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LIFE OF JOHN LOGAN.
BY MR. CHALMERS.
John LOGAN was born about the beginning of the year 1747-8, at Soutra, in the parish of Fala, on the southern extremity of Mid-Lothian, where his father rented a small farm. He appears to have been taught the first rudiments of learning at the school of Musselburgh, near Edinburgh; and here, as well as at home, was zealously instructed in the principles of the Calvinistic system of religion, as professed by the Seceders, a species of dissenters from the established church of Scotland.
In 1762, he entered on the usual courses of study at the university of Edinburgh, where be made uncommon proficiency in the learned languages, but discovered no great inclination for mathematics or metaphysics, although he took care not to be so deficient in those branches as to incur any censure, or create any hindrance to his academical progress. His turn being originally to works of imagination, he found much that was congenial, in a course of lectures then read by professor Jobn Stevenson, on Aristotle's Art of Poetry, and on Longinus; and while these directed his taste, he em-s ployed his leisure hours in acquiring a more perfect knowledge of Homer, whose beauties he relished with poetical enthusiasm. The writings of Milton, and other eminent poets of the English series, became likewise his favourite studies, and the discovery of Ossian's poems, which took place when he was at college, opened new burces of admiration and improvement.
At what time he began to imitate his favourite models, is doubtful, but as an inclidation to write poetry is generally precipitate, it is probable that he had produced many of his lesser pieces while at the university: and he had the advice and encouragement of Dr. John Main, of Athelstoneford, a clergymau of classical taste, in pursuing a track which genius seemed to have pointed out. He had also acquired the friendship and patronage of lord Elibank, and of the celebrated Dr. Blair, who regarded bim as a youth of promising talents, and unusual acumen in matters of criticism. By recommendation of Dr. Blair, he was, in 1768, received into the family of Sinclair, as private tutor to the present baronet of Ulbster, the editor of those statistical reports, which have done so much honour to the clerical character of Scotland,
Ilere, however, Logan did not remain long, but returned to Edinburgh to attend the divinity lectures with a view of entering into the church. Either by reading, or by the company he kept, he had already overcome the scruples which inclined his parents to dissent, and determined to take orders in the establishment.
In 1770, he published a volume under the title of Poems on several Occasions, by Michael Bruce, a youth who died at the age of twenty-one, after exhibiting considerable talents for poetry. In this volume, however, Logan chose to insert several pieces of his own, without specifying them ; a circumstance which has since given rise to a controversy between the respective friends of Bruce and Logan. Bruce's poems have been very recently published, for the benefit of his aged mother; but as his share seems yet undecided, it has not been thought proper to admit them into the present collection. Those, however, which have been attributed to Logan by his friend and executor Dr. Robertson, of Dalmany, are now added to his avowed productions.
In 1770, after going through the usual probationary periods, Logan was admitted a preacher, and in 1773 was invited to the pastoral charge at South Leith, which he accepted. His poems, which had been hitherto circulated only in private, or perhaps occasionally inserted in the literary journals, pointed him out as a proper person to assist in a scheme for revising the psalmody of the church. For this purpose, he was in 1775, appointed one of the committee ordered by the general assembly (the highest ecclesiastical authority in Scotland) and took a very active part in their proceedings, not only revising and improving some of the old versions, but adding others of his own composition. This collection of Translations and Paraphrases, was published in 1781, under the sanction of the general assembly.
About two years before this publication appeared, he had prepared a course of lectures on the Philosophy of History, and had on this occasion consulted Drs. Robertson, Blair, Carlisle, and other eminent men connected with the university of Edinburgh, who seemed liberally inclined to promote his success. The first request, however, which he had to make happened not to be within their power. He desired the use of a room in the college for the delivery of his lectures, but by the statutes no indulgerice of that kind can be granted to persons teaching or lecturing on subjects for which regular professors are already appointed. He then hired a chapel, in which he delivered his tirst course of lectures in 1779-80, and bis auditors, if not very numerous, were of that kind whose report was of great consequence to his fame. In his second course, he had a larger auditory, and attracted so much notice, that he enter tained very sanguine hopes of being promoted to the professorship of history, which became vacant about this time.
Here, however, an obstacle presented itself which he had not foreseen, and which his friends could not remove. It had been the invariable practice of the patrons to present to this office a member of the faculty of advocates, and in the present instance their choice fell upon Mr. Frazer Tytler, since lord Woodhouselee, a gentleman whose talents, had talents been the criterion, must have excluded all competition. ---Whether owing to this appointment, or to the decay of publiek curiosity, Logan's lectures were no longer encouraged; but in 1781, he published an analysis of them, entitled, Elements of the Philosophy of History, and soon after one entire lecture in the form of an Essay on the Manners of Asia. Both were favourably received, yet without those
decisive proofs of encouragement which could justify his publishing the whole course, as he probably intended.
In the same year appeared his volume of Poems, which were so eagerly bought up, that a second edition became necessary within a few months. Such popularity induced him to complete a tragedy which he had been for some time preparing, entitled Runamede, and founded upon the history of the great charter. This tragedy was accepted by the manager of Covent Garden theatre, but was interdicted by the licenser of the stage, as containing political allusions that were improper. It was printed, however, in 1783, and afterwards acted on the Edinburgh theatre, but met with no extraordinary applause either in the closet or on the stage. In this attempt, indeed, the author seems to have mistaken bis talents. In Scotland, his biographer informs us, he had to encounter the general prejudices of that country against the interference of the clergy in theatrical concerns.
These disappointments, we are told, “preyed with pungent keenness upon a miod uncommonly susceptible.” “ His tenper,” it is added " was still further fretted by the umbrage which some of his parish had unjustly taken at his engaging in studies foreign to his profession, and which others, with more reason, had conceived on account of certain deviations from the propriety and decorum of his clerical character, though not a few of them were sufficiently liberal in their allowances for irregularities which could only be attributed to inequality of spirits and irritability of nerves."
This vindication is specious, but will not bear examination. There could surely be no great injustice in complaining of studies which diverted him from his profession, a profession which he had voluntarily chosen, and in which he was liberally settled; or of irregularities which unfitted him to perform its duties, and obliged him at last to compound for his inability or neglect by retiring upon a small annuity. Yet such was the case, and with this annuity, or with the promise of it, he came to London in 1786, and for some time subsisted by furnishing articles for the English Review, and perhaps other periodical publications. He wrote also a pamphlet, entitled A Review of the principal Charges against Mr. Hastings, which was a very able and eloquent vindication of that gentleman; and probably appeared in that light to the publick at large, for the publisher against whom the friends of the impeachment directed a prosecution, was acquitted by the verdict of a jury. This last consequence, Logan did not live to witness. His health had been for some time broken, and he died at his apartments in Marlborough-street, Dec. 28, 1788, in the fortieth year of his age.
Notwithstanding his failings, it is with pleasure we copy the following passage from the Life prefixed to the late edition of his poems.
“ The end of Logan, was truly Christian. When he became too weak to hold a book, he employed his time in hearing such young persons as visited him read the Scriptures. His conversation turned chiefly on serious subjects, and was most affecting and instructive. He foresaw and prepared for the approach of death, gave directions about his funeral with the utmost composure, and dictated a distinct and judicious will, appointing Dr. Donald Grant, and his ancient and steady friend Dr. Robertson, his executors, and bequeathing to them his property, books, and MSS. to be converted into money, for the payment of legacies to those relations and friends, who had the strongest clainas upon bis affectionate remembrance in bis dying moments."