Logan, John (DNB00)
|←Logan, James Richardson||Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 34
LOGAN, JOHN (1748–1788), divine and poet, was born at Soutra, Fala, Midlothian, in 1748. His parents—George Logan, farmer at Soutra, and Janet, daughter of John Waterston in the parish of Stowe—removed soon after his birth to Gosford Mains, Aberlady, East Lothian. They were dissenters of the burgher branch of the secession, and attended the ministry of John Brown of Haddington. After receiving a preparatory education at the grammar school of Musselburgh, Logan entered the university of Edinburgh in 1762, and distinguished himself by his proficiency in classics, and by his essays in the class of rhetoric and belles-lettres taught by Hugh Blair [q. v.] Lord Elibank, who then resided at Ballencrieff in the parish of Aberlady, interested himself in his welfare, and gave him access to his library. After he had completed his studies for the ministry of the church of Scotland, he became, on the recommendation of Dr. Blair, who had formed a high opinion of his talents and character, tutor to the son of Mr. Sinclair of Ulbster, Caithness-shire, afterwards the celebrated Sir John Sinclair, bart., whom he accompanied to Caithness. Logan was licensed as a preacher by the presbytery of Haddington on 27 Sept. 1770, and in that year he published the poems of his friend and fellow-student Michael Bruce, and added ‘some poems written by different authors.’ In April 1773 he was ordained and admitted to the parish of South Leith, where for a time ‘he discharged assiduously the duties of his office.’ His literary reputation led to his being appointed by the general assembly in 1775 a member of the committee charged with the revision and enlargement of the paraphrases and hymns for use in public worship, and he became the largest contributor to the collection. During the college sessions of 1779–80, 1780–1, he read a course of historical lectures in Edinburgh, under the patronage of Principal Robertson, Dr. Blair, and other eminent literati; and in 1781 published an analysis of the lectures, entitled ‘Elements of the Philosophy of History.’ In the same year he published a volume of poems, including the ‘Ode to the Cuckoo,’ and others which he had printed along with those of Michael Bruce, and also his principal contributions to the paraphrases. This was followed in 1782 by the publication of one of his lectures, entitled ‘An Essay on the Manners and Governments of Asia,’ and in 1783 by the tragedy of ‘Runnamede,’ which was acted in the Edinburgh Theatre.
Logan's connection with the stage gave offence to his parishioners, and it did not stand alone. Logan had inherited from his father, who met his death by drowning when in an unsound state of mind, a tendency to melancholy, and in his fits of depression he had recourse to stimulants. So strong was the feeling against him that he found it expedient to resign his charge, 27 Dec. 1786, on being allowed an annuity from the living of 40l. The rest of his life was spent in London, where he occupied himself with literary pursuits. He was a frequent contributor to the ‘English Review,’ and in 1788 he published ‘A Review of the Principal Charges against Warren Hastings.’ He died on 25 Dec. 1788.
In 1790 and 1791 two volumes of his sermons were published under the supervision of his friends, Dr. Robertson of Dalmeny, Linlithgowshire, Dr. Blair, and Dr. Hardy. He left other manuscripts, of which Dr. Robertson, his college friend and literary executor, gives an account in a letter to Dr. Anderson, editor of the ‘British Poets,’ dated 19 Sept. 1795. In this letter Dr. Robertson also gives a list of Logan's poems, including the ‘Ode to the Cuckoo,’ which had been printed with those of Michael Bruce. Years before this Bruce's friends had claimed for him the authorship of the ‘Ode to the Cuckoo’ and other poems and hymns which Logan had published under his own name. The charge against Logan has been renewed from time to time, and some have gone the length of asserting that Bruce was the author of all the paraphrases which Logan furnished to the church. There are some circumstances unfavourable to Logan, such as the disappearance of a volume of Bruce's manuscripts, and a few plagiarisms in his sermons, but his authorship of the poems and hymns he claimed has been ably vindicated in recent times by David Laing, John Small, and finally by the Rev. R. Small, who has presented the whole evidence, both external and internal, in such a way as to give Logan's claim genuine substance.
Logan was one of the most popular preachers of the time; his historical productions evince wide knowledge, comprehensive views, and a philosophic mind; his poetical versions of scripture are singularly felicitous, and the ‘Ode to the Cuckoo’ was pronounced by Edmund Burke ‘the most beautiful lyric in our language.’ In his better days he won the friendship and esteem of some of the most eminent clergymen of the time, and when he disappointed their hopes they made allowance for the temperament he had inherited.
Besides the publications mentioned above, ‘A View of Ancient History,’ by Dr. Rutherford, head of an academy at Uxbridge, which appeared in two volumes (1788–93), was believed by Logan's friends to have been written by him.
[Scott's Fasti; Anderson's British Poets, xi. 1030; Chambers's Eminent Scotsmen, ii. 541–3; Life prefixed to Poems, Edinb. 1805; Life prefixed to Sermons, Lond. 1810; Ode to the Cuckoo, with remarks on its Authorship by David Laing, Edinb. 1873; Michael Bruce and the Authorship of the Ode to the Cuckoo, by John Small, M.A., late librarian, Edinb. University, an article in the British and Foreign Evang. Review, July 1877; Michael Bruce versus John Logan, two articles by the Rev. John Small, M.A., in the British and Foreign Evang. Review, April and October 1879; Scottish Paraphrases, by Douglas J. Maclagan, Edinb. 1889.]