« FöregåendeFortsätt »
A NEw edition of Archbishop Leighton's Works being called for, it was thought desirable to accompany it with a more complete life, than has yet been given to the world, of their venerable author. To accomplish this object no trouble and expense have been spared by the publisher. Old sources of information have been explored anew; and inquiries have been instituted wherever there was even a faint prospect of collecting materials, which had escaped the diligent search of former biographers. It was indeed to be apprehended that, after the lapse of nearly a century and a half, little would be obtainable from local recollections ; and that the voice of tradition, if not totally silent, would speak only in broken and indistinct murmurs. And such in some degree is the case. The shadows of forgetfulness have closed upon almost all that Leighton
said or did, of which the memory has not been per petuated by its connexion with matters of political interest: and of those little anecdotes which have reached this distant period with his name engraven on them, the descent is commonly so obscure and uncertain, that it has been thought better to reject what may possibly be genuine, than to run any risk Cof admitting what is spurious. It is almost needless to state, that a considerable portion of the ensuing narrative is drawn from Bishop Burnet's History of his own Times; nothing of any consequence which is told in that work being omitted in this memoir. To the present compiler, however, one fund of information has been opened, to which none of his predecessors had access. He alludes to a manuscript letter, of which through the kindness of Mr. Duncan he is now possessed, which was addressed to Bishop Burnet by Mr. Edward Lightmaker, whose mother was Leighton's own sister. It was the happiness of this lady to have her brother for a member of her household during the last ten years of his life ; so that her son had great opportunities, though his tender years prevented his reaping the full benefit of them, of storing up interesting particulars of the Bishop's life and conversation. To verify by external evidence the manuscript so fortunately preserved to us has been found impossible : but the internal proof is so strong as to preclude any reasonable doubt of its being the autograph of Leighton's nephew; and its genuineness being ascertained, no question can arise about its authenticity. The composition of it is confused and disorderly: for the worthy writer, in noting down the memorable actions and sayings of his revered uncle, as they occurred to his memory, has interspersed many pious and affectionate remarks, which, however creditable to the kindliness of his nature, are prejudicial to the distinctness of his narration. It has exercised the sedulous care of the present biographer to extract the valuable portions of this medley, and to arrange them in the order that chronology seemed to prescribe, or that served best to illustrate the Archbishop's character. One of the surest proofs of the genuineness of this document arises from four letters subjoined to it, which purport to be copied from Leighton's autographs, and are so thoroughly imbued with his incomparable spirit as to place their parentage beyond dispute.
Besides drawing largely from this mine, hitherto unwrought, I have endeavoured, by ransacking a variety of records for incidental notices of the subject, to enrich this memoir with new particulars, and to rectify former inaccuracies concerning facts and dates.
To this end, the manuscripts in the Advocates' Library, and the Town Register of Edinburgh, have been carefully inspected; and nothing, I believe, has been overlooked that would have contributed to the object in hand, among the various papers in the College Library at Glasgow. Moreover, the “ Memoranda of Dr. Robert Leighton, Bishop of Dumblain, by Bishop Kennet,” which are among the Lansdown manuscripts, have been collated with the chapter in Wodrow's History which treats of the attempted Accommodation, and proves to be a transcript from the former, with a few inconsiderable additions. For some of these researches I have been indebted to Mr. Fleming, the Librarian of Glasgow College ; and for some to Dr. M'Crie of Edinburgh, than whom an abler auxiliary could not be desired in biographical investigations. The Rev. Mr. Grierson, also, the respectable minister of Dunblane, has been at pains, which I regret to add have proved unavailing, to detect any relics of the venerable saint, that had not yet mouldered away, or been discovered and enshrined by some antecedent historian. Upon the whole, however, the success of our researches has outgone our anticipations ; and scattered fragments have been redeemed, which are found, when put together, of a value that well repays the labour it has cost to gather them up. If not sufficient to fill up, yet they narrow, the chasms which broke the continuity of the holy Prelate's life; they connect and illustrate many incidents of his public career ; and the intervals of his several appearances amidst the scenes of his eventful era are at least so far contracted, that we cannot fail to recognise in him, as often as he revisits us, the friend with whose mien and carriage we are happily familiar.
In the biographical relation now presented to the world, the public conduct of Leighton is discussed in such detail, as may possibly be deemed an invasion of the province of history. But I felt it incumbent on me to treat this part of my subject with an almost historical minuteness; because, after balancing friendly against hostile representations, I became fully satisfied that those actions of his life, which might seem to tarnish his fair fame, can be so regarded only when misunderstood ; and will be found, if truly represented, to set the seal on his reputation for purity of purpose
and for religious devotedness. In delineating Leighton's personal character, it has been my steadfast aim to avoid the ensnaring fault of drawing a beautiful portrait, and naming it after the subject of the memoir, instead of copying with scrupulous exactness his real form and features. Accordingly, I