters, and now a lighter theme, if my paper leaves room for it. From fifty years experience, I can vouch, that the pleasantest companions for conversation, are those who pass some time in their closets, in reading and reflecting. Will you give me authority to purchase for you from time to time, a few books of taste and useful knowledge, which will agreeably fill up your hours of leisure? Does the duke give his commissions to any particular bookseller in Edinburgh? In this and in every capacity, command your real friend and faithful servant,
*Henry Home Lord K. took an active part in promoting the project of a navigable canal between the rivers Forth and Clyde. The work was begun in 1768 on a scale of fifty-six feet in breadth and seyen in depth ; admitting the passage of vessels of seventy or eighty tons burden.' The expences were defrayed
by the subscriptions of individuals ; and government sub· scribed 30,000l. the profits are to be expended in making
roads, bridges, and other improvements in the highlands of Scotland. In 1766 Lord Kames published Remarkable Decisions of the Court of Session from 1730 to 1753.' Of this work his learned biographer says that it'' affords a model of clear and perspicuous brevity of statement, which touches only the important points of a cause, and rejects all that is superfluous in the detail or argumenti
Lord Kames was a believer in the authenticity of the poems of Ossian, and was surprized at the cool reception which they, at first, experienced in this country. What very much contribuied, in the minds of the generality, to invalidate the pretended anliquity of the poems, was the refineinent of sentiment and manners which they pourtray, so difficult to be reconciled to the barbarous age to which they are assigned. Lord Kames investigated the subject with his usual diligence of research, and he tells Mrs. Montagu that he had been successful beyond his hope. ,
'I bave,' says he made out that the manners described by Ossian were the genuine manners of his country. Such refined notions, especially with respect to the female sex, of a people in the first stage of society, approach to a miracle ; and yet I have brought evidence of the fact sufficient to satisfy any impartial jury.'
The opinion which Mrs. Montagu appears to have adopted