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Mr. Fox's birthday, on the 24th of January, after his name had been erased from his Majesty's privy council, from his determined opposition to the war with France.
Mr. Fletcher, on the threatened invasion from France, thought it was every man's duty to arm in defence of national honour. With this feeling he entered an ensign in the Highland corps of Edinburgh Volunteers. His soldierly accoutrements were a subject of much amusement to his family and friends. His quiet manners and studious habits accorded ill with the "pomp and circumstance" of regimental duty.
In the enjoyment of perfect domestic happiness, and in consideration for the welfare and comfort of every member of his family, he never was surpassed by any one. He had not leisure to cultivate conversational habits with his children, nor had he the vivacity or animal spirits that fitted him for such companionship; but they can never forget his quiet sympathy in all their pleasures; his anxiety that they should enjoy every advantage of liberal education; his tenderness towards them when they were sick, and the great reasonableness and indulgence of his habitual conduct towards them. To his servants he was the kindest of masters; and to the poor and afflicted, his nature was so compassionate, that he would have divided with them his last shilling. One instance of this humane disposition is well remembered in his family: "— A miserable woman had been detected in the act of stealing from his premises, and, in the absence of their master and mistress, his servants had secured her, till police-officers were sent for to take her before a magistrate. Mr. Fletcher would not interfere with the course of justice, but going quietly to the place where she was in custody, he gave her a loaf of bread, and was heard to say, — " Take that, poor woman; I dare say it was hunger that made you steal." He was ever ready to be the poor man's advocate; and used to think his time well employed when he could professionally assist the indigent or oppressed with his advice and exertions.
In the spring of 1816, infirm health obliged Mr. Fletcher to retire from the bar, when the emoluments of his practice had begun fully to reward the labour and diligence of his application. For several years he had risen at six o'clock every morning during session-time, and seldom left the occupations of his business-room till twelve at night; but so long as health permitted this, he never complained of the fatigue of labour. He loved his profession, and delighted in the energetic exercise of his mental faculties; but when obliged to relinquish it, he did so without a murmur; and retiring with his family to Parkhall, a farm which he had purchased in Stirlingshire, the employment of planting, draining, and improving the soil, supplied to his active mind a substitute for professional engagements.
In 1817, he had the misfortune to lose his second daughter. This was the first great blow to his domestic happiness; — she was in her twenty-first year.
The last public meeting at which he appeared was one held in Edinburgh, in the year 1818, to petition against the well known six bills of Lord Castlereagh. When Mr. Fletcher entered the place of meeting, accompanied by his two sons, his venerable appearance, his infirm health, and his high character for consistency and purity of public principle, combined to produce a strong sensation on the assembly: he was loudly cheered; and a place near the chairman was assigned to him, that he might distinctly hear the proceedings.
In the spring of 1820 Mr. Fletcher had much gratification in the visit of Lord Erskine to Edinburgh. He was one of the most active promoters of a public dinner given in honour of that distinguished patriot, and insisted on its not being exclusive, as was proposed by some members of the committee of management, but that every citizen in Edinburgh, who chose to pay for his guinea ticket, should have an opportunity of testifying his respect to that illustrious Scotchman who had so nobly assisted to extend the benefits of trial by jury in England.
In the summer of 1820 Mr. Fletcher spent some months with his family at Callender, and went along with them from thence to visit some relations in Glenorchy. While passing a day near Loch Auchallader he traced, with true Highland enthusiasm, the cairns of his warlike clan who had fallen there in battle; and was well pleased to observe, by the gathering of the Fletchers at the little inn of Invernara to give him the meeting, that the feeling of clanship had by no means died away in the Highlands." Mr. Fletcher passed the winter of 1822 with his family at York, occasionally mixing in the society of that place; and he there wrote and printed a Dialogue between a Whig and a Radical Reformer, in which he combated the principle of annual parliaments and universal suffrage, but advocated constitutional reform on its broadest basis. During his present Majesty's visit to Edinburgh, in the summer of 1822, Mr. Fletcher took his place on the platform appropriated to the gentlemen of the bar to witness the King's procession from the Palace of Holyrood to the Castle of Edinburgh. A private window had been secured for him; and he might have pleaded the infirmity of age against his mixing in a crowd so dense and difficult to contend with as the one assembled in the High Street on that occasion; but he insisted on taking his place among his brethren at the bar; and though, abstractedly, he was, perhaps, as little a lover of kings as his great namesake, Fletcher of Saltoun, yet, considering George the Fourth as the first magistrate of a free people, there was not perhaps a more loyal heart that day to hail the sovereign, than that which beat in the bosom of this venerable reformer. The health of Mr. Fletcher visibly declined during the following winter, and in the spring of 1823 his physicians had little hope of his recovery. Some months of quiet retirement in the country, however, produced the happiest effects on his strength and spirits; and in the spring of 1824 he was prevailed on to take a lease of Auchindinny House, about eight miles from Edinburgh, and there his family had the comfort to see him enjoy a serene and healthy old age. Reading and conversation with his family were his prime pleasures: he delighted in the playfulness of his grandchildren. He was too infirm to enjoy exercise, and too deaf to be amused with general society; but he was uniformly cheerful and contented, and his interest in public affairs continued unabated.
* On this occasion a man of ninety-nine years of age rode two miles across a hill, supported on each side by his grandsons, to join in giving welcome to Mr. Fletcher. - *
- He was confined by his last illness five weeks to his bed; and those who faithfully attended him can testify how patiently he bore the wearisome days and nights of increasing debility, and how considerate he was of others. He was quite aware of the approach of death, but spoke little, and avoided all emotion in the anticipation of parting, both for his own sake and for those he loved. Happily, he suffered no acute bodily pain, and his mind was in a state of habitual thankfulness. He died at half-past two o'clock on the morning of the 20th of December, 1828.
Mr. Fletcher's remains were attended to the grave by many faithful friends. He was interred in the family burial-ground on the Gallon Hill, on Wednesday, the 24th day of December, 1828.
The foregoing little memoir was, we believe, originally published in an Edinburgh paper.
WILLIAM HYDE WOLLASTON, M.D.
FELLOW OF THE COLLEGE OF PHYSICIANS, AND OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY.
This eminent man will be long remembered by his numerous learned and scientific friends. There are few persons whose names are more intimately connected with the general history of learning and science in the nineteenth century; and a complete memoir of his scientific life, from the pen of one competent to such an undertaking, would embrace many of the most interesting details relative to the brilliant progress of chemistry, and the other branches of natural philosophy, during the last thirty years. We are happy to hear that such a memoir is in preparation.
The family of Wollaston, originally from Staffordshire*, has now for several generations been eminent in the circles of science. Dr. Wollaston's great-grandfather, the Rev. William Wollaston, was the author of a very popular work, entitled "The Religion of Nature delineated." His son, Francis Wollaston, Esq. F.R.S., had three sons, all likewise Fellows of the Royal Society: the Rev. Francis Wollaston, Rector of Chiselhurst, and St. Vedast Foster-lane, and Precentor of St. David's, who died in 1815; Charlton Wollaston, M. D., who died in 1764; and the Rev. George Wollaston, D. D., Rector of St. Mary Aldermary. His eldest daughter
* Sec an'ample pedigree, comprising the several branches, in Nichols's History of Leicestershire, vol. iv. p. 541.