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The subject of these memoirs was born about the beginning of February 1506, in the parish of Killearn in the county of Stirling, of a family more remarkable for its antiquity than its opulence. The early loss of his father was in some measure supplied by the kindness of his maternal uncle, who, discovering in his nephew's mind the marks of a superior genius, sent him to the university of Paris to pursue his studies. Here he chiefly attended to Latin verse, and laid the foundation of that eminence which he afterwards attained. By the death of his uncle, the infirmi state of his own health, and the indigence of his circumstances, he was forced to return to his native country. On the return of his strength he entered on a military life, and with the auxiliaries which the Duke of Albany bad conducted from France, he made an una successful attack on the Castle of Werk. The disgrace of the campaign cooled his military ardour, and be returned to the pursuit of knowledge, which was his ruling passion through lifé. Haviog for some time studied at the university of St. Andrews, he again left Scotland, and went into France. The doctriucs of the reformation had begun to agitate the public mind, and as Buchanan was open to conviction, he readily embraced the views of the Lutheran party. After struggling for two years with the difficulties of indigence, he was appointed Regent or Professor in the college of St. Barbe, where he taught grammar. The small remuneration which he received for his labours, induced him to write at this time a complaint of his muse, a small poem far superior in beauty to the one which afterwards came from the pen of the base and unprincipled. Otway. The effects of hard study on tlie constitution, are aptly described in the following lines.
* Ante diem curvos senium grave contrahit artus,
Irruis, et curis angeris usque novis.' He now entered on a new employment, as tutor of a youos Seotish nobleman, Lord Cassilis, with whom he afterwards returned to Scotland. When hc was preparing to return to France, he was retaiped by King James V. as a preceptor to one of his natural sons. It was at this time, ihat he composed the inimitable satire on the impurities and absurdities of the monks, under the title of "Franciscanus." He had before published a short poem, iutitled “ Somnium,” and an ironical recautation, both which contained severe reflections on the Franciscan friars, The occasion of writing the “Franciscina nus” is thus told.
The Franciscan friars, still smarting from his Somnium, found mean of representing him to the king as a man of depraved morals, and du-' bious faith. But on this occasion their obstreperpus zeal recoiled upon themselves. By comparing the humility of their professions with the arrogance of their deportment, James had formerly begun to discover their genuine character, and the part which he supposed them to have acted, in a late conspiracy against his life, had not contributed to diminish his antipathy. Instead of consigoing the poet to disgrace or punishment, the king, who was aware that private resentment would improve the edge of his satire, enjoined him, in the presence of many courtiers, to renew his well-directed attack on the same pious fathers. Buchanan's late experience had however taught him the importance of caution , he determined at once to gratify the king's resentment against the friars, and to avoid increasing the resentment of the friars against himself. In pursuiance of this fine project, he composed a kind of recantation which he supposed might delude the Franciscans by its ambiguity of phrase. But he found himself doubly deceived: the indignation of the king, who was himself a satirical poet, could not so easily be gratified, and the friars were now impelled to a higher pitch of resentment. James requested him to compose another satire, which should exhibit their vices in a more glaring light. The subject was copious, and well adapted to the poet's talents and views. He accordingly applied himself to the com. position of the poem afterwards published under the title of Franciscanus, and to satisfy the king's impatience, soon presented him with a specimen. pp. 21-23.
During the horrible persecutions of the Protestants, which broke out soon after in Scotland, he was obliged to fly from his native country. He had been included by Cardinal Beaton in a general arrest, and committed to custody ; but he made his escape through the windows of his apartment, while his keepers were asleep. He passed through England to France, and fixed his residence at Bourdeaux, where by the interest of his friend Andrew Govea, he was appointed one of the Professors of the college of Guienne. He here prosecuted his studies with great diligence, and in the course of three years completed the tragedies of Jephthes and Baptistes, and published a poetical version of the Medea and Alcestis of Euripides. In this college he had the honour of being preceptor to the celebrated Montaigne, or, to speak with equal propriety, Montaigne had the honour of being the pupil of Buchanan. He next removed to Paris as regent in the college of Cardinal le Moine, where he enjoyed the society and friendship of several eminent scholars. He was however, soon invited to leave that situation, for ayother in the university of Coimbra in Portugal. Here, in consequence of his obnoxious pripciples of religion, he was thrown into one of the dungeons of the inquisition, and afterwards removed to the confinement of a monastery. It was during this impri-, sonment, that he began his Latin version of the Psalms, to which he directed his mind for consolation. After his release, he goes to Paris and fills the office of regent in the college of Boncourt, until he is called from that charge by the celebrated Comte de Brissac, who entertained him as the domestic tutor of his son, Timoleon de Cossè. During his stay in the Count's family, an incident occurred which strikingly displays the ready apprehension and versatility of his mind.
• He happened to enter an apartment contiguous to the hall in which the marshal and his officers were engaged in discussing some measure of great importance, and on being arrested by their debates, he could not refrain from murmuring his disapprobation of the opinion supported by the majority. One of the generals smiled at so unexpected a salutation, but the marshal having invited Buchanan into the council, enjoined him to deliver his sentiments without restraint. He accordingly proceeded to discuss the question with his wonted perspicacity, and to excite the amazement of Brissac and his officers. In the issue, his suggestions
were found to have been oracular.' p. 110. Tun After his engagement with the Count de Brissac was termi
nated, he returned to his native country. It cannot be said that his countrymen were insensible of his merit. He was chosen domestic tutor to Queen Mary, who perused with him every afternoon a portion of Livy. By the interest of the Earl of Murray, he was made Principal of St. Leonard's college, and was presented by the Queen to the temporalities of the Abbey of Crossragwell. After the flight of Mary, he accompanied the Regent into England, and took part against the captive Queen, whose criminal conduct had alienated his affections from her. This event was followed by a publication reprobating Mary's crimes, thé Chameleon, and a dialogue De Jure Regni.
In 1570 he was appointed preceptor to the young king, and exercised his office with uprightness and independence. As one seldom hears of the flagellation of young monarchs, the following anecdotes will perhaps afford some amusement and consolation to such of our juvenile readers as are still smarting under scholastic discipline, or have a tolerably vivid recollection of it.
• The king having caught a fancy for a tame sparrow which belonged to his playfellow, the master of Mar, solicited him without effect to transfer his right, and in endeavouring to wrest it out of his hand, he deprived the poor little animal of life. Erskine having raised due lamentation for its untimely fate, the circumstances were reported to Buchanan; who lent his young Sovereign a box on the ear, and admonished him that he was himself a true bird of the bloody nest to which he belonged.'
p. 169. ...A theme which had one day been prescribed to the royal pupil, was · the conspiracy of the Earl of Angus and other noblemen, during the
reign of James 'III. After dinner he was diverting himself with the Master of Mar; and as Buchanan, who in the mean time was intent on reading, found himself annoyed by their obstreperous mirth, he requested the king to desist ; but as no attention was paid to the suggestion, he threatened to accompany his next injunction with something more forcible than words. James, whose ear had been tickled by the quaint application of the apologue mentioned in the theme, replied that he should be
glad to see who would bell the cat. His venerable preceptor who might I have pardoned the remark, was perhaps offended with the mode in which
it was uttered; he threw 'aside his book with indignation, and bestowed upon the delinquent that species of scholastic discipline which is deemed most ignominious. The Countess of Mar, being attracted by the wailing which ensued, hastened to the scene of disgrace, and taking the precious deposit in her arms, she demanded of Buchanan how he presumed to lay his hand upon “ the Lord's anointed.” To this interrogation he is said to have returned an answer, that contained a very unceremonious antithesis relative to that part which had received the chastisement.' p. 170.
After the dismissal of Lord Maitland from his office, Buchanan held the honourable and lucrative situation of Lord Privy Seal, and enjoyed other marks of distinction. This period was the zenith of his prosperity. The honours which he received at home were accompanied with contributions of praise, expressions of friendship, and solicitations of literary aid, from the most learned men in Europe. Those of his works which he had published were edited in several countries, and those which he was known to be preparing, were expected with impatient curiosity. The last production which he lived to complete was the History of Scotland, more famous for the excellence of its Latinity than the accuracy of its information. He did not live to see it issue from the press. The last scenes of his life are thus described.
In the month of September, some of his learned friends, namely Andrew Melvin, James Melvin, and his own cousin Thomas Buchanan, provost of the collegiate church of Kirkhaugh, having heard that the work was in the press and the author indisposed, hastened to Edinburgh to pay him a final visit. James, who was the nephew of Andrew Melvin, and professor of divinity at St. Andrews, has in simple terms recorded the principal circumstances which occurred during their interview, Upon entering his apartment, they found the greatest genius of the age employed in the humble though benevolent task of teaching the horn-book to a young man in his service. After the usual salutations, 66 I perceive, Sir,” said Andrew Melvin, “ you are not idle.” “ Better this,” re. plied Buchanan, “ than stealing sheep, or sitting idle, which is as bad." He afterwards shewed them his dedication to the young king ; and Melvin having perused it, remarked that it seemed in some passages obscure, and required certain words to complete the sense. « I can do nothing more," said Buchanan, “ for thinking of another matter." " What is that?” rejoined Melvin.-" To die. But I leave that, and many other things to your care." Melvin likewise alluded to the pube lication of Blackwood's answer to his treatise De Jure Regni apud Scotos. These visitors afterwards proceeded to Arbuthnot’s printing office, to inspect a work which had excited such high expectation. They found the impression had proceeded as far as the passage relative to the inter. ment of David Rizzio; and being alarmed at the unguarded boldness with which the historian had there expressed himself, they requested the printer to desist. Having returned to Buchanan's house, they found him in bed. In answer to their friendly enquiries, he informed them that he was “ even going the way of welfare." His kindnren then proceeded to state their apprehensions respecting the consequence of pube lishing so unpalatable a story : and to suggest the probability of its inducing the king to prohibit the entire work. “ Tell me, man,” said 'Buchanan, “ if I have told the truth," " Yes Sir," replied his cousin, “ I think so.” “ Then,” rejoined the dying historian, “ I will abide his feud, and all his kin's. Pray to God for me, and let him direct all." And so, subjoins the original narrative, “ by the printing of his chronicle was ended, that most learned, wise, and godly man ended this mortal life," pp. 294–296.
Mr. Irving has interwoven, in this work, a considerable pcrtion of information respecting the state of learning at that period, and presented his readers with brief accounts of many eminent scholars who enjoyed Buchanan's friendship. He has formed the plan of bis Memoirs entirely on the model which Mr. Roscoe exhibited in his life of Lorenzo, and the execution of it, both with regard to manner and style, is so similar, that the public stand pledged to the approbation of the one by the applause which they have bestowed on the other. In truth Mr. I. appears not so much the humble imi. tator, as the respectable rival of the Biographer of the Medici; and if the world should fail to consider him in this character, he may thank his own modesty for the injustice. His book should certainly have been three times as large, and four times as costly. Modern readers, he should have known, estimate the talents of an author on the same principle as those 'of a prime minister, according to the amount of contribution which he levies ; indeed this frugality is not the only symptom in his performance of democratic notions. We are however compelled to say that the episodes of his Memoirs are not always introduced so naturally as might be wished, and on the whole occupy more than a fair proportion of the work. We found ourselves now and then too long detained from the company of the Scotish bard, and were glad to resume the narrative of his life. The accounts of several individuals are introduced unnecessarily." The author has in some instances thought it his duty to give us the parentage, birth, and death of a character, to whom the poet may have merely inscribed an elegy or addressed an epigram. - We would gladly have relinquished many pages of this description, for a more ex