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United Associate Presbytery of Edinburgh, and commenced the work of the ministry accordingly.
About the period of his licensure, the poem, which had employed much of his time, and engrossed much of his attention, for two antecedent years, was issued from the press, and its merits at once appreciated by the public.
On the afternoon of Thursday, May 3-a day set apart for humiliation and prayer, preparatory to the administration of the sacrament of the Supper-he preached his first public discourse, in Rose-street Chapel, Edinburgh, of which the Rev. JOHN BROWN was minister. His text was 1 Kings xviii. 21: “How long halt ye between two opinions? If the Lord be God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him." This first public effort appears, from the testimony of others, to have been abundantly successful: in one part of the sermon, he rose into an awful sublimity, which carried a complete and lasting conviction to his hearers of the superiority of his talents and eloquence. The "London Memoir," speaking of this sermon, says: "Many, we doubt not, who heard him that day, will recollect the profound and eloquent discourse which he delivered, in which there was a brilliant display of poetical imagery, combined with metaphysical acuteness and admirable reasoning; and many, we doubt not, will recollect his feeble appearance, and the exhaustion which was apparent ere he closed. Alas! disease was then making rapid inroads on his constitution, and his public ministrations were soon to end for ever." The weariness and prostration of strength, the offspring of this first and bold exertion, were so excessive, that after leaving the church, he was compelled to confine himself to his bed; and notwithstanding his subsequent partial restoration, he was only able to preach three sermons afterward; the spirit which animated him not possessing power sufficient to resist the weakness of the body.
Consumption, that sly and deceitful destroyer, which flatters but to kill, had fastened on his vitals, and, with its slow but silent tooth, was feeding on his constitution; yet , he did not know the extent of his danger. However, "in the summer he removed from Edinburgh to Slateford, a romantic village in the parish of St. Cuthbert's, delightfully situated on the rivulet called the Water of Leith, about three miles from the city. There, in the family of the Rev. Dr. BELFRAGE, minister of the United Congregation of Slateford, he was received with the utmost affection and respect. The salubrity of the air, and particular attention to diet, it was fondly anticipated, would restore him to vigor, especially as he had youth and the advantage of the season in his favor.. But the expectations of his friends were disappointed.
The unequivocal testimonials of esteem and respect exhibited for his person, character, and talents, are best illustrated by the tender and endearing treatment and the affectionate kindnesses which were lavished upon him. "During Mr. POLLOK's residence at Slateford, he experienced the utmost kindness and attention from a gentleman of the most distinguished reputation in the metropolis, Dr. ABERCROMBIE. This gentleman frequently visited him, and tendered his medical advice with his friendly conversation. Many others in the metropolis, both laity and clergy of various denominations, also evinced their respect for him by their solicitations. Among the former, the Right Hon. Sir JOHN SINCLAIR, who at a public dinner expressed his opinion of 'The Course of Time;' and the family of Dr. MONRO, of the University of Edinburgh, ought not to be forgotten. His friends and fellow-students in Edinburgh also frequently visited him, and cheered him by their conversations on former days." "Of the kindness of Dr. BELFRAGE, Mr. POLLOK always spoke with the most grateful enthusiasm. During his residence at Slateford, that
gentleman acted towards him as a father and a friend. Every thing which was thought conducive to his comfort was at his command." These tributary offerings of friendship and affection were, however, of no avail; his disease still continued, and was ripening for a fatal termination. “It was now thought necessary that a change of climate should be tried, and it was anticipated that the salubrious air of Italy might restore him to health. The city of Pisa, in the grand duchy of Tuscany, was the place selected for his residence. To a mind like his, deeply stored with classic learning, and capable of appreciating the scenes of that delightful country, such a residence must have possessed the highest interest." It was determined that this visit to the genial climes of Italy should be undertaken as soon as the arrangements necessary for his comfort were made; and letters, recommending him to the favorable notice and attention of individuals, celebrated for their learning on the Continent, were procured. Accompanied by his sister, he set out on his journey in August. "He proceeded by sea to England, and went first to Ply-. mouth; but the state of his health rendered it impossible for him to continue his journey any farther; and only the hope remained that, if spared till the next summer, he would perhaps be enabled to accomplish his undertaking. He therefore took up his residence near Southampton, at Devonshire-place, Shirley Common."
This was the ultima thule of his journeyings. It was soon apparent that his disease was too deeply planted to be removed; and hope, the last effort of the mind in sickness, was now extinct. Under the conviction that he could not recover, he wrote to his brother in Scotland regarding his condition, which he considered hopeless; and stated to his sister, who was still with him, that he should have remained at home, had he been able to realize the rapidly-destructive nature of his disease.
After a few afflictive days of lingering pain, premonitory of his hastening dissolution, he died on the 18th of September, 1827. His mortal remains were soon after decently interred; his brother not arriving until after the burial. He died in the full persuasion of the truths of the Christian system, which he had essayed to preach; and was cheered in his last moments by a calmness and tranquillity of mind, arising from his firm and unshaken faith in the religion he professed, and an unwavering confidence in the glories of that promised redemption which he had delineated with such pathos, eloquence, and power.
In his intercourse with his friends and familiar acquaintance, he was cheerful and light-hearted; and this disposition he retained till disease had altogether disorganized his nervous system. But, like most men of studious habits, he wore an air of distance and reserve when in the company of strangers. "His religion was that of the heart; he was pious, devout, humble; free from the conceits of a fancied perfection and the impulses of a heated enthusiasm. His mind was cast in too noble a mold to be impressed by the petty distinctions and animosities of sectarian prejudice, and his integrity rose superior to the hollow and superficial affectation of a spurious liberality." "His habits were those of a close student; his reading was extensive; he could converse on almost every subject; and had extraordinary facility in composition. His college acquaintance could perceive that his mind was not wholly devoted to the business of the classes; he was constantly writing or reading on other subjects. It was his custom to commit to the flames, every now and then, a great number of papers. Besides the regular exercises, he composed a variety for his own pleasure and improvement, and several of these were poetical."
Mr. POLLOK's mind was certainly of a very superior order: of this, there need no other proof be given than
the encomiums which his Course of Time' has called forth; encomiums, many of them, penned before his death was known, but which did not appear until after he had gone beyond the reach of earthly applause."
"The Course of Time," which had employed his thoughts for a long period antecedent to its appearance, and of which he had furnished, for the four last books, a thousand lines each week, is well worthy of the eulogies it received and the admiration it obtained. This intellectual child was conceived by the author in his juvenile days, and lived in embryo thought as the offspring of his maturing mind.
"His name is now recorded among those illustrious Scotsmen who have done honor to their country; who, from obscurity, have secured themselves an unfading reputation; and who will be remembered by distant generations with enthusiasm and admiration."
His other literary performances are three Sabbathschool tales, written when he was engaged in the study of theology, and published without the sanction of his name: they were entitled, "Helen of the Glen," "Ralph Gemmell," and "The Persecuted Family." These were all written before "The Course of Time;" and although all are respectable productions, yet the two last named give indications of more genius and talent than the first, which is founded on fancy rather than fact. The incidents of "The Persecuted Family" are derived from a train of correspondent facts and circumstances, which are asserted by the author to be substantially true, though their occurrence was not precisely in such order, chronologically and otherwise, as he relates them. Yet they had reference to an interesting portion of Scottish history, in which the cruelties practiced upon the Presbyterians of that country in the seventeenth century, are depicted with a masterly hand.
In his preface to "The Persecuted Family," he says: "Every sigh of our persecuted ancestors is recorded in