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Thou doubly-preclous Book 1
Unto thy light what doth not Scotland owe -
And Youth in Truth unsullied up to grow
O'er thy broad ample page
How many dim and aged eyes have pored ?
In silence deep and holy have adored ?
And o'er thee soft young hands
Have oft in truthful plighted love been join'd,
Hast been a bond-an altar of the mind!
At the early age of seven, Robert was obliged to earn something towards his own support,—and during the summer season he was sent into the neighbouring hills to herd cattle. He had, however, at this time the advantage of attending a school through the winter. In his solitary rambles a book was his constant companion. Surrounded by the beauties of Nature, he gave free vent to his imagination, and began to mould his thoughts into
When about seventeen he left his native village to be apprenticed to a grocer in Perth. This change was an important one--for it led to his future political and literary struggles. We must not, however, follow him through the events of his brief life. Alas! like too many others he was the victim of intense study and privation.
The following beautiful extract from a letter written to his mother will show the firm spirit in which he bore his misfortunes, and that her early instructions had not been in vain :
“Do not mistake me, mother,” he says, “ I am not one of those men who faint and falter in the great battle of life. God has given me too strong a heart for that; I look upon earth as a place where every man is set to struggle and to work, that he
be made humble and pure hearted, and fit for that better land for which earth is a preparation-to which earth is the gate. Cowardly is that man who bows before the storm of life—who runs not the needful race manfully, and with a cheerful heart. If men would but consider how little of real evil there is in all the ill of which they are so much afraid-poverty included—there would be more virtue and happiness, and less world and mammon worship on earth than there is. Half the unhappiness of life springs from looking back to griefs which are past, and forward with fear to the future. That is not my way. I am determined never to bend to the storm that is coming, and never to look back on it after it has passed. Fear not for me, dear mother, for I feel myself daily growing firmer, and more hopeful in spirit. The more I think and reflect—and thinking, instead of reading, is now my occupation-I feel that whether I be growing richer or not, I am growing a wiser man, which is far better. Pain, poverty, and all the other wild beasts of life, which so affright others, I am so bold as to think I could look in the face without shrinking-without losing respect for myself, faith in man's high destinies, and trust in God. There is a point which it takes much mental toil and struggling to gain, but
which, when once gained, a man can look down from, as a traveller from a lofty mountain, on storms raging below, whilst he is walking in sunshine. That I have yet gained this point
in life I will not say, but I feel myself daily nearer it.”
Nicoll did not forget the duty he owed, nor the obligations he was under to his mother, and filial piety stimulated his exertions. He desired to be able to render her assistance, and prevent the necessity of her labouring any longer. But God willed it otherwise ; and ere long the fond parent was called to the mournful office of following to
the son she had looked upon as the support and solace of her age.
She went from Scotland to Leeds, where he was at that time living, holding the situation of Editor of the “ Leeds Times” newspaper, and she took him back with her, in hopes that the air of his native land would restore him to health. He was then far gone in consumption.
On the morning of his departure, Ebenezer Elliott (since numbered likewise among the dead) made a great point of seeing him. The Corn Law Rhymer was giving Lectures at the Leeds Literary Institution; and after having delivered his first Lecture, he was told, on his return to his inn, that if he wanted to see Nicoll, he must be at his house before eight o'clock the next morning, as the Poet was going to start for Scotland, by railway, at that hour. Elliott was five minutes too late to see him at his house ; but being very anxious to exchange a few friendly words with him, he followed him to the station. About a minute before the train
started, the young poet was pointed out to him in one of the carriages, seated between his wife (the sweet Alice," whom he made the heroine of one of his poems) and his mother. On this, Elliott stood on the steps of the carriage, and told him his name.
Nicoll tried to speak, but his voice could not be heard, and they all wept.
When the trio reached Newhaven, the invalid was in a dreadfully exhausted state. It was obvious that he was dying. He was received under the roof of an early friend (Mrs. Johnstone), who regarded him with almost maternal love. Other friends gathered around him, and everything that affection could devise was done to alleviate his afflictions ; still his mind was harassed by the thought of the destitute state in which he should leave those who had been dependent on his literary exertions for support. He died (December, 1837) in the twenty-fourth year of his age-breathing his last sigh in the arms of his wife, who soon followed him—the victim of the same fearful malady. Though thus bereaved, however, the Christian mother did not sorrow as one without hope; for the seed she had sown in early years, being watered by the Divine blessing, had sprung up, and the flower was but transplanted to a richer soil, where she well knew she should one day behold it again blooming in the paradise of God.
MOTHER OF THE REV. BASIL WOODD.
HANNAH WOODD was born at Richmond, in Surrey, April 19, 1736. She married at the age of twenty-three an estimable man, who was a native of the same town, and whom she had been acqnainted with from her childhood. The union was based on those principles which alone can produce happiness in the conjugal state-esteem and similarity of tastes and dispositions, accompanied by mutual affection. God, however, in his inscrutable Providence, saw fit to dissolve this union, which promised so much felicity, at a very early period. A few months after their marriage, whilst on a visit from home, Mr. Woodd took a cold which terminated in his death. At the time her son Basil was born she was a widow.
Referring to this period of his mother's history, her son, in a letter addressed to Dr. Conyers, of Deptford, says :
“So great a shock to a mind of her sensibility could leave no faint impression,-nevertheless, it proved an eventual blessing, though conveyed in the disguise of woe. By one stroke her mind was severed from worldly prospects, and being rent