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Significant Scots
James Brown

BROWN, JAMES, a traveler and scholar of some eminence, was the son of James Brown, M.D., who published a translation of two "Orations of Isocrates," without his name, and who died in 1733. The subject of this article was born at Kelso, May 23d, 1709, and was educated at Westminster School, where he made great proficiency in the Latin and Greek classics. In the year 1722, when less than fourteen years of age, he accompanied his father to Constantinople, where, having naturally an aptitude for the acquisition of languages, he made himself a proficient in Turkish, modern Greek, and Italian. On his return in 1725, he added the Spanish to the other languages which he had already mastered. About 1732, he was the means of commencing the publication of the London Directory, a work of vast utility in the mercantile world, and which has since been imitated in almost every considerable town in the empire. After having laid the foundation of this undertaking, he transferred his interest in it to Mr Henry Kent, a printer in Finch-Lane, Cornhill, who carried it on for many years, and eventually, through its means, acquired a fortune and an estate. In 1741, Brown entered into an engagement with twenty-four of the principal merchants in London, to act as their chief agent in carrying on a trade, through Russia, with Persia. Having travelled to that country by the Wolga and the Caspian Sea, he established a factory at Reshd, where he continued nearly four years. During this time, he travelled in state to the camp of the famous Kouli Khan, with a letter which had been transmitted to him by George II. for that monarch. He also rendered himself such a proficient in the Persic language, as to be able, on his return, to compile a copious dictionary and grammar, with many curious specimens of Persic literature, which, however, was never published. A sense of the dangerous situation of the settlement, and his dissatisfaction with some of his employers, were the causes of his return; and his remonstrances on these subjects were speedily found to be just, by the factory being plundered of property to the amount of L.80,000, and a period being put to the Persian trade. From his return in 1746 to his death, which took place in his house at Stoke Newington, November 30, 1788, he appears to have lived in retirement upon his fortunes. In the obituary of the Gentleman’s Magazine, he is characterised as a person of strict integrity, unaffected piety, and exulted but unostentatious benevolence.

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