Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 07.djvu/18

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
Brown
Brown
12

and Education,' preached 16 May 1765, with an appendix upon education; and 'A Letter to the Rev. Dr. Lowth,' &c., 1766, an answer to an imputation made by Lowth in his controversy with Warburton upon Brown's sycophancy to Warburton. Brown advertised 'Principles of Christian Legislation,' in eight books, the manuscript of which was left to some friends in his will for publication. It never appeared. In 1765 Brown engaged in a curious correspondence, from which long extracts are given in the 'Biographia Britannica.' Dr. Dumaresq had been consulted about the provision of a school system in Russia. A lady mentioned Brown to him as an authority upon such questions. Bumaresq wrote to Brown, and received in reply a paper proposing vague and magnificent plans for the civilisation of Russia. The paper was laid before the empress, who immediately proposed that Brown should visit St. Petersburg, and upon his consent forwarded 1,000l. to the Russian ambassador for the expenses of the journey. Brown made preparations to start,bought a post-chaise and other necessaries, and obtained leave of absence as one of the king's chaplains. His health had been shattered by gout and rheumatism, and the remonstrances of his friends and physicians induced him to abandon the plan of exposing himself to a Russian climate. He accounted for his expenses to the Russian minister, and wrote a long letter (28 Aug. 1700) to the empress, suggesting a scheme for sending young Russians to be educated abroad. He was apparently disappointed and vexed by the failure of the scheme. On 23 Sept. 1766 he committed suicide by cutting his throat. A letter from a Mr. Gilpin of Carlisle says that he had been subject to fits of 'frenzy' for above thirty years, and would have killed himself long before but for the care of friends. Walpole's remark, given above, seems to imply that his partial derangement was generally known.

[Davies's Life of Garrick, i. 206-16; Life by Kippis, with original materials in Biog. Brit.; Letters of an Eminent Prelate; Taylor's Records of my Life, i. 85; T. S. Watson's Life of Warburton.]

L. S.

BROWN, JOHN (1722–1787), of Haddington, author of the 'Self-interpreting Bible,' was born in 1722 at Carpow, parish of Abemethy, Perthshire. His father was a poor weaver, who could only afford to send him to school for a few 'quarters.' During one month of this time he studied Latin. Even at this early period he learnt eagerly, getting up by heart 'Vincent's and Havel's Catechisms, and the Assembly's Larger Catechism.' When he was eleven his father died. His mother did not long survive. He himself was brought so low by 'four fevers on end' that his recovery was despaired of. During these trials the lad thought much on religious matters. After his recovery, he began to work as a herd-boy, and his contact with a wider and stranger world 'seemed to cause,' he tells us, 'not a little practical apostasy from all my former attainments. Even secret prayer was not always regularly performed, but I foolishly pleased myself by making up the number one day which had been deficient another.' A new attack of fever in 1741 reawakened his conscience, and on his recovery he 'was providentially determined, during the noontide while the sheep which I herded rested themselves in the fold, to go and hear a sermon, at the distance of two miles, running both to and from it.'

During his life as a herd-boy he studied eagerly. He acquired a good knowledge of Latin, Greek, ana Hebrew. His difficulties in regard to the second of those were very great, for he could not for some time get a grammar. Notwithstanding this, he managed by the exercise of patient ingenuity to learn the letters on a method he afterwards described in detail (paper of 6 Aug. 1745 quoted in Biography), He scraped together the price of a Greek testament, and a wellImbwn story describes how he procured it. A companion agreed to take charge of his sheep for a little, so setting out at midnight, he reached St. Andrews, twenty-four miles distant, in the morning. The bookseller questioned the shepherd-boy, and one of the university professors happened to hear the conversation. 'Boy,' said he, pointing to a passage, 'read this, and you shall have the book for nothing.' Brown read the passage,, got the volume, and walked home again with it (Memoir, p. 29; Dr. John Brown's Letter to John Cairns, D.D., p. 73).

The herd-boy and his learning now became the subject of talk in the place. Some 'seceding students' accounted for the wonder by explaining that Brown had got his knowledge from Satan. The hypothesis was widely accepted, nor was it till some years had passed away that he was able by his blameless and diligent life to 'live it down.' He afterwards took occasion to note that just when he was ' licensed ' his 'primary calumniator' was excommunicated for immoral conduct.

Brown now became a travelling ' chapman ' or pedlar. When the rebellion of 1745 broke out, he joined the ranks of the government soldiers. He served throughout the affair, being for some time one of the garrison of Edinburgh Castle. When the war was over, he again took up his pack for a time, but soon