Edinburgh Bookshelf

Kay's Originals Vol. 1

Search

Volume 8 Page 373
  Enlarge Enlarge  
268 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. KO. CVIII. MR. JOHN WRIGHT, LECTURER ON LAW. MR. WRIGHT was the son of a poor cottar in Argyleshire,' who, by smuggling between that coast and the Isle of Man, was enabled to maintain his family for many years in comparative comfort ; but, finding his " occupation gone," in consequence of the strict prohibitory measures enforced by Government, a short time prior to the transfer of the sovereignty of that island in 1768, he left the Highlands and settled in Greenock. Here the future " lecturer on law," who had been bred to the humble occupation of a shoemaker, manifested an uncommon desire for knowledge. Whilst employed at his laborious avocation, his mind was generally engaged in study. It is told of him, that to aid his memory in acquiring a knowledge of the Latin language, and not having the command of writing materials, he used to conjugate the verbs on the wall of his work-room with the point of his awl. Having mastered the rudiments of the Latin tongue, he removed to Glasgow, where, with no other assistance than the proceeds of his labour, he entered a student at the University ; and, notwithstanding the manifest disadvantages under which he laboured, made rapid progress in his studies. Indeed, so decided was his success that he soon found himself almost wholly relieved from the drudgery of shoemaking, by giving private lessons to his less assiduous class-fellows-many of whom, being the sons of noblemen and wealthy commoners, remunerated him liberally for his instructions. The views of our scholastic aspirant being directed towards the Church, he was in due course of time licensed to preach ; but finding himself destitute of patronage-and perhaps aware, from a deficiency in oratorical powers, that he might never become popular in the pulpit-he yielded to the advice of several of the professors, whose friendship his talents had secured, and set about attaining a more thorough knowledge of the higher branches of mathematics, which at that period were not considered so essential as they now are to the student of divinity. After having attained, if not the reality, but what was in his case much better, the reputation of knowledge in this new study, Mr. Wright removed to Edinburgh, where he commenced teaching mathematics and the science of military architecture. This proved a very lucrative speculation, a great number of young men about Edinburgh being at the time preparing to go out to India. With the view of ultimately pushing himself forward to the bar, Mr. Wright 1 In the minutes of the Faculty of Advocates, Mr. Wright is described-"eldest son of the deceased Mr. John Wright, of the parish of Kilfinnan, in Argyleshire."
Volume 8 Page 374
  Enlarge Enlarge