Page images





JAMES was unfortunate in all the circumstances of his early years, even in those in which men of allt stations are commonly alike fortunate. We learn from Dr Mayerne, his physician in latter life, * that he had a drunkard for a wet nurse, from whose vitiated milk, although weaned within twelve months, he contracted a feeble constitution of body, which rendered him unable to walk till his sixth year—though perhaps this was partly the result, as already stated, of the fright which his mother received before he was born. His whole organization was imperfect and peculiar: he inherited, for instance, from his grandfather James V., and his mother Mary, a certain narrowness of jaws, which rendered swallowing difficult.

Perhaps, however, he was not more unfortunate in any thing than in his preceptor, the celebrated Buchanan. As the greatest scholar of his age, and one who was perfectly eligible in the score of politics and religion, this personage naturally oc

* Ellis's Letters, 2d ser. iii. 199.

carred to James's guardians, as one every way worthy of becoming bis tutor. He was, therefore, called away from his office of Principal of the University of St Andrews, in order to undertake the management of the royal education at Stirling.

If the mere possession of vast classical learning, or a turn for writing elegant Latin, could have qualiked any man for assuming this important place, Buchanan was certainly qualified. It may be questioned, however, if he possessed the real requisites of the office. In the

very first place, his age, advanced towards seventy, was a serious disqualification, allied as it was to the still more serious ones of a broken temper—the natural result of a long life of literary hardship and disappointment and the peculiar habits which must always more or less characterize solitary old age. Besides, the mere possession of learning does not imply the faculty of teaching; and Buchanan had all his life been a learner, not a teacher. His republican principles, and the sincere hatred which he entertained for kings, although qualities that would appear excellent to his constituents and to a large modern party, surely did not add to his powers of commanding the affections, and fixing the attention of a princely pupil. Nor was he the better qualified for taking this endearing place in relation to the son, that he was already the enemy, and designed to become the maligner, of the mother. There was, to say the least of it, a great deal of bad taste displayed by the regency, in fixing upon the friend of the Earl of Murray for the preceptor of the son of Mary. A less learned and younger man, one of more gentle temper, and neutral in regard to the late troubles, would surely, if otherwise qualified for the office, have been better than this ungracious anchorite, whose only recommendation, after all, in the eyes of his constituents, was, that he was essentially their own creature.

Buchanan, however, was not single in his charge. He was only at the head of other three instructors, Mr Peter Young, and the titular Abbots of Cambuskenneth and Dryburgh, both of which last were Erskines, of the family of Mar. These men are stated, by various writers friendly to Buchanan, to have formed a mean contrast, in their courtly and gentle treatment of their pupil, to the stern demeanour of their superior. But this assertion is only of a piece with the general blindness of wouldbe reformers, whose besetting fault it is to theorise on high principles, without allowing for the deficiencies of the materials on which they have to work. James was a child, and not a man; and as it was to be supposed that he possessed the same passions, and was characterised by the same imperfections as most boys, it was necessary to employ expedients of the most practical kind. To teach children, one must himself become as a little child.' The mere exhibition of knowledge before the eyes of young people, will not make them learn. The simple statement of rules will fail to impress them. They must be reasoned with. Their faculties, such as they are, must be interested. Knowledge must be presented to them, not in masses, nor in its primitive shape ; it must be rendered a pulp, and administered in mouthfuls. Above all, it must not be presented with such a frown as to make them fear it to be poison, instead of salutary diet. Now, the true difference between Buchanan and his associates was, that the former rendered his instructions unpalatable, at once by the rigour of discipline which accompanied them, and his failing to reduce them into a sufficiently practical shape; while the others, with less distinction in learning, but more common sense, accommodated themselves and their knowledge to the character of their pupil, and, perhaps showing him less, communicated more. James himself seems to have long remembered Buchanan with a feeling of horror. He used to say of one of his English courtiers, in the latter part of his life, that he never could help trembling at his approach, he brought him so much in mind of his pedagogue.”* On the other hand, Mr Peter Young continued ever after a favourite with the monarch, was employed by him in foreign embassies, honoured with a pension, and eventually knighted.

Some change must have taken place in James's domestic circumstances after the death of Lennox, when bis governor, the Earl of Mar, was selected by the nobles of his party to be Regent; an office which caused his Lordship to reside chiefly in the neighbourhood of Edinburgh, in order to carry on the siege of the Castle. Mar was one of the purest characters of that dreadful time, and one of the most peaceable. He endeavoured, by all means, to procure a cessation of arms between the King's and Queen's factions ; but he was not saccessful. After a turbulent government of little more than a year, he died on the 18th of October 1573, it was supposed of a broken heart. The Earl of Morton was chosen to succeed him.

* Osborn's Advice to a Son, 19. VOL. I.


One of the first acts of Morton's government, was an ordinance for continuing the King in the Castle of Stirling, under the care of the widow of the late Earl of Mar, as to his mouth, and the ordering of his person; but to continue under his present pedagogues; and the Castle to be kept in the name of the Earl of Mar.

The new Earl of Mar was a boy of eleven years at the time of his father's death; consequently, he 'was four years older than the King. Notwithstanding this disparity of age, which was considerable at such a period of life, the two boys were intimate friends. James, who had all his life a habit of conferring nick-names on those about him, gave young Mar the epithet of the Sloven, which was afterwards changed into the unintelligible one of Jock o' Sklaitts. Their sports, which they performed in company, are stated to have be bows and arrows, the foot-ball, catch-pole or tennis, schule-the-brod (shovel-board), billiards, and call

. the-guse. James also played a good deal at cards, when a little further advanced in life; but he never was addicted to dice.

His studies, as the minutely inquiring Chalmers has shown, were commenced at a very early period of his life. In the books of the Treasurer of Scotland, under the date of May 1573, when he was only finishing his seventh year, there is a charge of 31. 108. for nine paper buikis to the King." In the ensuing October, there is a charge of 8l. 8s. to Peter Young, 'for certane buikis to bis Grace.' In February 1573–4, when seven. and a half years old, 131. 12s. is paid for repairing

# Chalmers's Life of Queen Mary, i. 394.

« PreviousContinue »