1839 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. William Laurence Brown

David Irving, in Lives of the Scottish Poets (1839) 2:347-48.



Dr. Brown was of the middle size, and had a very intelligent countenance. He had been much accustomed to elegant society, and his manners were easy and polished, but, in a certain sense, he never could be initiated in the ways of the world: he possessed an unusual singleness of heart, and so habitual a regard for what is upright and manly in the human character, that he not unfrequently displayed his caution less prominently than his honesty. He was not without considerable warmth of temper, but at the same time he was open, sincere, and generous; nor is this ardour and intensity of feeling so easily separated from quickness of discernment and vigour of perception. Men of a colder temperament, possessing less than one half of his moral excellence, may pass through life with a very decent share of respectability. His talents and learning are not unknown to the public; but his warmth of affection, his rectitude of purpose, and his fervour of piety, are best known to those who had frequent opportunities of seeing him in the circle of his own family, or in the house of an intimate friend. To an unusual share of classical learning Dr. Brown added a very familiar acquaintance with several of the modern languages. Latin and French he wrote and spoke with great facility. HI successive study of ethics, jurisprudence, and theology, had habituated his mind with the most important topics of speculation, relating to the present condition of man and to his future destiny. His political sentiments were liberal and expansive, not cautiously circumscribed by one party-circle, or coldly limited to one small spot of earth, but connected with ardent aspirations after the general improvement and happiness of the human race. The liberality of his theological opinions was widely removed from indifference. His reading in divinity had been very extensive: he was well acquainted with the works of British and foreign theologians, particularly those who wrote in the Latin language during the seventeenth century. In his more elaborate publications he evinces no mean portion of erudition, ingenuity, and judgment; but the intellectual vigour and promptitude which he displayed in conversation, were such as to impress many of his friends with a still higher opinion of his capabilities than they derived from any of the numerous works which he communicated to the public.