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feature of his character, he used to persuade me to retire to rest; and many a time have I awoke, when the night was far spent, and wondered to find him still at his books and pen.”
Under all these labours Moir grew up to manhood, well knit of body and firm of health. “I am far from being delicate,” thus he writes in 1828 to Dr Macnish of Glasgow : “I have not been confined fourteen days to bed for the last twenty years—a pretty good sign that my constitution is not naturally a very tender one. So far from it, I am much more known in the town of Musselburgh, among the profanum vulgus, for my gymnastic proficiency than for any mental capabilities; and many could give evidence to my prowess in leaping, running, swimming, and skating, who never dreamt that I ‘penned a sonnet when I should engross. All very good; but, as in the case of Burns and other men of genius, the general frame may be robust, and yet the nervous system tremblingly delicate. To Macnish, the very same year, we find our poet confessing thus :-“You ask me if I am ever subject to hypochondria. For several years past the tone of my mind has been much more equable, and though, like all the rest of the irritabile genus, liable to ups and downs, I have become a callous enough, dull enough, plodding man of the world. From eighteen to twentyone I lived in such a state of nervous excitement, that the very idea of encountering a strange face, or making a call at a house where I was not thoroughly familiar, was a torture that called on me for an ejaculation to Heaven for support ; but the years which have been blunting my sensibilities have brought with them the not to be despised benefit of more commonplace nerves. As a printed specimen of my having been hipped, I need only refer you to ‘Despondency, a Reverie,’ in my volume, a piece no notice of which has ever been taken, so far as I have seen, but which, notwithstanding (meipso judice), is one of the most deeply poetical pieces I have ever produced. Perhaps you know, and have experienced, as well as myself, that employment of the mind is the best method of dispelling vapours, and that without bodily exercise, nay, fatigue, a man of thought and reflection is apt to become jaundiced in his perceptions and feelings. Often at the time have I found it a horrid annoyance to be obliged to break through my trains of thought, and mix with the great Babel of the world ; but I have had reason to be thankful for it afterwards ; I have no doubt that my health has often been preserved by such rude interferences with my meditations."
Constituted thus of the practical and the contemplative, of the robust and the keenly susceptible, we have in young Moir that duality of nature which makes a complete man.
MR Moir's strict attention to his professional business may be guessed from the fact, that between 1817, when he joined Dr Brown, and 1828, when he made a run to Glasgow and Northumberland, he did not sleep a night out of Musselburgh. No fagging, however, could keep down his literary spirit. He was now stepping out upon the bolder arena of Blackwood's Magazine. William Blackwood, a man of rare sagacity, intelligence, courage, and persevering energy, saw at once the value of his new contributor, and kept him at work. Animated by such appreciation, Moir's mind seems to have been in a state of great exaltation at this time. Pensive tenderness to-day, frolicsome humour to-morrow-ready was he for both. A few friends about Musselburgh, who knew the fun with which he had enlivened a manuscript Magazine, projected and kept up in their circle mainly by himself, might not have been surprised to learn that the best of the jeuxd'esprit with which young Maga was now crackling
“ The Eve of St Jerry,” “ The Auncient Waggonere,” “Billy Routing,” &c.— were let off by Moir; but the body of his admirers will be surprised to learn it now for the first time. Maginn has generally got the credit of Moir's squibs. Our poet kept his incognito for a while, even with Mr Blackwood, commu
nicating his serious and his jocose pieces as if from two different parties—though, to say the truth, the sagacious publisher scented the identity of authorship from the very first. In all his play of sparrow-shot, sharp and decisive was the skill with which our humorist hit the folly as it flew. A queer refrain for a queer song was quite a knack with him. “Have you never observed,” thus, on an after day, writes to him his friend, Mr Robert Chambers, with his usual curious ingenuity, that songs appear all the more acceptable to the
popular mouth when they are a little daft-like? Honest Captain Gray always joins me in this idea. A kind of rant, or 'drant,' aut aliocunque nomine gaudeat, often fixes itself on the public, when capital, sensible verses have no chance. Is it because we sing only (generally speaking) when we are in a frivolous, capersome humour, and don't care about what comes uppermost ? If not this, hang me if I can tell what it is !” You have touched the soul of Oddity, 0 ! clever master of the Popular Rhymes. With or without a reason, Moir could embody it. An occasional short essay
varied our author's contributions to Blackwood. These essays were but slight, and attracted little notice. His comic vein of poetry intermitted—his serious one ran freely on. His grave verses were stamped with the signature of the Greek letter A ; hence the title of “Delta” usually given to Moir in the literary world. “ The Pyramid” and “The Triangle” were playful variations by his friends. The popularity of Delta's soft and beautiful pieces was very great, especially among the young, and helped well to fix Blackwood in the hearts of the rising generation. The reading of poetry is a passion with a great proportion of young people, and the magazine
which has it abundantly is their delight : as they advance in life, they may care less for poetry, still they go on with the series of their magazine, clinging to it as their first love: and its continued poetry, the while, is attracting another generation of young readers. This, by the way, as a hint to editors.
Delta at length became personally known to Mr Blackwood, and, through him, to several of the leading writers in the Magazine, Professor Wilson among others. This acquaintanceship with the Professor gradually ripened into a friendship not to be dissolved but at the grave's mouth. In the multiform nature of Wilson, his mastery over the hearts of ingenuous youth was one of his finest characteristics. It was often won in this peculiar way :-An essay is submitted to him as Professor, Editor, or Friend, by some worthy young man. Mr Wilson does not like it, and says so in general terms. The youth is not satisfied, and, in the tone of one rather injured, begs to know specific faults. The generous Aristarch, never dealing haughtily with a young worth, instantly sits down, and begins by conveying, in the most fearless terms of praise, his sense of that worth ; but, this done, wo be to the luckless
; piece of prose or
numerous verse !” Down goes the scalpel with the most minute savagery of dissection, and the whole tissues and ramifications of fault are laid naked and bare. The young man is astonished ; but
; his spirit is of the right sort; he never forgets the lesson ; and, with bands of filial affection stronger than hooks of steel, he is knit for life to the man who has dealt with him thus. Many a heart will recognise this peculiar style of the great nature I speak of. The severe service was once done to Delta ; he was the young man to profit by it: the friendship was all the firmer.