Page images

the Taylors fair play as well as the ordinary elementary instruction.

His next teachers were of a different stamp: one was a Mr Roy, an accomplished scholar, who afterwards became tutor in the Bedford family ; the other, George Jardine, Professor of Logic and Rhetoric in the University of Glasgow.

Professor Jardine, being in delicate health, was advised to pass his summers in Portobello. He was an old friend of the family on the mother's side, and at once fell into intimate relations with them. For Thomas, in particular, he conceived a great affection, and insisted on having him for a pupil. Accordingly, for two summers (the professor being obliged to winter in Glasgow) Drummond had the advantage of his instructions in the Latin language, and, generally, in what are in Scotland called the Humanities. The acquaintance and affection thus begun lasted into after life, and the professor and his pupil long corresponded. Some of his letters to young Drummond exhibit him in an exceedingly amiable light. His acting as tutor during these two summers was, in every sense, a labour of love: as it is a pleasure to find an apt and assiduous pupil, he, doubtless, had his reward. The pride of Mrs Drummond may be imagined on his casually remarking to her one day, “ John Wilson and


Tom are the cleverest boys I ever had under my charge." The author of the “ Noctes” had not by this time flowered into his fame, and it was in fields altogether different from the professor's that Drummond's full powers were destined to be exhibited.

While his summers were spent with Professor Jardine, his winters were passed with a private tutor.

The assistance in the former case came from the mother's

side; in the latter, it came from the father's. Mr Aitchison of Drummore has already been referred to as a friend of the family. With him, too, Thomas was the favourite, and he insisted on providing for him a tutor to be resident in the family at his expense. The tutor was Mr Roy, under whose care very considerable progress was made. He and Tom were fast friends-a guarantee for effective action of master on pupil

. In 1810, Drummond, now in the thirteenth year of his age, came to Edinburgh to be a pupil and boarder with Mr George Scott, then a mathematical master in the High Street. He continued with Mr Scott for two years, always walking to Musselburgh on the Saturday, and remaining at home over the Sunday. Scott's pupils were taught in a class, and Drummond was always dux in it. “ His knowledge of geometry," writes Mr Scott in 1812, “I have never seen equalled in one of his age ; and the progress he is now making in the higher branches of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy, is such as might be expected from one who possesses a sound judgment, combined with uncommon application."*

While boarding with Mr Scott, Drummond also attended classes in the University of Edinburgh, of which he was enrolled an alumnus in 1810. Here his chief subjects of study were Mathematics, Natural Philosophy, and Chemistry. His college exercises, solutions of problems, or proofs of theorems, done in the classes of Professors Leslie and Playfair, have been preserved, and attest his talent for this species of intellectual work. On many of them are remarks written by the professors, nearly all commendatory, such as


Letter to Mrs Drummond, 24th November 1812.

Concise,” “Remarkably neat,” “ Most neatly and ably solved;" while frequently the exercises bring out results not expected, or, at least, not asked for, by the prescriber, but which the quick intelligence of the student, going beyond the mere line of prescribed duty, discerned. These results are often and very justly characterised as “most curious,” and the mode of discovering and exhibiting them as “most ingenious.” Several of them undoubtedly exhibit remarkable ability and ingenuity in a lad of fourteen ; and no one can glance over them and be surprised at Leslie's certifying at the close of the course, “I have no hesitation in saying that no young man has ever come under my charge with a happier disposition or more promising talents."*

Drummond's bent now seemed to be distinctly disclosed, and to be distinctly scientific. But while he was chiefly engaged in scientific studies, he was nowise neglectful of his culture in general literature and the classics. Some fairly done copies of Latin verses belonging to this time—he used to submit his efforts to the correction of Professor Jardine-show that his cultivation, though exceeding on the one side, was by no means one-sided. It is impossible to say what might have been the effect on his career of a bias towards mere literary culture, had it been given at this time. A love for classical literature grew upon him with his years, a rare thing in one eminent in mathematics. As it was, the boy's mind seemed to be finding its natural field in the definite logical processes of mathematics pure and applied. Jardine appears to have seen this, and to have hinted at his yielding to the natural bent, in a letter to him, dated 10th March 1811,

* Letter to Mr Macfarlane, 26th December 1812.

returning a copy of Latin verses with corrections. “You must not be too sanguine about your success [in this field]," says the Professor. . “ Boys who have been accustomed to Latin verses, and have some turn for poetry, have great advantages over others.” I have ascertained, and evidently Jardine knew, that Drummond, unlike most boys of ability, never courted the muses.

In the end of 1812, or beginning of 1813, Drummond, through the influence of Mr Aitchison, received his appointment to the academy at Woolwich; and thither, in the spring of 1813, he proceeded as a cadet.



I FEEL justified in recording in a separate chapter the few facts which have been preserved, throwing light on the boy-life of Thomas Drummond. That these have value will appear when we come—having got to the end of his too short day—to look back over his way of life, and form an estimate of his character and powers.

Mention has already been made of his constructive tendencies-how he was always “making things.” The power of contrivance, and the enjoyment of its exercise, the courage to face, and the ingenuity to overcome difficulties, seem to have been as distinct in the boy as in the man.

Moreover he had the capacity, which lies at the root of discovery, of being made miserable by things not understood, On a new roasting jack coming to the house, he took it to his sister, saying he was very unhappy because he did not know why it ticked. The unhappiness continued till he undid the jack and got at its secret.

There is a story told of him, which affords a glimpse at once of the boy's objects, and of the circumstances of the family. Sometimes the taste for “making things” could not be indulged for want of money to get the

« PreviousContinue »