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rare intellect, wit, humour, wisdom, and grace, whose remarkable beauty was transmitted to her children. The father died in 1797, and John entered Glasgow University, where he remained until 1803. In the June of this year he entered Magdalen College, Oxford, as a gentleman-commoner, leaving in 1807, after a very brilliant career as a scholar, and one not less brilliant as an athlete, being a splendid all-round man-rider, swimmer, walker, runner, dancer, jumper, angler, boater, wrestler, boxer. In his essay on Gymnastics ("Works," vol. v.), he gives one instance of his own prowess: "With a run and a leap on a slightly inclined plane, perhaps an inch to a yard, we have seen twenty-three feet done in great style—and measured to a nicety; but the man who did it (aged twenty-one, height five feet eleven inches, weight eleven stone) was admitted to be (Ireland excepted) the best far leaper of his day in England." As to his boxing, we are told by De Quincey, his junior by a year and contemporary at Oxford, though the two did not get personally acquainted there: "There was no man who had any talents, real or fancied, for thumping or being thumped, but he had experienced some preeing of his merits from Mr. Wilson. All other pretensions in the gymnastic arts he took a pride in humbling or in honouring; but chiefly his examinations fell upon pugilism; and not a man who could either 'give or take,' but boasted to have punished, or to have been punished by, Wilson of Mallen's." On one occasion a surly rough obstructed his way across a bridge. Wilson lost patience and offered to fight him. The fellow said: "You had better not fight with me; I am such-a-one" (a well
known pugilist). This announcement rather stimulated than daunted young Oxford: "In one minute off went his coat, and he set-to upon his antagonist in splendid style. [Mrs. Gordon has evidently a keen spark of her father's fire.] The astonished and punished rival, on recovering from the blows and surprise, accosted him thus: 'You can only be one of the two; you are either Jack Wilson or the devil.' This encounter no doubt led, for a short time, to fraternity and equality over a pot of porter." His athletic tastes, love of adventure, and high animal spirits led him into all sorts of queer society, such as affords the only opportunity for the study of unsophisticated human nature. A fellow-collegian records of him: "One of his great amusements used to be to go to the 'Angel Inn,' about midnight, when many of the up and down London coaches met; there he used to preside at the passengers' supper-table, carving for them, inquiring all about their respective journeys, why and wherefore they were made, who they were, &c.; and, in return, astonishing them with his wit and pleasantry, and sending them off wondering who and what HE could be! He frequently went from the 'Angel' to the 'Fox and Goose,' an early 'purl and gill' house, where he found the coachmen and guards, &c., preparing for the coaches which had left London late at night; and there he found an audience, and sometimes remained till the college gates were opened, rather (I believe) than rouse the old porter, Peter, from his bed to open for him expressly. It must not be supposed that in these strange meetings he indulged in intemperance-no such thing; he went to such places, I am convinced, to study character, in
which they abounded. I never saw him show the slightest appearance even of drink, notwithstanding our wine-drinking, suppers, punch, and smoking in the common-room to very late hours. I never shall forget his figure, sitting with a long earthen pipe, a great tie wig on; those wigs had descended, I fancy, from the days of Addison (who had been a member of our College), and were worn by us all (in order, I presume, to preserve our hair and dress from tobaccosmoke) when smoking commenced after supper, and a strange appearance we made in them!"
The same gentleman says: "His pedestrian feats were marvellous. On one occasion, having been absent a day or two, we asked him, on his return to the common-room, where he had been. He said, in London. 'When did you return?'-'This morning.' -'How did you come?'-' On foot.' As we all expressed surprise, he said: 'Why, the fact is I dined. yesterday with a friend in Grosvenor (I think it was) Square, and as I quitted the house a fellow who was passing was impertinent and insulted me, upon which I knocked him down; and as I did not choose to have myself called in question for a street row, I at once started as I was, in my dinner dress, and never stopped until I got to the College gate this morning, as it was being opened.' Now this was a walk of fifty-eight miles at least, which he must have got over in eight or nine hours at most, supposing him to have left the dinner-party at nine in the evening." Here is another instance ("Memoir," i. 191, 192), when on a pedestrian tour in the Western Highlands with his wife in 1815: "In Glenorchy his time was much occupied by fishing, and distance was not considered
He started one morning at an early hour to fish in a loch which at that time abounded in trout, in the Braes of Glenorchy, called Loch
oilà Its nearest point was thirteen miles distant from his lodgings at the schoolhouse. On reaching it, and unscrewing the butt-end of his fishing-rod to get the top, he found he had it not. Nothing daunted, he walked back, breakfasted, got his fishingrod made all complete, and off again to Loch Toilà. He could not resist fishing on the river when a pool looked invitingly, but he went always onwards, reached the loch a second time, fished round it, and found that the long summer day had come to an end. He set off for his home again with his fishing-basket full and confessing somewhat to weariness. Passing near
a farmhouse whose inmates he knew (for he had formed acquaintance with all), he went to get some food. They were in bed, for it was eleven o'clock at night, and after rousing them, the hostess hastened to supply him; but he requested her to get him some whisky and milk. She came with a bottle-full and a can of milk, with a tumbler. Instead of a tumbler he requested a bowl, and poured the half of the whisky in along with half the milk. He drank the mixture at a draught; and, while his kind hostess was looking on with amazement, he poured the remainder of the whisky and milk into the bowl and drank that also. He then proceeded homeward, performing a journey of not less than seventy miles." In "Anglimania: Cast Second; Twaddle on Tweedside" ("Works," vi. 334, 335), he tells this story himself, with some slight variations. He says nothing of the Homeric can of milk and bottle of whisky,
but avows that on recovering from the stupor at the absence of his rod-pieces, "we put our pocket-pistol to our head and blew out its brains into our mouthin the liquid character of Glenlivet." He makes the distance to the loch fourteen instead of thirteen miles, and thus summarises the day's proceedings: "At eleven our five flies were on the water. By sunset we had killed twenty dozen-none above a pound, and by far the greater number about a quarter-but the tout-ensemble was imposing, and the weight could not have been short of five stone. We filled both creels (one used for salmon), bag, and pillow-slip, and all the pockets about our person—and at first peep of evening star went our ways again down the glen towards Dalmally. We reached the schoolhouse 'ae wee short hour ayont the twal,' having been on our legs almost all the twenty-four hours, and for eight up to the waist in water-distance walked, fiftysix miles; trouts killed, twenty dozen and odds; and weight carried
'At the close of the day when the hamlet was still,
certainly seventy pounds for fourteen miles; and if the tale be not true, may May-day miss Maga."
So fatal are "long earthen pipes" and Glenlivet to physical stamina and moral fortitude!