Brown, John (1722-1787)

Brown, John, of Haddington, author of the Self-interpreting Bible, was born in 1722 at Carpow, near Abernethy, Perthshire. A poor weaver's child, early orphaned, he had but scanty schooling; but, as a herd-boy on the Tayside hills, he studied Greek, Latin, and Hebrew. For a time he was a pedlar ; during the '45 served in the Fife militia ; taught in several schools ; and having studied theology in connection with the Associate Burgher Synod, was in 1751 called to the congregation of Haddington. He was a man of great learning; open-handed, on a stipend of £50 a year; a kindly humorist, though harrowing self-doubts tormented him all his life through; and a powerful preacher. In 1768 he accepted the unsalaried Burgher chair of Divinity ; and on 19th June 1787 he died at Haddington. Among his twenty-seven ponderous works are Dictionary of the Bible (1768) and Self-interpreting Bible (2 vols. 1778). See his Memoirs and Select Remains (1856), and study by R. Mackenzie (1918). John Brown, D.D., his grandson, was-son of the Rev. John Brown of Whitburn (1754-1832). Born in 1784, he studied at Edinburgh University (1797-1800), and kept school for three years at Elie, meantime attending, during the summer vacations, the Burgher Theological Hall. In 1806 he was ordained to a pastorate at Biggar, and in 1822 called to Edinburgh, where from 1834 he was also professor of Exegetical Theology, revered for saintliness and learning. He died 13th October 1858. He published close upon twenty religious works. See Dr Cairns's Memoir of him (I860). His son, again, Da John Brown, the essayist, was born at Biggar, 22d September 1810, attended the High School at Edinburgh, and studied arts and medicine at the university there, becoming M.D. in 1833. His practice was never large, his life was quiet and uneventful (though some years were clouded by fits of depression). He died 11th May 1882. Almost all Dr John Brown's writings are comprised within three volumes—the two Horce Subsecivce (' leisure hours,' 1858-61) and John Leech and other Papers (1882). Humour is the chief feature of his genius —humour with its twin-sister pathos; we find them both at their highest perfection in his sketches of 'Rab' and ' Marjorie'—the uncouth mastiff and the dear dead child. Writing of nothing that he did not know, he wrote, too, of nothing that he did not love or greatly care for. Hence both the lucidity and the tenderness of his essays, which rank with Lamb's, and with Lamb's alone in the language. See Peddie's Recollections of him (1893), Taylor Brown's Life of him (1903), and his own Letters (1907). Alexander Crum Brown, half-brother of Dr John Brown, was born ill Edinburgh in 1838, and in 1869-1908 was professor of Chemistry there. —Samuel Brown, chemist (1817-1856), was a grandson of John Brown of Haddington, and son of Samuel Brown, provost of that burgh (1779-1839), and was educated at Edinburgh High School and University, where he graduated M.D. in 1839, but immediately surrendered himself to the fascination of chemistry. The dream of his life was the possibility of reconstructing the whole science of atomics, and in 1S43 he delivered in Edinburgh four memorable lectures on the atomic theory. He was author of the Tragedy of Galileo (1850), and two volumes of Essays, Scientific and Literary (1858).
1. Chamber's Biographical Dictionary, Philadelphia, 1926, page 138.

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