Page images

I die at the foot of that altar on which British independence is to be the victim."*

The preacher was quite ready to make good his words. Soon after the volunteers were organized, he enrolled himself in the St. Andrews corps, holding a double commission as chaplain and lieutenant. In 1805, he joined the corps at Kirkaldy, where it was then on permanent duty. In the outskirts of that town, he recognised an old acquaintance, a member of the Secession Church, whose family was sunk in poverty and visited with fever. Anxious to contribute to their relief, Mr. Chalmers requested Mr. Fleming, the minister of Kirkaldy, to give him the use of his pulpit, that he might preach a sermon, and make a collection on behalf of the sufferers. Knowing the applicant only as the author of the recently published pamphlet, and as one addicted more to lectures. on chemistry than to purely professional effort, Mr. Fleming refused. The will, however, was too strong not to find for itself a way. Although Mr. Chalmers could not get a pulpit to preach, he could find a room to lecture in. A suitable apartment was forthwith engaged; a course of lectures on chemistry announced. Though the admission ticket was somewhat high in price, goodly audiences crowded nightly around the lecturer; and at the close, he had the exquisite satisfaction of handing over to a respectable but unfortunate family, what not only relieved them from present distress, but supported them for some time afterwards in comfort.

The old manse at Kilmany generally had in it as many of Mr. Chalmers' brothers and sisters as it could conveniently accommodate. He was now the only one of the family who could be helpful to his parents; and the obligations which lay upon him as such, it was his delight to discharge. He had for a time undertaken the entire charge of his brother Patrick, and when it

* Posthumous Works, vol. vi. p. 49.

was determined that he should not be sent to the University, he transferred his care to his brother Charles-not only personally superintending his education during the summer at Kilmany, but carrying him to St. Andrews during the college session; for though he had ceased lecturing, he still divided the year between Kilmany and St. Andrews-the dilapidated state of the manse furnishing sufficient reasons for a winter residence elsewhere. It was at the close of such a residence that he wrote thus to Anstruther ::

"ST. ANDREWS, May 6, 1806.

"DEAR FATHER,-I am happy to inform you that Charles has acquitted himself to the great satisfaction of his teachers. The plan of his studies through the summer, I have delivered to himself in writing. You must not speak of his expenses. I have never been accustomed to despise economy, but at the same time think that the whole value of money lies in its use. I can assure you that single and unencumbered as I am, I have a sufficient surplus for every expense I have undertaken. I have never indeed lived under my income, but I find that I am clearing away my embarrassments gradually; and as to accumulation, it is a thing I have never thought of, and for which, according to my present intentions in life, I foresee no necessity.-I am, yours affectionately, THOMAS CHALMERS."

James had recently been unfortunate in business; and having had a little experience of the risks and treacheries of mercantile life during a year (1802) fatal to many merchants in Liverpool, he left that town to settle permanently in London. In his first letter to Thomas from the metropolis, he had mentioned his having forsaken the Presbyterian for the Episcopal communion. He afterwards asked his brother to show this letter to his father. "You desired me," was Thomas' reply, "to show my father your




first letter. I would not have done so for the world. apostasy from the Kirk would have horrified him, and he would have sighed over the degeneracy of that son who could renounce old mother Presbytery in the face of one of its ministers. But whatever I say, may the vengeance of heaven pursue me, if I feel contempt for that man who has passed through the world unstained by its corruptions-who has walked the manly career of independence and honour-who has escaped the infection of a degenerate age, and can boast a mind that has preserved its integrity amidst all the seductions of policy and interest. Such is the character of our good father. May the great Spirit bear up the weight of his old age, and blunt the arrow that gives it rest. Yours affectionately, THOMAS CHALMERS.”

This picture was not drawn by the hand of an exaggerating affection. Its fault lies not in excess, but in defect; for had the sketch been made by the same hand a few years later, other features should have appeared in it besides that of a pure and high-minded, unstained and incorruptible integrity. In that good father, depth of piety and tenderness of affection equalled the strength of his moral principle. In this year of 1806, at which we have now arrived, that piety was tested and that affection was severely tried. From his childhood, George had been a favourite in the family; he was so simple-hearted, so confiding, so generous, and so manly; and when he joined his vessel, he became as great a favourite with his master and messmates as he had been at home. When his apprenticeship had expired, he became mate; and while yet only twentythree years of age, was promoted to the command of the merchant ship Barton, which sailed from Liverpool, carrying, in the time of war, letters of marque, and cruising generally for six weeks in the Channel and along the French coast, in the hope of capturing some of our enemies' vessels, before she made

her destined voyage to the West Indies. In the course of these voyages, many hairbreadth escapes were made, and many a brave action was fought, unchronicled in our naval annals. "We sailed from Barbadoes," says George, describing one of them, "on the 17th May, a single ship, with twenty guns and fifty men; and on the 23d, fell in with a French privateer of ten guns, which ran on board our quarter and attempted to board us. Two days afterwards, we fell in with the Fairey schooner, a French privateer, of twenty guns and 150 men. She engaged us to leeward, within pistol-shot, for the space of an hour. We received her fire with calmness, and never returned a single shot, firing only our small arms till she came alongside us and grappled us on our fore and main chains. Then we gave her our broadside. Our guns were all loaded with round and grape shot. They made an attempt to board us, but we picked them down faster than they cut our nettings; at last they were obliged to shear off with a great loss. I perceived numbers of dead men on their deck, and their scuppers ran with streams of blood."

Wearied with the fight, George lay down upon the deck and fell asleep a sleep as fatal as any shot of the enemy could have been, lodging in him, as it did, the seeds of that deadly malady which carried him to the grave.* During the spring months of 1806, the symptoms of consumption having showed themselves with alarming distinctness, he resolved to try the effect of his native air. For a short time that air seemed to revive and reinvigorate, but the improvement was only tem

* He indeed made several voyages after this, in one of which he brought home from St. Lucie an invalid officer, (Colonel Mackay, the husband of the accomplished authoress of "The Family at Heatherdale,”) who came on board so weak that he could not mount the companion-ladder unaided. For six or eight weeks, George watched over him with the greatest tenderness, carrying him up daily in his arms from his cabin to the deck. He afterwards recovered, and hearing of George's illness, came from England to Anstruther, to return if possible the kind offices of the voyage.

porary. The months of August and September were spent at Kilmany, when his mother, his sisters Lucy, Jean, and Helen, and his brothers Thomas and Charles, were all around him. Leaving Thomas and Lucy ill behind him at Kilmany, George returned to Anstruther, where Thomas joined him at the close of the following month-not to be separated till the earthly bond was broken by death.

"ANSTRUTHER, Oct. 29, 1806.

"DEAR JAMES,—I arrived here yesterday from Kilmany quite recovered from my sore-throat. It confined me about four weeks, and has had the good effect of reducing me to something like a reasonable size. The fact is, that the ease and indolence of a country retirement have induced a tendency to corpulence, which I am anxious to avoid, as the greatest possible bar to action and useful exertion in every department. You perhaps know that I have been in the practice for some time back of dividing the year between Kilmany and St. Andrews, allotting the summer to the former, and the winter to the latter. The wretched state of the manse renders this in some measure necessary, and indeed I can never regard myself as completely settled until I get my heritors prevailed on to grant a new establishment of house, offices, &c. I remember having some directions from you on the subject of gardening, which I neglected altogether, having no taste at the time for that occupation. I have lately, however, devoted myself to the study of botany, and am so much fascinated with the pursuit that I mean to lay out one-third of my garden in the cultivation of flowers. I will divide my botanical plot into narrow strips, with intervening walks, and mean to arrange the plants in scientific order. The book I use is Withering's British Flora; and to give you an idea of the rich botanical tract in which I am situated, twothirds of his genera are to be found within nine miles of St. Andrews.

« PreviousContinue »