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Art. I. Memoirs of the Life and Writings of George Buchanan. By1 David Irving, A. M. 8vo. pp. xxx. 318. Price 8s. Edinburgh, Bell and Co.; Longman and Co. 1807.
""THE celebrity of Buchanan among the admirers and cultivators of Latin poetry, sufficiently warrants the expectation, that an account of his life will be received with no common interest. He was one of those men whose memories are cherished with a degree of fondness and admiration, that gives an air of importance to the minutest and most ordinary circumstances of their history. He outstripped his contemporaries in the favourite studies of the period in which he lived. When a knowledge of Roman literature was sought with the most persevering industry, and employed the brightest talents of the age, and when a happy imitation of the ancient compositions was deemed equal to original excellence, Buchanan was unanimously allowed, both in Latin poetry and prose, to bear away the palm of superiority. But the histqry of this celebrated man would be gratifying to public curiosity, even without the aid of literary fame to dignify its object. His life was a chequered and changeful scene. He passed through a variety of situations, resided in different countries, was exposed to many dangers, struggled with formidable difficulties, associated with every rank of men, and, excepting a short occasional interval, he still proceeded onward to a higher point of eminence in the scale of society, until we have the pleas'tog spectacle of a character origi.•• natly indigent and obscure, forcing his way, by dint of genius and learning, to some of the highest honours and preferments which his country could bestow. In addition to these advantages, the present memoirs have derived others from the talents of the biographer; who has displayed a variety of learning, a soundness of criticism, and a chaste and elaborate elegance of composition, which might have imparted charms to ahistory much less interesting in itself, than that of Buchanan. Vol. IV. Gg
The subject of these memoirs was born about the beginning of February 1506, in trie 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 infirm 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 had conducted from France, he made an unsuccessful attack on the Castle of Werk. The disgrace of the campaign cooled his military ardour, and he returned to the pursuit of knowledge, which was his ruling passion through life. Having for some time studied at the university of St Andrews, he again left Scotland, and went into France. The doctrines 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 vears with the difficulties 01 indigence, he was ap~ pointed 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 Otvyay. The effects of hard study on the .constitution, are aptly described in the following linea*
* Ante diem curvos senium grave contrahit artiw,
Be now entered on a new employment, as tutor of a young fe'eotish nobleman, Lord Cassilis, with whom he afterwards returned to Scotland. When he was preparing to return U> France, he was retained by King James V. as a preceptor to one of his natural sons. It was at this time, that he composed the inimitable satire on the impurities and ^absurdities of tb$ monks, under the tide of "Franciscanus." He had before published a short poem, intitled "Sovmium" and an ironical recantation, both which contained severe reflections on the Franciscan friars. The occasion of writing the "FriaJtuu*Bus" is thus told.
«The Franciscan friars, still smarting From his Somnium, found mean of representing him to the king as a man of deprayed morals, and dubious faith. But on this occasion their obstreperous 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 consigning 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 pursuance of this fine project, he compose?! 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 easily1 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 composition 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 iu 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 hjs 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 Pxofes3ors of the college of Guienne. He here prosecuted his studies with great diligence, and in the course of three years completed the tragedies of Jephllies and BaptisWs, 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, soo4i invited to leave that situation, for another hi the university (Ojf Coimhra in Portugal. Here, in consequence of his obnoxious prlncjphas of religion, he was thrown into one of the dungeons of the inquisition, and afterwards removed to the pofl/ftneweni of * monastery. It was during this irtipri-.