Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 01.djvu/51
[Mean's Memoir in second edition of the Practical Gardener (1817); Biographical Sketch prefixed to the 35th edition of the Gardener's Pocket Journal (1857); Preface to Philip Miller's Gardener's Kalendar; Catalogue of the British Museum Library.]
Goldsmith unaltered, with the remark that Abercrombie's own style was that best suited to the subject. The story can hardly be true in relation to the first edition of Abercrombie's earliest work, since that was not published by Lockyer Davis, who was the publisher of some of his subsequent productions. It appeared in 1767, and was entitled ‘Every Man his own Gardener, being a new and more complete Gardener's Kalendar than any one hitherto published.’ ‘From a diffidence in the writer’ (this is Abercrombie's own statement), the volume was represented in the title-page as written ‘by Mr. Maw, gardener to the Duke of Leeds,’ who had not seen a line of it before publication, and who is said to have received 20l. for this use of his name. ‘Every Man his own Gardener’ soon attained a popularity which it has never wholly lost, a new edition of it having appeared in 1879. It supplied a want scarcely met by the chief work of the kind in vogue at the time of its publication, the ‘Gardener's Kalendar’ of Philip Miller, and gave for the first time detailed instructions which his practical experience enabled him to furnish. ‘Every Man his own Gardener’ had gone through seven editions, said to be of 2,000 each, when, in 1779, Abercrombie published under his own name, now well known, ‘The British Fruit Gardener and Art of Pruning.’ Abercrombie was then in business at Tottenham as a market-gardener and nurseryman. He afterwards seems to have devoted himself to the production of books on horticulture and to the revision and republication of his earlier works. A systematic work on general horticulture, in which the calendar form was discarded, with the title of ‘The Practical Gardener,’ appeared after his death. In spite of his industry and the great success of some of his manuals, he had, during his last years, to depend for support on the bounty of a friend. He died at or about the age of 80, in the spring of 1806, and left behind him the reputation of an upright man and a cheerful companion. A competent authority among his later editors or annotators, Mr. George Glenny, has called Abercrombie ‘the great teacher of gardening.’ Next to ‘Every Man his own Gardener,’ the most popular of his works has been the ‘Gardener's Pocket Journal and Daily Assistant,’ which in 1857 had reached a thirty-fifth edition. Among his treatises on special departments of horticulture are ‘The Complete Forcing Gardener’ (1781); ‘The Complete Wall Tree Pruner’ (1783); ‘The Propagation and Botanical Arrangement of Plants and Trees, useful and ornamental’ (1784); and ‘The Hot House Gardener on the general culture of the pineapple and method of pruning early grapes,’ &c. (1789); of which last work a German translation appeared at Vienna in 1792.
ABERCROMBIE, JOHN, M.D. (1780–1844), physician, was the only son of the Rev. George Abercrombie, one of the parish ministers of Aberdeen. He was born on 10 Oct. 1780, in Aberdeen, where, at the grammar school and at Marischal College, he received his early education. In 1800 he went to Edinburgh to study medicine, and took his degree there in 1803. The mental aspects of medical science seem already to have attracted him, his inaugural address being ‘De Fatuitate Alpinâ,’ a subject to which he recurred in his work on the intellectual powers. He spent about a year in London in further study at St. George's Hospital, and soon after his return to Edinburgh in 1804 began to practise. From the outset of his career his fellow-citizens recognised in him a man of boundless energy and of generous public spirit. Becoming connected with the public dispensary, he gradually gained an intimate knowledge of the moral and physical condition of the poor, and found opportunities for the exercise of those habits of close and accurate observation which were already formed in himself, and which throughout his life he strove to teach to others. He did much to train the medical students of his time. It is recorded as part of his system that he divided the poorer quarters of Edinburgh into districts, and allotted them to different students, himself maintaining a supervision of the whole. Meanwhile he kept with scrupulous care a record of every case of scientific interest that came before him. The results of his observations appeared in a series of papers on pathological subjects, contributed chiefly to the ‘Edinburgh Medical and Surgical Journal’ from 1816 to 1824. From these papers were elaborated his two chief works on pathology, published in 1828, in which his aim was rather to group together well-tested facts than to theorise. On the death of Dr. James Gregory in 1821, Abercrombie, whose professional reputation stood very high, immediately became one of the chief consulting physicians in Scotland. He failed, however, in his application for Dr. Gregory's chair of the practice of medicine. In 1823 he was made a licentiate, and in 1824 a fellow, of the Col-