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Life of Adam Smith eBook

John Rae (educator)
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 458 pages of information about Life of Adam Smith.
father of the James Oswald now in question—­who undertook on behalf of Mrs. Smith the arrangements for her husband’s funeral; and the friendship of James Oswald, as will presently appear, was, after the affection of his mother, the best thing Smith carried into life with him from Kirkcaldy.  The Adam family also lived in the town, though the father was a leading Scotch architect—­King’s Mason for Scotland, in fact—­and was proprietor of a fair estate not far away; and the four brothers Adam were the familiars of Smith’s early years.  They continued to be among his familiars to the last.  Another of his school companions who played a creditable part in his time was John Drysdale, the minister’s son, who became one of the ministers of Edinburgh, doctor of divinity, chaplain to the king, leader of an ecclesiastical party—­of the Moderates in succession to Robertson—­twice Moderator of the General Assembly, though in his case, as in so many others, the path of professional success has led but to oblivion.  Still he deserves mention here, because, as his son-in-law, Professor Dalzel tells us, he and Smith were much together again in their later Edinburgh days, and there was none of all Smith’s numerous friends whom he liked better or spoke of with greater tenderness than Drysdale.[5] Drysdale’s wife was a sister of the brothers Adam, and Robert Adam stayed with Drysdale on his visits to Edinburgh.

A small town like Kirkcaldy—­it had then only 1500 inhabitants—­is a not unfavourable observatory for beginning one’s knowledge of the world.  It has more sorts and conditions of men to exhibit than a rural district can furnish, and it exhibits each more completely in all their ways, pursuits, troubles, characters, than can possibly be done in a city.  Smith, who, spite of his absence of mind, was always an excellent observer, would grow up in the knowledge of all about everybody in that little place, from the “Lady Dunnikier,” the great lady of the town, to its poor colliers and salters who were still bondsmen.  Kirkcaldy, too, had its shippers trading with the Baltic, its customs officers, with many a good smuggling story, and it had a nailery or two, which Smith is said to have been fond of visiting as a boy, and to have acquired in them his first rough idea of the value of division of labour.[6] However that may be, Smith does draw some of his illustrations of the division of labour from that particular business, which would necessarily be very familiar to his mind, and it may have been in Kirkcaldy that he found the nailers paid their wages in nails, and using these nails afterwards as a currency in making their purchases from the shopkeepers.[7]

At school Smith was marked for his studious disposition, his love of reading, and his power of memory; and by the age of fourteen he had advanced sufficiently in classics and mathematics to be sent to Glasgow College, with a view to obtaining a Snell exhibition to Oxford.

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