Open main menu

Page:Footsteps of Dr. Johnson.djvu/113

This page needs to be proofread.

have been pleased indeed could he have known how that bright young genius would one day delight in his poems, and how the last line of manuscript that he was to send to the press would be a quotation from the Vanity of Human Wishes^ " Ha; miserix nostra;," were the melancholy words which Robertson uttered as he showed his companion the mean buildings in which his illustrious University was lodged. Johnson, in the narrative of his tour, no doubt remembering what he saw both here and at St. Andrew's, grieved over a nation which, " while its merchants or its nobles are raising palaces suffers its universities to moulder into dust." Robertson, in an eloquent Memorial, had lately pleaded the cause of learning. The courts and buildings of the College were so mean, he said, that a stranger would mistake them for almshouses. Instead of a spacious quadrangle there were three paltry divisions, encompassed partly with a range of low and even of ruinous houses, and partly with walls which threatened destruction to the passers-by. Boswell tells of one portion of the wall which, bulging out, was supposed, like " Bacon's mansion," to "tremble o'er the head" ot every scholar, being destined to fall when a man of extra- ordinary learning should go under it. It had lately been taken down. " They were afraid it never would fall," said Johnson, glad of an opportunity to have a pleasant hit at Scottish learning. In spite of its poverty and the meanness of its buildings, such was the general reputation of the University, above all of the School of Medicine, that students flocked to it from all parts of Great Britain and Ireland, from the English settlements in North America and the West Indies, and even from distant countries in Europe. Their number at this time was not less than six or seven hundred ; by 1 789 it had risen to one thousand and ninety. The Principal did not allow himself to be soothed into negligence by this success. He grieved that " with a literary education should be connected in youth ideas of poverty, meanness, dirtiness, and darkness." The sum of money which he asked for was not large in a country whose wealth was so rapidly increasing. For ,6,500 not quite double the amount which he had been lately paid for his History of Charles V. sixteen " teaching rooms " could be provided, while ,8,500 more would supply everything else that was needed. Yet it was not till 1789 that the foundation stone was laid of the New

' Lockhart's Scott, iii. 269. The quotation no stage ; " the line with which Scott concluded the doubt was, "Superfluous lags the veteran on the brief Appendix to Castle Dangerous.

�� �