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it subservient to the moral and spiritual
improvement of their own parishioners.
The History of Maitland Smith was
the first written, and was given to the public in 1807, with the double view of opening the way for the reception of this work, and of raising a sum to assist in supporting the unhappy family of the criminal, whose life it faithfully records. The rapid sale of that little narrative having encouraged the friends of the measure to proceed in their projected undertaking, a society was a few months afterwards formed with this view, by some of the ministers of the Established Church in Dumfries-shire. The members met at each other's houses in rotation, on the first Monday of every month, and critically examined the Tract in
tended next for publication. The institution of this little association, the editor will always consider as among the happiest incidents of his life. The intercourse to which it gave rise, whilst it cemented the friendship of the members, united to the pursuit of a benevolent object, a kind of enjoyment, which gives the highest relish to the charities of social life.
The Cottage Fireside, a beautiful narrative, from the classic pen of the Rev. Henry Duncan, D.D., author of the "Sacred Philosophy of the Seasons," &c., was originally published in this series; but as it has already appeared in the Cabinet Library, of which this volume now forms a part, it is here omitted.
LIFE AND CHARACTER
WHO WAS EXECUTED IN DUMFRIES, ON 21ST OCTOBER 1807, FOR
A TRUE NARRATIVE.
"Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed, lest he fall."
MAITLAND SMITH, the unfortunate subject of this narrative, was a native of Scotland, and was born in the year 1775, of poor but honest parents, in the parish of Penpont, in that district of Dumfries-shire to which the river Nith has given its name. He was early sent to the parochial school, which was at that time ably taught by a son of Mr. Keyden, the minister of the parish. Like other children of his station in this part of the United Kingdom, he enjoyed for several years the advantage of this useful institution, which was, however, sometimes interrupted during the summer months, for the purpose of his earning a trifling sum, by tending the cattle of a neighbouring farmer.
At the age of ten years, he was received into the family of Captain Maitland, of Eccles, his father's landlord, after whom he had been named, and who had promised to take an interest in his future prospects. In this place he remained for six months, in the capacity of under servant. Being displeased, however, with his situation, and probably not having given entire satisfaction to his patron, he was taken home during the winter half-year, and again sent to school; but he was too fond of play, and of a disposition too unsteady and rambling to make much progress in learning. Of exercises indeed which required strength and agility, he was passionately fond; and there was not a boy of his own age at school who could equal him in running, wrestling, or throwing the stone. His ambition to excel in those active amusements for which nature seemed remarkably to have endowed him, showed an ardent and aspiring mind, and strongly marked the general bent of his future character.
The following summer, Maitland's father engaged him with a Captain, at the farm of B, in that neighbourhood, as a cow-boy. This gentleman, who had formerly commanded a vessel in the Guinea trade, joined to an excellent heart, and a strong attachment to the