Page images

their wit". It was alfo in that century, which was thus branded by malignity for its infertility of talents, Scotland produced, during a happy moment, Allan Ramfay, her Doric poet, who claims the notice of biography; because he raised himself to diftinction by his talents, and pleafed others, by the perufal of his poetry; while he derived a benefit to himself, by his powers of pleasing.

[ocr errors]

A zealous genealogift could eafily trace Ramfay to the family of the Earl of Dalhousie. His father was Robert Ramfay, who inherited, as it were, the management of Lord Hopton's lead mines in Crawford-moor; his grandfather was Robert Ramsay, a writer in Edinburgh, who had the management of the fame mines; his great-grandfather was Captain John Ramsay, the fon of Ramfay of Cockpen, who was a brother of Ramfay of Dalhousie. Of this genealogy our poet speaks proudly, when he recollects

Dalhoufie of an auld defcent,

My chief, my ftoup, my ornament.

His mother was Alice Bower, whose father had been brought from Derbyshire, to instruct Lord


* Dr. Pitcairn, and Dr. Arbuthnot.

Hopton's miners in their art; his grandmother was Janet Douglas, a daughter of Douglas of Muthil and our bard was careful to remember, with the exultation of genius, that

He was a poet fprung from a Douglas loin.

He was born on the 15th of October 1686, in the upper ward of Lanarkshire. Ramfay has himself described the place of his birth with picturesque minuteness :

Of Craufurd-moor, born in Lead hill,
Where mineral fprings Glengonir fill,

Which joins fweet flowing Clyde,
Between auld Crawfurd-Lindfay's towers,
And where Deneetnic rapid pours
His ftream through Glotta's tide *.

The learned minifter, who writes the account of the parish of Crawford-moor, claims no peculiar honour, from the birth of Ramfay, in that mountainous district. In thefe wilds, did our bard remain during fifteen years, deriving from the parish schoolmaster fuch lore as he poffeffed, and learning from experience,


How halefome 'tis to fnuff the cawler air,

And all the fweets it bears, when void of care.

Ramfay's petition to the Whin-bufh Club.


But this felicity did not last long. His firft misfortune confifted in lofing, while he was yet an infant, his father, who died before he had himself passed his five-and-twentieth year; and his next unhappiness arose from the marriage of his mother, foon after the death of his father, to Mr. Chrighton, one of the very fmall land-holders of the country, which is occupied by the great families of Hamilton, and Douglas. These fad events left Ramfay without property, or the means of procuring any. And while Scotland was not yet bufied with manufactures, nor enriched by commerce, the best resource, which occurred to his relations, who had other objects of affection, was to bind him an apprentice to a wig-maker *.

* Some writers have said, that Ramsay was a barber, because he was a wig-maker, confidering the two trades as co-incident in that age. That Ramsay, when he entered life, was a wigmaker, is certain, from his frequent admiffions, and from the parish register, which records the baptifm of his children; and which calls him a periwig-maker, in 1713, in 1714, in 1715, and in 1716. He was a burgess of Edinburgh, not by birth, but by service as an apprentice to a wig-maker:

Born to nae lairdship, mair's the pity!
Yet denifoh of this fair city.

a 3


[ocr errors]


With this defign, Ramfay was fent to Edinburgh in 1701, during the fifteenth year of his age. Had he behaved amiss as an apprentice, we fhould have heard of his misconduct, when he was attacked, as a writer, by those, who spared none of the afperities of reproach. The filence of a fati rical enemy an author may well enjoy as praise.

Ramfay was now to enter into life, with an honeft trade, and a fair character, for his livelihood. And he was induced, as much by his fociability of temper as by the example of other citizens, to marry,

There are neither facts, nor circumstances, which intimate, that he was a barber; on the other hand, the fatirifts, who were ftudious to collect every topic of degradation, when facts were known, never call him a barber. The wig-makers do not form any of the forty-two corporations of that city.[Maitland's Hift. Ed. 313, 14.] When the furgeons and barbers were conjointly incorporated in 1505, it was established as a byc-law, that none fhall act as a barber who was not free of that craft.— [Ib. 297.] In 1682, the furgeons threw off the barbers, who, however, remained dependant on them till 1722: but the town council recommended to the furgeons to supply the citizens with a fufficient number of qualified persons to shave and cut hair. Ib. 296.] In 1722, the barbers were separated from the furgeons, and formed into a corporate body with exclufive privileges.-[Ib. 313, 14] The investigation of this point is of no other importance than that it is always interesting to detect error, and ever pleafing to propagate truth.

marry, in 1712, Christian Ross, the daughter of an inferior lawyer in Edinburgh. In the subsequent year, fhe brought him his eldest fon Allan, who inherited his father's genius, and rofe to eminence both as a painter, and a fcholar. For feveral years, she brought him a child every twelvemonth; a fruitfulness this, of which the poet delighted to boast. The fame difpofition for fociability prompted him to court the fociety of clubs, during a clubical period. Among his poems he has left a pétition for admittance into the Whin-bush Club, a fociety of gentlemen of Lanarkshire, who met partly to enjoy the pleasure of mirth, perhaps as much to exercise the beneficence of charity to indigent perfons of the fame fhire. The petitioner founds his claim on the place of his nativity:

By birth my title's fair,

To bend wi' ye, and spend wi' ye
An evening, and gaffaw.

Our poet's paffion for gaffaw, or focial laughter, has induced malignant witticism to speak of Ramsay as "a convivial buffoon *."

It was an age of clubs, when Ramsay began to enter into life, with a ftrong defire to give, and to


* Ancient Scotifh Poems, 1786, vol. i. p. 132,

« PreviousContinue »