1876 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. John Ogilvie

James Grant Wilson, in Poetry of Scotland (1876) 1:246-47.



John Ogilvie, D.D., a poet of some renown in his day, was the son of one of the ministers of Aberdeen, where he was born in 1733. He was educated at Marischal College, from which afterwards he received the degree of Doctor of Divinity. Having qualified himself as a preacher he was in 1759 appointed minister of the parish of Midmar, in Aberdeenshire, where he continued in the faithful discharge of his pastoral duties for more than half a century. His personal history was only varied by the publication of his numerous and now forgotten poems (the first of which, The Day of Judgment, appeared in 1759), and an occasional visit to London, where he became acquainted, though his friend and admirer James Boswell, with Dr. Johnson, Churchill, and other literary magnates of the metropolis. Scarcely any of Ogilvie's poems are known even by name to readers of the present day, and he is only remembered by several hymns which are to be found in collections in use in the United States and Great Britain. His biographer remarks that "Ogilvie, with powers far above the common order, did not know how to use them with effect. He was an able man lost. His intellectual wealth and industry were wasted in huge and unhappy speculations. Of all his books, there is not one which, as a whole, can be expected to please the general reader. Noble sentiments, brilliant conceptions, and poetic graces may be culled in profusion from the mass; but there is no one production in which they so predominate, if we except some of his minor pieces, as to induce it to be selected for a happier fate than the rest. Had the same talent which Ogilvie threw away on a number of objects been concentrated in one, and that one chosen with judgment and taste, he might have rivalled in popularity the most renowned of his contemporaries." The venerable divine continued his useful parish labours till his death in 1814. In addition to his poems Dr. Ogilvie was the author of several works on philosophy and Christian ethics.