« PreviousContinue »
tyme thair is great appeirance of trubles and warres in this land, whilk God of His infinit mercie prevent, and grant ane happie and guide reformationie to the glorie of His name. Howbeit, I, Robert Mure of Cauldwell, am now baith weill and haill in bodie, spirit, and mynd; yet, considering there is nothing more certaine nor death, and nothing more uncertaine nor the tyme and manor yrof. thairfore I heirby mak my latter will and testament."
Good and thoughtful Robert of Caldwell might well think of "trubles and warres" when the Commons in London were not only refusing subsidies to the King, but impeaching Strafford and Laud. Robert, the testator, would seem to have been soon "called away," for when the storm burst the owners were minors, and it may be said to have passed with comparative gentleness over the house of Caldwell. Putting aside at this time any account of the part taken by the Caldwell Mures in the great national commotions which followed the Reformation, the oppression to which they were subjected for supporting the Covenant party, and their Hanoverian loyalty during the Jacobite "risings," the date of 1753 is easily reached, when Wester Caldwell was again joined to the old estate by William Mure, Baron of Exchequer. It is mainly with this William Mure, and partly with his grandson, the accomplished historian of Greek literature, the present article is concerned.
According to Professor Jardine-who, however, it should be remembered, had been the youth's tutor in Paris--William Mure came nearer up to his idea of a wise man than any he had ever known. Born in 1718, his father, also William, died suddenly a few days after his election for Renfrewshire; so that the infant heir was left under the sole guardianship of his mother, a woman of sense and piety, who, in course of time, wisely introduced into the house as teacher, William Leechman, promoted in after life, partly by the interest of his pupil, to be Principal in the University of Glasgow. A Continental tour was undertaken in due course, but schemes being already devising to send him to the House of Commons as member for his native county, his time there was more limited than might otherwise have been the case. One incident in it affords a happy illustration, that
long before that time the feud of ancient standing between the Mures and Maxwells had been buried in oblivion as a cause of strife. Thirty years afterwards the Baron's son, Colonel William, recorded in his journal that he remembered going to see the Chateau de Sceaux, belonging to the Count d'Eu, a descendant of Louis XIV., almost a rival to Versailles at the time, but plundered and destroyed at the Revolution. In the fine park was a large piece of water which led the guide of the party to mention that many years ago two impudent Englishmen, who had been permitted to see the place on a very hot day, took advantage of not being observed, as they supposed, to bathe in the lake. The Countess, however, got word of what was going on, much to the consternation of the bathers, who had just time before she came up to regain their clothes and effect a retreat into the wood. The guide added that the strangers were both above six feet high, and that as they hurriedly dressed themselves and slunk away, the Countess remarked, "What fine fellows they are." On repeating this story to my father at home, he asked if our cicerone had told us the names of the two tall Englishmen, and on my answering that he had not, he said: "Then I will tell you; the one the one was the late Sir John Maxwell of Pollok; the other,
From a very early period in life, at least long before his elevation to the Exchequer Bench, William Mure displayed, in addition to other excellent qualities, an agreeable faculty for forming and maintaining the friendship of distinguished men-" Principibus placuisse viris non ultima laus est." Among these, foremost in the front rank, were John, Marquis of Bute, Prime Minister, and David Hume, historian and philosopher. From the year of his election for Renfrewshire, on the death of Alexander Cunningham, of Craigends (1742), till his promotion to the Bench in 1761, William Mure spoke but rarely in the House; but his solid sense and cautious ways made him so much of an informal chamber-counsel on Scotch politics, commerce, and manufactures that Lord Bute not only handed him over the management of much of his own dilapidated property, but placed at his disposal a very considerable amount of Government patronage in Scotland-an
influence great at the time, "and preserved by his own personal character long after political power had passed away from his patron." Short as Lord Bute's tenure of office was, he writes to Mure:-"I was long tired of the anxiety, envy, and disgust of a situation ill-suited to my temper or habitudes of life." His physical powers unfitted him for battling with the active, and sometimes unscrupulous, opponents by whom he was beset :-" Many reasons,” his Lordship again wrote, "justify this resignation in a prudential light, but none of these should have had weight with me at present if my health had permitted my continuance; the state of that made it impossible, and I yield to necessity." (" Caldwell Papers," vol. i., p. 175-6.) Again, he writes on the death of one of his brothers :-" Attachment, gratitude, love, and real respect are too tender plants for Ministerial gardens: attempt to raise them, and they are either chilled on their first springing, or, if they once appear, they fade with the very nourishment that is given them." This fairly corresponds with, and even justifies, Macaulay's description of the mixed motives which he surmises may have led to Bute's sudden resignation. His habits, the historian explains, had not been such as were likely to fortify his mind against obloquy and public hatred. He had reached his forty-eighth year in dignified ease without knowing by personal experience what it was to be ridiculed and slandered, when all at once, without any previous initiation, he found himself exposed to such a storm of invective and satire as had never burst on the head of any statesman. But to linger with Mure and Bute detains us from a historical character of still greater and more permanent interest. Born seven years before William Mure, David Hume survived the Baron only a few months, but sufficiently long to deplore "as a loss irreparable the death of the oldest and best friend I had in the world;" adding, "I should be inconsolable, did I not see an event approaching which reduces all things to a level." The friendship appears to have been of a most cordial description in the philosopher's Paris days, when he acted as Secretary to the Embassy of Lord Hertford, and where, as Walpole puts it, Hume, Whist, and Richardson (of "Pamela" fame) was the only Trinity in fashion. The intimacy was renewed and kept up by personal intercourse in
Edinburgh, Mrs. Mure, who professed, no doubt sincerely, to "admeer" David, being always at home in her own house on the Abbey Hill when he called for a rubber at whist, or a friendly informal chat. His proficiency in the history of card kings, as set down in the "Caldwell Papers," would not appear to have been rated high by the professors of Hoyle in these days, although on this point Hume did not willingly bear criticism; Mrs. Mure, keen in the game as Sarah Battle herself, was often "down" on the philosopher without mercy. One night it is recorded they got into such a warm discussion on his play that even the good-natured Hume lost his temper, and would stand it no longer. Taking up his hat, and calling a pretty Pomeranian dog accompanying him, "Come away, Foxey," David walked out of the house in the middle of the rubber. The family were to start next morning for Caldwell; and Hume, who then lived in St. Andrew's Square, a good mile distant, was at the door before breakfast, hat in hand, with an apology.
Another card story connected with an intimate friend of the Mures, and showing David in another light, although hardly new at this time of day, should not be omitted. Before building his house in the New Town, Hume occupied a lodging in the lofty block, known as St. James's Court, on the Mound. On the floor below lived Mrs. Campbell, of Succoth (a Wallace of Elderslie), mother of the Lord President, Sir Ilay Campbell. One Sunday evening, Hume, who was on friendly habits with Mrs. Campbell's family, stepping down to take tea with her, found assembled a party of pious elderly ladies, met to converse on topics suitable for the Sabbath. David's unexpected entrance on such an occasion caused some dismay on the part of the landlady and her guests; but he sat down and chatted in so easy and appropriate a style that all embarrassment soon disappeared. On the removal of the tea-things, however, he gravely said to his hostess-" Well, Mrs. Campbell, where are the cards?" "The cards, Mr. Hume! Surely you have forgot what day it is." "Not at all, madam," he replied; "you know we have often a quiet rubber on a Sunday evening." After vainly endeavouring to make him retract this calumny, she said to him, "Now, David, you'll just be pleased to
walk out of my house, for you're not fit company in it to-night." When young, Hume is said to have courted a well-born beauty of Edinburgh, and was rejected; but, records the historian of the house of Caldwell, several years afterwards, when he had obtained celebrity, it was hinted to him by a common friend that the lady had changed her mind. "So have I," dryly replied the philosopher. As became the best-natured man of his day, Hume quitted the world and his lady friends at peace. On taking leave of Mrs. Mure, with whom he had had many a critical rubber, he gave her as a parting gift a complete copy of his history. This tradition is circumstantially confirmed by the existence in the Caldwell library of his own last edition of the great work (8 vols. 8vo, 1773), inscribed on the title-page of the first volume, "From the Author." She thanked him, and added in her native dialect, which Mrs. Mure and the historian spoke in great purity, "O, David, that's a book you may weel be prood o'; but before ye dee, ye should burn a' your wee bookies!" To which, raising himself on his couch, he replied with some vehemence, half-offended, half in joke, "What for should I burn a' my wee bookies ?" But feeling too weak for further discussion of the point, he shook her hand and bade her farewell. David Hume died August 25, 1776, fully five months after his friend, Baron Mure, who died the preceding 5th March.
When Baron Mure retired from Parliament to ascend the Exchequer Bench in 1761, he was succeeded in the representation of Renfrewshire, at the general election of that year, by Patrick Crawford of Auchinames. Three years afterwards Baron Mure was elected Lord Rector of Glasgow, an honour likewise conferred upon his son and successor, Colonel William of Caldwell (1793-4), friend of Sir John Mure, and by Anne, daughter of Sir J. Hunter Blair, Bart., of Dunskey, father of William Mure of Caldwell, D.C.L., another Lord Rector (1847-8), but wider known among students at home, on the Continent, and over Europe as one of the most profound scholars of the century, especially in all that concerned the language and literature of ancient Greece. It was intended to have noticed at some length the writings of this distinguished ornament of the house of Caldwell, the minuteness of his researches, and the extent to which they have been appreciated,