Collected Essays of W.P. Ker

Collected Essays of W.P. Ker

Collected Essays of W.P. Ker

Collected Essays of W.P. Ker

Excerpt

William Paton Ker belonged to the true race of travelling Scots. At once scholar and wanderer, he was sib to Thomas Dempster, Francis Sinclair, George Buchanan, and the other Scots who fought and taught their way across Europe. For him, as for them, learning was a dangerous enterprise, which might end in victory or defeat. The word "adventure" was always on his tongue or at the point of his pen. "The spirit of adventure," said he, "is the same in Warton as in Scott." It is not among the pedants, but among the conquistadores, that he places Ritson, in Lockhart's despite, with Percy, Warton, Tyrwhitt, Scott, Ellis, and Leyden. And when he discoursed on the philosophy of history, he found history's justification, if it needed any, "in the journey to the Western Isles, and in the last voyage of Ulysses. . . . Adventure is the motive." And it was his motive, as it was the motive of Johnson and Ulysses. Nor did the field of his adventure differ from theirs. He took a gay and wide view of his profession. "You have imposed a pleasant duty," said he once upon a time to the members of a learned association. "I do not mean the obligation to make a speech, but the charge that will remain with me when this compulsory sermon is ended: the thought that I have been chosen one of the captains . . .

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