Part 4 out of 4
it was let down, is said to have reached. Here, in the ages of
tumult and rapine, the Laird was surprised and killed by the
neighbouring Chief, who perhaps might have extinguished the family,
had he not in a few days been seized and hanged, together with his
sons, by Douglas, who came with his forces to the relief of
At no great distance from the house runs a pleasing brook, by a red
rock, out of which has been hewn a very agreeable and commodious
summer-house, at less expence, as Lord Auchinleck told me, than
would have been required to build a room of the same dimensions.
The rock seems to have no more dampness than any other wall. Such
opportunities of variety it is judicious not to neglect.
We now returned to Edinburgh, where I passed some days with men of
learning, whose names want no advancement from my commemoration, or
with women of elegance, which perhaps disclaims a pedant's praise.
The conversation of the Scots grows every day less unpleasing to
the English; their peculiarities wear fast away; their dialect is
likely to become in half a century provincial and rustick, even to
themselves. The great, the learned, the ambitious, and the vain,
all cultivate the English phrase, and the English pronunciation,
and in splendid companies Scotch is not much heard, except now and
then from an old Lady.
There is one subject of philosophical curiosity to be found in
Edinburgh, which no other city has to shew; a college of the deaf
and dumb, who are taught to speak, to read, to write, and to
practice arithmetick, by a gentleman, whose name is Braidwood. The
number which attends him is, I think, about twelve, which he brings
together into a little school, and instructs according to their
several degrees of proficiency.
I do not mean to mention the instruction of the deaf as new.
Having been first practised upon the son of a constable of Spain,
it was afterwards cultivated with much emulation in England, by
Wallis and Holder, and was lately professed by Mr. Baker, who once
flattered me with hopes of seeing his method published. How far
any former teachers have succeeded, it is not easy to know; the
improvement of Mr. Braidwood's pupils is wonderful. They not only
speak, write, and understand what is written, but if he that speaks
looks towards them, and modifies his organs by distinct and full
utterance, they know so well what is spoken, that it is an
expression scarcely figurative to say, they hear with the eye.
That any have attained to the power mentioned by Burnet, of feeling
sounds, by laying a hand on the speaker's mouth, I know not; but I
have seen so much, that I can believe more; a single word, or a
short sentence, I think, may possibly be so distinguished.
It will readily be supposed by those that consider this subject,
that Mr. Braidwood's scholars spell accurately. Orthography is
vitiated among such as learn first to speak, and then to write, by
imperfect notions of the relation between letters and vocal
utterance; but to those students every character is of equal
importance; for letters are to them not symbols of names, but of
things; when they write they do not represent a sound, but
delineate a form.
This school I visited, and found some of the scholars waiting for
their master, whom they are said to receive at his entrance with
smiling countenances and sparkling eyes, delighted with the hope of
new ideas. One of the young Ladies had her slate before her, on
which I wrote a question consisting of three figures, to be
multiplied by two figures. She looked upon it, and quivering her
fingers in a manner which I thought very pretty, but of which I
know not whether it was art or play, multiplied the sum regularly
in two lines, observing the decimal place; but did not add the two
lines together, probably disdaining so easy an operation. I
pointed at the place where the sum total should stand, and she
noted it with such expedition as seemed to shew that she had it
only to write.
It was pleasing to see one of the most desperate of human
calamities capable of so much help; whatever enlarges hope, will
exalt courage; after having seen the deaf taught arithmetick, who
would be afraid to cultivate the Hebrides?
Such are the things which this journey has given me an opportunity
of seeing, and such are the reflections which that sight has
raised. Having passed my time almost wholly in cities, I may have
been surprised by modes of life and appearances of nature, that are
familiar to men of wider survey and more varied conversation.
Novelty and ignorance must always be reciprocal, and I cannot but
be conscious that my thoughts on national manners, are the thoughts
of one who has seen but little.