Page:A biographical dictionary of eminent Scotsmen, vol 6.djvu/242

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36 JOSEPH MITCHELL.


periods of our government, and many distinctions which it requires some effort of attention fully to understand, could not be of a very popular nature ; but it has been justly appreciated by those who were fitted by their habits and previous studies to take an interest in such researches ; and, considering the nature of the subjects of which it treats, its having gone through three editions is no slight proof of public approbation.

" The distinguishing feature of Mr Millar's intellect," says the Edinburgh Review, " was, the great clearness and accuracy of his apprehension, and the singular sagacity with which he seized upon the true statement of a question, and disentangled the point in dispute from the mass of sophisticated argument in which it was frequently involved. His great delight was to simplify an intri- cate question, and to reduce a perplexed and elaborate system of argument to a few plain problems of common sense. * * To form a sound judgment upon all points of substantial importance, appeared to him to require little more than the free and independent use of that vulgar sense on which no man is entitled to value himself; and he was apt to look with suf- ficient contempt upon the elaborate and ingenious errors into which philo- sophers are so apt to reason themselves. To bring down the dignity of such false science, and to expose the emptiness of ostentatious and pedantic reasoners, was therefore one of his favourite employments. He had, indeed, no prejudices of veneration in his nature ; his respect was reserved for those who had either made discoveries of practical ability, or combined into a system the scattered truths of speculation." For the remainder of a very elaborate esti- mate of the genius of professor Millar, we must refer those who take an unusual interest in the subject, to the Review itself. 2 We may only mention, what every one will have anticipated from the preceding extract, that Mr Millar wac of whig politics, bordering on republicanism, and that his sentiments had con- siderable influence with his pupils, some of whom, as lord Jeffrey, lord chief commissioner Adam, of the Jury court, and the earl of Lauderdale, were dis- tinguished on that side of the great political question which so long divided public opinion in this country.

In his private character, Mr Millar was extremely amiable. His conversation was cheerful, unaffected, and uncommonly agreeable. His countenance was very animated and expressive ; his stature about the middle size ; his person strong, active, and athletic, rather than elegant. Though devoted chiefly to metaphysical inquiries, he was extensively acquainted with the natural sciences, with history, with the belles lettres, and, indeed, almost all branches of human learning. He retained good health till the end of the year 1790, when he was seized with a very dangerous inflammatory complaint, from which he re- covered to a certain extent ; but a year and a half after, having exposed him- self to cold, he was seized with pleurisy, by which he was carried off, May 30, 1801. Professor Millar left four sons and six daughters. A full memoir of his life was written by his nephew, Mr John Craig, and prefixed to a fourth edition of his Origin of the Distinction of Ranks, published in 1808.

MITCHELL, JOSEPH, a dramatist of the eighteenth century, was born about the year 1684. His father, who is described as a stone-cutter, appears to have been in decent circumstances, as he gave his son a liberal education, includ- ing a course at one of the Scottish universities, but which of them is not now known. On completing his education, Mitchell repaired to London, with the view of pushing his fortune in that metropolis, and was lucky enough to get into favour with the earl of Stair and Sir Robert Walpole. How he effected this, whether by the force of his talents, or by what other means, is not known ; but

1 Vol. iii. p. 158