Reminiscences of Scottish Life and Character eBook

Edward Bannerman Ramsay
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 542 pages of information about Reminiscences of Scottish Life and Character.

[11] Alluditur ad titulum libri Reminiscences, etc.

[12] Here is the passage referred to by Mr. Dickens:—­“There are persons who do not sympathise with my great desire to preserve and to disseminate these specimens of Scottish humour; indeed, I have reasons to suspect that some have been disposed to consider the time and attention which I have given to the subject as ill-bestowed, or at any rate, as somewhat unsuitable to one of my advanced age and sacred profession.  If any persons do really think so, all I can say is, I do not agree with them.  National peculiarities must ever form an interesting and improving study, inasmuch as it is a study of human nature; and the anecdotes of this volume all tend to illustrate features of the Scottish mind, which, as moral and religious traits of character, are deeply interesting.  I am convinced that every one, whether clergyman or layman, who contributes to the innocent enjoyment of human life, has joined in a good work, inasmuch as he has diminished the inducement to vicious indulgence.  God knows there is enough of sin and of sorrow in the world to make sad the heart of every Christian man.  No one, I think, need be ashamed of his endeavours to cheer the darker hours of his fellow-travellers’ steps through life, or to beguile the hearts of the weary and the heavy laden, if only for a time, into cheerful and amusing trains of thought.  So far as my experience of life goes, I have never found that the cause of morality and religion was promoted by sternly checking the tendencies of our nature to relaxation and amusement.  If mankind be too ready to enter upon pleasures which are dangerous or questionable, it is the part of wisdom and of prudence to supply them with sources of interest, the enjoyment of which are innocent and permissible.”


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When this Memoir was only begun I was anxious to say something of the Dean’s musical powers; and, not venturing to speak of music myself, I asked the Dean’s sister Lady Burnett to supply my deficiency.  In reply I had the following letter:—­

     22d February 1873.

...  As a flute-player the Dean attained a proficiency rarely seen in an amateur, and used frequently to play the very difficult flute-obligatos of some of Handel’s songs, which are considered a hard task even for professionals.  Besides playing the flute he was thoroughly conversant with the mechanism of the organ, and had some knowledge of the violoncello, though he never gave much time to the study of that instrument.  But perhaps the most interesting point in this part of the character of my brother was his ardent love for Handel’s music.  There was not a song or chorus of the great master that he was not acquainted with, and in his younger days he used to sing the bass music from the Messiah and other Oratorios with great taste and skill—­his
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