Archibald Campbell Tait, Archbishop of Canterbury
Archibald Campbell-Tait was the first Scottish Archbishop of Canterbury. Here we provide the first chapter of a 2 volume book about him which tells of his growing up in Scotland. Below you will find 2 links to the 2 volume set which can be downloaded in pdf format.
HOME AND PARENTAGE—BOYHOOD—SCHOOL-DAYS.
I811-1827On Thursday, February 11th, 1869, Archbishop Tait was presiding in the Jerusalem Chamber at Westminster over a meeting of the Ritual Commission. Dean Stanley was sitting by his side. In the course of certain works in the adjacent Abbey a search had for some time been in progress to discover, if possible, the unknown burial-place of King James I. Just as the meeting closed, a messenger entered the Jerusalem Chamber, and whispered to Dean Stanley that the coffin had been discovered in one of the vaults under Henry VII.'s chapel. The excited Dean sprang up, and, inviting the other Commissioners to accompany him, hastened to the spot. As they all drew near, the Dean motioned them back. "It is fitting," he said, "that our first Scottish Archbishop should lead the way into the tomb of our first Scottish King."
Of pure Scottish blood both on his father's and his mothers side, Archibald Campbell Tait, though he lived for more than half a century in England, retained through life his Scottish characteristics, Scottish interests, and Scottish friends; and some account of the facts and surroundings of his earliest days is essential, in a more than ordinary degree, to the right understanding of his busy life.
It is not often that the early history of a life of three-score years and ten can, when the life is closed, be recorded in detail by a competent witness still alive and strong. The biographers of Archbishop Tait have gratefully to acknowledge the benefit of this unusual aid. The Archbishop's sister, Charlotte, Lady Wake, who was twelve years his senior, and who survived him for six years, has written in full and graphic detail her reminiscences of his early life. Many of these reminiscences had in later years the advantage of his personal correction, and such of them will be quoted as are necessary to give a sufficient picture of his home and boyhood.
"Two hundred years ago," says Lady Wake, "there dwelt in Aberdeenshire—transplanted, however, from the south of Scotland—a family valued for their worth, the Taits of Ludquharn, of the class that used to be known in Scotland by the name of1 bonnet lairds—honest men, living on their own farms, and wearing the broad blue 'bonnet' that marked the simplicity of rural and patriarchal lives far removed from the fashions and customs of towns."
The family had many branches, and some of its members seem to have been active in other work besides the cultivation of their farms. The ample records which remain of Aberdeenshire life during the earlier Jacobite strifes picture them as the leading builders and handicraftsmen, advancing steadily in prosperity and social status in the country-side. William Tait of Ludquharn was laid to rest, as the stone over his grave records, " in the year of human salvation 1725, with Agnes Clerk his wife," and in the same grave, in the parish churchyard of Longside, Aberdeenshire, rests his son Thomas, whose merits are recorded in an elaborate Latin epitaph from the ready pen of his friend and pastor,
["Tait " is said to be an old Norse name, signifying affection. Some curious legends connected with it are to be found in Ferguson's English Surnames, chapter viii.]
John Skinner, famous a hundred years ago as a controversialist, an historian, a scholar, and, above all, as the author of TuIIochgorum and other well-known Scottish songs. The district of Aberdeenshire to which Longside belongs remained faithful to Episcopacy long after Presbyterianism had been established throughout Scotland, and to this day a large proportion even of its poorest inhabitants adhere with unswerving loyalty to the Church system for which their grandfathers endured indignity and wrong. To the Episcopalians of Longside John Skinner ministered, in sunshine and storm, for no less than sixty-four years, from 1742 to 1807, and the registers and other records of his eventful pastorate, which extended right through the 'persecution period,' show that neither the imprisonment of their minister nor the burning of his chapel was able to detach any branch of the Tait family from a faithful allegiance to their Church's cause. John Skinner was no Jacobite, but he and his flock had to suffer for the Jacobite sympathies of their co-religionists elsewhere, and for many years the scene of his quaint sermons and his famous catechisings was the little yard of his poverty-stricken cottage at Linshart near Longside. "There the congregation," we are told, "were obliged to sit, sometimes under a heavy rain, sometimes with their benches or stools planted in the snow, while he officiated and addressed them from the window." Among these undaunted worshippers was the large family of Thomas Tait, whose son John, on leaving Aberdeenshire to settle in Edinburgh, must have carried with him stirring memories of the Sundays of his early years. Small was the encouragement or support which these sorely pressed and gallant Churchmen received from the great sister Church of England, and it would have startled them indeed to learn that the grandson of John Tait would be Archbishop of Canterbury.
Once settled in Edinburgh, John Tait was articled in the office of Ronald Craufurd, a well-known Writer to the Signet, in whose hands lay the legal business of many of the foremost Scottish families, and there John received the legal training of which he made good use in after life when he succeeded, on Mr. Craufurd's death, to the increasing business of the house. There is a portrait of John Tait, by Raeburn, which well represents the calm good sense and the spirit of manly enterprise which he inherited from the 'blue bonnets' of Aberdeen. He married, in 1763, a lady of the singular name of Charles Murdoch, so called after Prince Charlie, the hero of Scottish imagination, in whose cause her family had suffered much. "She was," we are told, " well born, well educated, very pretty, and very poor, and so independent was her spirit that, like many of the Stuart ladies of the day, she supported her widowed mother by the work of her own hands." Charles Murdoch, Jacobite though she was, was a Presbyterian, and drew her husband to the Established Church of Scotland, into which their only son, Craufurd, was baptized. Craufurd Tait's mother died when he was only sixteen.
"She had," says Lady Wake, "imparted to her son much of the poetry of her own mind, and a love for the many traditions of her ancestry.3 Perhaps it would have been better if his father's practical sense had rather been the prevailing element in his character."
The family house in Edinburgh was in Park Place, close to 'The Meadows,' on the outskirts of the Old Town. It was next door to the house of Sir Hay Campbell, Lord President of the Court of Session, the highest judicial office in Scotland. He was a man as much beloved for the straightforward simplicity of his character as respected for his legal knowledge, and his house was one of the most popular resorts in Edinburgh. Susan, a younger daughter of Sir Hay Campbell, became, at the age of eighteen, the wife of Craufurd Tait. In the year 1800, John Tait, the Archbishop's grandfather, died at the age of seventy-three.
"He had been as happy in the tender care of the young wife of his only son as if she had been his own child. His death, though it came in the fulness of years, was a heavy misfortune to the young couple, for his calm good sense was a safer guide to his son than his own erratic genius. He left to him the estate of Harviestoun in Clackmannanshire, with a tolerably good house, and in addition to this, and to the house in Edinburgh, a beautiful property on the shores of Loch Fyne, which he had named Cumlodden, after the family place of the Murdochs. This he had purchased with the express intention of its being resold if ever the estate of Castle Campbell, adjacent to Harviestoun, should be offered for sale by its owner, the Duke of Argyll. The addition of this to Harviestoun would make a consolidated instead of a divided property. The unfortunate result was, that when his son became the proprietor, he did indeed purchase Castle Campbell, but he was so attached to the romantic shores of Loch Fyne that he could not persuade himself to part with Cumlodden, and kept the two, borrowing a large sum of money to enable him to do so."
At Cumlodden he threw himself with enthusiasm into the improvements which his imagination already saw transforming the habits and lives of the Highlanders. He devised a new order of things, building model cottages, and apportioning to each its garden and its four-acre field of arable land. Immense sums of money were thus spent in vain. The whole scheme was foreign alike to the desires and the capabilities of those whom he tried to benefit. The soil and its inhabitants successfully united their efforts to baffle his plans, and he retired discomfited and impoverished to Harviestoun. There, in like manner, but on a more congenial soil, he lavished money on 'improvements' on the largest scale. The house was half rebuilt.
"The high-road," says Ladv Wake, "ran too near the house, so it was lifted, as if by magic, half a mile lower down the glen. A garden was laid out with Milton's description of Eden for the model. And surely no garden ever was like it! Of immense extent, it enclosed the lower part of the glen; a dell of green turf led right through it, while a bright and noisy burn leaping from the rocks above danced merrily through its entire length, speeding through ferns and wild-flowers till it suddenly disappeared, to emerge with a bound from a cave many yards below. Our home was a very happy one; our father, thoroughly enjoying the society of his children, and seeing all his dreams of picturesque beauty assuming tangible form, had no misgivings as to the expense which attended the gratification of his tastes. It never crossed his wife's mind that he could err in judgment, and thus the 'improvements' went on in rapid succession. Inventions for farm and field, now in common use, were seen in their earliest days at Harviestoun-—machinery for chopping and steaming all manner of food for cattle, the kitchen spit turned by water-pressure from the mountain burns, elaborate poultry-houses, the wonder of the country-side,—these were among the least of the products of his active brain, with which no thoughts about, expense were allowed to interfere.
"Our father commanded the Clackmannanshire Yeomanry, and I well remember our enthusiasm at the warlike feats of that gallant corps as they performed a sham fight at Harviestoun on the occasion of the jubilee of George III in 1809. Our father, mounted on one of the grey carriage-horses, was most magnificent in our eyes, with his helmet adorned with a silver thistle, and the motto, translated for us, 'For our country and our firesides.' The whole land had been excited to a frenzy of patriotism by Buonaparte's threatened invasion, and real as was our loyalty to the King, our hatred for the French was more real still. Besides the military ardour of the yeomanry, there was a quieter witness close at hand that the French were expected, in the shape of an immense 'caravan,' as it was then called, which had been built by our father's orders, for the purpose of carrying us all to the other side of the hills when the French fleet should appear in
"I remember them well. Story upon story of comfortable chambers rose one above the other, reached by a series of little ladders, up which the various inhabitants ascended with the utmost decorum, the cocks conducting their hens to the highest story, the turkey-cocks and their ladies taking possession of their apartment on the second floor, while the geese and ducks waddled, well satisfied, into the lowest room. Once in the midst of one of the absorbing and interminable arguments of which our father was so fond, he was astonished by his brother-in-law, Lord Succoth, starting off in a race towards the poultry-house, where he stood agape watching the ascent of a large old turkey-cock. 'Well, if I had not seen him, I never could have believed that Bubbly-jock [the usual name in Scotland for a turkey-cock] would have done such a thing,' was his speech, as he quietly turned back, and took up the broken thread of his argument.
"It was in 1811 that a heavy trouble came into our home. We were now eight children in all, the youngest being a little black-eyed boy, Hay Campbell by name, who was just two years old. He was the plaything of the house. One night he was restless and ill; in the morning it was found that in the course of that night one limb had been completely paralysed. The medical men said it was in consequence of cutting his teeth. Our poor mother was grievously distressed. She could not bear to think of the child's blighted life, for to her mind the restoration of the withered limb seemed impossible; the misfortune made too deep an impression on her, and cast a shadow forwards.
"Shortly after this we were enjoined to be very still, for that our mother was ill. The cause was soon made clear to us by the arrival of the old nurse, in whose presence we always took a mysterious pleasure. She had visited us about every two years, telling us that she had brought a new little brother or sister. Sometimes she had found it among the cabbage-beds, sometimes below a rose-bush. Whatever she chose to say we believed, for while her short reign lasted her power was absolute. By her permission alone we could see our mother, or make whispering visits to the new baby's apartment, close to her. Accordingly on the night of the 21st, or rather on the morning of the 22d, of December 1811, we perfectly understood why we were to have a holiday on the usual condition of being very quiet; but we observed in the days that immediately followed that something unusual had happened. There was some mystery in the house, for there were grave looks and shakings of the head, not only among the servants, but among the lady friends who came and went. There was not the usual gladsome tone in all that was said, though we were kept at too great a distance to hear the words spoken. At length, after some days, with the connivance of the old nurse, I crept into my mother's room, and through the darkened light saw her in earnest conversation with the family doctor, George Bell. She had been crying; he was comforting her with hopeful words. He said: 'You have been thinking too much of poor little Campbell's leg; but I hope we shall be able to set all to rights.' Catching sight of me, as though glad of a diversion, he lifted me up, and placed me on the bed. My mother gently kissed me, but told me not to stay; so I passed at once into her dressing-room, from which was heard the wailing voice of the new-born baby, and for the first time I saw my little brother. He lay on the old nurse's lap, making a complaining noise—and no wonder; for, poor little thing! instead of the lovely little feet that it had always been our delight to kiss when a new baby, was brought among us, the nurse showed me a mass of bandages. He was born club-footed!
"Certainly the circumstances of his birth did not promise the noble career of usefulness with which God blessed him. Had he been born in poorer circumstances, or had his parents been either careless or faint-hearted, he must have remained a cripple all his days, for his poor little feet were found to be completely doubled inwards. However, the assurance was given that there was good hope; they could in time be brought to a proper shape. 'In time!' Alas! it was over those words that my poor mother wept, for she knew that they expressed a suffering infancy, and a childhood debarred from childhood's active enjoyment. She was full of faith and love, and perhaps God whispered to her heart that by those very means He would best form her child for the work He destined for him; for when she left her room to rejoin the little circle, which never felt right when she was absent, she brought with her the usual gentle cheerfulness; and the only outward sign of the misfortune was that the baby Archie was fondled and spoken of with an inexpressible tenderness. She was the most submissive of women, and so she found rest to the disquietude of her heart. She knew her husband to be the most energetic of men, and, thoroughly believing in him, she felt sure that all that could be done would be done. Many were the visits the baby received before he was a month old in the little apartment in which the old nurse held her court; but his first appearance in public— that is to say, his christening—was the event to which we, the younger branches of the family, looked forward with the greatest interest. At length the day appointed arrived—the 10th of February 1812. Our mother was sufficiently recovered to receive her friends, and the usual little circle was gathered round her, while all her children, except the eldest, who had gone to Harrow after the Christmas holidays, dressed in their best, gazed with a little more than the usual amount of watchfulness on the well-remembered ceremony which added a new member to the visible Church of Christ and a new name to the chorus which already filled the nursery. The mysterious large china bowl occupied once again its conspicuous place in the drawing-room, making the centre of the solemn group, where the father held up his infant, Archibald Campbell, to receive his baptism from the hands of the friendly minister of the Old Church of St. Giles', Dr. Thomas MacKnight, who had come once more to perform his loving office. The gentle mother and the seven brothers and sisters encircled him. The newly named Archibald Campbell was a lovely baby: his long robes hid the poor little feet; and if there was any difference in the welcome given to him from that which greeted his predecessors, it was only that it was more tender and loving; and as our mother passed her treasure from friend to friend, admiring smiles saluted him, and soothed the distress she had hid away in her heart.
"And thus she returned to the daily duties of her life, bringing back with her the quiet influence that had on the family all the effect of an absolute rule. On looking back to her character, there shines out this remarkable difference between her and other women,—that no one ever saw her in the slightest bustle or fuss of any kind, nor can any one remember her voice raised in anger. Her memory comes back with a sort of moonlight radiance. Clouds in her daily life there must have been; but she passed through them all, brightening them to others, and by them herself undimmed.
"I love to remember her kneeling in the large white old-fashioned chair which belonged to her bedroom. She often retired thither for private prayer; and among the memories of earliest childhood her figure shines out as in a picture, kneeling upon the cushion of the high-backed chair, her earnest face lifted up to God; but she never prayed aloud. It was only when we were very little children that she did not mind the presence of one of us when she carried her distresses to the Comforter. Everything she did was so quietly done that though we saw, when we were at Harviestoun, that she always kept in her bedroom a little bunch of daisies, carefully tended in a glass of water, not one of us knew until long afterwards that she gathered them from our little brother Willie's grave, and thus treasured them for his sake; yet he had died so long ago that few of us had the slightest recollection of his birth, and he had lived but for six months. She must have gone to the grave quite alone in the early morning, for no one ever saw her there.
"Dear mother! She was so purely and innocently good. The modern language of what is called the religious world was unknown to her, but the true spirit of religion dwelt in her, and her right hand did not know what her left hand had done. Of her self-denying deeds of charity few were known until her death caused them to be missed, and I cannot remember ever to have heard her speak unkindly of a single human being. I remember her sympathising in the remark made to her by a poor woman, to whom she had lent a volume of Blair's Sermons, To my mother's inquiry whether she liked them, the reply was: "Deed, leddy, no that weel; for in a' that reading [turning over a number of pages] there's neither God nor Jesus Christ. Her good-natured charity was so well understood by the poor around her country home that some of them did not hesitate to encroach on it. I remember her amusement at the answer made to her by a pensioner, as to whether she would like to have money or oatmeal. 'Weel, leddy,' she replied, with a curtsey, 'baith's best.'
"The birth of Archibald was followed by two bright and happy years in the family circle. The two eldest boys came and went between Harrow and Harviestoun, the eldest daughter was growing into womanhood, and the nursery was full of cheery little faces.
"The winters were spent, as usual, in the Edinburgh home, the summer and autumn at Harviestoun. Suddenly, on January 3, 1814, our mother died, almost in a moment. The overstrained heart had given way. We were summoned to her room, where she lay dead upon the sofa, on the very spot where I can first remember her. My earliest recollection is that of sitting, some ten or eleven years before, upon a little stool beside that sofa, pricking upon paper the outline of the chintz flowers on her dress, while she laid her hand upon my head, and repeated in a low voice Cowper's lines to his mother's picture. The two scenes—the beginning and the end—are, even now, inextricably blended in my mind. Dark and dreary were the clouds that now-fell upon the happy home in Park Place. While we children crept about the house, and remarked to each other that the snow was falling upon mother's grave, relations and friends were anxiously discussing up-stairs what could be done for the best with the nine children thus thrown suddenly upon our father's care. Our fatherI O how well I remember his constant pacing up and down, care and grief altogether changing his countenance! For now, at this very crisis, he had come to know that to this crowning sorrow of his life were added other causes of perplexity and trouble. While she was by his side there had been sunshine, and one difficulty after another had seemed to melt. But now he had to face the fact that, misled by his sanguine temperament, he had embarked in, and even carried through, enterprises which, while benefiting many, had ruined himself. The children soon came to understand that heavy trials lay ahead. The establishment was to be broken up, the servants whom we loved must go, including the dear old coachman whom we had known all our lives; his grey carriage-horses were now to work upon the farm. The schoolroom life came to an end. My younger sister and I were sent to school, and household cares of every sort devolved upon our eldest sister, Susan, who was barely seventeen years old. The constant care that little Archie required endeared him specially to us all. He soon became a well-grown child, with a touching look of appeal that went straight to the heart. He was naturally more lame than Campbell, who had only one limb affected, but both boys were unable for climbing or games, and became all in all to each other, while yet a complete contrast—the one with bright black eyes and hair, his face all rippling with fun; the other—Archie—blue-eyed and fair-haired, watching the quicker movements of his brother as though they were necessary parts of his own existence."
The nurse, Betty Morton by name, was a person so remarkable that she became almost the centre of the family life. She ruled her nursery with a strictness only equalled by her loyal devotion to the young mistress at its head. But little Archie was of course her special charge, and she was destined to take no unimportant part in his education for the work of life. She was a strict Sabbatarian, and the Sunday amusements were confined mainly to a study of the absorbing pictures in an ancient Family Bible, "dedicated to Catherine Parr, and full of such illustrations as that of a man with a beam as large as a rafter sticking straight out of his eye." To the systematic nursery study of this Bible, however, both the Archbishop and his sisters attributed in after years their unusually thorough acquaintance with the details of Scripture history. In the first three autumns after their mother's death the younger boys were taken by Betty-Morton to Garscadden, a strange, weird old house, three miles from Sir Hay Campbells home at Garscube near Glasgow. The Archbishop frequently declared that this quaint old house, with its wonderful turreted gateway, its hideous carved faces grinning from every corner, and its trim old-fashioned garden, was the very first recollection of his life. His early reading-lessons were under the charge, not only of his eldest sister Susan, whose hands must have been more than full, but of Betty Morton, no despicable instructress, and one rigidly accurate in exacting the daily quota of lessons.
In the autumn of 1818 Susan Tait was married to Sir George Sitwell of Renishaw, near Chesterfield, and Archie began a few months later to make acquaintance with the beautiful Derbyshire home which was to be the scene of many of his holidays for thirty years to come. Soon after her marriage Lady Sitwell invited her four youngest brothers to pay a long visit to Renishaw. Slow was their method of conveyance thither. Under the faithful charge of Betty Morton they were put on board a smack at Leith. A dead calm soon came on, and seven days and eight nights were passed upon the sea before the travellers in hungry plight reached Hull, whence they had to journey up the Humber to Gainsborough, and thence post. When the visit came to an end, a plan was carried out, at Lady Sitwell's instigation, which materially affected the whole life of the future Archbishop. Time and skill had hitherto done nothing towards curing the lameness of the two little boys. Campbell's right leg was shrunk and feeble, while Archie's feet were, to all appearance, hopelessly deformed. Sir George and Lady Sitwell were bent on sending the two children to Whitworth, in Lancashire, where dwelt two doctors, famous for their general skill, but especially for their cures effected upon twisted or broken limbs. The father's consent was obtained, and to Whitworth the little boys were sent, under the guardianship of the faithful Betty.
Whitworth was then a small village—it is now a very large one—three miles from Rochdale, in a wild and hilly region. More than a century ago John Taylor, farrier and blacksmith, carried on his profession in this village, and was so successful therein that he began to practise, as he expressed it, on 'humans.' Here also he succceded so well that his fame soon sounded throughout the neighbouring country, and his biped patients began to exceed the quadrupeds in number, though he is said always to have given the preference to the latter. His reputation in the new branch of his profession was due mainly to his real or supposed cure of cancers, and his skill in the setting of broken bones, and in straightening twisted or contracted joints. Patients came to him from all parts of England, and innumerable anecdotes testify, at the least, to his shrewd common sense, his homely skill, his rough independence, and his kindly heart. His charge was eighteenpence a week for medicine and attendance. Any further payment from his richer patients served to replenish the boxes from which the fees of those unable to pay for his help were drawn. His fame advanced so rapidly that before many years had passed he was sent for by George III. to prescribe for the Princess Elizabeth, whom he is said to have cured of some ailment which had baffled all ordinary skill.
John Taylor had died before the two little brothers were taken to Whitworth, but the business was carried on by his son James and two nephews. James Taylor, who is described as "a stout man in a blue coat, about fifty years of age, having much the appearance of a' well-to-do farrier," seems to have inherited his father's eccentricities as well as his skill. "He was often to be seen walking about before the house with an old hat slung before him by a cord over his shoulders. In this hat he had a large lump of some compound, which he rolled into pills as he walked about. The hat was fairly saturated through and through with the drug, and appeared to have been used for that purpose for years."
His surgery is thus described by an eye-witness, who visited Whitworth in this very year, 1819 :—
"There were more than a hundred patients in the village. . . . Wretched invalids were to be seen on every side, some with patched faces, some with an arm or a leg bound fast to a board, some with splints on their arms, others moving slowly along like spectres, in the lowest stage of physical exhaustion. . . . The doctor's house was sufficiently pointed out by its large size, and by the wooden machine standing in the street before it, for fixing immovably horse patients when under their hands. In the 'surgery' were some fifty patients waiting to be dressed or examined. They were arranged in a row round the room, and in one corner sat James Taylor, with his surgical apparatus, consisting of the old shoeing-box of the blacksmith. In this were a few bottles and pots of the invariable remedies —'keen,' a caustic ointment to which the Taylors had given this name, 'green salve,' 'red-bottle,' some blisters and plasters ready spread, a large wooden skewer or two, and some hurds. The patients came in succession before the doctor, and he rapidly examined and dismissed them, 'flirting' off the blisters when necessary with the wooden skewers, or roughly dressing with the 'keen.' Among his patients that morning was a stalwart blacksmith, whose ill-set arm was in a primitive but effectual fashion re-broken and re-set in the space of a few moments."
To John Taylor's care the little boys were now committed, and the following account of his experiences was dictated by Archbishop Tait himself fifty-two years afterwards :—
"No one but myself can give you the history of my life at Whitworth in 1819. Camie and I, with dear old Betty, lived in the Red Lion, a common public-house, but the best in the place. Our sitting-room was the best parlour in the house, with a sanded floor, adjoining the bar; our bedroom, a garret up-stairs. In one large bed I slept with Betty, Camie in a smaller one close to it. We soon made acquaintance with the men who habitually frequented the house,—Jim o'Dick's and Tom o'Simon's (their names being simply their Christian names attached to their fathers')—the manners and customs of the district being too simple to admit of a universal use of family names amongst the working classes. The skittle-ground and the tap-room were our places of conversation, yet 1 do not remember much evil; probably we were too young to understand or observe it, and certainly Betty kept a watchful look-out on us. One great object of interest was, I remember, the courtship carried on by young Lomax, the son of a farmer in the neighbourhood, who was paying his addresses to Betty Lord, the daughter of the fat old landlady of the Red Lion. This was full of interest to us. We went to the doctor's every day early to have the tin boots in which he kept our legs encased properly arranged, and the progress of the cure attended to. These tin boots hurt us very much, and I have often marvelled how we were able to hobble about in them as we did all day long, except the short time Carne had lessons from the village schoolmaster, or read Latin with the clergyman of the parish, Mr. Porter. I cannot recollect ever doing anything in the way of lessons during the nine months I was there. I have since been told I had writing lessons from this schoolmaster, but either I have forgotten it, or he has confused me with my brother. I do not remember ever reading story-books, but I used to wander about with all sorts of mysterious thoughts, making plays to myself out of them, and fighting all sorts of imaginary enemies with my stick or whatever I could lay my hands upon. Carnie and I amused ourselves very well, and dear old Betty was very kind to us, helping us in every way she could think of. During the nights we were distressed by the tin boots, in which we were obliged to sleep, but by degrees we got accustomed to them. There was scarcely any one approaching to lady or gentleman in the place, which was full of invalids of the lower middle classes, ^chiefly with real or supposed cases of cancer, or stiffened limbs, for the management of which the Whitworth doctors were famous. One of the brothers kept what he called a pack of hounds, which were of course a continual source of amusement. He went out with them after he had seen his patients in the early morning, and in the evening, when the sport was over, spent the hours in the midst of an admiring circle in the tap-room of the Red Lion. This was the mode of life of both the Taylors, yet to these men, under Providence, we owed our restoration to the perfect use of our limbs. Probably my brother's—dear Camie's—case was more difficult than mine, for, though much deformed in shape, my feet were possessed, I imagine, of each bone and muscle in full vigour; therefore they had only, as it were, to be formed into their proper natural shape by continual gentle force, the force that comes from constant pressure, while Campbell's limb had, from paralysis while yet a baby, been weakened to that degree that its growth had never kept pace with the rest of his body. Yet by the strange treatment of these men it was perfectly restored, and at the end of a year his lameness gradually wore off."
Returning to Edinburgh in amended health, Archibald Tait was admitted in October 1821 to the celebrated High School of the city. Up to the time of which we write, and for many years afterwards, it was the habit of most of the best-known families in Scotland to spend the winter half of the year in Edinburgh, or, if not themselves living there, to send their sons thither for education. It is scarcely an exaggeration to say that almost every Scotchman of literary or political eminence during the previous century and a half had received his education within the walls of the High School of Edinburgh. Of men then living it may suffice to name Walter Scott, Henry Brougham, Francis Jeffrey, and Henry Cockburn. At the banquet given to Brougham on April 25th, 1825, the future Lord Chancellor thus characteristically described his former school:—
"A school like the old High School of Edinburgh is invaluable. And for what is it so? It is because men of the highest and lowest rank of society send their children to be educated together. The oldest friend I have in the world, your worthy Vice-President, [Lord Douglas Gordon Hallyburton.] and myself were at the High School of Edinburgh together, and in the same class, along with others who still possess our friendship. One of them was a nobleman, now in the House of Peers, and some of them were the sons of shopkeepers in the lowest part of the Cowgate of Edinburgh—shops of the most inferior description—and one or two of them were sons of menial servants in the town. There they were, sitting side by side, giving and taking places from each other, without the slightest impression on the part of my noble friends of any superiority, on their parts, over the other boys, or any ideas of inferiority, on the part of the other boys, to them; and this is my reason for preferring the old High School of Edinburgh to other, and what may be termed more patrician, schools, however well regulated or conducted."
It was here, and under these conditions, that Archibald Tait received his first systematic education between the years of nine and twelve. The Head-master, or Rector, was Dr. Carson, and the number of boys in the school was about 700. His education until his return from Whitworth had been, as may be supposed, of the most desultory and fragmentary sort But his progress, once begun, was very rapid. An extant poetical translation of some lines from the second Eneid, done by him in Dr. Pyper's class in the early months of 1824, would do credit to a much older boy.
It was during his early school days that Archie experienced his first great sorrow. Never, to the very end of his life, was he able even to allude to it without tears. His brother Campbell, who had been from earliest childhood his inseparable companion, had always longed to be a sailor. But his lameness had been such as to render the fulfilment of the wish impossible. Now— thanks to the Whitworth 'doctors'—the lameness was gone, and the boy, to his unspeakable delight, was passed as fit for service. He was to go to Portsmouth for the usual training, and his departure was only delayed for a few weeks because the attention of the household was taken up by little Archie, who was sharply attacked with scarlet fever. He rapidly recovered, however, and a farewell party was given by Campbell to his school-fellows before starting for Portsmouth. That evening, when the party broke up, Campbell complained of feeling ill. Scarlet fever in its most malignant form was upon him, and after two days' illness he died. The shock to Archie, still weak after his fever, was terrible, and he used himself to say in later years that it had affected his whole life. The two boys, whose strange experiences together at Whitworth had forged a link between them of no ordinary strength, had become wholly dependent on one another. The loss of his bright-eyed active brother was therefore the more irreparable to Archie, who, unable for the rough games of his school-fellows, was now more than ever thrown in upon himself and his books for amusement and occupation.
In October 1824 Mr. Tait removed his son from the High School to the newly founded 'Edinburgh Academy,' where he took his place in the highest class. With this important school he maintained through life so close a connection that a few sentences seem desirable to explain its origin and character.
Lord Cockburn, in the sparkling Memorials of his Time, writes of it as follows:—
"Leonard Horner and I had often discussed the causes and the remedies of the decline of classical education in Scotland. . . . So one day on the top of the Pentlands—emblematic of the solidity of our foundation and the extent of our prospects —we two resolved to set about the establishment of a new school. , . . [Sir Walter] Scott took it up eagerly. . . . We were fiercely opposed, as we expected, by the Town Council, and (but not fiercely) by a few of the friends of the institution we were going to encroach upon. In 1823 the building was begun. It was opened, under the title of 'The Edinburgh Academy,' on October 1st, 1824, amid a great assemblage of proprietors, pupils, and the public. We had a good prayer by Sir Harry Moncreiff, and speeches by Scott and old Henry Mackenzie, and an important day for education in Scotland, in reference to the middle and upper classes."
The school thus auspiciously founded rose at a bound to the first rank of importance. Among its earliest governors, or, as they were called, directors, were Sir Walter Scott, Lord Cockburn, Francis Jeffrey, and Leonard Horner. Its first Head-master, or Rector, was the Rev. John Williams, Vicar of Lampeter, and afterwards, while retaining his Scotch head-mastership, Archdeacon of Cardigan. The character and work of the school are thus described in a speech delivered by Principal Shairp on the occasion of its 'Jubilee,' celebrated under the Archbishop's presidency in 1874.
"Our founders," he said, "kept their eye on utility—little or nothing on amenity. The situation they chose, the building they created, the six hours' continuous work by day, with nearly as many more by night, required from the boys who stood near the top, made the existence of most boys of my time somewhat too unrejoicing. In vain you would look there for the green 'Playing-fields' of Eton by the shining Thames, or even for the green Close of Rugby with its venerable elm-trees, and all the pleasant associations that gather round these. These things the Academy did not affect. But it aimed at and affected careful grounding, sound learning, and a most laborious work. And the result has been that no Academy boy ever learned any part of scholarship there which he had afterwards to unlearn, go where he might. Ten continuous months of as faithful teaching and as hard a grind as any school in Britain ever knew,—this is my impression in looking back to four years spent within the Academy walls."
It was a day-school only. The boys lived at home or boarded with Edinburgh families, their preparation-work being carried on, in most cases, with the help of a private tutor. But Archie had no such assistance. His father's affairs were becoming more and more embarrassed, and it was thought necessary to practise the most rigid economy.
"In his earlier school-days," says Lady Wake, "the faithful Betty was his only help in learning his lessons. She used to hold the Latin books close to her eyes, diligently following each word as he repeated page after page. 'Ay, it maun be richt; it's just word for word, and it sounds like it,' was his encouragement, or else a sudden lowering of the book, with 'Na, na, it's no that ava',' would warn him that he was wrong. Of one principal part of his education she was absolute mistress, and none could have been better. She took care that he was out of bed early in the morning, and allowed no relaxation on this point. This was no unimportant help, for had he been left to himself, delicate as he was, the little fellow would hardly have had the resolution required."
The school-year lasted from the beginning of October to the end of July, and at its close the results of the year's work and examination were announced, and the prizes given by some public man, in the presence of an immense assemblage of parents and friends. It is difficult for those unacquainted with Scottish life, and especially the Scottish life of fifty years ago, to realise the importance attached, not in Edinburgh alone, but throughout Scotland, to the doings and the speeches of. this annual Exhibition Day.
At the close of his first year the name of Archibald Tait stood third in order in the school, although the average age of the upper boys was much higher than his own. In his second and third years he obtained in each case the gold medal as 'Dux' of the whole school, besides carrying off prizes innumerable for Latin, Greek, English, and French. The prize poems and essays, which were published at the time, attest alike the high efficiency of the school and the vigour of the boy's own powers. In particular, an English poem on the 'Conversion of St. Paul,' and a set of Latin hexameters on American Independence, are worthy of a more than ordinary prize-poem immortality. On the 'Exhibition Day,' August 1st, 1827, the prizes were given by Lord Cockburn, whose speech of earnest eloquence, addressed to the youthful 'Dux,' was long remembered by all who listened to it. Tait's success on this occasion was remarkable. He had secured no less than six of the foremost prizes in what was already a school of the first order, and Lord Cockburn was justified when he concluded his address in these words: "Go forth, young man, and remember that where-ever you go, the eyes of your country are upon you."
The pale-faced boy who stood forward as 'Dux' and prizeman in 1827 was called upon, as Dean of Carlisle, on an 'Exhibition Day,' twenty-five years later, to give away the prizes in the same room. His speech, too, in addressing the 'Dux' of the school, was one long remembered, but probably no one present, except the speaker, connected together at the time the speeches of the two men, alike in earnestness of purpose, but characteristically different in tone. "I hope and believe that you are going forth into life, not to seek the applause which depends on the fleeting breath of your fellow-men, nor that success which ends only in this life, but that you will remember that another Eye besides that of man is upon you, and that a higher approbation is to be won than that of your fellow-creatures."