or BROWN, a surname common in Scotland, as Browne is in England and
Ireland, the same as Brun or Brune in France, In its first
form there is an ancient family, the Brouns of Colstoun, in the county of
Haddington, a younger branch of which enjoys a baronetcy, and according to
tradition, was founded soon after the Conquest, by a French warrior, bearing
the arms of the then royal family of France, with which he claimed alliance.
In the roll of Battle Abbey there is a knight named Brone among the Norman
adventurers who accompanied William the Conqueror into England, but whether
this be the ancestor of any of the innumerable families of the name of Brown
in this country, it is impossible to say. The name, doubtless, in ancient
times was bestowed, in some instances, from the colour or complexion of
those who adopted it as a surname.
Early in the
twelfth century one Walterus le Brun is found flourishing in Scotland. He
was one of the barons who witnessed the inquisition of the possessions of
the church of Glasgow made by Earl David in 1116, in the reign of his
brother, Alexander the First.
Sir David le
Brun was one of the witnesses, with King David the First, in laying the
foundation of the abbey of Holyroodhouse, 13th May 1128.
‘A thowsand a hundyr and twenty yhere,
And awcht to that, to rekyne clere,
Foundyd wes the Halyrwd hows,
Fra thine to be relygyows.’
He devised to that
abbacy “lands and acres in territories de Colstoun,” for prayers to be said
for “the soul of Alexander and the health of his son.” Thomas de Broun is
witness in a charter by Roger de Moubray to the predecessor of the lairds of
Moncrieff, in the time of King Alexander the Second.
The name of Ralph
de Broun appears in the Ragman Roll as that of one of the barons of Scotland
who swore fealty to Edward the First at Berwick, in 1296.
Richard de Broun,
keeper of the king’s peace in Cumberland, was forfeited in the Black
parliament in 1320.. He is styled an esquire, and was beheaded, with Sir
David de Brechin and two other knights, Sir Gilbert de Malherbe and Sir John
Logie, for being concerned in the conspiracy of de Soulis that year. (See
BRECHIN, lord of, ante.)
From King David
the Second, the family of Colstoun received a charter, “Johanni Broun filio
David Broun de Colstoun.”
baron of Colstoun, in the reign of James the First married Margaret de
Annand, co-heiress of the barony of Sauchie, descended from the ancient
lords of Annandale.
Sir William Broun
of Colston, warden of the west marches, commanded a party of Scots in a
battle fought on what was anciently a moor in the parish of Dornock,
Dumfries-shire, against a party of English, led by Sir Marmaduke Langdale
and Lord Crosby, when the English were defeated, and both their commanders
slain. So sanguinary was the conflict that, according to tradition, a
spring-well on the spot, still called Sword well, ran blood for three days.
Towards the end of
the fifteenth century William Broun of Colstoun was lord director of the
court of chancery in Scotland.
Haddingtonshire barons, the Brouns of Colstoun appear to have favoured the
Homes, as on April 6, 1529, precepts of remission were granted to Mr.
William Broun, tutor of Colstoun, and four others, and to George Fawside of
that ilk, for their treasonably assisting George, Lord Home and the deceased
David Home of Wedderburn, his brothers and accomplices, being the king’s
rebels and at his horn.
George Broun of
Colstoun, who lived in the beginning of the seventeenth century, married
Jean Hay, second daughter of Lord Yester, ancestor of the Marquis of
Tweeddale. The dowry of this lady consisted of the famous “Colstoun pear,”
which Hugo de Gifford of Yester, her remote ancestor, famed for his
necromantic powers, described in Marmion, and who died in 1267, was supposed
to have invested with the extraordinary virtue of conferring unfailing
prosperity on the family which possessed it. Lord Yester, in giving away his
daughter, is said to have informed his son-in-law that good as the lass
might be her dowry was much better, because while she could only have value
in her own generation, the pear, so long as it continued in the family,
would cause it to flourish to the end of time. Accordingly, the pear has
been carefully preserved in a silver box, as a sacred palladium. About the
seventeenth century, the lady of one of the lairds of Colstoun, on becoming
pregnant, felt a longing for the forbidden fruit, and took a bite of it.
Another version of the story says that it was a maiden lady of the family
who, out of curiosity chose to try her teeth upon it. Very soon after, two
of the best farms on the estate were lost in some litigation, while the pear
itself straightway became stone-hard, and so remains to this day, with the
marks of the lady’s teeth indelibly imprinted on it. The origin of this
wondrous pear is, by another tradition, said to have been thus: – One of the
ancestors of the Colstoun family married a daughter of the above-named Hugo
of Yester, the renowned warlock of Gifford, and as the bridal party were
proceeding to the church, the wizard lord stopped beneath a pear tree, and
plucking one of the pears, handed it to his daughter, telling her that he
had no dowry to give her, but that as long as that gift was kept. good
fortune would never desert her or her descendants. Apart from the
superstition attached to it, this curious heirloom is certainly a most
wonderful vegetable curiosity, having existed for nearly six centuries.
baron of Colstoun, in the reign of Charles the First, married a daughter of
Sir David Murray of Stanhope, and had, with a younger son, George (ancestor
of the present baronet of Colstoun) to whom he granted by charter the barony
of Thornydyke, in Berwickshire, an elder son, Sir Patrick Broun of Colstoun,
who, in consequence of his eminent services and the fidelity of the ancient
family he represented, was created a knight and baronet of Nova Scotia, 16th
February 1686, with remainder of the title to his heirs male for ever. Sir
George Broun, the second baronet, his son, married a daughter of the first
earl of Cromarty, and died in 1718; leaving an only daughter, who inherited
the estate, while the baronetcy went to the heir male. The family thus
became split betwixt the heirs male and the heirs of line, the title
devolving upon the Thornydyke branch and the estates upon an heiress, who
married George Broun of Eastfield, from whom descended George Broun of
Colstoun judicially styled Lord Colstoun, who became a lord of session in
1756 and died in 1776; and the late Christian, countess of Dalhousie, only
child and heiress of Charles Broun, Esq. of Colstoun, and died 22d February
1839. The present marquis of Dalhousie (James Andrew Broun-Ramsay) in right
of his mother, is the representative of the elder branch.
Sir George Broun,
son of Alexander Broun of Thornydyke castle and Bassendean, Berwickshire,
and of a lady of the ancient house of Swinton of Swinton, succeeded his
cousin as third baronet, and dying without male issue, his brother, Sir
Alexander, became fourth baronet. He married Beatrice, daughter of Alexander
Swinton, Lord Meringston, and died in 1750. His son, Sir Alexander, fifth
baronet, having died in 1775, without male issue, the baronetcy devolved
upon his cousin, the Rev. Sir Alexander Broun, minister of Lochmaben, who
declined to take up the title. He married Robina, daughter of Colonel Hugh
M’Bride of Beadland, Ayrshire, and died in 1782. With several daughters he
had two sons, viz., James, who, in 1825, revived the title, and William, of
Newmains, who married and settled in the island of Guernsey, where his
descendants are still to be found.
Sir James, the
seventh baronet, left a family of four sons and two daughters at his death,
30th Nov. 1844. His eldest son, Sir Richard Broun, eighth
baronet, a knight commander of the order of St. John of Jerusalem, was
secretary of the Langue of that order in England, and also to the Committee
of Baronets for Privileges. He was also secretary of the Central
Agricultural Society, and the author of various works on heraldry,
colonization, railway extension, &c. Born in 1801, he died unmarried in Dec.
1858. Before succeeding to the baronetcy he endeavoured to establish the
right of the eldest sons of baronets to the title of knight, and in 1842
assumed the title of “Sir.” His brother Sir William, a solicitor in
Dumfries, became ninth baronet.
an eminent linguist and traveller, the son of James Brown, M.D., was born at
Kelso, in the county fo Roxburgh, May 23, 1709. He was educated under the
Rev. Dr. Robert Friend at Westminster School, where he was well instructed
in the classics. In the end of 1722 he went with his father to
Constantinople; and having a great natural aptitude for the acquirement of
languages, he obtained a thorough knowledge of the Turkish and Italian, as
well as the modern Greek. In 1725 he returned home, and made himself master
of the Spanish language. About the year 1732 he first started the idea of a
London Directory, or list of principal traders in the metropolis, with their
addresses. Having laid the foundation of this useful work, he gave it to Mr.
Henry Kent, a printer in Finch Lane, Cornhill, who, continuing it yearly,
made a fortune by it.
In July 1741 he
entered into an agreement with twenty-four of the principal merchants of
London, members of the Russian Company, of which Sir John Thompson was then
governor, to go to Persia, to carry on a trade through Russia, as their
chief agent or factor. On 29th September of the same year he
sailed for Riga; whence he passed through Russia, and proceeding down the
Volga to Astracan, voyaged along the Caspian Sea to Reshd in Persia, where
he established a factory. He continued in that country nearly four years;
and, upon one occasion, went in state to the camp of Nadir Shah, better
known by the name of Kouli Khan, to deliver a letter to that chief from
George the Second. While he resided in Persia, he applied himself to the
study of the Persian language, and made such proficiency in it, that, after
his return home, he compiled a very copious Persian Dictionary and Grammar,
with many curious specimens of the Persian mode of writing, which he left
behind him in manuscript.
the conduct of the Russian Company in London, and sensible of the dangers to
which the factory was constantly exposed frm the unsettled and tyrannical
nature of the Persian government, he resigned his charge, and returned to
England on Christmas-day 1746. In the following year the factory was
plundered of property to the amount of eighty thousand pounds sterling,
which led to a final termination of the Persian trade. The writer of his
obituary in the ‘Gentleman’s Magazine’ for December 1788, says, that he
possessed the strictest integrity, unaffected piety, and exalted but
unostentatious benevolence, with an even, placid, and cheerful temper. In
May 1787 he was visited with a slight paralytic stroke, but soon recovered
his wonted health and vigour. Four days before his death, he was attacked by
a much severer stroke, which deprived him, by degrees, of all his faculties,
and he expired without a groan, November 30, 1788, at his house at Stoke
Newington, Middlesex. Mr. Lysons, in his ‘Environs,’ vol. iii., states, that
Mr. Brown’s father, who died in 1733, published anonymously a translation of
two ‘Orations of Isocrates.’
author of the ‘Self-Interpreting Bible,’ the son of a weaver, was born in
1722, in the small village of Carpow, county of Perth. His parents dying
before he was twelve years of age, it was with some difficulty that he
acquired his education. “I was left,” he says, “a poor orphan, and had
nothing to depend on but the providence of God.” He was but a very limited
time at school. “One month,” he says himself, “without his parents’
allowance, he bestowed upon Latin.” Nevertheless, by his own intense
application to study, before he was twenty years of age, he had obtained an
intimate knowledge of the Latin, Greek, and Hebrew languages, with the last
of which he was critically conversant. He was also acquainted with the
French, Italian, German, Arabic, Persian, Syriac, and Ethiopic. His great
acquisition of knowledge, without the assistance of a teacher, appeared so
wonderful to the ignorant country people, that a report was circulated far
and wide that young Brown had acquired his learning in a sinful way, that
is, by intercourse with Satan! In early youth he was employed as a shepherd.
He afterwards undertook the occupation of pedlar or travelling merchant. In
1747 he established himself in a school at Gairney Bridge, in the
neighbourhood of Kinross, a place celebrated as the spot where the Associate
Presbytery was first constituted. The same school was afterwards taught by
Michael Bruce the poet. Here Brown remained two years. He subsequently
taught for a year and a half another school at Spital, near Linton. Having
attached himself to the body who, in 1733, seceded from the Church of
Scotland, in 1748 he entered on the regular study of philosophy and divinity
in connection with the Associate Synod. In 1750 he was licensed to preach
the gospel by the Associate Presbytery of Edinburgh, at Dalkeith; and soon
after received a call from the Secession congregation at Stow, also one
nearly at the same time from Haddington. He chose the latter, and was
ordained pastor of the Haddington congregation 4th July 1751. In
1758 he published an ‘Essay towards an Easy Explication of the Catechisms,’
intended for the use of the young; and in 1765 his ‘Christian Journal,’ once
the most popular of all his works. In 1768 he was elected professor of
divinity under the Associate Synod. This situation he held for twenty years.
His ‘Self-Interpreting Bible,’ by which his name is best known, appeared in
two quarto volumes in 1778. Of this popular and useful work numerous
stereotyped editions have appeared both in Scotland and England, each having
very extensive circulation, and each successively improved in form or
arrangement. A recent one, with the additions of his grandson, J. B.
Patterson, surpasses all previous ones in form, type, and illustrations. His
piety and learning, and fame as an author, made his name extensively known,
not only in Scotland, but in England and America, and in 1784 he received a
pressing invitation from the Reformed Dutch Church in New York, to be their
tutor in divinity, which he declined. He died at Haddington June 19, 1787.
He was twice married, and had six sons and one daughter. The sons were: 1.
John, for many years Burgher minister at Whitburn, Linlithgowshire, a memoir
of whom is given below. 2. Ebenezer, Burgher minister at Inverkeithing,
whose apostolic look and person and mode of preaching, are mentioned as most
remarkable. 3. Thomas Brown, D.D., Burgher minister at Dalkeith, and author
of an octavo volume of sermons. 4. Samuel, merchant, Haddington, the founder
of itinerating libraries. He was the father of Dr. Samuel Brown, and eminent
chemist, who died young in 1856. 5. David, bookseller in Edinburgh. 6. Dr.
William Brown, of Duddingstone, long the secretary of the Scottish
Missionary Society, and the author of a ‘History of Missions,’ and of a
memoir of his father. The only daughter, Mrs. Patterson, was the mother of
two sons and a daughter. The elder son, the Rev. John Brown Patterson,
minister of Falkirk, styled by Lord Cockburn “Athenian Patterson,” died in
his early prime. He was the author of the memoir of his grandfather,
prefixed to Fullarton’s edition of his ‘Self-Interpreting Bible.’ The
younger son, Alexander Simpson Patterson, D.D., minister of Free
Hutchesontown Church, Glasgow, and the author of several theological works,
is editor of an edition published in 1858, of his brother’s fine
characteristic posthumous work on our Lord’s Farewell Discourse.
principal works are:
A Dictionary of
the Holy Bible, on the plan of Calmet, but chiefly adapted to common
readers. 2 vols. 8vo, Edin. 1769.
A General History
of the Christian Church; (a very useful compendium of church history, partly
on the plan of Mosheim, or perhaps, rather, of Lampe.) 2 vols. 12mo. Edin.
Self-Interpreting Bible. (This edition of the Bible is so called from its
marginal references, which are far more copious than in any other edition.
It has been frequently reprinted.) 2 vols. 4to, Edin. 1778.
A Compendious View
of Natural and Revealed Religion, in seven books. 8vo, Glasgow, 1782.
Scripture Prophecies, and History of their fulfilment. 8vo, Glasgow, 1784.
History of the British Churches. 2 vols. 12mo, 1784.
publications are as follows:
A Help for the
Ignorant, being an Essay towards an Easy Explication of the Assembly’s
Shorter Catechism. 12mo, Edin. 1758.
Dissertation on Christ’s Righteousness, showing to what extent it is imputed
to us in Justification. 12mo. Edin. 1759.
Catechisms mutually connected; the questions of the former being generally
supposed and omitted in the latter. 12mo, Edin. 1764.
Journal, or common incidents, spiritual instructors. 12mo, Edin. 1765.
account of the Secession from the Church of Scotland. 8vo, Edin. 1766.
Eighth edition, 1802.
Letters on the
Constitution, Discipline, and Government of the Christian Church. 12mo,
or a brief view of the figures and explanation of the metaphors contained in
Scripture. 12mo, Edin. 1768.
Steadfastness Recommended. A Sermon. 12mo, Edin. 1769.
The Psalms of
David in Metre, with notes exhibiting the connection, explaining the sense,
and for directing and animating the devotion. 12mo, Edin. 1775.
The Oracles of
Christ, and the Abominations of Antichrist, contrasted. 12mo, Glasgow, 1778.
The absurdity and
perfidy of all authoritative toleration of gross heresy, blasphemy,
idolatry, and popery in Britain. 12mo, Glasgow, 1780.
The fearful shame
and contempt of mere professed Christians, who neglect to raise up spiritual
children to Jesus Christ. Two Sermons. 12mo, Glasgow, 1780.
An Evangelical and
Practical View of the types and figures of the Old Testament dispensation.
12mo, Glasgow, 1781.
The Christian, the
Student, and the Pastor, exemplified in the lives of nine eminent ministers.
Christian exemplified. 12mo, Glasgow, 1782.
The Necessity and
Advantage of Earnest Prayer for the Lord’s special direction in the choice
of pastors; with an appendix of free thoughts concerning the transportation
of ministers. Edin. 1783.
Concordance to the Holy Scriptures. 18mo, Edin. 1783.
exemplified in the lives of thirteen eminent Christians. 12mo, Glasgow,
Thoughts on the
Travelling of the Mail on the Lord’s Day. 12mo, 1785.
of the Testimony defended. 8vo, Glasgow.
of a Pious Soul; with additions and improvements. Edin.
seriousness, and sweetness of Practical Religion, in an awakening call, by
Samuel Corbyn; with four solemn addresses to sinners, young and old.
The following were
published after his death:
with some account of his life. 12mo, London, 1789.
12mo, Perth, 1797.
An Apology for a
more frequent administration of the Lord’s Supper; with answers to
objections. 12mo, Edin, 1804.
a pious and useful divine, eldest son of the preceding, by his first wife,
Janet Thomson, daughter of Mr. John Thomson, merchant, Musselburgh, was born
at Haddington, 24th July, 1754. From his youth he gave decided
indications of piety. He was sent to the university of Edinburgh, when he
was scarcely fourteen years of age, and about the year 1772 he entered on
the study of divinity, under the superintendence of his father. He was
licensed to preach the gospel by the Associate presbytery of Burghers at
Edinburgh, 21st May 1776. Soon after, he received a call from the
Burgher congregation of Whitburn, Linlithgowshire, and was ordained to that
charge, 22d May 1777. During a long career of ministerial usefulness, he
maintained a high degree of popularity, his preaching being characterized by
the simplicity and seriousness of his manner, and by the highly evangelical
tone of his sentiments. He exerted himself in promoting the various
religious institutions of the day, and took a deep interest especially in
the spiritual improvement of the Highlanders of Perthshire.
When his strength
began to decline, his people gave a call to Mr. William Millar, to be his
colleague and successor, and he was accordingly ordained as such 15th
November 1831. After the ordination, Mr. Brown preached only eight Sabbaths.
He was seized with a severe paralytic attack, and after lingering for a few
weeks, he died 10th February 1832, in the 78th year of
his age, and 56th of his ministry.
Mr. Brown’s chief
accurately stated and illustrated by the Reb. Messrs. Hog, Boston, Erskines,
and others, occasioned by the republication of the marrow of Modern
Divinity. 12mo, 1817. New and greatly enlarged edition. Glasg. 1831.
and Explanatory, on the Translations and Paraphrases generally used in the
Presbyterian Congregations in Scotland. Published with an edition of the
Psalms with his father’s notes, in Glasgow.
Memorials of the
Nonconformist Ministers of the Seventeenth Century, with an Introductory
Essay by William M’Gavin, Esq. Glasg. 1832. (This was the last literary work
of both the excellent men whose names appear on the title-page. Mr. Brown
died just before it went to press, and Mr. M’Gavin just as it was leaving
His other minor
Memoirs of the
Life and Character of the late Rev. James Hervey, A.M. 1806. Three editions.
A brief Account of
a Tour in the Highlands of Perthshire. 12mo, 1815. Memoirs of Private
Experience; or the Spiritual Exercise of Eminent Christians in different
ages and places, stated in their own words. 18mo. 1825.
of religious books in the English language fit for general use. 12mo, 1827.
Memoir of the Rev.
Thomas Bradbury. 18mo, 1831.
He also edited the
Preacher. a Select Collection of doctrinal and practical Sermons, chiefly of
English divines of the 18th century. 3 vols. 12mo, 1802-1806.
A Collection of
Religious Letters from books and MSS. 12mo. 1813.
A Collection of
Letters from printed books and MSS., suited to Children and Youth. 18mo.
Beauties of the late Rev. Hugh Binning, with an account of his Life. 32mo,
Beauties of Archbishop Leighton, 12mo. 1829.
After the death of
Mr. Brown, were published Letters on Sanctification, some of which had
previously appeared in the Christian Repository and Monitor, with a Memoir
of his Life by his son-in-law, the Rev. David Smith of Biggar.
BROWN, JOHN, D.D.,
an eminent divine, the son of the subject of the preceding memoir, was born
July 12, 1784, at the house of Burnhead, in the parish of Whitburn,
Linlithgowshire. Having, from early life, chosen the ministry as a
profession, in November 1797, he entered the university of Edinburgh, where
he studied for three sessions. In April 1800, when scarcely sixteen years of
age, he went to Elie, Fifeshire, as a teacher. In the following August, he
was examined by the Associate presbytery of Perth at Newburgh, and
subsequently entered the divinity hall of that body at Selkirk, under Dr.
George Lawson, who had succeeded his grandfather, in 1787, as professor of
divinity to the Secession church.
While pursuing his
studies for the ministry, Mr. Brown became, in April 1803, a private teacher
in Glasgow, and in February 1805 he was licensed at Falkirk to preach the
gospel by the Burgher presbytery of Stirling and Falkirk. He had very soon
calls to both Stirling and Biggar, and in September 1805, was appointed to
the latter place. In October of the same year he proceeded to London for
three months, to supply the pulpit of Dr. Waugh, Wells Street, one of the
originators of the London Missionary Society.
Mr. Brown was
ordained Burgher minister at Biggar, February 6, 1806. In 1817 he received a
call to become the minister of the Burgher church at North Leith but the
Associate Synod would not consent, at that time, to his removal from Biggar.
translation, in 1821, of the Rev. Dr. James Hall from Rose Street chapel,
Edinburgh, which had been built for him, to a larger place of worship, also
erected for him, in Broughton Place of that city, Mr. Brown received a call
from the Rose Street congregation to be his successor. This call he
accepted. On May 1, 1822, he was translated by deed of Synod to that
congregation, and on June 4, was admitted pastor of Rose Street church.
Dr. Hall died
November 28, 1826, and, on the following Sabbath, Dr. Brown preached his
funeral sermon in Broughton Place church. Subsequently he received a call
from the congregation, but was continued in his own charge by the synod at
their meeting in May 1828. Having received a second call, he was translated
by the Synod to Broughton Place church, in April 1829, and admitted 20th
May following. On the institution of the professorship of Exegetical
Theology by the United Secession Synod in 1834, he was, in April that year,
appointed to that chair, which had been reorganized according to a plan of
which he was the author, and in which the fundamental importance of this
study, which has since impressed itself on all Scottish churches, was for
the first time recognised.
religio-political controversies of the period, Dr. Brown not unfrequently
found himself involved, from his fervour in the cause of what he conceived
to be the truth. The first of these was on what was then called the
Apocrypha question. This controversy arose in consequence of the British and
Foreign Bible Society having permitted the Apocrypha to be inserted in the
Bible, and ultimately hinged upon its sincerity in professing to reject it
from their editions of that work. Dr. Andrew Thomson, minister of St.
George’s, Edinburgh stood forth as the assailant of the Society, his
principal opponents being Drs. Grey and Brown, and his chief supporter,
The question as to
the lawfulness and expediency of the existing connexion between church and
State was the next. It was not a new one, but it now assumed a bolder and
more conspicuous aspect than it had ever before held, and excited an
extraordinary degree of ferment in the public mind, in consequence of an
attack made upon its lawfulness on more exclusively scripture grounds, by a
leading member of Dr. Brown’s denomination, Dr. Andrew Marshall, in a Sermon
published in May 1829. In this controversy Dr. Brown took a prominent and
consistent part. A voluntary church association having been formed in
Edinburgh, (Dr. Brown being one of the committee,) led, in February 1833, to
the formation of an association at Glasgow for promoting the interests of
the Church of Scotland, and thenceforth “the battle of Establishments” waxed
hotter and hotter. Voluntary church associations and Church Defence
associations were formed over the whole kingdom, and for several years
after, churchmen and dissenters no longer acted together as brethren, either
in religious societies or in the social intercourse of private life.
A more painful and
trying ordeal awaited Dr. Brown. In 1842, four ministers of Dr. Brown’s
denomination were expelled from the Synod, for holding views subversive of
the special reference of the atonement as held by their body. At the meeting
of Synod in October 1843, in consequence of the transmission of an overture
by the Presbytery of Paisley, the Synod requested the two senior professors,
Drs. Balmer and Brown, to express their sentiments on the doctrinal points,
regarding which differences from the views of the body were alleged to be
held by these ministers. This the professors accordingly did, much to the
satisfaction, with the conference that followed, of the Synod, as stated in
their finding on the occasion. Subsequently Dr. Marshall published a
pamphlet entitled ‘The Catholic Doctrine of Redemption Vindicated,’ in the
Appendix to which he threw out certain imputations against Drs. Brown and
Balmer, of which they complained to the Synod. A committee was appointed to
take Dr. Marshall’s statements into consideration, and also the published
speeches of the two professors. The result was that Dr. Marshall disavowed
the insinuation that they taught anything inconsistent with the standards of
the church, and he spontaneously intimated his purpose to suppress the
Appendix altogether. But the matter did not end here, as it was thought it
would, for Dr. Marshall returned to the charge.
At the meeting of
the Synod in May 1845, Dr. Brown, by the advice of his presbytery, presented
a complaint in reference to a pamphlet published, shortly before, by Dr.
Marshall, entitled, ‘Remarks on the Statements on certain doctrinal points
made before the United Secession Synod at their request by the two senior
Professors,’ in which he pronounced the doctrine enunciated by them to be
“subverting the very foundation of our hopes, entirely subverting the
doctrine of election, rendering the gospel little more than a solemn
mockery,” with more to the same effect; and he requested that the Synod
would either enter on the investigation of these charges “in due form,” or
release him from his professorial duties. The Synod, after finding that Dr.
Brown had acted with great propriety in bringing the matter before them,
expressed their satisfaction with the explanation which he had given in his
‘Statement’ and other wise, declaring also their entire confidence in his
soundness in the faith, and their trust that he would continue to discharge
his important functions with equal honour to himself and benefit to the
church. In regard to Dr. Marshall, they found that in his recently published
pamphlet he had reiterated serious charges, formerly brought forward on
insufficient grounds against Dr. Brown, in a still more offensive form, that
he ought to have brought the matter before the church courts in the only
competent way, and that he should therefore, be admonished at the bar of the
Synod. After this decision, Dr. Marshall intimated his intention of
bringing a libel against Dr. Brown, and another meeting of Synod was
appointed in July, that he might have the opportunity of producing his libel
before the next meeting of the Divinity Hall.
the following July, Dr. Marshall, assisted by Dr. Hay of Kinross, presented
a libel against Dr. Brown, being the first prosecution for heresy by libel
that had ever taken place in the Synod of the Secession church. The libel
contained five counts, and Dr. Brown was triumphantly acquitted on them all.
On the whole case the Synod unanimously adopted the following finding:
“The Synod finds
that there exists no ground even for suspicion that he holds, or has ever
held, any opinion on the points under review inconsistent with the Word of
God, or the subordinate standards of this church. The Synod, therefore,
dismisses the libel; and while it sincerely sympathizes with Dr. Brown in
the unpleasant and painful circumstances in which he has been placed, it
renews the expression of confidence in him given at last meeting, and
entertains the hope that the issue of this cause has been such as will, by
the blessing of God, restore peace and confidence throughout the church, and
terminate the unhappy controversy which has so long agitated it.”
During the whole
discussions in this unhappy case, Dr. Brown displayed great wisdom and
Christian temper, and his own congregation sympathized with him most
sincerely in the trying and painful circumstances in which he had been
placed. As a mark of their affection and sympathy, they met in the following
September, and presented him with a valuable testimonial.
One the death of
dr. Peddie, senior pastor of Bristo Street congregation, Edinburgh, 11th
October, 1845, Dr. Brown preached his funeral sermon to his congregation,
which was afterwards printed. In the movement for the union of the Secession
and Relief bodies, he took a warm part. After that work had been
accomplished, and the United Presbyterian Church formed in 1847, he devoted
his remaining efforts to expository comments on the Sacred Scriptures.
The duties of his
professorship Dr. Brown discharged with much enthusiasm and assiduity till
1857, when increasing infirmities rendered him unequal to the labours which
it imposed. His pulpit ministrations he was also compelled to relinquish at
the same time, but occasionally, when his health permitted, he would appear
in public to cheer and instruct his flock.
For some time he
suffered severely from internal pains, and it was supposed that his liver
was affected, but latterly he enjoyed a complete immunity from these. His
personal appearance, which was fine and dignified, was, previously to his
death, greatly changed, in reference to which he himself expressively said,”
The Master changes our countenance, and sends us away.”
Dr. Brown died at
his house, Arthur Lodge, Newington, Edinburgh, 13th October 1858,
in his 74th year. so high was the estimation in which he was
held, that he may be said to have had a public funeral. The Lord Provost and
magistrates of Edinburgh attended in their official robes. He was followed
to the grave, in the Lower Calton burying-ground, by his former
congregations of Biggar and Rose Street, as well as by his people of
Broughton Place church, and by ministers of all denominations. All felt that
a good man and “a prince in Israel” had been gathered to his rest. On the
Sunday succeeding his funeral, his colleague, Dr. Andrew Thomson, and Dr.
Harper, North Leith, preached funeral sermons in Broughton Place church. He
was twice married, first, to Jane Nimmo, daughter and sister of two eminent
physicians in Glasgow. she died in 1816; and, secondly, to Margaret Fisher
Crum, of the Thornliebank family, descended from Ebenezer Erskine and Mr.
Fisher, two of the five fathers of the Secession. He left three sons and as
many daughters. Two of his sons were educated for the medical profession;
Dr. John Brown of Edinburgh, and Dr. William Brown. The third son was but a
youth at the time of his father’s death.
The influence of
Dr. Brown in his own denomination was very great. But he was never an
ecclesiastical leader. in the generally understood sense of the term. He had
little turn for the platform, and he spoke but rarely in church courts. In
all public questions, however, he took a deep and enlightened interest, and
when he did express his opinions on any subject, it was with an authority
which showed that h had thoroughly considered it, and was familiar with all
its bearings. Both as a preacher and a lecturer, he was an evangelical of
the highest order, closely resembling the founders of his denomination in a
religious aspect, vigorous, pure, fervent, manly, and profoundly pathetic.
Deemed the ripest
Biblical scholar of his age, it was only late in life that he became a
theological writer. He had a magnificent library, probably the largest
clerical library in Scotland, except one. His Greek New Testaments, which he
commenced to hoard when he was fourteen, were, it is believed, unique in
number and in quality for a private library, and his Latin and French
theological authors, of the 16th century, were all but complete.
He had also a fine collection of classics, which he read to the last.
although he taught as a professor for a quarter of a century, his series of
commentaries, on which his name must chiefly rest, were published within the
last ten years of his life. The publication of more than ten octavo volumes
by a man considerably above sixty when he began, and several of these on
some of the most difficult Epistles of the New Testament, is certainly
something unusual in the history of literature.
Dr. Brown’s more
important works are:
Discourses on the First Epistle of the Apostle Peter. In three volumes. 8vo.
Sayings of our Lord Jesus Christ: Illustrated in a Series of Expositions. In
three volumes. Second edition; 8vo.
An Exposition of
our Lord’s Intercessory Prayer, with a Discourse on the Relation of our
Lord’s Intercession to the Conversion of the World. 8vo.
Glories of the Messiah signified beforehand to David and Isaiah; An
Exposition of Psalm xviii. and Isaiah lii. 13; liii. 12. 8vo.
An Exposition of
the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Galatians. 8vo.
He also published
the following as separate Sermons:
The Danger of
Opposing Christianity, and the Certainty of its final Triumph: A Sermon
preached before the Edinburgh Missionary Society, on Tuesday, 2d April,
On the State of
Scotland, in reference to the Means of Religious Instruction: A Sermon
preached at the Opening of the Associate Synod, on Tuesday, 27th
April, 1819. 8vo.
On the Duty of
Pecuniary Contribution of Religious Purposes: A Sermon preached before the
London Missionary Society, on Thursday, May 10, 1821. Third edition. 18mo.
by the Death of the Rev. James Hall, D.D., Edinburgh. 8vo. 1826.
The Abolition of
Death: a Sermon. Foolscap 8vo.
The Friendship of
Christ and his People Indissoluble: A Sermon on the Death of the Rev. John
Mitchell, D.D., Glasgow. 8vo.
Human Authority in
Religion condemned by Jesus Christ: An Expository Discourse. Foolscap 8vo.
Ministry, and the Character and Destiny of its Occupants, Worthy and
Unworthy: A Sermon on the Death of the Rev. Robert Balmer, D.D., Berwick.
Second edition. 8vo.
Heaven: A Sermon
on the Death of the Rev. James Peddie, D.D., Edinburgh. 8vo.
Condition of them who are “Asleep in Christ:” A Sermon on the Death of the
Rev. Hugh Heugh, D.D., Glasgow. 8vo.
The Good Shepherd:
A Sermon. 24mo.
His smaller tracts
are as follows:
1. On the Bible
Statement of the
Claims of the British and Foreign Bible Society on the Support of the
Christian Public: With an Appendix. 8vo.
Remarks on Certain
Statements by Alex. Haldane, Esq., in his “Memoir of Robert Haldane of
Auchingray, and his brother, James A. Haldane.” 8vo.
2. On the
The Law of Christ
respecting Civil Obedience, especially in the Payment of Tribute; with an
Appendix of Notes; to which are added Two Addresses on the Voluntary Church
Controversy. Second edition, 1838. Third edition. 8vo.
What ought the
Dissenters of Scotland to do in the present Crisis? Second edition, 8vo.
3. On the
Opinions on Faith,
Divine Influence, Human Inability, the Design and Effect of the Death of
Christ, Assurance, and the Sonship of Christ. Second edition, with
additional Notes. 12mo.
April 1, 1845, before the United Associate Presbytery of Edinburgh, on
asking their Advice. Second edition. 12mo.
Strictures on Mr.
Yates’ Vindication of Unitarianism. 8vo.
Remarks on the
Plans and Publications of Robert Owen, Esq. of New Lanark. 8vo.
of God. Second edition. 18mo.
Pastor’s Manual; a Selection of Tracts on the Duties, Difficulties, and
Encouragements of the Christian Ministry. 12mo.
A Tribute to the
Memory of a very dear Christian Friend. Third edition. 18mo.
to the administration of the Lord’s Supper. Second edition. 12mo.
Hints on the
Permanent Obligation and Frequent Observance of the Lord’s Supper. Second
Hints on the
Nature and Influence of Christian Hope. Post 8vo.
Friend; or, Instruction and Consolation for the Bereaved, a Selection of
Tracts and Hymns. Second edition. 32mo.
Secession Church Vindicated from the Charge, made by James A. Haldane, Esq.,
of Sanctioning Indiscriminate Admission to Communion. 1839, 8vo.
On the Means and
Manifestations of a Genuine Revival of Religion: an Address delivered before
the United Associate Presbytery of Edinburgh, on November 19, 1839. Second
Hints to Students
of Divinity; an Address at the Opening of the United Secession Theological
Seminary, August 3, 1841. Foolscap 8vo.
Memorial of Mrs.
Margaret Fisher Brown. Foolscap 8vo.
certain Doctrinal Points; made October 5th, 1843, before the
United Associate Synod, at their request. 12mo.
On the Equity and
Benignity of the Divine Law. 24mo.
for Christian Parents Bereaved of Little Children. Second edition. 18mo.
Barnabas, or the
Christianly Good Man: in Three Discourses. Second edition. Foolscap 8vo.
Memorials of the
Rev. James Fisher, Minister of the Associate (Burgher) Congregation,
Glasgow; Professor of Divinity to the Associate (Burgher) Synod; and one of
the Four Leaders of the Secession from the Established Church of Scotland:
In a Narrative of his Life and a Selection from his Writings Foolscap 8vo.
Hints on the
Lord’s Supper and Thoughts for the Lord’s Table. Foolscap 8vo.
The Dead in
Christ, their State Present and Future, with Reflections on the Death of a
very deal Christian Friend. 18mo.
He also edited the
following works, viz.:
and Sermons, with an Introductory Essay. Second edition. 12mo.
Communicant’s Companion, with an Introductory Essay. Second edition. 12mo.
Duty of Man, with an Introductory Essay. Second edition. 12mo.
Tracts. Selected and Original. 3 vols. Foolscap 8vo.
Letters of Dr John Brown
With Letters from Ruskin, Thackery and Others, Edited by his son and D. W.
Forrest, D.D. and with biographical Introductions by Elizabeth T. M'Laren
BROWN, JOHN, M.D.
the founder of the Brunonian system of medicine, was born in 1735 or 1736,
either in the village of Lintlaws or that of Preston, parish of Buncle,
Berwickshire. His parents, who were Seceders, were in the humblest condition
of life, his father’s occupation not being above that of a day-labourer.
Nevertheless they were anxious to give their son a decent and religious
education. It was a frequent expression of his father’s, “that he would gird
his belt the tighter to give his son John a good education.” He early
discovered uncommon quickness of apprehension, and he was sent to school to
learn English much sooner than the usual period. Before he was five years of
age, he had read through almost the whole of the Old Testament. When he was
little more than five years of age, he had the misfortune to lose his
father. His mother afterwards married a weaver, by whose assistance he was
enabled to continue at school, where he was distinguished for his unwearied
application, his facility in mastering the tasks assigned to him, and the
retentiveness of his memory. Before he was ten years of age, he had gone
through the routine of grammar education required previously to entering
college. But as his mother could not afford to put him to the university, he
was bound apprentice to a weaver. For this occupation he had a rooted
aversion, and Mr. Cruickshank kindly offered to allow him to attend the
school gratuitously. He therefore resumed his studies, with the view of
ultimately becoming a preacher of the Secession. In a short time he became
so necessary to his master, that he was occasionally deputed to instruct the
At this period, we
are told, “he was of a religious turn, and was so strongly attached to the
sect of Seceders, or Whigs, as they are called in Scotland, in which he had
been bred, that he would have thought his salvation hazarded, if he had
attended the meetings of the established church. He aspired to be a preacher
of a purer religion.” A circumstance which happened abut his thirteenth year
had the effect of making him altogether relinquish the idea of becoming a
seceding minister. Having been persuaded, by some of his school-fellows, to
hear a sermon in the parish church of Dunse, he was in consequence summoned
to appear before the session of the congregation of Seceders to which he
belonged, to be rebuked for his conduct, but his pride got the better of his
attachment to the sect. He resolved not to submit to the censure of the
session, and in order to avoid a formal expulsion, he at once renounced
their authority, and professed himself a member of the established church.
He afterwards acted for some years as usher in Dunse school; and about the
age of twenty, was engaged as tutor to the son of a gentleman in the
neighbourhood. This situation he left in 1755, when he went to Edinburgh,
where, while he studied at the philosophy classes, he supported himself by
instructing his fellow-students in the Greek and Latin languages. He
afterwards attended the divinity hall, and had proceeded so far in his
theological studies as to be called upon to deliver, in the public hall, a
discourse upon a prescribed portion of scripture, the usual step preliminary
to being licensed to preach.
About this time,
on the recommendation of a friend, he was employed by a gentleman then
studying medicine to translate into Latin An inaugural dissertation. The
superior manner in which he executed his task gained him great reputation,
which induced him to turn his attention towards the study of medicine.
Shortly afterwards he retired to Dunse, and resumed his former occupation of
usher. At Martinmas 1759 he returned to Edinburgh, and a vacancy happening
in one of the classes of the High School, he became a candidate, but without
success. Being unable to pay the fees for the medical classes, at the
commencement of the college session in that year, he addressed an elegantly
composed Latin letter, first to Dr. Alexander Monro, then professor of
anatomy, and afterwards to the other medical professors in the university,
from whom he immediately received gratis tickets of admission to their
different courses of lectures.
For two or three
years he supported himself by teaching the classics; but he afterwards
devoted himself to that occupation which is known at the university by the
familiar name of “grinding,” that is, preparing the medical candidates for
their probationary examinations, which are all conducted in Latin. For
composing a thesis, he charged ten guineas; and for translating one into
Latin, his price was five. In 1761 he became a member of the Royal Medical
Society, where, in the discussion of medical theories, he had an opportunity
of displaying his talents to advantage. He enjoyed the particular favour of
the celebrated Cullen, who received him into his family as tutor to his
children, and treated him with every mark of confidence and esteem. He even
made him assistant in his lectures – Brown illustrating and explaining to
the pupils in the evening the lecture delivered by Dr. Cullen in the
morning. In 1765, under the patronage of that eminent professor, he opened a
boarding-house for students attending the university, the profits of which,
with those of his professional engagements, enabled him to marry a Miss
Lamond, the daughter of a respectable citizen of Edinburgh. In spite of all
his advantages, however, his total want of economy, and his taste for
company and convivial pleasures, reduced him, in the course of three or four
years, to a state of insolvency, and he was under the necessity of calling a
meeting of his creditors, and making a compromise with them.
With the view of
qualifying himself for an anatomical professorship in one of the infant
colleges of America, he at this time devoted himself to obtaining an
intimate knowledge of anatomy and botany; but Cullen, who found him useful
in conducting his Latin correspondence, persuaded him to relinquish the
design of leaving Scotland. Soon afterwards he became a candidate for the
vacant chair of the theory of medicine, and was again unsuccessful, Dr.
Gregory having been appointed. On this occasion, an anecdote got into
circulation, which, if true, reflects little credit on his heretofore friend
and patron, Dr. Cullen. Coming forward without recommendation, it was
reported, that when the magistrates, who are the patrons of the
professorships, asked who this unfriended candidate was, Cullen, so far from
giving him his support, observed, with a sarcastic smile, “Surely this can
never be our Jock!” Attributing his disappointment to the jealousy of
Cullen, Brown resolved to break off all connection with him. This he did
after his rejection on applying to become a member of the society which
published the Edinburgh Medical Essays, admission into which Cullen could
easily have procured him.
Shortly after this
he commenced giving lectures in Latin upon a new system of medicine, which
he had formed in opposition to Cullen’s theories, and employed the
manuscript of his ‘Elementa Medicinae,’ composed some time previously, as
his text-book. The novelty of his doctrines procured him at first a numerous
class of pupils; and the contest between his partisans and those of his
opponents was carried to the highest possible extreme. In the Royal Medical
Society, the debates among the students on the subject of the new system
were conducted with so much vehemence and intemperance, that they frequently
terminated in a duel between some of the parties. A law was in consequence
passed, by which it was enacted that any member who challenged another on
account of anything said in the public debates, should be expelled the
society. In the autumn of 1779, Brown took the degree of M.D. at the
university of St. Andrews, his rupture with the professors of Edinburgh
preventing him for applying for it from that university. Not only the
medical professors, but the medical practitioners, were opposed to his
system, and he was visited with much rancorous obloquy and misrepresentation
by his opponent Dr. Cullen and his abettors. The imprudence of his conduct
in private life, and his intemperate habits, gave his enemies a great
advantage over him. One of his pupils informed Dr. Beddoes “that he used,
before he began to read his lecture, to take fifty drops of laudanum in a
glass of whisky, repeating the dose four or five times during the lecture.
Between the effects of these stimulants and his voluntary exertions, he soon
waxed warm, and by degrees his imagination was exalted into phrensy.”
His design seems
to have been to simplify the science of medicine, and to render the
knowledge of it easily attainable. All general or universal diseases were
reduced by him to two great families or classes, the sthenic and the
asthenic; the former depending upon an excess of excitement, the latter upon
a deficiency of it. Apoplexy is an instance of the former, common fever of
the latter. The former were to be removed by debilitating, the latter by
stimulating medicines, of which the most powerful are wine, brandy, and
opium; the stimuli being applied gradually, and with much caution.
“Spasmodic and convulsive disorders, and even hemorrhages,” he says in his
preface to the ‘Elementa Medicinae,’ “were found to proceed from debility;
and wine and brandy, which had been thought hurtful in these diseases, he
found the most powerful of all remedies in removing them.” In order to
prejudice the minds of the public against the “Brunonian system,” as it was
called, his enemies spread a report that its author cured all
diseases with brandy and laudanum, the latter of which, till the proper use
of it was pointed out by Dr. Brown, had been employed by physicians very
sparingly in the cure of diseases.
In 1780 he
published his ‘Elementa Medicinae,’ which his opponents did not venture
openly to refute, but those students who were known to resort to Dr. Brown’s
lectures were marked out, and in their inaugural dissertations at the
college, any allusion to his work, or quotation from it, was absolutely
prohibited. “Had a candidate,” says Dr. Brown’s son in the life of his
father prefixed to his works, “been so bold as to affirm that opium acted as
a stimulant, and denied that its primary action was sedative; or had he
asserted that a catarrh, or a similar inflammatory complaint, was occasioned
by the action of heat, or of heating things, upon a body previously exposed
for some time to cold, and that it would give way to cold and antiphlogistic
regimen – facts which are now no longer controverted – he might have
continued to enjoy his new opinions, but would have been very unlikely to
attain the object he had in view in presenting himself for examination.” The
number of students attending his classes became in consequence very much
In 1776 Dr Brown
had been elected president of the Royal Medical Society, and,
notwithstanding the violent opposition made to his system by the older
physicians, he was again chosen to the chair in 1780. In 1785 he instituted
the Mason Lodge called the “Roman Eagle,” with the design of preventing, as
far as possible, the rapid decline of the language and literature of the
ancient Romans. Several gentlemen of talent and reputation became members of
this society; and among others the celebrated Crosbie, at that time one of
the chief ornaments of the Scottish bar. His motives in instituting this
lodge have been variously represented, and one of his biographers has
asserted, it appears erroneously, that it was with the view of “gaining
proselytes to his new doctrine.” The obligation signed by the members of the
institution sufficiently points out the objects of the association. Upon
this occasion he received the compliments of all who wished well to polite
literature. At the meetings of the institution, at which nothing but Latin
was spoken Brown usually presided and addressed the members in the Latin
language with fluency, purity, and animation. In the same year in which he
founded the Roman Eagle Lodge, he published anonymously his English work,
entitled ‘Outlines,’ in which, under the character of a student, he points
out the fallacy of former systems of medicine, and farther illustrates the
principles of his own doctrine. His excesses had gradually brought him and
his system into discredit with the public; and at one time his pecuniary
difficulties were so great, that he was reduced to the necessity of
concluding a course of lectures in prison, where he had been confined for
debt. In this distressing situation, a one hundred pound note was secretly
conveyed to him from an unknown person, who was afterwards traced to be the
late generous and patriotic Lord Gardenstone.
His prospects and
circumstances becoming worse daily, in the year 1786 he quitted his native
country for London, hoping that his merit would be better rewarded in the
capital of the empire than it had been in Edinburgh. He was now in the
fifty-first year of his age, and had a wife and eight children dependent on
him, but his expectations of success were very sanguine. Soon after his
arrival he delivered three successive courses of lectures at the Devil
Tavern, Fleet Street, which, being attended only by a few hearers, added
little to his income. From Mr. Johnson, bookseller, of St. Paul’s
Churchyard, he received a small sum for the first edition of the translation
of his ‘Elementa Medicinae,’ We learn from his son’s memoir of his life,
that about this time, in consequence of a paltry intrigue, he was deprived
of the situation of physician to the king of Prussia, that monarch having
written to his ambassador in London to find him out, and send him over to
Berlin, and another person of the name of Brown, an apothecary, having gone
to Prussia without the ambassador’s knowledge. It is also said that, on a
previous occasion, the interference of his enemies prevented him from
obtaining the professorship of medicine in the university of Padua, where
his system had many adherents, as well as in Italy generally. In Germany,
too, it found much favour, being propagated with great zeal by Girtanner and
Weikard. Having furnished his house in Golden Square on credit, the broker
from whom he got his furniture in a few months threw him into the King’s
Bench prison, without any previous demand for the money due to him. During
his confinement he was applied to by a bookseller, named Murray, for a
nostrum or pill, for which the popularity of his name would ensure an
extensive sale. As he was only offered a trifle for the property of it, he
rejected the proposal. Soon after he was solicited by no less than five
persons to make up a secret or quack medicine, but as they could never come
to terms, he steadily refused all their entreaties. Their object was to take
advantage of his necessities, and without making him an adequate recompense,
to extort from him the possession of a nostrum, which would have been a
fertile source of gain to them, but a disgrace to him as a respectable
physician. By the friendly assistance of a countryman of the name of Miller,
and the liberality of the late Mr. Maddison, stock-broker, of Charing Cross,
he at length obtained his liberty, in the early part of the year 1788.
He now applied
himself with earnestness to execute different works which he had planned
while in prison. Besides the translation of his ‘Elementa Medicinae,’ which
he had published, he proposed among other works to being out a new edition
of his ‘Observations;’ a ‘Treatise on the Gout,’ for which he was to receive
£500 from a bookseller; also a treatise on ‘The Operation of Opium on the
Human Constitution;’ a new edition of the ‘Elementa,’ with additions; and a
‘Review of Medical Reviewers.’ His prospects were beginning to brighten and
his practice to increase, when a sudden stroke of apoplexy at once put a
period to his life. and to the illusive hopes of future prosperity which he
had been cherishing. He died October 7, 1788, in the 53d year of his age;
having the day preceding that of his death, delivered the introductory
lecture of a fourth course, at his house in Golden Square. He had taken, as
was his custom, a considerable quantity of laudanum before going to bed, and
he died in the course of the night. In 1795 Dr. Beddoes published an edition
of his ‘Elements of Medicine,’ for the benefit of his family, with a life of
the author. In 1804 his eldest son, Dr. William Cullen Brown, published his
works, with a memoir of his father, in 3 vols. 8vo. Dr. Brown’s system was
undoubtedly one of a great ingenuity, but although some of his conclusions
have proved useful in the improvement of medical science, his opinions,
never generally adopted in practice, have long ago been abandoned by the
profession. In ‘Kay’s Edinburgh Portraits,’ Dr. Brown figures as a very
prominent character. His works are:
Edin. 1780, 8vo. Editio altera plurimum emendata et integrum demum opus
exhibens. Edin. 1787, 2 vols. 8vo. 1794, 8vo.
the Principles of the Old System of Physic, exhibiting a Compound of the New
Doctrine, Containing a new account of the state of Medicine, from the
present times backward to the restoration of the genuine learning in the
wester parts of Europe. Edin. 1787, 8vo.
Medicine, translated from the Elementa Medicinae Brunonis; with large Notes,
Illustrations, and Comments, by the author of the original work. Lond. 1788,
2 vols. 8vo. Of this a new edition was published by Dr Beddoes, revised and
corrected, with a Biographical Preface. Lond. 1795, 2 vols. 8vo.
an ingenious artist and elegant scholar, the son of a goldsmith and
watchmaker, was born in 1752 at Edinburgh, and was early destined to the
profession of a painter. In 1771 he went to Italy, where for ten years he
improved himself in his art. At Rome he met with Sir William Young and Mr.
Townley, and accompanied them as a draftsman into Sicily. Of the antiquities
of this celebrated island he took several very fine views in pen and ink,
which were exquisitely finished, and preserved the appropriate character of
the buildings which he intended to represent. On his return to Edinburgh he
gained the esteem of many eminent persons by his elegant manners and
instructive conversation on various subjects, particularly on those of art
and music, of both of which his knowledge was very extensive and accurate.
He was particularly honoured by the notice of Lord Monboddo, who gave him a
general invitation to his table, and employed him in making drawings in
pencil for him.
In the year 1786
he went to London, where he was much employed as a painter of small
portraits with black lead pencil, which, besides being correctly drawn,
faithfully exhibited the features and character of the persons whom they
represented. After some stay in London, the weak state of his health, which
had become impaired by his close application, induced him to try the effects
of a sea voyage; and he returned to Edinburgh, to settle his father’s
affairs, who was then dead. On the passage from London he grew rapidly
worse, and was at the point of death when the ship arrived at Leith. With
much difficulty he was conveyed to Edinburgh, and placed in the bed of his
friend and brother-artist, Runciman, whose death occurred in 1784. Here
Brown died, September 5, 1787.
In 1789 his
‘Letters on the Poetry and Music of the Italian Opera,’ 12mo, with an
introduction by Lord Monboddo, to whom they were originally written, was
published for the benefit of Brown’s widow. His lordship, in the fourth
volume of ‘The Origin and Progress of Language,’ speaking of Mr. Brown,
says: “The account that I have given of the Italian language is taken from
one who resided above ten years in Italy; and who, besides understanding the
language perfectly, is more learned in the Italian arts of painting,
sculpture, music, and poetry, than any man I ever met with. His natural good
taste he has improved by the study of the monuments of ancient art to be
seen at Rome and Florence; and as beauty in all the arts is pretty much the
same, consisting of grandeur and simplicity, variety, decorum, and a
suitableness to the subject, I think he is a good judge of language, and of
writing, as well as of painting, sculpture, and music,” A well written
character in Latin, by an advocate in Edinburgh, is appended to the Letters.
Mr. Brown left behind him several very highly finished portraits in pencil,
and many exquisite sketches in pencil and pen and ink, which he had taken of
persons and places in Italy. The peculiar characteristics of his hand were
delicacy, correctness, and taste, and the leading features of his mind were
acuteness, liberality, and sensibility, joined to a character firm,
vigorous, and energetic. His last performances were two exquisite drawings,
one from Mr. Tonwley’s celebrated bust of Homer, and the other from a fine
original bust of Pope, supposed to have been the work of Rysbrack. From
these two drawings, two beautiful engravings were made by Mr. Bartolozzi and
his pupil Mr. Bovi. a portrait of Brown with Runciman, disputing about a
passage in Shakspeare’s Tempest, the joint production of these artists, is
in the gallery at Dryburgh Abbey.
styled of Markle, an eminent agricultural writer, was born in 1757 in the
village of East Linton, Haddingtonshire, where he entered into business; but
his natural genius led him to agricultural pursuits, which he followed with
singular success. He commenced his agricultural career at Westfortune, and
soon afterwards removed to Markle. He was intimately acquainted with the
late George Rennie of Phantassie, who chiefly confined his energies to the
practice of agriculture; while Mr. Brown gave his attention to the literary
department. His ‘Treatise on Rural Affairs,’ and his articles in the
Edinburgh ‘Farmer’s Magazine,’ which he conducted for fifteen years, evinced
the soundness of his practical knowledge, and the vigour of his intellectual
faculties. His best articles have been translated into the French and German
languages. He died February 14, 1831, at Drylawhill, East Lothian, in his 74th
an eminent metaphysician, youngest son of the Rev. Samuel Brown, minister of
Kirkmabreck, in the stewartry of Kirkcudbright, and of Mary, daughter of
John Smith, Esq., Wigton, was born at the manse of that parish, January 9,
1778. His father dying when he was not much more than a year old, his mother
removed with her family to Edinburgh, where he was by her early taught the
first rudiments of his education. It is said that he acquired the whole
alphabet in one lesson, and everything else with the same readiness, so much
so, that he was able to read the Scriptures when between four and five years
of age. In his seventh year, he was sent to a brother of his mother residing
in London, by whom he was placed at a school, first at Camberwell, and
afterwards at Chiswick. In these and two other academies to which he was
subsequently transferred, he made great progress in classical literature. In
1792, upon the death of his uncle, Captain Smith, he returned to Edinburgh,
and entered as a student at the university of that city. In the summer of
1793, being on a visit to some friends in Liverpool, he was introduced to
Dr. Currie, the biographer of Burns, by whom his attention was first
directed to metaphysical subjects; Dr. Currie having presented him with Mr.
Dugald Stewart’s ‘Elements of the Philosophy of the human mind,’ then just
published. The winter after, young Brown attended Mr. Stewart’s moral
philosophy class, in the college of Edinburgh; and at the close of one of
the lectures he went forward to that celebrated philosopher, though
personally unknown to him, and modestly submitted some remarks which he had
written respecting one of his theories. Mr. Stewart, after listening to him
attentively, informed him, that he had received a letter from the
distinguished M. Prevost of Geneva, containing similar arguments to those
stated by the young student. This proved the commencement of a friendship,
which Dr. Brown continued to enjoy till his death.
At the age of
nineteen, he was a member of that association which included the names of
Brougham, Erskine, Jeffrey, Birkbeck, Logan, Leyden, Sydney, Smith, Reddie,
and others, who established the academy of physics at Edinburgh, the object
of which was, “the investigation of Nature, and the laws by which her
phenomena are regulated.” From this society originated the publication of
the “Edinburgh Review.’ Some articles in the early numbers of that work, and
particularly the leading article in the 2d number, upon Kant’s Philosophy,
were written by Dr. Brown. In 1798 he published ‘Observations on the
Zoonomia of Dr. Darwin,’ the greater part of which was written in his
eighteenth year, and which contains the germ of all his subsequent views in
regard to mind, and of those principles of philosophising by which he was
guided in his future inquiries. In 1799 he was a candidate for the chair of
Rhetoric, and on the death of Dr. Finlayson, for that of Logic, but in both
cases unsuccessfully. In 1803, after attending the usual medical course, he
took his degree of M.D.
In the same year
he published the first edition of his poems in two vols., written
principally while he was at college. His next publication was an Examination
of the Principles of Mr. Hume respecting Causation, which was caused by a
note in Mr. Leslie’s Essay on Heat; and the great merits of which caused it
to be noticed in a very flattering manner in the Edinburgh Review, in an
able article by Mr. Horner. Professor Stewart also spoke very highly in
favour of Dr. Brown’s Essay, and Sir James Mackintosh has pronounced it the
finest model in mental philosophy since Berkeley. In 1806 he brought out a
second edition of this treatise, considerably enlarged; and in 1818 the
third addition appeared, with many additions, under the title of ‘An Inquiry
into the Relation of Cause and Effect.’ Having commenced practice as a
physician in Edinburgh he entered, in 1806, into partnership with the late
Dr. Gregory. Mr. Stewart’s declining health requiring him occasionally to be
absent from his class, he applied to Dr. Brown to supply his place; and in
the winter of 1808-9, the latter officiated for a short time as Mr.
Stewart’s substitute. “The moral philosophy class at this period,” says his
biographer, Dr. Welsh, “presented a very striking aspect. It was not a crown
of youthful students led into transports of admiration by the ignorant
enthusiasm of the moment; distinguished members of the bench, of the bar,
and of the pulpit, were daily present to witness the powers of this rising
philosopher. Some of the most eminent of th professors were to be seen
mixing with the students, and Mr. Playfair, in particular, was present at
every lecture. The originality, and depth, and eloquence of the lectures,
had a very marked effect upon the young men attending the university, in
leading them to metaphysical speculations.” In the following winter, Dr.
Brown’s assistance was again rendered necessary; and in 1810, in consequence
of a wish expressed by Mr. Stewart to that effect, he was officially
conjoined with him in the professorship. In the summer of 1814 he concluded
his poem called the ‘Paradise of Coquettes,’ which he published anonymously
in London, and which met with a favourable reception. In the succeeding year
he brought out another volume of poetry under the name of ‘The Wanderer in
Norway.’ In 1816 he wrote hie ‘Bower of Spring,’ near Dunkeld in Perthshire.
In 1818 he published a poetical tale, entitled ‘Agnes.’ In the autumn of
1819, at his favourite retreat in the neighbourhood of Dunkeld, he commenced
his text book, a work which he had long meditated for the benefit of his
students. Towards the end of December of the same year his health began to
give way, and after the recess, he was in such a state of weakness as to be
unable for some time to resume his official duties. His ill health having
assumed an alarming aspect, he was advised by his physicians to proceed to
London, as he had, upon a former occasion, derived great benefit from a sea
voyage. Accompanied by his two sisters he hastened to the metropolis, with
the intention of going to a milder climate as soon as the season allowed,
and took lodgings at Brompton, where he died, April 2, 1820. His remains
were put into a leaden coffin, and removed to Kirkmabreck, where they were
laid, according to his own request, beside those of his parents; his mother,
whom he tenderly loved, having died in 1817.
Dr. Brown was
rather above the middle height. A portrait of him by Watson, taken in 1806,
is said faithfully to preserve his likeness. The following woodcut of it is
from the engraving by W. Walker.
distinguished for his gentleness, kindness and delicacy of mind, united with
great independence of spirit, a truly British love of liberty, and an ardent
desire for the diffusion of knowledge, virtue, and happiness among mankind.
All his habits were simple, temperate, studious, and domestic. As a
philosopher, he was remarkable for his power of analysing, and for that
comprehensive energy, which, to use his own words, “sees, through a long
train of thought, a distant conclusion, and separating, at every stage, the
essential from the accessory circumstances, and gathering and combining
analogies as it proceeds, arrives at length at a system of harmonious
truth.” As a poet, ‘Dr. Brown exhibited much taste and gracefulness, but his
poetry is not of a character ever to become popular. His lectures, which
were published after his death, in four volumes, 8vo, have passed through
several editions. An account of his life and writings was published by the
Rev. Dr. David Welsh, in one volume, 8vo, in 1825. His works are:
Observations on the Zoonomia of Erasmus Darwin, M.D. Edin. 1798, 8vo.
Poems, Edin. 1804, 2 vols. 12mo.
Observations on the Nature and Tendency of Mr. Hume’s Doctrine concerning
the Relation of Cause and Effect. Edin. 1806, 8vo. 3d edit., under the title
of An Enquiry into the Relation of Cause and Effect, 1818.
Short Criticism on the Terms of the Charges against Mr. Leslie, in the
Protest of the Ministers of Edinburgh. 1806, 8vo.
Examination of some Remarks in the Reply of Dr. John Inglis to Professor
Playfair. Edin, 1806, 8vo.
Paradise of Coquettes; a Poem. London, 1814, 8vo.
Wanderer in Norway; a Poem. London, 1815, 8vo.
War Fiend, 1816.
Bower of Spring, and other Poems, London, 8vo, 1817.
Agnes; a Poem. 1818, 8vo.
Emily; and other Poems. 2d edit. 1818, 8vo.
Lectures on the Philosophy of the Human Mind. 4 vols. 8vo. Edin. 1820.
System of the Philosophy of the Human Mind. 8vo. Edin. 1820.
WILLIAM LAWRENCE, D.D.,
an eminent theological writer, the son of the Rev. William Brown, a native
of Scotland, minister of the English church at Utrecht, in Holland, was born
in that city, January 7, 1755. His mother was Janet Ogilvie, daughter of the
Rev. George Ogilvie, minister of Kirriemuir. Being Scotch by both father and
mother, his life is usually given in Scottish biographies. In 1757 his
father, an eminent Latin scholar, was appointed professor of ecclesiastical
history in the university of St. Andrews, and in consequence, returned to
Scotland with his family. After receiving the usual education at the grammar
school, young Brown, who early showed great quickness, was, at the age of
twelve, sent to the university, where he devoted his attention chiefly to
the study of classical literature, logic, and ethics. He passed through his
academical course with much credit to himself, having received many of the
prizes distributed by the chancellor for superior attainments. After he had
been five years at the college, he became a student of divinity, and took
his degree of M.A. He attended the divinity class for two years, and in 1774
removed to the university of Utrecht, where he prosecuted the study of
theology, and also of the civil law. In 1777, on the death of his uncle, Dr.
Robert Brown, who had succeeded his father as minister of the English church
at Utrecht, the magistrates of that city, in compliance with the wishes of
the congregation, offered the vacant charge to his young relative, who
Returning to Scotland, he was licensed and ordained by the presbytery of St.
Andrews, and, in March 1778, he was admitted minister of the English church
at Utrecht. His congregation, though highly respectable, was not numerous;
nevertheless, he was very assiduous in his preparations for the pulpit. To
increase his income, he received pupils into his house; and among many other
young men of rank and fortune, Lord Dacre is mentioned as one of whom he has
spoken in very favourable terms. While he remained at Utrecht he made
various excursions into France, Germany, and Switzerland, thereby enlarging
his sphere of knowledge and observation, and becoming acquainted with the
manners and habits of our continental neighbours. On the 28th May
1786, he married his cousin, Anne Elizabeth Brown, the daughter of his
immediate predecessor, and by her, who was also a native of Holland, he had
five sons and four daughters.
1783, the curators of the Stolpian Legacy at Leyden, which is appropriated
to the encouragement of theological learning, proposed, as the subject of
their annual prize, the Origin of Evil; when Mr. Brown appeared in the list
of twenty-five competitors. On this occasion he received the second honour,
namely, that of his dissertation being published at the expense of the
trust; the first prize being gained by a learned Hungarian of the name of
Joseph Paap de Fagoras. Mr. Brown’s Essay was printed among the Memoirs of
the Society, under the title of “Disputatio de Fabrica Mundi in quo Mala
insunt, Naturae Dei perfectissimae haud repugnante.’ In 1784 the university
of St. Andrews conferred on him the degree of D.D. On three different
occasions, we are told, he obtained the medals awarded by the Teylerian
Society at Haarlem for the best compositions in Latin, Dutch, French, or
English, on certain prescribed subjects. In 1786 he obtained the gold medal
for his Essay on Scepticism; in 1787 the silver medal for his dissertation
in Latin on the Immortality of the Soul; and in 1792 the silver medal again
for his Essay on the Natural Equality of Men. The Latin dissertation has
never been printed; but the two English Essays were published, the first at
London in 1788, and the other at Edinburgh in 1793. A second edition of the
latter work, the most popular of all his publications, and which even
attracted the attention of the British Government, appeared at London in the
course of the following year.
Previous to this he had been exposed to much annoyance on account of his
attachment to the Orange dynasty, and had even repaired to London to
endeavour to procure some literary situation in Great Britain, that he might
be enabled to leave Holland altogether. The armed interposition of the
Prussians in 1788 restored his friends to power in that country, and was the
means of his appointment to a chair in the university. The states and the
magistrates of Utrecht having jointly instituted a professorship of moral
philosophy and ecclesiastical history, selected Dr. Brown to fill the new
chair. The lectures were to be in the Latin language, and he had two courses
to deliver, to be continued during a session of nearly eight months, for
which he was allowed only a few weeks for preparation. Such an arduous task
was very prejudicial to his health, and laid the foundation of complaints,
from which he never fully recovered. The inaugural oration which he
pronounced upon entering on his new duties was immediately published under
the title of ‘Oratio de Religiones et Philosophiae Societate et concordia
maxime salutari.’ Traj. ad Rhen. 1788, 4to. Two years afterwards he was
nominated rector of the university; and his address on the occasion,
entitled ‘Oratio de Imaginatione, in Vitae Institutione regunda,’ was
published in 4to, 1790. Having been offered the Greek professorship at St.
Andrews, he was induced to decline it, on the curators of the university of
Utrecht promising to increase his salary. To his other offices was now added
the professorship of the law of nature, usually conjoined with the law of
nations, and taught by members of the law faculty. During the period of his
residence at Utrecht, Dr. Brown discharged his public duties with credit and
reputation; but the war which followed the outbreak of the French revolution
compelled him at last to quit Holland, on the rapid approach of the invading
army of France.
the month of January 1795, during a very severe winter, he, with his wife
and five children, and some other relations, embarked from the coast of
Holland in an open boat, and landed in England after a stormy passage. In
the summer of that year, on the resignation of Dr. Campbell, professor of
divinity in Marischal College, Aberdeen, Dr. Brown, principally through the
influence of Lord Auckland, whose acquaintance he had made while ambassador
at the Hague, was appointed to the vacant chair; and he was soon afterwards
nominated by the Crown principal of that university. On the death of Dr.
Campbell in the ensuing April, Dr. Brown preached his funeral sermon,
published at Aberdeen in 8vo, 1796. He also published, about this time, a
Fast Sermon, entitled ‘The Influence of Religion on National Prosperity;’
and a Synod Sermon, called ‘The Proper Method of Defending Religious Truth
in Times of Infidelity.’ He was a sound and impressive preacher, and an able
and effective speaker on the popular side in the church courts.
the first General Assembly of which he was a member, he made a very powerful
speech in the case of Dr. Arnot, respecting his settlement at Kingsbarns,
which was afterwards published. In 1800 Dr. Brown was named one of his
Majesty’s chaplains in ordinary for Scotland; and in 1804 dean of the Chapel
Royal, and of the most ancient and most noble Order of the Thistle. In 1825
he was appointed to read the Gordon course of Lectures on practical religion
in the Marischal College. He was also one of the ministers of the West
church in Aberdeen.
greatest literary effort was the essay which obtained Burnet’s first prize,
amounting to £1,250. The competitors were about fifty in number; and the
judges were, Dr. Gerard, professor of divinity, Dr. Glennie, professor of
moral philosophy, and Dr. Hamilton, professor of mathematics, all in
Aberdeen. The second prize, amounting to £400, was awarded to Dr. Summer,
bishop of Chester. Dr. Brown’s essay was published under the title of ‘An
Essay on the Existence of a Supreme Being possessed of Infinite Power,
Wisdom, and Goodness; containing also the Refutation of the Objections urged
against his Wisdom and Goodness,’ Aberdeen, 1816, 2 vols. 8vo. In 1826 his
last work of importance was published at Edinburgh, entitled ‘A Comparative
View of Christianity, and of the other Forms of Religion which have existed,
and still exist, in the World particularly with regard to their Moral
Tendency,’ 2 vols, 8vo.
Brown died, at four in the morning of May 11, 1830, in the 76th
year of his age. For two years his strength had imperceptibly declined; and
although the decline became rapid about a week before his decease, he did
not relinquish his usual employments. Reduced as he was to extreme weakness,
he wrote part of a letter to two of his sons on the very last day of his
mortal existence; to his third son, the Greek professor in Marischal
college, he dictated a few sentences within six hours of his decease. “To an
unusual share of classical learning,” says the writer of his life in the
‘Encyclopaedia Britannica,’ seventh edition, to which we are indebted for
most of these details, “Dr. Brown added a very familiar acquaintance with
several of the modern languages. Latin and French he wrote and spoke with
great facility. His successive study of ethics, jurisprudence, and theology,
had habituated his mind with the most important topics of speculation,
relating to the present condition of man, and to his future destiny. His
political sentiments were liberal and expansive, and connected with ardent
aspirations after the general improvement and happiness of the human race.
His reading in divinity had been very extensive; and he was well acquainted
with the works of British and foreign theologians, particularly of those who
wrote in the Latin language during the seventeenth century.” – His works
Disputatio de Fabria Mundi, in quo Mala insunt, Naturae Dei perfectissimae
haud repugnante. Printed in the Memoirs of the Stolpian Society at Leyden,
Essay on Scepticism, London, 1788.
Essay on the Natural Equality of Men; Edinburgh 1793, 2d edition, London,
Oratio de Religionis et Philosophiae Societate et Concordia maxime Salutari.
An Inaugural Oration, 1788, 4to.
Oratio de Imaginatione, in Vitae Institutione regunda. 1790, 4to.
Funeral Sermon on the Death of Dr. Campbell, Aberdeen. 1796.
Influence of Religion on National Prosperity, a sermon preached on a Fast
day. Aberdeen, 1796.
Proper Method of Defending Religious Truth in times of Infidelity. A Synod
sermon. Aberdeen, 1797.
Substance of a speech delivered in the General Assembly of the Church of
Scotland, on Wednesday 28th May 1800, on the question respecting
the settlement at Kingsbarns of the Rev. Dr. Robert Arnot, Professor of
Divinity in St. Mary’s College, St. Andrews. Aberdeen, 1800.
Volume of Sermons. Edinburgh, 1803, 8vo.
Essay on Sensibility, a poem published before he quitted Utrecht.
Philemon, or the Progress of Virtue, a poem. Edinburgh, 1809, 2 vols. 8vo.
Examination of the Causes and Conduct of the present War with France, and of
the most effectual means of obtaining Peace. London, 1798, 8vo. published
Letters to the Rev. Dr. George Hill, Principal of St. Mary’s College, St.
Andrews. Aberdeen, 1801, 8vo.
Remarks on Certain Passages of an Examination of Mr. Dugald Stewart’s
Pamphlet, on the election of a Mathematical Professor in the University of
Edinburgh. Aberdeen, 1806, 8vo.
the Character and Influence of a virtuous king.
Sermon on the Jubilee. Aberdeen, 1810, 8vo.
Attempt towards a New Historical and Political Explanation of the
Essay on the Existence of a Supreme Being possessed of Infinite Wisdom,
Power, and Goodness, containing also the Refutation of the Objections urged
against his Wisdom and Goodness. Aberdeen, 1816, 2 vols. 8vo.
Comparative View of Christianity and of the other Forms of Religion which
have existed, and still exist in the World, particularly with regard to
their moral tendency. Edinburgh, 2 vols. 8vo.
Various detached sermons and tracts.
author of the ‘History of the Highlands and of the Highland Clans,’ was born
at Whitefield, parish of Cargill, Perthshire, in 1793. His father was a
manufacturer at Cupar Angus, having in his employment a number of weavers.
He unfortunately met with some losses in trade, but while in more thriving
circumstances he had contrived to give his son James a good education. As he
was intended for the ministry of the Church of Scotland, he was sent to the
university of St. Andrews, where he early distinguished himself by the great
facility with which he mastered the classics, as well as for the vigour and
force of his conversational talents. Even at this period, he was noted for a
strong tendency to romancing, which, though circumscribed by his intended
profession, could not be altogether suppressed, and formed by far the most
remarkable feature of his character. After passing through the ordinary
literary and philosophical curriculum at the university, he entered on the
study of divinity, and in due time was licensed to preach the gospel. His
classical attainments having eminently fitted him for a teacher of youth, he
soon found employment as a tutor in several families of distinction, with
one of whom he visited the continent. On his return to Scotland, he became
assistant teacher of Latin, under Mr. Dick, of the Perth academy, and, at
the same time, officiated as interim assistant to the Rev. Lewis Dunbar,
minister of the parish of Kinnoul in Perthshire. As a preacher, Browne was
remarkable for the vigour of his language and the enthusiasm of his manner,
but his sermons, as we have been informed by a hearer, were but slenderly
tinged with doctrinal divinity. It was about this time that he published,
anonymously, his ‘History of the Inquisition,’ which at one period was
rather a popular book. In 1817, on the death of the Princess Charlotte, he
published the sermon which he preached on that mournful occasion. He
afterwards resolved upon abandoning the ministry, and proceeding to
Edinburgh, he shaped his studies for the bar, while, for a livelihood, he
devoted himself to literary pursuits. He passed advocate in the year 1826,
and received the degree of LL.D. from the university of St. Andrews. His
mind, however, was too thoroughly imbued with literary tastes to fit him for
success as a lawyer; in fact, the entire framework of his intellect had
nothing in it akin to the dull precise formulae of legal pleadings, and
although occupying the status of an advocate, he fell back upon literature
and science as his only available source for a subsistence. He was for a
considerable time editor of Constable’s Magazine, as the Scots Magazine was
called, and wrote largely for the reviews, magazines, and periodicals of the
day, and was always remarkable for his tendency for strong statement. In one
of the numbers of Blackwood’s Magazine an article appeared, referring to
him, entitled ‘Some passages in the Life of Colonel Cloud,’ which was
strikingly illustrative of this weakness in his character. It was understood
to be from the pen of Hogg, the Ettrick Shepherd. In 1827 Dr. Browne was
appointed editor of the Caledonian Mercury, one of the oldest of the
Scottish newspapers, and while he was so, he became involved in a
controversy with Mr. Charles M’Laren, the editor of the Scotsman, which
terminated in a duel between them; of a bloodless nature, however, as both
parties, after exchanging shots, left the field unhurt. In 1826 Dr. Browne
published a 12mo volume, entitled ‘Critical Examination of Dr. M’Culloch’s
Work on the Highlands and Western Isles.’ It was mainly owing to his
articles in the Caledonian Mercury, that in 1827 the horrible murders in the
West Port were brought to light, and the wretch Burke tried, condemned, and
executed. In 1830, owing to some dispute with the proprietors, Browne left
the Caledonian Mercury, and in conjunction with Mr. Daniel Lizars,
bookseller, started the North Briton, a twice a-week paper, which, though
vigorously written and ably conducted, did not long exist. He afterwards for
a short time resumed his old post of editor of the Caledonian Mercury.
Subsequently he became sub-editor of the seventh edition of the Encyclopedia
Britannica, where he displayed much industry, and his literary resources
appeared to great advantage. To his exertions and vast fund of information
on almost every subject, that important work owed much of its excellence and
its value. He wrote some elaborate and able articles for it; among the rest
those on the Army, Egyptian Hieroglyphics, Libraries, Newspapers, &c.,
besides a number of biographical articles, such as that of Bossuet, Fenelon,
&c. He likewise wrote two articles on Egyptian Hieroglyphics for the
Edinburgh Review, which attracted considerable attention at the time, as
they embodied all that was then known on the subject. His contributions to
the Edinburgh Geographical and Historical Atlas, a work compiled by him,
with David Buchanan and H. Smith, which came out in folio in 1835, as also
his contributions to the North Briton newspaper, were published separately.
His ‘History of the Highlands and of the Highland Clans,’ which is in 4
volumes 8vo, possesses much force and vividness in its descriptions, and is
marked by all the peculiar characteristics of his style. In politics Dr.
Browne was, throughout his career, a consistent liberal. In the latter years
of his life, he became a proselyte to popery, principally through the
influence of his wife, who had been educated in that faith. She was a
daughter of Mr. Stewart of Huntfield, and cousin of General Stewart of
Garth. Dr. Browne died in 1841, and was buried in Duddingstone churchyard. A
critical review of Scott’s prose works, written by him, was posthumously
published.. Notwithstanding his being endowed with a strong bodily
constitution, he was, while yet, it may be said, in the prime of life, worn
out by over mental exertion, and fell at last a victim to paralysis. It is
much to his credit that he was the sole support of his parents in their old
age. his daughter married James Grant, at one time an ensign in the 62d
foot, author of the ‘Romance of War,’ and other novels.
Genealogical Notes on the
family of Broun
By J. V. Nicoll (1884) (pdf)
See page on Brown
The name Brown/Browne in
the Dictionary of National Biography