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K. Mackenzie sculp
Engraved for Chapman & Lang's Edition of Ferguson's Poems 1800,
LIFE OF THE AUTHOR.
BY DAVID IRVING.
Embellished with three elegant Engravings.
Chapman and Lang's Edition,
Printed by and for Chapman and Lang,
LIFE OF FERGUSSON.
Ir is to be wished, that the life of this unfortunate poet had been delineated by some one possessed of more ample information, than the present writer, with all his endeavours, has been able to procure. An impartial account of his short and headlong career, might be rendered not only highly interesting, but even of considerable advantage to society. By presenting to the eyes of inexperience, a faithful picture of the evils by which imprudent conduct is ever accompanied, it might possibly excite in young and susceptible minds, a steady aversion to those practices which tended to involve Fergusson in the deepest calamities.
As little curiosity has hitherto been discovered with regard to his history, the collecting of materials for the following sketch, has been attended with some difficulty. In the performance of this task, I have been chiefly aided by the friendly exertions of Dr. Robert Anderson, a gentleman, not more distinguished for his ingenuity and learning, than for the amiable benevolence of his mind *.
* Dr. Anderson, who has already deserved so well from the republic of letters, is now preparing for the press, an improved edition of his Lives of the British Poets detached from the complete collection of their respective works.
Robert Fergusson was born at Edinburgh on the 5th of September, 1750. His father, William Fergusson, who, in his youth had discovered some propensity to the study of poetry, maintained a respectable character in the humble station in which Providence had placed him. He served an apprenticeship to a merchant in Aberdeen, and about the year 1746, came to Edinburgh, in order to find employment. Having been engaged as a clerk by several different masters, and these too, of various occupations, he at length procured a situation in the office of the British Linen Company, in which he continued till his death.
Young Fergusson was of a constitution so extremely delicate, that he could not go to school till he had reached his sixth year. He was then sent to a Mr. Philps, who, at that time resided in Black-friars Wynd; and under his tuition he was qualified for the- High School, in the space of little more than six months. While he continued here, the infirm state of his health prévented him from giving the proper attendance: yet by means of his superior capacity, aided by a generous spirit of emulation, he excelled most of his companions. It was during those intervals in which the delicacy of his frame confined him at home, that he first discovered a relish for reading. He gratified his taste in this respect, by the perusal of such books as chance threw in his way; and the interrogations which he put concerning any subject that attracted his notice, often puzzled those who were much older than himself. The Proverbs of Solomon were his earliest favourite.
Having continued four years at the Grammar School of Edinburgh, he was next removed to that of Dundee, where he remained two years longer. In both of these seminaries he made a surprising progress