Abbildungen der Seite

tion of Earlstoun, with this difference, that it is not yet, and I trust never will be, a 'deserted village.' But Goldsmith's minister, schoolmaster, and publican, were the minister, schoolmaster, and publican of Earlstoun, when I first knew it.

“ The people of Scotland reap important advantages from the establishment of parochial schools in all parts of the nation. This, depending not on the precarious charity of the times, but on the authority of Parliament, will continue to be a source of knowledge and instruction for youth, I trust, to late ages. By the care that is taken to make them at school acquainted with the doctrines of the Assembly's Catechism, they are prepared for taking a respectable part in the annual parochial examination, and fitted for understanding the public instructions which, on every Lord's day, are given to the people. The cheapness of education also brings it within the reach of the poorest labourer. One shilling a quarter for reading; one shilling and sixpence for reading, writing, and accounts; and half-a-crown for Latin and Greek, were the stated wages. The care which the worthy master took of us, his joy at our proficiency, and his uneasiness at our sloth, were truly parental. I shall reverence his memory while I live.*

* This system owes its existence to the Scottish reformers. The First Book of Discipline, published in 1560, by Knox and his companions, contains the first suggestion : “ Seeing that men now-a-days are not miraculously gifted, as in the times of the apostles, for the continuance of knowledge and learning to the generations following, especially for the profit and comfort of

“ On one or other of the days of January in 1767 or 1768, it pleased God to visit me with the small-pox. Inoculation was then unknown in that part of the country. My dear father, on being

Christ's kirk, it is necessary that care be had of the virtuous and godly education of youth. We judge, therefore, that in every parish there should be a schoolmaster ; such an one as is able at least to teach the grammar and the Latin tongue, where the town is of any reputation.” This suggestion, aided by frequent resolutions, to the same effect, of the General Assembly of the Kirk, sufficed for a beginning; but the scheme did not take sufficient root till 1616, when it was enforced, with some necessary details, by an order of the Scottish council. The order needed a legislative sanction; and this it obtained, in 1633, in a parliament held during one of Charles the First's visits to Scotland, which added some provisions for the support of the schools and the teachers. By these means the wants of the more populous districts were supplied; and, during the fervour of “ the covenanted work of reformation” which soon followed, these schools concurred with the zealous labours of the presbyters in spreading among high and low a very fair degree of common knowledge suited to their different ranks, and a degree of religious knowledge which would put the attainments of the present generation, in that respect, to the blush. The gravity of character, the intense regard to duty, the stern zeal of the Scottish people of that age, were primarily owing to religious sentiment; but their susceptibility to this sentiment was owing to the early and general culture of their minds. The consequences to the civil and religious liberties of Scotland, where the first heave was felt, and, through sympathy and connexion, to England and to Europe, it would be difficult to over-estimate.

The atrocious endeavours of Charles the Second to extirpate presbytery had trodden down the system of education so closely connected with it. Where any schools were left, teachers had intruded who were ignorant and worthless; and after the Revolution, it was found necessary, by a Scottish act, passed in 1693, (" for settling the quiet and peace of the church”), to ordain that every parochial teacher should be liable to the Trial-judgment

sent for, came himself, and brought me to East Gordon behind him on horseback, in the midst of the snow, which lay a foot deep on the ground. To this circumstance it was probably owing that I had so small a number of pustules,-- little more than fifty: they were also of a good kind. I soon recovered, and returned back to school. To thee, the God of my life, and the length of my days, I ascribe praise and glory for my preservation, O that the life saved in thy mercy were ever employed in thy service!


and censure of the presbyteries of the bounds for their sufficiency, qualifications, and deportment in their office; and by an act passed in 1696, the whole system was re-established and remodelled. It required a teacher to be provided in every parish, who was to be appointed by the minister and heritors (landholders) of the parish, with a fixed salary of not less than 100 merks (51. 11s. Id. stg.), nor exceeding 200 merks (111. 2s. 2d.) annually, to be paid by the heritors in proportion to their valued rents, in the same manner as the tiends, or stipends, of the ministers. The teacher was, besides, to have a house and a garden, and was permitted to exact moderate fees (subject to the control of the minister and heritors) from the scholars. Under this enactment, the parish schools of Scotland flourished for a century. The scholars were taught reading, writing, and arithmetic, and, if they chose, book-keeping, mathematics, Latin, and Greek. The school was opened and closed with prayer. The books principally used for reading were the Bible and catechisms. Each scholar, as soon as he was able, was required, every morning, to repeat a part of the Shorter Catechism, with or without Scripture proofs; and the Saturday forenoon was appropriated to a review of what had been learned during the week, especially in religious knowledge. The only vacation was for one month during harvest; and, immediately before this, (sometimes oftener), the school was publicly examined, in presence of the whole presbytery. To eke out his income, the teacher usually held other small parochial offices. He was precentor,

“ As I believe that a sparrow falls not to the ground without the agency of Divine Providence, I think it right to preserve the memory of the care of that Providence about my life during the period of youthful rashness and inexperience. How often was I in danger of being dashed in pieces while I was climbing the tree, the loose fragments of old towers, and the rugged precipice jutting out over the river! I almost feel the trembling of my joints while I look back on these dangers at Cowdenknowes, Rhymer's Tower, and particularly the

or clerk, session clerk (i. e. he kept the book containing the proceedings of the minister, elders, and heritors, attended their meetings, and kept the parish registers), collector of cess (a sort of poor-rate), and land-surveyor for the parish; and, for a considerable period, men of excellent qualifications were tempted, by these various emoluments, to become candidates for the situation. The male scholars (for boys and girls attended the same school, though in different classes, and seated apart from each other,) were thus fitted for the college at a small expense; and though few or no great scholars were produced, yet all had enough to give their shrewd perseverance its full play. The perfervidum ingenium Scotorum was attempered down to a firm purpose in a rational pursuit ; and the result may be seen in the vast numbers of Scotchmen who, since the above period of 1696, have risen to wealth, rank, and renown, in every department of active life.

The changes that had taken place in every thing in the course of a century rendered the emoluments of the parochial teacher inadequate, and in the same proportion had lessened the qualifications of the candidates for the office. In 1803, therefore, the British parliament passed an act, increasing the salary; so that, for the twenty-five years next following, it should be not less than 300, nor more than 400 merks, and that at the end of every twenty-five years it should be augmented in proportion to the average price of a chalder of oatmeal.

Gaitheugh opposite to Old Melrose. The least slip of my foot, or withdrawment of my hand, might have proved fatal to my existence in this world. I never repeat these beautiful lines of Addison's, but my imagination hurries back to the period I speak of:

• When in the slippery paths of youth

With heedless steps I ran,
Thine arm, unseen, conveyed me safe,

And led me up to man.
Through hidden dangers, snares, and deaths,

It gently clear'd my way;'
O that I could add, with equal truth!

• And through the pleasing scenes of vice,

More to be feared than they.' “ In the midst, however, of these dangers, I was gathering health, and strengthening my constitution. My schoolfellows and I were accustomed to rise in the summer mornings sometimes at five o'cluck, and, to the number of ten or twenty, to visit 'The White Cleugh Well,' a kind of mineral spring, about a mile and a half from the village, where, if the waters did us no signal good, we were certainly much indebted, as somebody calls it, to the goddess of the waters.

“ At the earlier season of the year, we were accustomed to rise very soon also, for the important business of drawing our fishing-lines, which had been set over night in the Leader.

“To those and similar excursions, particularly bird-nesting in the country, the most pastoral and sweet that my eyes ever beheld, and where every

[ocr errors]
« ZurückWeiter »