The following is the first of James Easson’s series ‘Transcripts from Memory’, published in the ‘People’s Journal’ in 1860. Easson—or ‘the people’s poet’ as he was posthumously dubbed by a reader—wrote many short stories, sketches, essays and poems from 1858 until his death in 1865. In many ways Easson was the sort of contributor that the ‘Journal’ was founded for. He was a painter decorator from Dundee who found an audience in the paper and was loved by its readers. He died in the Royal Lunatic Asylum in Dundee after three weeks of paralysis aged just 31, his only living relative being his Grandmother Betty Easson. Readers donated money to pay for his burial and the support of Betty when his death was announced. His stone can still be visited in Dundee’s Eastern Necropolis and the inscription reads; ‘Erected by the Proprietors of “The People’s Journal” in Memory of a Working Man who had Rare Literary Gifts and Whose Writings are his Best Memorial’. For a full collection of his work and a short biography, see ‘The Life and Works of James Easson; The Dundee People’s Poet’ by Anthony Faulks (Dundee, 2016).
In a corner of the most of houses there is a pile of old dusty volumes, into which few ever think it worth while to look; they repose there from year in to year out, and, except to be dusted, and put back for a while into their old place, they may truly be said to have been “laid on the shelf.” Nevertheless, they are dear familiar friends; they have done their work in their day; for, upon inspection, we find among their number our first Bible, and our first “Course of Reading.” Dog-eared and greasy are the leaves of the latter book, with blotches of ink on the outside, whilst on the fly-leaves and margins there are all sorts of caricatures, figures, and names, every one of which, to a stranger, would be as unintelligible as the hieroglyphics on the Egyptian pyramids.
But in the twilight of a calm afternoon, what object more suggestive of pensive, pleasing thought than this same discarded “Collection,” and the queer-looking illustrations therein contained? It assists in plunging us back into the shadowy past, and thus delights us with emotions very sweet and very wholesome. We gaze upon its faded covers and time-worn binding until, by a species of mental magic, we are launched upon the stream of fancy, and glide smoothly back again to the bright shores of early youth. At such times we behold faces and forms we once knew and loved—images long lost to use in the mist of years. Every figure, every name, every shape serves to waken up some tender and happy remembrance, beautiful with the rosy effulgence of life’s morning! The name upon which our eye first falls, may be that of one who, in those peaceful times, was our bosom-friend;—where is he now! He sleeps, it may be, in the narrow house, and the long, rank grass, perhaps, conceals his honoured resting place. The next name belongs to one who prosecuted his studies with a worthy ardour, was made an assistant-teacher in the school where he began to learn, and was at length rewarded with a Queen’s scholarship. The third is the name of a youth who unwisely forsook his honest trade to become a lazy publican; and a fourth, alas! went off to sea, a lively and comely youth, and was drowned in the wild, remorseless waters while on his first voyage! All those well-known forms pass before our mind, and to each and all of them we give the tribute of a tear!
Turning to another page, we see the name of some whose ideal fills the mind with different thoughts—memories of a somewhat light and humorous complexion. Continue reading “‘Transcripts from Memory: Transcript First’ by James Easson (11 February, 1860)”