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Title: Hugh Miller
Author: Leask, W. Keith (William Keith), 1857-
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Hugh Miller" ***

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Transcriber's Note: Minor typographical errors have been corrected
without note. Irregularities and inconsistencies in the text have
been retained as printed. Words printed in italics are noted with
underscores: _italics_.






The designs and ornaments of this volume are by Mr. Joseph Brown, and
the printing from the press of Messrs. T. and A. Constable, Edinburgh.


In the absence of material dealing especially with his last years in
Edinburgh a complete _Life_ of Hugh Miller will probably never be
attempted. I am informed by his daughter, Mrs. Miller Mackay, F. C.
Manse, Lochinver, that the letters and materials sent out to Australia
to form the basis of a projected biography by his son-in-law and
daughter disappeared, and have never been recovered. The recent deaths
of his son and of others who knew Hugh Miller in Cromarty and in
Edinburgh still more preclude the appearance of a full and authentic
presentation. To the scientist the works of Miller will ever form the
best biography; to the general reader and to those who, from various
causes, regard biography as made for man and not man for biography some
such sketch as the following may, it is believed, not be unacceptable.

To treat Hugh Miller apart from his surroundings of Church and State
would be as impossible as it would be unjust. Accordingly the
presentation deliberately adopted has been from his own standpoint--the
unhesitating and undeviating traditions of Scotland.

Geology has moved since his day. In the last chapter I have accordingly
followed largely in the steps of Agassiz in the selection of material
for a succinct account of Miller's main scientific and theological
standpoints or contributions. My best thanks are due to Principal
Donaldson of the University of St. Andrews for looking over the
proof-sheets; to Sir Archibald Geikie, Director-General of the
Geological Survey, London, for his admirable reminiscence of his early
friend contained in the last pages of this work; and to my friend J. D.
Symon, M.A., for the bibliography of Miller in the closing appendix.

W. K. L.

ABERDEEN, _April_ 1896.




EARLY DAYS--IN CROMARTY                                             9


IN EDINBURGH--THE CROMARTY BANK                                    37


THE SCOTTISH CHURCH, 1560-1843--'THE WITNESS'                      68


IN EDINBURGH--LAST YEARS                                           96


IN SCIENCE                                                        119

APPENDIX: BIBLIOGRAPHY                                            154




    'A wet sheet and a flowing sea,
    A wind that follows fast.'


The little town of Cromarty lies perched on the southern shore of the
entrance to the Firth of that name, and derives its name from the
Cromachty, the crook or winding of the magnificent stretch of water
known to Buchanan and the ancient geographers as the _Ecclesiastical
History_, 'in which the very greatest navies may rest secure from
storms.' In the history of Scotland the place is scarcely mentioned;
and, indeed, in literary matters is known only from its association
with the names of Hugh Miller and the rare figure of Sir Thomas
Urquhart of Cromarty, who had followed Charles II. to the 'crowning
mercy' of Worcester fight, to land at last in the Tower. But for the
silence of history the imagination or the credulity of the knight has
atoned, by the production of a chronicle which rivals fairly the
_Ecclesiastical History_ of the old wandering Scottish scholar
Dempster, who had in Italy patriotically found the Maccabees to be but
an ancient Highland family. According to Urquhart, whose translation of
Rabelais has survived his eccentric disquisitions in genealogy and
history, Alypos, the forty-third lineal descendant of Japhet, was the
first to discover Cromarty, and, when the Scythians under Ethus pitched
on the moor bounding the parish on the north, they had been opposed by
the grandson of Alcibiades; in proof of which Sir Thomas could
triumphantly point to remaining signs of 'trenches and castrametation'
with a confidence which would have won the heart of Jonathan Monkbarns
in _The Antiquary_.

The population of the district is essentially a mixed one, and strongly
retains the distinctive features of the Scandinavian and the Gael. From
Shetland to the Ord of Caithness, the population of the coast is
generally, if not wholly, of the former type. Beyond the Ord to the
north of the Firth of Cromarty, we find a wedge of Celtic origin, while
from the southern shore to the Bay of Munlochy the Scandinavian element
again asserts itself. Thus, as Carlyle escaped being born an Englishman
by but a few miles, the separation from the Celtic stratum was, in
Miller's case, effected by the narrow single line of the one-mile
ferry. In later years, at all events, he would refer with evident
satisfaction to his Teutonic origin. There was, as we shall have
occasion to notice, a certain Celtic lobe of imagination on the
mother's side, but in his mental and political character the great
leading features of the other race were undoubtedly predominant.

Whence Buchanan drew the possibilities of great fleets in the Firth of
Cromarty is unknown unless he had in his memory some of the vessels of
the old mariners, such as Sir Andrew Wood and the bold Bartons, or even
the 'verrie monstrous schippe the Great Michael' that 'cumbered all
Scotland to get her to sea.' Certain it is that for many a day its
position had marked out the town as the natural centre of a coasting
trade, though shortly after the Union the commerce of the place which
had been considerable had declined. The real commencement of the
prosperity of the place was due to the energy of a native, William
Forsyth, whose life Miller has sketched in a little memoir originally
drawn up for the family, and subsequently republished in his _Tales and
Sketches_ under the title of 'A Scottish Merchant of the Eighteenth
century.' Forsyth had been appointed by the British Linen Company,
established about 1746 in Edinburgh to promote the linen trade, its
agent in the North throughout the whole district extending from Beauly
to the Pentland Firth. The flax which was brought in vessels from
Holland was prepared for use in Cromarty, and distributed by boats
along the coast to Wick and Thurso. In the early days of the trade the
distaff and the spindle were in general use; but Forsyth's efforts were
successful in the introduction of the spinning-wheel, though the older
means of production lasted far into this century in the west of Ross
and in the Hebrides. The coasting schooners of the agent were the means
of introducing into the town teas and wines, cloth, glass, Flemish
tiles, Swedish iron, and Norwegian tar and spars. The rents of the
landed proprietors were still largely paid in kind, or in the feudal
labour by which the Baron of Bradwardine managed to eke out a rather
scanty rent roll. In this way the _mains_ or the demesnes of the laird
were tilled and worked, and the Martinmas corn rents were stocked in a
barn or 'girnal,' like that of the Antiquary's famous John of legend,
often to cause a surplus to hang on the hands of the proprietor, until
the idea was fortunately devised of exporting it to England or to
Flanders for conversion into malt.

Ship-carpentry or boat-building upon a humble scale had been long
established, and the coasting trade lay between the North, Leith,
Newcastle, and London. The Scottish sailors then on the eastern coast
enjoyed a strong reputation for piety, such as, we fear, their
descendants have not maintained. John Gibb of Borrowstouness, the
antiquary may remember as the founder of the now forgotten sect of
Gibbites or 'sweet singers,' who denounced all tolls and statutory
impositions, abolished the use of tobacco and all excisable articles,
and finally made a pilgrimage to the Pentland Hills to see the smoke
and the desolation of Edinburgh as foretold by their founder. The
wardrobes and scrutoires of the local cabinet-maker, Donald Sandison,
enjoyed a reputation through the North, and were, far into this
century, found in the houses of Ross, together with the old eight-day
clocks made in Kilwinning. But the great founder of its modern
prosperity was George Ross, the son of a small proprietor in Easter
Ross, who, after amassing a fortune as an army-agent as the friend of
Lord Mansfield and the Duke of Grafton, had in 1772 purchased the
estate of Cromarty. When he started his improvements in his native
district, there was not a wheeled-cart in all the parish, and the
knowledge of agriculture was rude. Green cropping and the rotation of
crops were unknown, and in autumn the long irregular patches of arable
land were intersected by stretches of moorland that wound deviously
into the land, like the reaches of the Cromarty and the Beauly Firths.
Though long opposed by tenacious local prejudices, he at length
triumphed over the backward habits of the people, who yoked their oxen
and their horses by the tail, and who justified their action by an
appeal to the argument from design, and by a query as to what other end
in creation such tails had been provided? Ross also established in the
town a manufactory for hempen cloth, and erected what at the time was
the largest ale-brewery in the North. A harbour was built at his own
expense, and a pork trade of a thriving nature set on foot, wheat
reared, the rotation of crops introduced, a nail and spade manufactory
set up, and lace manufactures brought from England. Such, then, was the
condition of Cromarty at the beginning of the present century.

Far different was that of the surrounding Highlands. Protestantism had
been at an early period introduced into Ross and Sutherland by its
Earls and by Lord Reay. The Earl of Sutherland had been the first to
subscribe the National Covenant in Greyfriars; and, after the
suppression of the first Jacobite rising, Sir Robert Munro of Fowlis,
as commissioner of the confiscated estates, had set himself to the
creation of parishes and presbyteries in remote districts, where the
Church of Scotland before had been unknown. In the better class of
houses the old Highland fireplace, like a millstone, still occupied its
place in the centre, with no corresponding aperture in the roof for the
smoke. In the Western districts the greatest distress prevailed, for
the country was at the parting of the ways in a time of transition.
About the beginning of the present century the results of the French
Revolution began to make themselves felt. Through the long war the
price of provisions rose to famine price, and the impecunious Highland
laird, like his more degenerate successor that battens on the sporting
proclivities of the Cockney or American millionaire, set himself to the
problem of increasing his rent-roll, and the system of evictions and
sheep-farming on a large scale commenced. The Sutherland clearances
forced the ejected Highlanders to Canada and the United States, while
the poorer classes drifted down from the interior to the already
overpopulated shore-line, where they eked out, as crofters or as
fishermen, a precarious existence without capital or the acquired
experience of either occupation, and laid the seeds of the future
crofter question. The manufacture of kelp, which for a time rendered
profitable to many a Highland proprietor his barren acres on a rocky
shore, was not destined to long survive the introduction of the
principles of Free Trade. The potato blight succeeded finally in
reducing the once fairly prosperous native of the interior to chronic
poverty and distress.

On the West Coast, the heavy rainfall is unfavourable to agriculture on
any extended scale. From Assynt to Mull the average rain-gauge is
thirty-five inches, and the cottars of Ross were threatened with the
fate of the Irish in Connemara, through periodic failures in the
herring fishery and liabilities for their scanty holdings to their
landlords. Miller found the men of Gairloch, in 1823, where the public
road was a good day's journey from the place, still turning up or
scratching the soil with the old Highland _cass-chron_, and the women
carrying the manure on their backs to the fields in spring, while all
the time they kept twirling the distaff--old and faded before their
time, like the women in some of the poorer cantons the traveller meets
with in Switzerland. Their constant employment was the making of yarn;
and, as we have seen, the spinning-wheel was for long as rare as the
possession of a plough or horse. The boats built for the fishing were
still caulked with moss dipped in tar and laid along the seams, the
ropes being made of filaments of moss-fir stripped with the knife,
while the sails were composed of a woollen stuff whose hard thread had
been spun on the distaff, for hemp and flax were practically unknown.
Such, in 1263, had at Largs been the equipment of the galleys of Haco,

    'When Norse and Danish galleys plied
    Their oars within the Firth of Clyde,
    And floated Haco's banner trim
    Above Norweyan warriors grim.'

    _Marmion_, iii. xx.

Such, too, had been the traditional custom for centuries after of the
boatbuilders in the Western Highlands.

In Cromarty, then, on the 10th of October 1802, Hugh Miller was
born--in a long, low-built six-roomed house of his great-grandfather,
one of the last of the old buccaneers of the Spanish Main, who had
thriftily invested his pieces of eight in house-property in his native
place. His mother was the great-granddaughter of Donald Roy of Nigg, of
whom, as a kind of Northern Peden or Cargill, traditions long lingered.
In his early days, Donald had been a great club and football player in
the Sunday games that had been fostered in the semi-Celtic parish by
King James's _Book of Sports_, and which, it may be remembered, had
been popular in the days of Dugald Buchanan of Rannoch at a time when
the observance of the seventh day and of the King's writ never ran
beyond the Pass of Killiecrankie. At the Revolution, however, Donald
had become the subject of religious convictions; and when, on the death
of Balfour of Nigg in 1756, an unpopular presentee, Mr. Patrick Grant,
was forced upon the parish, resistance was offered. Four years before
this, Gillespie of Carnock had been deposed on the motion of John
Home, author of _Douglas_, seconded by Robertson of Gladsmuir, the
subsequent historian of _Charles V._, for his refusal to participate in
the settlement of Richardson to Inverkeithing; and when some of the
presbytery, in fear of similar proceedings, had met for the induction,
they found an empty church and an old man protesting that 'if they
settled a man to the walls of that kirk, the blood of the parish of
Nigg would be required at their hands.' For long the entire parish
clung to the Church of Scotland, but never could they be induced to
enter the building again, and so they perforce allied themselves to the
Burgher Secession. Thus early was the non-intrusion principle made
familiar to Miller, and thus early were made manifest the miserable
effects of the high-handed policy which, begun in the long reign of
Robertson, was destined a century later to have such disastrous

In early youth his father had sailed in an East Indiaman, and during
the intervals of his Indian and Chinese voyages had learned to write
and add to his nautical knowledge stores of general reading and
information not then common among sailors. Storing up, instead of
drinking, his grog-money, he drove a small trade with the natives of
these countries in little articles that had excited their curiosity,
and for which, hints his distinguished son, the Custom-house dues were
never very punctually or rigorously paid. Pressed, however, by a
man-of-war that had borne down upon the Indiaman when in a state of
mutiny, after a brief experience of the stern discipline of the navy
not yet tempered by the measures of reform introduced after the mutiny
of the Nore, he returned when not much turned thirty to Cromarty, where
his savings enabled him to buy a coasting sloop and set up house. For
this the site was purchased at £400, a very considerable sum in those
days, and thus his son could, even in the high franchise qualifications
after the Reform Bill, exercise the right of voting for the Whig party.
The kelp trade, of which we have spoken, among other things engaged the
efforts of his father, who had been appointed agent in the North and
Hebrides for the Leith Glass-works. Driven by a storm round Cape Wrath
and through the Pentland Firth, the vessel, after striving to reach the
sheltered roadstead of the Moray Firth, was forced to put in at
Peterhead. On the 9th of November 1807 he set sail, but foundered with
all hands, by the starting, as was believed, of a plank. During more
than one hundred years the sea had been the graveyard of the family:
Miller's father, grandfather, and two grand-uncles had been all drowned
at sea.

At the time of his father's death the son had just by one month
completed his fifth year. At that time happened the circumstance which
he himself relates, and which we mention here in this place both for
the interest attaching to it in the history of his own mental
development, and for various subtle psychological reasons to which we
shall advert later, and which cannot fail to be observed by the careful
student of his works. The last letter to his wife had been written by
his father from Peterhead, and on its receipt, 'the house-door, which
had been left unfastened, fell open, and I was despatched from her side
to shut it. I saw at the open door, within less than a yard of my
breast, as plainly as ever I saw anything, a dissevered hand and arm
stretched towards me. Hand and arm were apparently those of a female:
they bore a livid and sodden appearance; and, directly fronting me,
where the body ought to have been, there was only blank transparent
space, through which I could see the dim forms of the objects beyond. I
commemorate the story as it lies fixed in my memory, without attempting
to explain it.' In after years he would say of such mental or visual
hallucinations that they were such as 'would render me a firm believer
in apparitions, could I not account for them in this way, as the
creatures of an imagination which had attained an unusual and even
morbid strength at a time when the other mental faculties were scarcely
at all unfolded.' In this connection the similar case of Chatterton
need only be alluded to, but the question will be treated again in
describing his later years.

Like Burns, Carlyle, and Scott, Miller seems to have borne the powerful
impress, mentally and physically, of his father. Yet, like the mothers
of the first two, Mrs. Miller bequeathed to her son his store of legend
and story and the imagination that was thus so early awakened. The new
house which his father had built remained for some little time after
his death untenanted; and, as the insurance of the sloop was deferred
or disputed by an insolvent broker, his mother had recourse to her
needle as the means by which she could best support her family. Three
children had been born, and her brothers came to her assistance and
lightened her task by taking her second daughter, a child of three, to
live with them. Both of the girls died of a fever within a few days of
each other, the one in her twelfth, and the other in her tenth year.

Of these two uncles, the James and Sandy of his _Schools and
Schoolmasters_, Miller has spoken with deserved affection and loyalty.
To them he confesses he owed more real education than ever he acquired
from all other sources; and, belonging as they do to the class of
humble and worthy men that seems pre-eminently the boast and pride of
Scottish life, they will merit a detailed account. Of this type some
little knowledge had been made known by Lord Jeffrey in his review of
Cromek's _Reliques_, where such men as the father of Burns and those of
his immediate circle were first introduced to their proper place as
those 'from whom old Scotia's grandeur springs.' In his own
_Reminiscences_, Carlyle has added to our acquaintance with these men
through his sketch of his own father and others, who are, says
Professor Blackie, the natural outcome of the republican form of our
Scottish Church government, and of the national system of education so
early developed by Knox and the first Reformers.

The elder of the two brothers, James, was a harness-maker in steady
employment in the surrounding agricultural district, so that from six
in the morning till ten at night his time would be fully occupied, thus
leaving him but scanty leisure. But, in the long evenings, he would fix
his bench by the hearth, and listen while his nephew or his own younger
brother or some neighbour would read. In the summer, he would occupy
his spare hours upon his journeys to and from his rural rounds of
labour in visiting every scene of legend and story far and near, and so
keen were his powers of perception and ready expression in matters of a
historical and antiquarian nature, that his nephew regrets he had not
become a writer of books. Some part of this information, however, he
has attempted to preserve in his _Scenes and Legends_.

To the younger brother, Alexander, he seems to have been even more
indebted. If to the one he owed his gift of ready and natural
expression, it was to the other that he was indebted for his powers of
observation. Originally educated as a cart-wright, he had served for
seven years in the navy, sailing with Nelson, witnessing the mutiny at
the Nore, the battle of Camperdown under Duncan, and sharing the
Egyptian campaign of Abercromby. Even on his discharge, he was still
ready in 1803 to shoulder a musket as a volunteer, when Napoleon at
Boulogne 'armed in our island every freeman.' The scientific interest,
too, of the man may be judged from the fact that in the Egyptian
expedition, during the landing, he managed to transfer a murex to his
pocket from the beach, and the first ammonite which formed the nucleus
of his nephew's geological collection was also brought home from an
English Liassic deposit. Facts like these and the presence of such men
should go far to dispel much of the cheap sentiment introduced into the
current of Scottish life by writers such as Smiles and others, who
profess to be ever finding some 'peasant' or 'uneducated genius' in the
subjects of their all too unctuous biographies. Such a class has really
no existence in Scotland, and between such men as Miller, Burns, or
even the unfortunate and sorely buffeted Bethunes, there is a great
gulf fixed when they are sought to be brought into relation with men
like John Clare and Robert Bloomfield. All the Scotchmen, born in
however originally humble circumstances, had the advantage of education
at the parish school; and, slight though in some cases the result may
have been, it yet for ever removes the possibility of illiteracy
which the English reader at once conjures up at the sound of such
surroundings. The more the critic studies the facts of Burns' early
years and education, and the really remarkable stock of information
with which he was to rouse the honest wonder of Dugald Stewart--his
mathematical attainments and his philosophical grasp, not to mention
his possession of a very powerful English prose style that makes every
line of his _Letters_ really alive and matterful--the less we shall
hear of peasant genius and untaught writers. We question if one half of
the members of the Edinburgh bar, such as Lockhart has described them
at the arrival of Burns in Edinburgh, had reached such an amount of
general and poetical literature as that easily held in command by the
poet. We have heard an old schoolfellow of Edward Irving and Carlyle at
the burgh school of Annan remark on the misconception of Froude as to
the true social rank of their respective parents. Horace and Burns
seem, as Theodore Martin has shown, not unlike in the matter of their
fathers, and the possession of such sets their children far out of that
circle of contracted social and moral surroundings in which the
biographers of the Smiles class have too long set them.

The knowledge of his letters Miller seems, like the elder Weller, to
have acquired from a study of the local signboards, and in his sixth
year he was sent to a dame's school, where he spelt his way through
the old curriculum of a child's education in Scotland--the Shorter
Catechism, the Proverbs, and the New Testament. He managed to discover
for himself the story of Joseph; and even in the old six-volume edition
of Lintot the genius of Homer was early made manifest. _The Pilgrim's
Progress_, evidently in some such form as Macaulay has described, made
for the cottage, followed; and, in course of time, the collection of
books which his father had left was eagerly devoured. Among them were
_Robinson Crusoe_, _Gulliver's Travels_--both never so familiar in
Scotland to boys as they are in England--Cook's _Voyages_, John Howie
of Lochgoin's _Worthies_, the _Voyages_ of Anson, Drake, Raleigh,
Dampier, and Byron, 'my grand-dad's narrative' of the poet. It was not
till his tenth year that he became, as he says, 'thoroughly a Scot,'
and this was effected by a perusal of Blind Harry's _Wallace_, that
'Bible of the Scottish people,' as Lord Hailes has called it, following
or anticipating the remark by Wolf as to the similar position of the
_Iliad_ and the _Odyssey_ among the Greeks. No one now need be informed
about the influence that quaint old work had produced in Burns, and
through him on the subsequent re-awakening of the national spirit at
the end of the eighteenth century. Barbour's _Bruce_ has remained the
possession of the scholar and the antiquary, while this work of the old
minstrel, literally 'sung by himself for small earnings and good cheer,
at festivals and other days of merriment,' as Bentley had said of his
great predecessor, has had an abiding influence on literature, and on
the national character. 'Up to Crummade (Cromarty) and through the
Northland' had blind Harry, with a fine patriotism, and, we fear, a
total disregard for geography, made his hero effect a raid. When a man
has got a view from Dan to Beersheba in which to smite the enemy hip
and thigh, he need not be troubled with a few outlying counties.

The parish school of Cromarty which Miller attended numbered about a
hundred and twenty boys and girls. The windows of the building fronted
the opening of the Cromarty Firth, recalling at least by 'the mystery
of the ships' the Portland of Longfellow's own early days. The tax of
twenty peats to the school from the Highland boatmen paid for every
boat in the trade recalls the salary of the public hangman of Inverness
and Aberdeen, and the dues often formed the subject of debate between
the boys and the irate Gaels, who did not fail to retort the taunt of
the hangman's perquisite. The schoolmaster was a worthy that might have
sat for the figure of Jonathan Tawse in Dr. Alexander's _Johnny Gibb_,
and was, though a fair scholar, rather inefficient as a disciplinarian
and teacher. Yet it was his boast--one now, alas, in these days sadly
becoming obsolete--that he sent forward more lads to the bursary
competition at the Northern university than any other teacher, and his
'heavy class' of a few boys in Latin was increased by his persuading
the willing Uncle James to set Miller to the _Rudiments_ in that
time-honoured volume by Ruddiman, who had in his own days been a first
bursar at Aberdeen. The teaching of Latin had been one of the props to
education introduced by the Reformers, and so distinct had been the
little note of pedantry, perhaps in this way fostered, that Smollett
makes the barber in _Roderick Random_ quote Horace in the original, and
Foote in a farce has made a valet insist on its possession as a
shibboleth of nationality. We need but mention the favourite quotations
in the ancient tongue by the Baron of Bradwardine and Dugald Dalgetty
as a reminiscence of his own old days 'at the Marischal College'; while
Miller also could remember an old cabinet-maker who carried for the
sake of the big print a Latin New Testament to church. But no more with
him than with Darwin could the linguistic faculty be stimulated. The
_Rudiments_ he thought the dullest book he had ever seen, and though in
after-life he regretted the lost opportunity that at five-and-twenty
might have made him a scholar and thus have saved ten of the best
working years of his life, it may be doubted if in his case the loss
amounted to more than in the case of Macaulay, who affected to bewail
his loss of mathematics. In their truest form, scholars, like
naturalists, are born and not made, nor will any labour in the
linguistic field yield much to the scientist. The poet Gray wisely
lamented the loss of time in his own case through forced labour at
mathematics, a remark not even yet fully appreciated in Scotland, where
the system of general excellence--that system under which Johnson so
happily remarked that, while each man got a bite, no one got a
bellyful--has too long stunted the learning of the country and proved
the bane alike of her schools and universities. 'As for Latin, I
abominate it,' we find him writing from Cromarty in December 1838, in a
letter now before us, 'and ever did since I burnt my _Rudiments_.'

More congenial amusement he found in the exercise of his story-telling
faculty. When the master's back was turned, the _Sennachie_, as the
master called him, would gather round him the other boys and narrate to
them the adventures of his uncle, the story of Gulliver, and the
shipwreck of Robinson Crusoe, or even the mysteries of Mrs. Radcliffe.
When the sixty volumes of his father and the hundred and sixty of his
uncles had been consumed, he fell in with a collection of essayists
from Addison to Henry Mackenzie, the influence of which, along with
Goldsmith's _Citizen of the World_, remained to the last as a powerful
impress upon his prose style. But he was rapidly finding his national
and true school. The Hill of Cromarty, part of De Beaumont's Ben-Nevis
system, and the rich Liassic deposit of Eathie, were his favourite
haunts, and his uncle Alexander, after his own work was done, would
spend with him many an hour in the ebb tide. To the training thus
acquired from this untaught naturalist he owed much of his own close
powers of observation, which led, however, well-nigh to a fatal
termination through an adventurous visit to the Doo-cot caves, from
which he was rescued late at night during a high tide. This formed the
subject of his first copy of juvenile verse, which was recited 'with
vast applause' by the handsomest girl at the Cromarty boarding
establishment kept by Miss Elizabeth Bond. In her own early days she
had known the father and mother of Scott; and, when in 1814 she had
published her _Letters of a Village Governess_, she had dedicated them
to the great novelist, who later on in the midst of his own troubles,
living in lodgings away from Abbotsford, could yet remember to send her
ten pounds 'to scare the wolf from the door,' as he cheerily remarked,
when she had found the truth of her own saying that it was hard for a
single woman to get through the world 'without a head'--unmarried.

His reading at this time received a curious extension through there
falling into his hands a copy of _Military Medley_ belonging to a
retired officer, and on the shore he would carry out plans of
fortification as therein set forth by the great French engineer Vauban.
With sand for towers, and variegated shells and limpets for soldiers,
he worked his way through the evolutions of troops, and no reader of
Scott will fail to remember the similar action by Sir Walter which, in
the introduction to the third canto of _Marmion_, he describes as
taking place at Sandy Knowe, in the air of the Cheviots, near the old
tower of Smailholme that 'charmed his fancy's waking hour':--

    'Again I fought each combat o'er,
    Pebbles and shells in order laid
    The mimic ranks of war displayed.'

Nor will he fail to note the exact and characteristic point of
difference in the two children, and how in each the child was father of
the man. So early in both was the natural instinct of the future
historian and the geologist awakened.

At a later period he seems rather to have become an unruly lad, and to
have proved too much for his relations to manage. He was in the stage
when such boys run away to sea or enlist, and his father's own calling
might, from its well-nigh hereditary nature, have been thought to be
the one most likely to be adopted. He enjoyed a somewhat dangerous
reputation through carrying a knife and stabbing a companion in the
thigh, but these escapades may in later years have been unconsciously
heightened by remorse for wasted opportunities, and which in his case
we have seen to amount to little or nothing. But the circle of his own
companions was changing or breaking up, and it became necessary to
decide on the future. His mother, after being a widow for well-nigh a
dozen years, had married again, and he determined on being a mason, an
occupation which he thought would, by his being employed in labour at
intermittent seasons, afford him plenty leisure. Against this
resolution both his uncles stoutly protested, and were prepared to
assist him to the Northern university. 'I had no wish,' he says, 'and
no peculiar fitness to be either lawyer or doctor; and as for the
Church, that was too serious a direction to look in for one's bread,
unless one could necessarily regard one's-self as called to the
Church's proper work, and I could not.' His uncles agreed to this view
of the case; and so, reluctantly, the proposed course was abandoned.
'Better be anything,' they said, 'than an _uncalled_ minister.' His was
not the feeble sense of fitness possessed in such a high degree by the
presentees to Auchterarder and Marnoch. As a member of the Moray nation
he would naturally have proceeded to King's College in Aberdeen, then
at the very lowest ebb of its existence as regards the abilities, or
the want of them, of the wondrous corps of professors who filled its
chairs. Carlyle in his _Sartor_ has drawn certainly no flattering
picture of the Edinburgh of his days, and his friend Professor Masson
in the early volumes of _Macmillan's Magazine_ has put before us the no
less wonderful spectacle of the Marischal College of his own student
life; nor would the state of King's College about 1820 yield much
material for respect. The professoriate was grossly ignorant and
conceited, and nepotism was rampant. As a child, we can recall the last
expiring flicker of the race, and when we add that one aspiring
graduate had published a pamphlet to refute Newton, and that the
theology was of the wintriest type of even Aberdonian moderatism,
couched in the most remote imitation of the rhetorical flights in
_The Man of Feeling_, we have said enough to show that Miller certainly
lost nothing by non-attendance at the classes in Aberdeen.

But it was not without reluctance that his resolve to become a mason
was allowed by his uncles. However, at last, there being another uncle
on the mother's side who was a mason contracting for small jobs, and
who employed an apprentice or two, he was bound apprentice for three
years, from February 1820 to November 1822 and entered on the trade of
mason and quarryman, for in the North the combination was constant.
Long after, in the _Old Red Sandstone_ he has described his first day's
experience in the sandstone quarry, when, in that early spring morning
and with a heavy heart, he set out to experience his first battle in
the stern school of the world:

    'I was but a slim, loose-jointed boy at the time, fond of the
    pretty intangibilities of romance, and of dreaming when broad
    awake; and, woful change! I was now going to work at what Burns has
    instanced in his _Twa Dogs_ as one of the most disagreeable of all
    employments. Bating the passing uneasiness occasioned by a few
    gloomy anticipations, the portion of my life which had already gone
    by had been happy beyond the common lot. I had been a wanderer
    among rocks and woods--a reader of curious books when I could get
    them--a gleaner of old traditional stories; and now I was going to
    exchange all my day-dreams and all my amusements for the kind of
    life in which men toil every day that they may be enabled to eat,
    and eat every day that they may be enabled to toil. The quarry in
    which I wrought lay on the southern shore of a noble inland bay, or
    firth rather (the Bay of Cromarty), with a little clear stream on
    the one side and a thick fir wood on the other. It had been opened
    in the Old Red Sandstone of the district, and was overtopped by a
    huge bank of diluvial clay, and which rose over it in some places
    to the height of nearly thirty feet.'

He was to experience constant fits of depression and exhaustion, which
caused sleep-walking; and though this after a time passed away, it was
yet in later years to recur with fatal effects. In his master he was
fortunate. He was one who would fully have come up to Carlyle's
standard of his own father, 'making a conscience of every stone he
laid.' Unconsciously, also, the apprentice was laying the foundations
of the educated sense of sight so essential to the mason, and which
was to stand him in excellent service in later years of geological
ramblings. But the life was a hard one, from the surroundings in which
the trade of a north-country mason had to be carried on. Living in a
small village, where the lack of steady employment was naturally often
felt, he had to eke out a living by odd jobs in the country, building
farm-steadings or outhouses, with but scanty shelter and in
surroundings too often unfavourable to comfort or morality. His
experience of the bothy-system thus acquired by personal hardship he
was in later years to turn to account in his leaders in _The
Witness_--'I have lived,' he says, 'in hovels that were invariably
flooded in wet weather by the over-flowings of neighbouring swamps,
and through whose roofs I could tell the hour at night, by marking
from my bed the stars that were passing over the openings along the
ridge.' He was now to feel the truth of his uncles' warnings in
dissuading him from the occupation. They had pointed to a hovel on a
laird's property, who had left it standing that at some future date it
might be turned to profit when he should have a drove of swine, or
when a 'squad' of masons would pass that way. The life which had been
introduced by the large farm system had been criticised already by
Burns, who in the jottings of his _Highland Tour_ had been struck by
the superior intelligence of the Ayrshire cottar to the stolid
boorishness of the agricultural labourer in the districts of the
Lothians and the Merse. Recent legislation has largely mitigated the
evils of the system which, even in a higher scale of comfort, has
received a stern indictment in the eighth chapter of Dr. William
Alexander's excellent work which we have before quoted, and to which,
as the classic of the movement with which Miller's life is associated,
we shall again refer. 'Better,' said Cobbett, who had studied it
during a brief sojourn in the country, 'the fire-raisings of Kent than
the bothy system of Scotland.'

Even geological rambles and communings with the Muse afforded but scant
alleviation of the hardships endured. During rainy weather the food
would often be oatmeal eaten raw, at times with no salt save from a
passing Highland smuggler, or consist of hastily prepared gruel or
_brochan_. In time he learned to be a fair plain cook and baker,
so as at least to satisfy the demands of the failing teeth of his old
master. Accordingly, he was not sorry when the three years of his
apprenticeship closed, and as a skilled labourer he could retire about
the Martinmas of 1822 to Cromarty, where his first piece of work was a
cottage built with his own hands for his aunt.

In 1823 he was with a working party at Gairloch, and was there for the
last time to experience the discomforts in the life of the working
mason when employed by a niggard Highland laird. Forced from the barn
in which they were at first domiciled into a cow-house to make room for
the hay, they found themselves called upon to convert the materials of
this hovel into the new building upon which they were engaged. This
they effected by demolishing the entrance gradually, and hanging mats
over it, leaving themselves ultimately to the cold October wind which
not even Miller's experiences as a boy of the caves in the Sutors of
Cromarty could render tolerable. But he had begun to see that the
sphere of constant employment was narrow and narrowing in his native
place, and, as the building mania in the South at the time seemed to
afford a better opening for a steady workman, to Edinburgh accordingly
he resolved to betake himself.

There was the additional reason in a desire to free the family from
the burden of a house on the Coalhill of Leith, which had long before
fallen to his father through the legacy of a relative, and which had
threatened, through legal expenses, lack of tenants, and depreciated
value, to become a serious legacy indeed. The parish church of North
Leith had been erected, and he had been rated as a heritor for a sum
so considerable that the entire year's rental of the dilapidated
tenement was swallowed up, together with most of his savings as a
mason. He had come of age when in the miserable hovel at Gairloch we
have described, and was now competent to deal with his luckless
property. Setting sail in the Leith smack running between Cromarty and
that port, he entered the Firth of Forth four days after losing sight
of the Sutors. He saw with interest Dunottar Castle and the Bass Rock
chronicled in the well-known lines of his friend, Dr. Longmuir of
Aberdeen. Indeed the latter had for him peculiar associations through
one of the Ross-shire worthies in the times of Charles II.--James
Fraser of Brea;--for, when the sun set on the upland farm on which he
had been born, Miller knew that it was time to collect his tools at
the end of his day's labour. In 1847, when he visited the rock on the
geological expedition which he has commemorated by his paper on the
structure of the Bass, his thoughts again reverted to Fraser, and to
two other captives from his own district, Mackilligen of Alness and
Hog of Kiltearn. His uncle James had at an early period introduced him
to Burns and Fergusson, while from his boyish days the old novel of
Smollett, _Humphrey Clinker_, had been no less familiar than from the
pages of _David Copperfield_ we know it to have been to Dickens. It
was, therefore, with no small interest that he caught his first view
of Arthur Seat and the masts of the shipping in the harbour of Leith.
It was still the veritable Auld Reekie' of Fergusson, preserving its
quaint distinctiveness by the happy blending of the divisions of the
old town and the new--the old town through which, says Lockhart, the
carriage of Scott would creep at the slowest of paces, driven by the
most tactful and discriminating of Jehus, while every gable and
buttress in what a recent prosaic English guide-book denominates the
most dilapidated street in Europe would crowd its storied memories
upon the novelist and poet of the _Chronicles of the Canongate_. To
the last, like Carlyle, he preserved the memory, ever a landmark to
the patriotic Scot, of his first day in the old 'romantic town' of Sir
Walter, and of his impressions of the most picturesque of European



    'I view yon Empress of the North
        Sit on her hilly throne.'


He had not long to experience what Gilbert Burns said was to his
brother the saddest of all sights, that of a man seeking work. He had
called on the town-clerk to see whether some means could be devised of
setting himself free from the property when, on mentioning his
occupation, he was not only told the prospect of a sale was not so
hopeless as he had expected, but was introduced to a builder erecting a
mansion-house in the south of Edinburgh. He lodged in the village of
Niddry Mill, and found his experience of life among metropolitan
labourers the very reverse of favourable.

His not very high opinion of the working classes, for, as we shall
see, Miller remained a Whig to the last with a wholesome horror for
Radicals and Chartists, was doubtless due to the circumstances under
which he found himself, and not to any feeling of superiority on his
part. The social condition of the working classes was then on the eve
of transition, and the organisation of even skilled labour was but in
a rudimentary condition. In Edinburgh at least, the better class of
mechanics sought within the walls of the city a more remunerative
sphere for their labour, so that it was only the inferior body of
workmen that was found on the outskirts. At first, he was subjected
to a good deal of low and petty tyranny from his fellow-labourers,
which was not calculated to improve his opinion of the class. Some
slight relief, however, he managed to find in the new geological
surroundings--the carboniferous deposits--and by observation and
theory he made his way to some good results in his own science, at
a time when there was no map, manual, or even geological primer
in existence. The policies of Niddry and walks in the ruins of
Craigmillar were a solace from the drunken and intemperate habits of
the men, whose forty-eight shillings for the fortnight's wage were
soon consumed by Sunday drives to Roslin or Hawthornden, or by
drinking bouts in the lower rookeries of the High Street. There still
largely prevailed the convivial habits such as Fergusson has described
as characteristic of the Edinburgh of his day, the tavern 'jinks'
alluded to by Scott in _Guy Mannering_, and by Lockhart in his _Life
of Burns_. In the taverns the landlords kept a cockpit or a badger as
a necessary part of their attraction. Employment being constant
through the pressure of the building mania prevalent throughout this
year, the masters were largely at the mercy of the men, so that
strikes were rife and the demands of the workers exorbitant.
Altogether it was no favourable school for Miller to learn regard for
his own class. Again and again, to the end, do we find not undeserved
denunciations of the dangers of Chartism, and his own reiterated
belief that for the skilled workman there is no danger, and for the
thriftless no hope.

The collier villages round Niddry have long since disappeared. The
seams have for all practical purposes been worked out, or have been
given up as unprofitable. There he found the last surviving remains of
slavery in Scotland, for the older men of the place, though born and
bred 'within a mile of Edinburgh toun,' had yet been born slaves. The
modern reader will find much curious information upon this subject in
Erskine's _Institutes_; but, in passing, we may recall the fact that
Sir Walter Scott has mentioned the case of Scott of Harden and his
lady, who had rescued by law a tumbling-girl who had been sold by her
parents to a travelling mountebank, and who was set at liberty after
an appeal to the Lords, against the decision of the Chancellor. Scott
was assoilzied; but, even as late as 1799, an Act of Parliament had to
be passed dealing specially with this last remnant of feudal
slavery--the salters and the colliers of Scotland. The old family of
the Setons of Winton had, along with others, exercised great political
influence and pressure on the Court of Session, and had repeatedly
managed to defeat or evade measures of reform. A law had even been
passed enacting that no collier or salter, without a certificate from
his last place, could find work, but should be held as a thief and
punished as such, while a later ordinance was that, as they 'lay from
their work at Pasche, Yule and Whitsunday, to the great offence of God
_and prejudice of their masters_,' they should work every day in the
week except at Christmas! Clearly there was no Eight Hours Bill in Old

His lodging was a humble one-roomed cottage in Niddry, owned by an old
farm-servant and his wife. The husband, when too old for work, had been
discharged by his master, whose munificence had gone the length of
allowing residence in the dilapidated building, on the understanding
that he was not to be held liable for repairs. The thatch was repaired
by mud and turf gathered from the roadside, and in this crazy tenement
the old man and his wife, both of whom had passed through the world
without picking up hardly a single idea, were exposed to the biting
east winds of the district. A congenial fellow-lodger was fortunately
found in the person of another workman, one of the old Seceders, deep
in the theology of Boston and Rutherfurd, and such works as had formed
the reading of his uncles in Cromarty, for at this time the sense of
religion, at least among the humbler classes, was well-nigh confined to
the ranks of dissent. Many of the inhabitants of the place were or had
been nominal parishioners of 'Jupiter' Carlyle of Inveresk. But the
doctor had not been one to do much for the social or religious advance
of his people. Jupiter, or 'Old Tonans,' as he was called from sitting
to Gavin Hamilton the painter for his portrait of Jupiter, had been the
fanatical defender of the theatre at a time when his friend John Home,
the writer of _Douglas_, had been compelled by public opinion to seek
relief from pulpit duties, and a more fitting sphere for his rants of
'Young Norval on the Grampian Hills' in the ranks of the laity. Carlyle
and his friend Dr. Hugh Blair were constant patrons of the legitimate
drama in the old playhouse in the Canongate, when the burghers at night
would 'dauner hame wi' lass and lantern' after the manner described
with such power by Scott in the Tolbooth scene of _Rob Roy_. On one
occasion, the doctor had, for once in his long life, to play the part
of non-intrusionist, when he repelled vigorously with a bludgeon the
attempt of some wild sparks to force an entry into his box! Missions he
denounced in the spirit of a fanatical supporter of the repressive
régime of Pitt and Dundas. He trusted to the coming of Christ's Kingdom
by some lucky accident or sleight of hand, 'as we are informed it shall
be in the course of Providence.' He had no belief in 'a plan which has
been well styled visionary.' In the closing years of his own life, the
very slight modicum of zeal for the discharge of his ministerial duties
ebbed so low that he left these entirely to an assistant, and spent the
Sunday on the Musselburgh race-course. Yet this is the man whom Dean
Stanley with exquisite infelicity selects as one of the heroes of the
Church of Scotland. In the picture of old 'Jupiter' there is something
that recalls the belief of the erratic Lord Brougham, when he voted
against the Veto Act and the right to protest against unsuitable
presentees, from fear that it might end in 'rejecting men too strict in
morals and too diligent in duty to please our vitiated tastes!'
Carlyle's _Autobiography_ is one of the most instructive of books; like
the similar disclosure by Benvenuto Cellini, it is the presentation of
a man who is destitute of a moral sense.

Although in the pulpits of the metropolis Moderatism was but only too
well represented, there were yet some striking exceptions. Sir Walter
Scott, whose feelings led him strongly in the direction of the
Latitudinarian party, has yet drawn in _Guy Mannering_ an admirable
sketch of Dr. John Erskine, the colleague of Principal Robertson in the
Greyfriars, and for long the leader of the Evangelical party in the
Church of Scotland. Some of the members of that party were gladly heard
by Miller, but his greatest delight he confesses to have been in
hearing the discourses of the old Seceder, Dr. Thomas M'Crie. 'Be
sure,' said his uncles to him on leaving Cromarty, 'and go to hear
M'Crie.' The doctor was no master of rhetoric or of pulpit eloquence,
but the doctrine was the theology of the true descendant of the men of
Drumclog and Bothwell. Nothing is more characteristic of the university
system of Scotland than that the greatest ecclesiastical scholar she
could produce was to be found in a humble seceding chapel at the foot
of Carrubber's Close. In Scotland, at least within the present century,
no more influential book has been published than his _Life of Knox_,
which silently made its appearance in 1811. In the revival of
ecclesiastical and national feeling in the country the book will ever
remain a classic and a landmark. There it occupies the place which, in
the field of classical and historical scholarship, is taken by Wolf's
_Prolegomena to Homer_. Lord Jeffrey could truly declare that to fit
one's-self for the task of even a reviewer of M'Crie, the special
reading of several years would be necessary. Its influence was at once
felt. The 'solemn sneer' of the Humes, Gibbons, Robertsons, and
Tytlers, and, be it mentioned with regret, of even Scott in that
unworthy squib against the religion of his country, _Old Mortality_,
had done much, at least among the _literati_ and the upper classes, to
obliterate and sap a belief or knowledge of the great work which had
been accomplished for civil liberty by the early reformers; but now
the school of flimsy devotees of Mary, Montrose and Claverhouse,
with its unctuous retention of the sneer (or, historically meant,
compliment) of the Merry Monarch as to Presbyterianism being no fit
religion for a gentleman, the school whose expiring flicker is seen in
Aytoun's _Lays of the Scottish Cavaliers_, was for ever exploded by
the research of M'Crie. It was in an unlucky hour that Scott ventured
a reply to the strictures of his reviewer. Never was humiliation more
deep or more bitterly felt by the novelist. The novel of Scott is
about as gross a caricature as 'Carrion' Heath's _Life_ of Oliver
Cromwell, and for the historical restoration of the great Reformer,
M'Crie has done in his book what Carlyle, in his _Letters of
Cromwell_, has for ever effected for the true presentation of the

In the bookstalls of the city he would pick up some new additions to
his shelf. At odd hours, too, he would hang about Castle Street in the
hope of seeing Sir Walter Scott. The capital at this time, though sadly
shorn of its old literary coteries in the days of Burns, still numbered
such men as Jeffrey, Cockburn, Dugald Stewart, and Professor Wilson;
and he did manage, one evening, to spend some hours with a cousin in
Ambrose's, where the famous club used to hold their meetings in a room
below. But none of these faces was he then destined to know in the
flesh, and the 'pride of all Scotsmen' whom Carlyle met in the
Edinburgh streets, 'worn with care, the joy all fled,' had passed away
the next time when Miller visited the capital.

Work, we have seen, was plentiful in the town. The great fire had swept
Parliament Close and the High Street, carrying with it the steeple of
the old Tron, and many of the lofty tenements that formed such a
feature of Old Edinburgh. But he was feeling the first effects of the
stone-cutters' disease, and his lungs, affected by the stone dust,
threatened consumption. He states that few of his class reached the age
of forty through the trouble, and not more than one in fifty ever came
to forty-five. But circumstances fortunately enabled him at this
critical juncture to leave work for a time. The house on the Coalhill
had turned out better than was expected, and, with a clear balance of
fifty pounds in his pocket, he could set sail for Cromarty, where,
after a weary seven days' voyage through fog and mist, he was met on
landing by his uncles. Not for ten years, and then under very different
circumstances, was he again to see Edinburgh.

During this period of convalescence he experienced a religious change,
leading to positions from which he never saw reason to recede. 'It is,'
he says, 'at once delicate and dangerous to speak of one's own
spiritual condition, or of the emotional sentiments on which one's
conclusions regarding it are so often doubtfully founded. Egotism in
the religious form is perhaps more tolerated than any other, but it is
not on that account less perilous to the egotist himself. There need
be, however, less delicacy in speaking of one's beliefs than of one's
feelings.' This last remark is eminently characteristic at once of the
individual and of the national type of severe reticence on internal
religious experience. This may serve to throw some light on the taunt
flung by Dr. Johnson, in one of his most boisterous moods in Skye, at
the head of Boswell. 'Can you,' he asked, 'name one book of any value
on a religious subject written by the Scottish clergy?' Johnson does
not seem to be dwelling on specifically theological works; he has
rather in his mind the manuals of a homiletic or devotional order, in
which he rather wildly asserts 'the clergy of England to have produced
the most valuable works in theory and practice.' It might fairly have
been retorted on Johnson that, were this so, the physicians at least
had ministered but poorly to themselves, by quoting to him his own
remark that he had never once met with a sincerely religious English
clergyman; but Bozzy, patriotic for once, fell upon the defence of
faithful discharge of pulpit ministrations and poor endowments. It
might have been wiser to have fallen back on the long and militant
struggle of the Church of Scotland for her existence, wiser still to
have based the defence on national and psychological grounds. Nothing
in the Scottish character is more remarkable than the absence of the
feeling that led Luther and Wesley to a constant introspection, or at
least to its frank outward expression and effusive declaration of their
spiritual state. Some little knowledge of this national trait we think
would have saved much windy and remote declamation about fanaticism,
gloomy austerity, and enthusiasm--that mental bugbear of the eighteenth
century, and well-nigh sole theological stock-in-trade of the
gentlemanly and affected school of Hume and Robertson. The absence of
anything like mysticism either in the nation or in its theology has
been, therefore, unfavourable to the appearance of any cheap or verbal
pietism. Calvinism, it may be added, is poor in comparison with
Lutheranism, poorer still when contrasted in this respect with the
Roman Church; for, while the former has Behmen and Swedenborg, and the
latter many names such as Guyon and Rosmini among a host, Scotland has
nothing of this kind, unless in the case of Erskine of Linlathen or
Campbell of Row. The reason for this would seem to be that Calvinism
has both a religious and a political side. As a philosophic creed, at
least in details, it affords a completeness of presentation that leaves
no room or indeed desire to pass behind the veil and dwell on the
unknowable and the unknown.

Miller, at all events, found that hitherto his life had lacked a
'central sun,' as he expresses it, round which his feelings and
intellect could anchor themselves. This he found by a curiously
instructive combination of historical and geological reasoning.
Professor Blackie has pointed out that the true secret of the vitality
of the old Paganism and its logical internal consistency simply lay in
the fact of the great humanity of the deities it created. This, also,
as Miller himself no less clearly shows, is at the bottom of the
enduring element in the lower reaches of Catholicism. 'There is,' says
our Scottish Neander, Rabbi John Duncan, 'an old cross stone of granite
by the roadside as you wind up the hill at Old Buda, in Hungary, upon
which a worn and defaced image of our Saviour is cut, which I used
often to pass. The thorough woebegoneness of that image used to haunt
me long--that old bit of granite, the ideal of human sorrow, weakness
and woebegoneness. To this day it will come back before me--always with
that dumb gaze of perfect calmness--no complaining--the picture of meek
and mute suffering. I am a Protestant and dislike image-worship, yet
never can I get that statue out of my mind.' This, then, to Miller
formed the 'central sun'--'the Word made flesh;' not merely as a
received mental doctrine, but as a fact laid hold of, and round which
other facts find their true position and explanation. 'There may be,'
he allows, 'men who, through a peculiar idiosyncrasy of constitution,
are capable of loving, after a sort, a mere abstract God, unseen and
unconceivable; though, as shown by the air of sickly sentimentality
borne by almost all that has been said and written on the subject, the
feeling in its true form must be a very rare and exceptional one. In
all my experience of men I never knew a genuine instance of it. The
love of an abstract God seems to be as little natural to the ordinary
human constitution as the love of an abstract sun or planet.'

No less interesting are his arguments from the geological position. It
was a difficulty which had long lain heavy on the mind of Byron when,
the reader may remember, in his last days in 1823 he beat over much
theological and metaphysical jungle with the Scottish doctor
Kennedy--the greatness of the universe and the littleness of the
paragon of animals man, and the consequent difficulty of satisfactorily
allowing a redemptive movement in Heaven for man in all his petty
weakness. Pascal had attempted to meet this by what Hallam calls 'a
magnificent lamentation' and by a metaphysical subtlety, reasoning from
this very smallness to his ultimate greatness. But the geological
reasoning of Miller has the undoubted merit of being scientific and
inductive. In geology the dominant note is, in one word, progress.
'There was a time in our planet,' and it will be noted that the
argument is perfectly independent of the appearance of man, late with
himself, early with Lyell, 'when only dead matter appeared, after which
plants and animals of a lower order were made manifest. After ages of
vast extent the inorganic yielded to the organic, and the human period
began,--man, a fellow-worker with the Creator who first produced it.
And of the identity of at least his intellect with that of his Maker,
and, of consequence, of the integrity of the revelation which declares
that he was created in God's own image, we have direct evidence in his
ability of not only conceiving of God's own contrivances, but even of
reproducing them, and this not as a mere imitator, but as an original
thinker.' Man thus, as Hegel says, re-thinks Creation. But higher yet
the tide of empire takes its way. The geologist is not like the
Neapolitan thinker, Vico, with his doctrine of recurring cycles in man.
The geologist 'finds no example of dynasties once passed away again
returning. There has been no repetition of the dynasty of the fish--of
the reptile--of the mammal. The long ascending line from dead matter to
man has been a progress Godwards--not an asymptotical progress, but
destined from the first to furnish a point of union; and occupying that
point as true God and true man, as Creator and created, we recognise
the adorable Monarch of all the future.' Such an argument is indeed a
reach above the vaguely declamatory theory of Swinburne of man being
the master of all things, and above the theory of Feuerbach that finds
God merely in the enlarged shadow projected by the Ego.

His somewhat impaired strength led him to think of a livelihood through
little jobs of monumental stonework in a style superior to that
introduced as yet into the countryside, and to this period of
observation of the Scottish character acquired through living in the
vicinity of farm-houses, villages, churchyards, as the varying means of
lodging were afforded him, he ascribed much of the knowledge which he
turned to so good an editorial account. In the company, too, of the
parish minister Stewart he was happy, for, according to his own
conviction and the testimony of many others, he was a man of no
ordinary acuteness and of unquestioned pulpit ability. Indeed, Miller
never hesitated to declare that for the fibre of his whole thinking he
was more indebted to Chalmers and to this almost unknown Cromarty
minister than to any two other men. Stewart's power seems to have lain
in the detection of subtle analogies and in pictorial verbal power, in
which he resembled Guthrie. In an obituary notice in _The Witness_ of
Nov. 13, 1847 he dwells with affection on the man, and illustrates
admirably the type of intellect and its dangers. 'Goldsmith,' he
observes, 'when he first entered upon his literary career, found that
all the good things on the side of truth had been already said; and
that _his_ good things, if he really desired to produce any, would
require all to be said on the side of paradox and error. Poor Edward
Irving formed a melancholy illustration of this species of originality.
His stock of striking things on the side of truth was soon expended;
notoriety had meanwhile become as essential to his comfort as ardent
spirits to that of the dram-drinker; and so, to procure the supply of
the unwholesome pabulum, without which he could not exist, he launched
into a perilous ocean of heterodoxy and extravagance, and made
shipwreck of his faith. Stewart's originality was not the originality
of opening up new vistas in which all was unfamiliar, simply because
the direction in which they led was one in which men's thought had no
occasion to travel and no business to perform. It was the greatly
higher ability of enabling men to see new and unwonted objects in old
familiar directions.' For sixteen years Miller sat under his ministry,
and for twelve was admitted to his closest intimacy.

But in time work of even the 'Old Mortality' order grew scarce.
Accordingly, in the summer of June 1828, he visited Inverness, and
inserted in the local papers an advertisement for employment. He felt
that he could execute such commissions with greater care and exactness
than were usual, and in a style that could be depended upon for correct
spelling. He mentions himself the case of the English mason who mangled
Proverbs xxxi. 10 into the bewildering abbreviation that 'A virtuous
woman is 5s. to her husband,' and he might also have mentioned the case
of the statue to George II. in Stephen's Green, Dublin, erected
doubtless under municipal supervision, and which yet in the course of a
brief Latin inscription of thirteen lines can show more than one
mistake to the individual line. He had the curious, yet perhaps after
all not unpractical, idea that his scheme for employment might be
materially improved by his sending a copy of verses to the paper, in
the belief that the public would infer that the writer of correct verse
could be a reliable workman. But nothing came of this. In justice to
the editor it may be allowed that the versification, if easy, was
nothing remarkable, and felicity of epithets may be no guarantee for
perfection of epitaphs. The reflection, however, came to him that there
was no advantage to be won in thus, as he says, scheming himself into
employment. It was not congenial, and walking 'half an inch taller'
along the streets on the strength of this resolution, he was actually
offered the Queen's shilling, or the King's to be chronologically
correct, by a smart recruiting sergeant of a Highland regiment who from
the powerful physique of the man had naturally inferred the possession
of a choice recruit.

He determined, accordingly, to face the worst and publish. He made a
hasty selection of his verses through the last six years and approached
the office of the _Inverness Courier_. This was a highly fortunate
opening, for that paper was, then and up to 1878, edited by Robert
Carruthers of Dumfries, who had been appointed editor of the _Courier_
in the very same year of Miller's visit. His _Life of Pope_ published
in 1853 is still a standard production, and altogether Carruthers was
one of the ablest editors in Scotland, and his paper which was edited
on Liberal lines was a very powerful organ in his day. The friendship
then begun lasted till the death of Miller unbroken, and was mutually
advantageous. While he was still in the Highland capital he received
word of the fatal illness of his uncle James, and his first work on his
return was a neat tombstone for this close friend of his father and
worthy to whom he was so deeply indebted for much of his own subsequent

His volume of verse under the title of _Poems Written in the Leisure
Hours of a Journeyman Mason_ issued slowly in 1829 from the press, and
its appearance in the disillusionising medium of black and white
convinced him that after all his true vocation was not to be found in
poetry, for many lines which had appeared as tolerable, if not more, to
the writer in the process of composition were now robbed of their charm
by commission to print. Indeed, at no time does his versification rise
beyond fluent description. It lacks body and form, and was really in
his case nothing but a sort of rudimentary stratum on which he was to
rear a very strong and powerful prose style. He was lacking in ear, and
he confessed to an organ that recognised with difficulty the difference
of the bagpipe and the big drum. The critics were not very partial to
the venture. The tone of the majority was that of the _Quarterly_ upon
Keats, and the autocrats of poetical merit declared that he was safer
with his chisel than on Parnassus. One little oasis, however, in the
desert of depreciation did manage to reach him in a letter, through his
friend Forsyth of Elgin, from Thomas Pringle of Roxburgh who had seen
the book. In early days the poet had been a clerk in the Register House
of Edinburgh, where his _Scenes of Teviotdale_ had secured him an
introduction to Scott, who extended to him the same ready support which
he had bestowed on Leyden. By his influence he was appointed editor of
_Blackwood's Magazine_, and later on emigrated with a party of
relatives to the Cape, where his unsparing denunciations of the
colonial policy in its treatment of the natives, and his advocacy of
what would now be called the anti-Rhodes party brought him into
complications with the officials in Downing Street and the colonial
authorities. Poor Pringle!--among the one-song writers, the singers of
the one lilt that rises out of a mass of now forgotten verse, his name
is high, and he has won for himself an abiding niche in the hearts of
his countrymen by his _Emigrant's Lament_, where he touches with a
faultless hand the scenery of 'bonnie Teviotdale and Cheviot mountains

The volume of verses was not without its more immediate results in a
local circle. It brought him under the notice of Sir Thomas Dick Lauder
of Relugas, who is now remembered by his _Wolf of Badenoch_--a not
quite unsuccessful effort at bending the bow of Ulysses, though without
the dramatic force of Scott. By Carruthers he was introduced to
Principal Baird, and thus a link with the past was effected through a
man who had edited the poems of Michael Bruce, had befriended Alexander
Murray for a short period the occupant of the Oriental chair in
Edinburgh, and been a patron of Pringle and a close friend of Scott. By
Baird he was strongly pressed to venture on a literary life in the
capital, but the time was not propitious, and he wisely resolved to
devote himself to several years of accumulation and reflection before
he should embark on a vocation for which he had no great liking, and in
which, even to the last, he had but little belief. For an ordinary
journalist he would indeed have been as little qualified as Burns when
offered a post on Perry's _Morning Chronicle_. The justness of his
resolution was fully shown when the opportunity found him, and he was
then fully prepared for the work he was to do. He was induced by the
Principal to draw up for him a brief sketch of his life, and of this a
draft bringing it up to 1825 was composed and sent to Edinburgh.

There existed at this time in the North the remains of a little coterie
of ladies, numbering among its members Henry Mackenzie's cousin,--Mrs.
Rose of Kilravock, whom Burns had visited on his Highland tour, Lady
Gordon Cumming, and Mrs. Grant of Laggan, whose once well-known
_Letters from the Mountains_ have yielded in popularity to her song of
_Highland Laddie_, which commemorates the departure in 1799 of the
Marquis of Huntly with Sir Ralph Abercromby. By none of them, however,
was he more noticed than by Miss Dunbar of Boath, who occupies in his
early correspondence the place taken in the letters of Burns by Mrs.
Dunlop. During his visits to this excellent lady he explored the
curious sand-dunes of Culbin which still arrest the attention of the
geologist and traveller in his rambles by the Findhorn. By Miss Dunbar
he was pressed to embark on literature, while Mrs. Grant was of the
opinion that he might follow the example of Allan Cunningham, who was
engaged in the studio of Chantrey. But such patronage was in his case
no less wisely exercised than admitted, nor was his the nature to be
in any way spoiled by it; his self-reliant disposition suffered no
such baneful effects as were felt by the much weaker nature of Thom
of Inverurie, the one lyrical utterance of Aberdeenshire, or by Burns
in the excitement of his Edinburgh season. He even became a town
councillor, though he admits that his masterly inactivity was such as
led him to absent himself pretty wholly from the duties, whose onerous
nature may be inferred when the most important business before the
council was, on one occasion, clubbing together a penny each to pay a
ninepenny postage in the complete absence of town funds.

Into his life at this period a new vision was introduced through the
appearance on the scene of a young lady whom he was afterwards to make
his wife. Sauntering through the wood on the hill overlooking the
Cromarty Firth he met Miss Lydia Fraser, who was engaged in reading 'an
elaborate essay on Causation.' The reader may remember--with feelings,
we hope, of contrition for Mr. Lang's railway lyric on the _fin de
siècle_ students of Miss Braddon and Gaboriau, and for the degenerate
tendencies of the age,--the curiously fitting parallel in which the
geologist Buckland met in a Devonshire coach, his future wife, Miss
Morland, deep in a ponderous and recently issued folio of Cuvier, into
which even he himself had not found time to dip! Miller was ten years
the senior of his young friend, whose father had been in business in
Inverness, and whose mother had retired to Cromarty to live in a
retired way upon a small annuity, added to by her daughter's private
pupils. As a girl Miss Fraser had been a boarder in the family of
George Thomson, whose _Select Collection of Original Scottish Airs_,
enriched by the hand of Burns with about a hundred songs, forms an
abiding monument of their joint taste and judgment. The acquaintance
ripened into intimacy and an agreement that for three years they were
to make Scotland their home, when, should nothing then turn up they
were to emigrate and try their fortune in America. But fortunately an
opening occurred which was to retain him at home for the work he was so
naturally fitted to perform.

Cromarty had hitherto been without a bank. Now, through the
representation of local landowners and traders, the Commercial Bank of
Scotland was induced to extend one of its branches to the town. The
services of a local shipowner were secured for the post of agent, and
Miller was offered the place of accountant. It was necessary, of
course, that he should qualify himself for his new duties, and so he
sailed to Leith to acquire his initiation at Linlithgow. He was now in
his thirty-second year.

Before leaving Cromarty he had been engaged upon his _Scenes and
Legends_ of the traditional history of the country, and on his
forwarding his manuscript to Sir Thomas Dick Lauder, to whom it is
dedicated, he was invited by the hospitable baronet to meet Mr. Adam
Black the publisher, whose long retention of the copyright of the
Waverley Novels has shed distinction on the firm of which he was the
head. By him very generous terms were offered, and Miller by his
venture realised £60 over his second book, which still seems to enjoy
in its thirteenth edition no slight share of popularity. He was even
pressed by Sir Thomas to make his own house at Grange his residence
while in the south, but, Linlithgow having been already fixed upon he
took his passage in the fly-boat running on the canal between Edinburgh
and Glasgow and soon 'reached the fine old burgh as the brief winter
day was coming to a close, and was seated next morning at my desk, not
a hundred yards from the spot on which Hamilton of Bothwellhaugh had
taken his stand when he shot the Good Regent.' At first he was rather
diffident of his ability for the work, the swiftness of mechanical
summation never to the end coming to him perfectly natural; though, in
the course of a brief two months' absence from Cromarty, he was able to
join the bank with such a working acquaintance with the details of the
business that, when the policy of Sir Robert Peel threatened an attack
upon the circulation of the one-pound note, he was competent to publish
a series of articles, _Words of Warning to the People of Scotland_, in
which he defended the cash credit system of Scottish banking. This had
before been fully expounded by Hume and Scott, and Miller could show
its peculiar ability for enabling men to 'coin their characters should
they be good ones, even should houses, ships, and furniture be
wanting.' In the years to come his experience enabled him to write his
own business and commercial leaders in his paper, but as yet his income
did not exceed one hundred pounds, and he willingly joined in the
continuation of Wilson's _Tales of the Borders_. This work has retained
its popularity, though probably few are aware of the complexity of the
authorship. As edited by Leighton, it preserves the names of several
writers who occupy a more or less humble niche among the minor singers
of Scotland, and in the list of contributors, along with Miller, to the
work are found the two Bethunes, Alexander and John. He wrote for the
_Tales_ a good deal of rather poorly remunerated work, and his papers
on Burns and Fergusson afford a not unpleasing attempt to weave the
lives of the two poets into an imaginative narrative. On their
appearance, the papers were quoted as original reminiscences, though a
more discriminating criticism could not have failed to detect their
real nature. Miller possessed the logical and personal element too
strong to merge his own individuality successfully in the characters of
others. The dramatic faculty was deficient. Yet it was not quite an
unfortunate attempt to thus anticipate such a sketch as Dr. Hutchison
Stirling has so admirably worked out in his _Burns in Drama_.

Into a very different arena he was now to be drawn. Politically and
ecclesiastically, it was a period of excitement. In 1829 Catholic
Emancipation had no sooner been passed than O'Connell brought in his
motions for the Repeal and the Tithe War. The latter was a protest by
the Romanists against paying tithes for the maintenance of the Irish
Church, whose incumbents were a mere outpost of the Tory and
Episcopalian party, converting, as Lord Rosebery has said, nobody, and
alienating everybody. On the withdrawal of Grey, and the fall of Peel,
Lord Melbourne had carried on for years a sort of guerilla warfare with
a varying majority, too dependent on the Irish vote to give general
satisfaction. The Tithe Act, however, was passed, and this made the
support of the English clergy in Ireland a charge upon rent. The
position in which matters then stood with the Government will be
clearly seen by a reference to the admirable speech of Macaulay, in May
1839, to the electors of Edinburgh. In Ross-shire, the tension of
affairs had been rendered more acute by a wave of Tory reaction which
induced the Church of Scotland to cast the weight of her influence
against the Whigs; but the people, as has ever been the case upon such
aberrations from the national policy, had steadily declined to follow
this lead, although the endowment scheme for new chapels had been dealt
with by the Whigs in a niggard and unsatisfactory way.

In Cromarty the cause of the Church was strong. Since the Revolution,
the succession in the parish had been at once popular and able. The
position taken up hitherto by Miller and his uncles had been a middle
one. With strong hereditary attachment to the national establishment
they united personal leanings which led them to a sympathy with the
standpoint and the theology of the Seceders. But as yet Miller was, he
says, 'thoroughly an Established man.' The revenues of the Church he
regarded as the patrimony of the people; and he looked not unnaturally
to a time 'when that unwarrantable appropriation of them, through
which the aristocracy had sought to extend its influence, but which
had served only greatly to reduce its power in the country, would come
to an end.' Still he confesses that as yet there were no signs of what
he would himself have desired to see--a general and popular agitation
against patronage--though he noted with approval the 'revival of the
old spirit in the Church.' The time had, however, come when he could
hesitate no longer. He saw with anxiety the decisions go against the
Church in March 1838, and of the Lords in May 1839, the victory of his
case by the presentee to Auchterarder, and the declaration of the
illegality of the Veto Act of 1834. 'Now,' he says, 'I felt more
deeply; and for at least one night--after reading the speech of Lord
Brougham and the decision of the House of Lords in the Auchterarder
case--I slept none.' Could he not, he reasoned with himself, do
something in the hour of danger to rescue the patrimony of his country
out of the hands of an alien aristocracy, which since 1712 had
obstinately set itself in hereditary opposition to the people? In the
morning he wrote a letter addressed to Lord Brougham, the grandson of
the historian Robertson, to which we shall have occasion later on
to refer in detail. This admirable piece of reasoning and clever
statement--the result of a week's work--was sent to Robert Paul, the
manager of the Commercial Bank in Edinburgh. By him its value was
quickly seen, and by the strenuous advice of Dr. Candlish it was at
once put in print. Four editions in the course of well-nigh as many
weeks proved its excellence; and it was fortunate enough to secure
encomiums from two men so different in their leanings as Daniel
O'Connell and Mr. Gladstone.

The writer who could at such a critical position produce a pamphlet of
this nature was, of course, a marked man. The leaders of the
Evangelical party of the Church in Edinburgh had been engaged in a
scheme for the starting of a paper. From the press of the capital, and
from such provincial organs as _The Aberdeen Herald_ and _The
Constitutional_, as edited by Mr. Adam and Mr. Joseph Robertson, the
'travelled thane Athenian Aberdeen' who drifted into the Crimean War
later on, and who drifted with the Parliament House party in a
reactionary ecclesiastical policy at this time, had been content to
draw such scanty information as he ever possessed on the real issues
at stake in the Church of Scotland. Indeed, his lordship had gone so
far as to taunt the Evangelical Party as composed but of the
intellectual _débris_ of the country, and of the 'wild men' in the
Church. Sir Robert Peel, who really knew nothing of the intricacies of
the question, was content to believe that there was a conspiracy to
defeat the law and to rend the constitution. But the ignorance of the
Premier and the taunt of Lord Aberdeen came but with an ill grace from
them when flung against such men as Sir David Brewster, Chalmers,
Welsh, Guthrie, Bonar, Duff, and Miller, and the whole intellectual
force of the country at large. Indeed, to the very last, the
indecision and the ignorance as to the state of the country shown by
Lord Aberdeen were but the natural results of his holding his
ecclesiastical conscience in fee from such men as Robertson of Ellon,
Paull of Tullynessle, and Pirie of Dyce--these bucolic personages,
'like full-blown peony-roses glistening after a shower,' whose triple
and conjunct capacity, joined to that of their master, might have been
cut, to borrow the eulogy of Sir James Mackintosh upon Burke, out of
the humblest of their rivals and never have been missed. It was really
high time that something should be done, when Lord Medwyn could pose
as an ecclesiastical scholar by a few garbled quotations from Beza,
professing to set in their true light the views held by the Reformers
upon patronage; and when these very extracts, together with the
copious errors of the press, had been worked up by Robertson of Ellon
to be quoted by Lord Aberdeen third-hand as an embodiment of oracular
learning and wisdom!

No apology, therefore, need here be made for the inclusion of an
extract from that remarkable work by Dr. William Alexander--_Johnny
Gibb_--to which we have before had occasion to refer, and which must
ever rank as the classic of the movement with which Miller's own name
is associated. It deals with the sort of windy pabulum then served up
by the Aberdeen papers to obscure the real issues, and it describes in
the raciest and most mellow style of the lamented writer the meeting
in the schoolhouse of Jonathan Tawse, at whose hospitable board are
assembled the three farmers and the local doctor. Readers in the North
of Scotland can from their own knowledge read much between the lines;
and they will not forget that Mr. Adam and Mr. Joseph Robertson were
the only two men who could be found with effrontery sufficient to
shake hands with Mr. Edwards in the all-too notorious induction at

    'Jonathan took up an Aberdeen newspaper, wherein were recorded
    certain of the proceedings of the Evangelical ministers, who were
    visiting different parishes for the purpose of holding meetings.
    First he put on his "specs," and next he selected and read out
    several paragraphs, with such headings as "THE SCHISMATICS IN
    A----," "THE FIRE-RAISERS IN B----," and so on, winding up this
    part with the concluding words of one paragraph, which were
    these:--"So ended this compound of vain, false, and seditious
    statements on the position of the Church, and which must have been
    most offensive to every friend of truth, peace, or loyalty who
    heard it."

    "I say Amen to ilka word o' that," said Dr. Drogemweal. "Sneevlin'
    hypocrites. That's your non-intrusion meetin's. It concerns every
    loyal subject to see them pitten doon."

    '"Here's fat the editor says, in a weel-reason't, and vera calm an'
    temperate article," continued Jonathan--"he's speakin' o' the
    fire-raisers": "How much reliance could be placed on the kind of
    information communicated by these reverend gentlemen will be
    readily imagined by such of our readers as have read or listened to
    any of the harangues which the schismatics are so liberally dealing
    forth. If simple laymen, in pursuing objects of interest or of
    ambition, were to be guilty of half the misrepresentations of facts
    and concealment of the truth which are now, it would seem, thought
    not unbecoming on the part of _Evangelical_ ministers, they would
    be justly scouted from society." "That's fat I ca' sen'in the
    airrow straucht to the mark."'

    "Seerly," interposed Mains, who had been listening with much

    "A weel-feather't shaft, tae," said Dr. Drogemweal.

    '"An' it's perfectly true, ilka word o't. They're nae better o' the
    ae han' nor incendiaries, wan'erin' here an' there to raise strife
    amo' peaceable fowk; and syne their harangues--a clean perversion
    o' the constitutional law, an' veelint abuse o' the institutions o'
    the countra."'

How many specimens of that style of 'calm and temperate article' were
produced in the North, no one with a recollection for either history or
for humour need recall at this hour. Somewhat later, Miller could say
in _The Witness_ that in a few days he had clipped out of the papers
what he had seen written against such a man of position and courtesy as
Mr. Makgill Crichton of Rankeilour in the course of a fortnight. It
amounted to eleven feet six inches when pieced together, and was for
the most part gross abuse and vulgar personalities.

The hour, then, had come and the man. Miller was invited to Edinburgh
to meet the leaders of the Evangelical party, and he was offered the
position of editor of the newspaper, which started its first issue on
January 15, 1840, appearing bi-weekly upon Wednesdays and Saturdays.
At the end of the bank's financial year, he was presented by his
fellow-townsmen with a breakfast service of plate, and the presence
of his uncle Alexander was to Miller a circumstance of peculiar
satisfaction. In a few days later he was seated at the editorial desk.
For sixteen years he was with undiminished success to edit _The
Witness_. But here we pause. The conflict in which he was to engage
calls for a special chapter. The question has been approached from all
sides, civil as well as ecclesiastical. But it is fitting that here, at
least, an attempt be made to connect the struggle with the history and
the peculiar mental and moral characteristics of the Scottish people.
It will be seen that the question involves far-reaching, deep-rooted,
and closely connected points of issue. It will therefore be the attempt
of the next chapter to show the really national and democratic features
of the conflict, and to briefly indicate how the civil and religious
rights of the people, long before staked and won by the early
Reformers, were again, when surrendered by an alien nobility, saved for
them--from the point, at least, of abiding literature--by two men; who,
sprung themselves from the people, the one the son of a Cromarty sailor
and the other of an Aberdeenshire crofter, wrote the leaders in _The
Witness_ and _Johnny Gibb of Gushetneuk_. The best years of Miller's
own life, sixteen years of unceasing turmoil and overwork, were spent
in making these issues abundantly clear to the people. No apology need
then be made for an effort to reset these positions in their historical
connection, and to exhibit the logical nexus of affairs from 1560 to



    'The fate of a nation was riding that night.'

    _Paul Revere's Ride_, LONGFELLOW.

When Andrew Melville said to King James VI., 'Sir, as divers times
before have I told you, so now again must I tell you, there are two
kings and two kingdoms in Scotland; there is King James, the head of
the Commonwealth, and there is Christ Jesus, the King of the Church,
whose subject James the Sixth is, and of whose kingdom he is not a
king, nor a lord, nor a head, but a member,' he expressed what, from
its foundation as an Establishment in 1560 till now, has been in every
one of its constituent parts the belief and practice of the indomitable
Kirk of Scotland.

These were words which the British Solomon was to remember. Over the
border, where the obedient English clergy, who looked from the humblest
curate to the highest dignitary to the throne alone for their support,
professed to find in the pedantic pupil of the great Buchanan the
wisdom of a present deity and regarded his slobbering utterances as
'the counsels of a god,' James found himself in more congenial society
for the promulgation of his views on kingcraft which were to embroil
the nation and drive his descendants from the throne. The preface to
the Authorised Version of the Bible by the translators of 1611 shews
the depth to which the Anglican clergy could sink. No wonder that James
found such men ready tools to his hand. In their company he could
complacently vapour about 'No bishop, no king,' or express his joy in
finding himself for the first time in the company of 'holy and learned
men.' When Melville, as professor of divinity at Sedan, was dying an
exile in 1622 James was dismissing the two English houses of Parliament
for what he was pleased to call an invasion of his prerogative; the
rumours of the Spanish marriage were in the air, the first instalment
of the royal legacy of kingcraft. 'No bishop, no king': The nation was
to take him at his word, and to demonstrate pretty effectively that
kingdoms can do without either--and both.

'Not a king--but a member;' 'in all matters ecclesiastical as well as
civil head supreme'--the whole history of Scotland was to run for three
hundred years in these grooves. This is the doctrine which, from 1560
till now, has in Scotland been known as the Headship of Christ. Without
a correct understanding of this question, not as a mere metaphysical or
theological figment, but as a reality most vitally 'within practical
politics' carrying effects direct and visible into every corner of the
national life, the history of Scotland must of necessity be a sealed
book--the play of _Hamlet_ without the royal Dane. To the English
reader this has been largely obscured, from the fact that the chief
sources of information open to him are not such as present a rational
or connected story. George Borrow found that Scott's caricature of _Old
Mortality_ was what Englishmen had in their minds, and that some thin
romanticism about Prince Charles Edward was the end and substance of
their knowledge. Yet such a presentation would be no less absurd than
_Hudibras_ would be for the men of the Long Parliament. Scott was too
much occupied with the external and material conditions of the country,
too much engrossed by obvious necessity of materials in the romantic
element of Scottish history, and too little in sympathy with the
spiritual and moral forces at work to present anything like a complete
narrative, while his feudal sentiments were nourished by the almost
entire lack of the political instinct. The ecclesiastical chapters in
John Hill Burton's _History_ are not equal to the main body of his
work; and, if the _Lectures_ of Dean Stanley are the characteristically
thin production of one confessing to but a superficial knowledge of the
vast literature of the field,' the _Ecclesiastical History_ of Grub is
only the work of a mere Episcopalian antiquary, and the lack of
judgment and political insight appears on every page. 'It seems to me,'
says Carlyle, 'hard measure that this Scottish man Knox, now after
three hundred years, should have to plead like a culprit before the
world, intrinsically for having been, in such way as was then possible
to be, the bravest of all Scotchmen'--harder still, say we, that the
subject of Milton's great eulogy should be judged by minds of the
notes-and-queries order, or by those of the class of Hume and
Robertson, who have such a gentlemanly horror at everything that
savours of enthusiasm as to miss the central point, the _coincidence_
of civil and religious liberty.

'In every sense a man's religion is the chief fact with regard to him.
A man's, or a nation of men's.' Yet we find Hume writing to Robertson
that if the divine were willing to give up his Mary, the philosopher
was willing to give up his Charles, and there would at least be the
joint pleasure of seeing John Knox made completely ridiculous. 'Who,'
writes Robertson to Gibbon, 'is Mr. Hayley? His Whiggism is so bigoted,
and his Christianity so fierce, that he almost disgusts one with _two
very good things_!' Christianity was then only a good thing when it
had good things to offer to pluralists of the Warburtonian order. Yet
these two garbled and distorted narratives are still the most widely
known versions in England. Little wonder, therefore, is it that Carlyle
should ask, 'I would fain know the history of Scotland; who can tell it
me? Robertson, say innumerable voices; Robertson, against the world. I
open Robertson; and find there, through long ages too confused for
narrative, a cunning answer and hypothesis--a scandalous chronicle (as
for some Journal of Fashion) of two persons: Mary Stuart, a Beauty, but
over light-headed; and Henry Darnley, a Booby who had fine legs. Thus
is History written.'

In England, the Reformation took place in a way quite different from
that in which it was effected in Scotland. The strong hand of Henry
VIII. piloted the nation for a time through a crisis, and for a space
at least it would appear that the nation was content to surrender its
religious conscience into the hands of the king. He attempted, says
Macaulay with perfect truth, to constitute an Anglican church differing
from the Roman Catholic on the point of the Supremacy, and on that
alone. There can be little doubt that to the court of Henry the king
was the head of both church and state, and that the power of the keys
temporal as well as ecclesiastical resided in the Crown. So far did
Cranmer carry out this idea that, regarding his own spiritual functions
as having ceased with the death of Henry, he renewed his commission
under Edward VI., and for mere denial of the Act of Supremacy More and
Fisher were sent to the block. It is true that Elizabeth was induced to
part with a good deal of this exaggerated prerogative, yet she still
exercised such a domineering and inquisitorial power as threatened to
unfrock any refractory creature of her creation. It was natural,
therefore, that the church created almost exclusively by the will of
the Crown should for her rights and privileges rest entirely upon the
Crown. The people had never been consulted in her creation, and it was
to the Crown alone that the clergy could look. Her constitution, her
traditions, and her government were all monarchical; and if, at first,
she was moderate in her tone of adulation, it was easy to see that, led
largely by interest, she would begin to assert the divine origin of the
powers of the king, with the deduction of 'no bishop, no king' and of
passive obedience, which made itself heard from the pulpits of Laud,
Montagu, and Mainwaring, and in the treatise of Filmer.

Passing from the more servile ranks of the clergy to those of the laity
it appeared as the party cry of a class. To many it has often appeared
strange how such an absurd and illogical doctrine could become even the
shibboleth of a political party. Yet at bottom the doctrine of the
divine right of the king was not very unfavourable to the divine right
of squires, and king and cavaliers were bound together by obvious ties
of interest in the maintenance of the royal prerogative against the
rising tide of political opposition. Holy Alliances in recent times
have not found this doctrine strange to them, and a high elevation of
the prerogative and the mitre was the very breath of existence to a
church whose being depended on the stability of the throne. Passive
obedience was a convenient cry for those who never dreamed that the
breath of the king could unmake them as a breath had made. Never till
James VII. began to oppress the clergy did they begin to see what was
logically involved in their abject protestations of loyalty, and in
their professions of turning the right cheek to the royal smiter. Only
when the seven bishops were sent to the Tower, not for any loyalty to
the country or to the constitution, but through a selfish maintenance
of their own interests as a class, did the Anglican body bethink
themselves of resistance, and of texts that reminded them of the hammer
of Jael and the dagger of Ehud no less than of the balm of the anointed
of the Lord. History has repeated itself. The landed and clerical
classes associated their triumph with the triumph of Episcopacy, and
their humiliation with the triumph of the Independents. The exaltation
of the prerogative, therefore, again made its appearance at the
Restoration, to be shaken by the high-handed measures of James, and
pass to extinction at the Revolution. The same thing has practically
been seen in Spain. Spain, remarks Borrow, is not naturally a fanatical
country. It was by humouring her pride only that she was induced to
launch the Armada and waste her treasures in the wars of the Low
Countries. But to the Spaniard, Catholicism was the mark of his own
ascendency; it was the typification of his elevation over the Moor. The
Most Catholic King was therefore flattered to exalt the claims of the
Holy See no less than the English clergy had exalted the prerogative of
the king. Far different the condition of affairs in Scotland. When Knox
landed at Leith, in May 1559, he found the whole people ripe for a
change, so that by August of next year the Scottish Parliament could
pass a resolution to abolish the Papacy with the entire consent of the
nation, and in December 1560 the First General Assembly met. Its laic
element was strong and was emphasised from the beginning. To six
ministers there were thirty-four elders, and it met by no sanction of
the Crown, but by its own authority. At its second meeting, Maitland of
Lethington could craftily raise the question as to the legality of such
conventions without the consent of the Queen. It was retorted that, if
they were dependent merely upon the Queen for their liberty of meeting,
they would be deprived of the public preaching of the gospel. 'Take
from us,' said Knox, 'the freedom of assemblies, and take from us the
Gospel'; but it was left to her to send a commissioner. So early was
the doctrine of the Headship maintained by the Church of Scotland. In
1560, no less than 1843, the question was clear. In 1557 they had
resolved that the election of ministers, according to the custom of the
primitive church, should be made by the people; and in the First Book
of Discipline of 1560, re-enacted in 1578, it was laid down that 'it
appertaineth to the people and to every several congregation to elect
their minister, and it is altogether to be avoided that any man be
violently intruded or thrust in upon any congregation.' The fabric was
laid: three hundred years have not started a plank.

The difference of the Reformation in England and in Scotland at once
emerges. Knox had the nation at his back; and, besides being, as Milton
said, 'the Reformer of a nation,' he had found the people by mental
temperament, or by concurrent historical reasons, anchored to a
doctrinal system with a political side which has coloured ever since
the stream of its existence. Calvinism, in every one of its forms,
exaggerated or diluted, has this double side. It is felt in this way.
To a nation believing that the divine decree of election has singled
out the individual, the claims of a church with the greatest of
histories and the most unbroken of descents are of slight value. To the
individual believing it is God's own immutable decree that has made his
calling and election sure, the whole retinue of priests and priestly
paraphernalia appears but an idle pageant. To the nation, and to the
individual alike, regarding itself or himself as fellow-workers with
God in the furtherance of His immutable decrees, thrones, dominions,
principalities and powers have for ever lost their awe or a power to
coerce. Wherever the belief has been carried these results have been
seen. There has been, what Buckle failed completely to see, a rooted
aversion to ecclesiasticism, and a no less rooted aversion to tyranny.
And in no better words could the doctrinal and political principles be
laid down than in the famous words of Andrew Melville which we have set
at the head of this chapter.

Again, when Knox laid hold of the nation his schemes in their very
first draft embraced the people as a whole. It was not a merely
piecemeal or monarchical business as in England. The Reformers were not
content with merely formulating an Act like Henry; they proceeded to
carry out in detail their plans for a national system of education.
They had no idea of setting up a church of their own invention. There
is something in the Scottish intellect, in this resembling the French,
that seeks for the completest realisation in detail of its ideas. As
Professor Masson has said, its dominant note is really not caution,
with which it is so frequently credited, but _emphasis_. While the
English Independents during the later years of the Civil War appear as
either sectaries or as individualists, the contention of the Scots was
ever for a national system. This feature in the character of the nation
is really at the root of what Hallam calls the 'Presbyterian
Hildebrandism' of the elder M'Crie. Johnson, too, could with some
considerable truth say to Boswell, 'You are the only instance of a
Scotchman that I have known who did not at every other sentence bring
in some other Scotchman.' But this is the very feature that Buckle has
overlooked, and it is this that explains how the new church spoke in
the authoritative tones of the old; this, too, which explains how,
outside of the waning Episcopalian sect, there are no dissenters in
Scotland in the true sense. We have parties, not sects. While the
Secession, the Relief, the Cameronians, the Burghers were all mere
branches of the parent stock, retaining in detail its fundamental
nature in discipline and worship, the established church in England
finds itself face to face with organised and hostile dissent. So
entirely has the national unity been preserved in Scotland that
Professor Blackie has said, with no less truth than pith, that while
Presbyterianism is the national and the rational dress of the land,
Episcopacy is but the dress coat by which the nakedness is hid of the
renegade from the nation, and the apostate from its church. Dean
Stanley found that 'the questionable idols' of the Episcopalian sect
were Mary Queen of Scots, Montrose, and Dundee. These have never been
the idols of the Scottish people: the last, indeed, occupies in its
memory the peculiar niche of infamy.

The political side of the national religion is expressed no less
clearly in facts. The Scottish Crown is held by a contract,[1] and the
coronation oath is the deliberate expression of it. In his _De Jure
Regni_ in 1579, dedicated to the king, Buchanan had made this apparent
to Europe, and in his _Lex Rex_, in 1644, Buchanan was reinforced by
Rutherfurd in the doctrine that the people is the source of power, and
his officers are merely _ministri regni non regis_, 'servants of the
kingdom, not of the king.' Startling doctrine this to the slobbering
vicegerent of God, conceding to the people acts to be revoked at his
pleasure. In the light of ordinary facts, therefore, what are the
national covenants of 1580 and 1638, but very simple Magna Chartas or
Reform Bills with a religious colouring? One half of the statements of
Hume and Robertson about fanaticism, austerity, gloom, enthusiasm,
democracy, and popular ferocity, and all the bugbears of the writers so
terribly 'at ease in Zion,' would be discounted by a simple regard for
facts. When Leighton and Burnet went into the west in 1670 to try and
induce the people to recognise the establishment of Charles, what did
they find? Wranglings or harangues after the manner of Scott's Habbakuk
Mucklewrath? 'The poor of the country,' says Burnet, 'came generally to
hear us. We were amazed to see a poor commonalty so capable to argue
upon points of government, and on _the bounds to be set to the power of
the civil magistrate_ and princes in matters of religion: upon all
these topics they had texts of Scripture at hand, and were ready with
their answers to everything that was said to them. This measure of
knowledge was spread even among the meanest of them, their cottagers
and servants.' Leighton might well have remembered the case of his own
father. History loves not the Coriolani, says Mommsen, and Miller has
well seized this incident to bring out the popular side of the national
religion. To the question, in an inn at Newcastle, what the Scottish
religion had done for the people, he could reply, 'Independently
altogether of religious considerations, it has done for our people what
your Societies for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge and all your Penny
and Saturday Magazines will never do for yours; it has awakened their
intellects and taught them to think.'

          [1] For this important point in its bearing upon the position
          of the Cameronians, and the 'Testimony' of Richard Cameron at
          the market-place of Sanquhar, June 22, 1680, see Buchanan's
          _History_, XX. 36-47, and Milton's _Tenure of Kings and
          Magistrates_, with the coins of James VI. stamped in 1570.
          Thus, while James VII.'s creatures, the Bishops, maintained
          the 'divine right' of their creator, led by Paterson, the
          Archbishop of Glasgow, Dalrymple could carry the resolution
          on the constitutional question of tenure that the king had
          'forfaulted the throne.'

But the exigencies of the romance-writer are often the means of
corrupting history, and the largest class of readers will ever prefer
to read it, in the phrase of Macaulay, with their feet on the fender.
To that class, therefore, the political crisis of 1638, one of no less
magnitude than the French Revolution, will ever be obscured by airy
talk about religious intolerance and popular fanaticism. The history of
Scotland in consequence becomes either, as Carlyle said, a mere
hunting-ground for intriguing Guises or else is left to the novelist
with the Mucklewraths, wild men, and caricatures. Even yet the mere
English reader of Hume and Robertson has not got beyond the phrases of
'iron reformers' and 'beautiful queens.' The intrepidity of Knox, like
the conduct of Luther at the Diet, becomes material for the
sentimentalist to decry or the latitudinarian to bewail. The courtly
Dean Stanley approaches the maudlin in his remarks at this stage, and
he thinks of Scott as he 'murmured the lay of Prince Charlie on the
hills of Pausilippo, and stood rapt in silent devotion before the tomb
of the Stuarts in St. Peter.' But the admirers of the greatest of all
novelists will remember also no less his statement that he gave the
heart without giving the head, and will even regard it as a merely
temporary aberration, like his presence at Carlton House with the
Prince Regent, where, says Lockhart with curious lack of humour, 'that
nothing might be wanting, the Prince sang several capital songs!' The
spell of Sir Walter should not blind us to the real and the false in
the national story. Eminently clear-headed and politically sound were
the men of 1638, worthy compeers of the great men that sat in England's
Long Parliament. The Jacobite Rebellions are a mere extraneous incident
in the history of Scotland, and the events of 1638, 1698, and 1843 will
show the peculiar spirit of the people in a fairer flowering. How
curiously illusory are the generalisations of philosophers!
Calculation, shrewdness, pawkiness--these are the traditional marks of
the stage-Scotchman from the days of Smollett. But Buchanan's
_perfervidum ingenium_ is surely much truer, and mere calculation
is just what is _not_ the national mark. If her poverty and pride
were seen in Darien, no less truly was her religious and political side
seen in these other events. But the question of the Headship still
awaits us. On the accession of William, the shattered remnants of the
kirk were gathered together by Carstares after twenty-eight years of
persecution: _nec tamen consumebatur_. Perhaps, in the circumstances
under which both king and country found themselves, no other compromise
could so well have been come to as that of 1690. The election was left
in the hands of elders and the heritors, to be approved of by the
people, leaving an appeal to the Presbytery. At the Union, Scotland
seeing the danger to which she was exposed by her scanty band of
forty-five members being swamped in the English or Tory phalanx--a
danger to which every year subsequent has added but too evident a
commentary--had exacted the most strenuous obligations for the
unalterable preservation of her ecclesiastical system. But five years
witnessed the most shameless breach of public faith, by an Act which
had the most ruinous effects, political and religious, upon the people.
The Tories had come into power on the crest of the Sacheverel wave, and
in 1712 Bolingbroke proceeded to carry out his scheme of altering the
succession and securing the return of the Pretender. An Act of
Toleration was passed for the Episcopalian dissenting sect in Scotland,
and an oath of abjuration sought to be imposed upon the Scottish Church
for the sake of exciting confusion. An Act restoring patronage was
rushed through the House by the Tory squires, who composed five-sixths
of the House of Commons. Against this the Whigs and Carstares protested
vigorously, and appealed to the Treaty of Union, but appeal was lost
upon the ignorant class, who were not overdrawn in the Squire Western
of Fielding's novel. For a hundred years this Act bore evil fruits. The
nobility of the land were only too ready to seize upon the poor spoils
of the national endowment in order to renew their waning power in the
country, and in so doing they managed to set themselves and their
descendants in hereditary opposition to the great mass of the people.
The English peerage has done much for the English people. In Scotland,
it may be asked, which of the four Scottish Universities has had a
farthing of the money of the nobility, and what have they done for the
Church in any one of her branches?

In Miller's _Letter to Brougham_ this cardinal point of 1712 is made

    'Bolingbroke engaged in his deep-laid conspiracy against the
    Protestant succession and our popular liberties; and again the law
    of patronage was established. But why established? Smollett would
    have told your Lordship of the peculiarly sinister spirit which
    animated the last Parliament of Anne; of feelings adverse to the
    cause of freedom which prevailed among the people when it was
    chosen; and that the Act which re-established patronage was but one
    of a series, all bearing on an object which the honest Scotch
    member who signified his willingness to acquiesce in one of those,
    on condition that it should be described by its right name--an
    Act for the Encouragement of Immorality and Jacobitism in
    Scotland--seems to have discovered. Burnet is more decided. Instead
    of triumphing on the occasion, he solemnly assures us that the
    thing was done merely "to spite the Presbyterians, who, from the
    beginning, had set it up as a principle that parishes had, from
    warrants in Scripture, a right to choose their ministers," and "who
    saw, with great alarm, the success of a motion _made on design_ to
    weaken and undermine their establishment"; and the good Sir Walter,
    notwithstanding all his Tory prejudices, is quite as candid. The
    law which re-established patronage in Scotland--which has rendered
    Christianity inefficient in well-nigh half her parishes, which has
    separated some of her better clergymen from her Church, and many of
    her better people from her clergymen, the law through which
    Robertson ruled in the General Assembly, and which Brougham has
    eulogised in the House of Lords, that identical law formed, in its
    first enactment, no unessential portion of a deep and dangerous
    conspiracy against the liberties of our country.'

The immediate result was seen in the conduct of the patrons. As the
Regent Morton had established tulchan bishops and secured the revenues
of the sees, the patrons now named such presentees as they deliberately
saw would be unacceptable to the people, protected as they were by the
appeal to the Presbytery, so that during the protracted vacancy they
drew the stipend. No actual case of intrusion, however, seems to have
occurred until 1725, but the rise of moderatism[2] within the Church
gave too frequent occasion for such forced presentations as, we have
seen, took place at Nigg, in 1756, in the days of Donald Roy, Miller's
relative. The secessions of the Erskines in 1733 and of the Relief
under Gillespie in 1752 were the results of intolerant Moderatism, and
its long reign under Robertson the historian, lasted for well-nigh
thirty years in the Assembly, till his withdrawal in 1780.

          [2] For the similar rise of the spirit in England see Mark
          Pattison's excellent paper in _Essays and Reviews_,
          'Tendencies of Religious Thought in England, 1688-1750.

Were we to credit the eulogies of Dean Stanley and others upon Home,
Blair, and Robertson, we should regard this as the golden age of the
Church of Scotland. Robertson he describes as 'the true Archbishop of
Scotland.' But there are men who seem fated, in the pregnant phrase of
Tacitus, to make a solitude and call it peace. The reign of Robertson
was simply coincident with the very lowest spiritual ebb in the
country, to which his own long régime had in no slight degree
contributed. The Spaniard dates the decline and fall of his own country
from the days of Philip II., _segundo sin segundo_, as Cervantes
bitterly calls him, 'the second with (it was to be hoped) no
successor.' Even in 1765, such had been the spread of religion outside
the national establishment that the Assembly was forced to reckon with
it. They found 'a hundred and twenty meetinghouses, to which more than
a hundred thousand persons resorted.' Patronage was found, after
debate, to be the cause. It is no tribute to Alva that he found the Low
Countries a peaceful dependency of Spain and left them a free nation;
none to the policy of 'thorough' that it sent Laud and Strafford to the
block. An impartial verdict will be that Robertson undermined for ever
the edifice which Carstares had reared.

An attempt has been recently made again to cast a glamour over the old
Scottish moderates of the eighteenth century. Their admirers point to
Watson the historian of Philip II., to Henry the historian of Britain,
to Robertson, to Thomas Reid the philosopher, Home the dramatist, Blair
the sermon-writer, Adam Ferguson, Hill of St. Andrews, and George
Campbell of Aberdeen. Not even the Paraphrases have escaped being
pressed into the field to witness to the literary and other gifts of
Oglivie, Cameron, Morrison, and Logan. But the merits of a class are
not best seen by the obtrusion of its more eminent members, but by the
average. We do not judge the provincial governors of Rome by such men
as the occasional Cicero and Rutilius, but by the too frequent
repetition of men like Verres and Piso. Nor even in these very upper
reaches will the Moderates bear a close inspection. No one now reads
Home's _Douglas_. Young Norval has gone the way, as the critic says, of
all waxworks, and curious is the fate of the great Blair: he lives not
for the works upon which immortality was fondly staked, but for having
given breakfasts to Burns in his Edinburgh days. 'I have read them,'
says Johnson of these sermons; 'they are _sermones aurei ac auro magis
aurei_. I had the honour of first finding and first praising his
excellencies. I did not stay to add my voice to that of the public. I
love Blair's sermons, though the dog is a Scotchman and a Presbyterian,
and everything he should not be.' This avalanche of laudation seems
strange to the modern reader, who will find in them the rhetoric of
Hervey's _Meditations on the Tombs_, united to a theology that could
pass muster in a deistical writer. Burns, though he lent himself to be
the squib-writer of the Ayrshire Moderates, was fully aware of the
merely negative tenets of the school, and in his _Holy Fair_ he asks

    'What signifies his barren shine
      Of moral powers and reason?
    His English style, and gestures fine
      Are a' clean out o' season.

    Like Socrates or Antonine,
      Or some old pagan heathen,
    The moral man he does define,
      But ne'er a word of faith in,
        That's right this day.'

But the spirit of Moderatism was to be fully seen in the debate upon
Missions in 1796. It was moved in the General Assembly by Robert Heron,
the unfortunate friend of Burns, and deeply shocked was old Jupiter
Carlyle. It wounded the feelings for the proprieties of the old man.
For half a century, said he, had he sat as a member, and he was happy
to think that never till now had he heard such revolutionary principles
avowed on the floor of the house! Clergymen of lax life, and whose
neglect of parochial duties was notorious, were unanimous in declaring
that charity should begin at home. The spectre of Tom Paine rose before
them. Never, they maintained, while still there remained at home one
man under the influence of attack from the _Age of Reason_, should such
a visionary overture be entertained. But there was worse behind this.
The missionary societies were united with various corresponding
centres; accordingly, in the days of the Dundas dynasty, when Burns
during this very year was reminded that it was his place to act and not
to think, when the Alien and Traitorous Correspondence Act of 1793 and
the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act in 1794 had revived the worst
of obsolete and feudal enactments, a wily use of this reign of terror
was made to defeat missions by an attack on their supposed insidious
and political designs. The lawyer who was afterwards to sit on the
bench as Lord President Boyle, rose and said: 'The people meet under
the pretext of spreading Christianity among the heathen. Observe, sir,
they are affiliated, they have a common object, they correspond with
each other, they look for assistance from foreign countries, in the
very language of many of the seditious societies. Already, it is to be
marked, they have a common fund. Where is the security that the money
of this fund will not, as the reverend Principal [Hill of St. Andrews]
said, be used for very different purposes? And as for those Missionary
Societies, I do aver that, since it is to be apprehended that their
funds may be in time, nay, certainly will be, turned against the
Constitution, so it is the bounden duty of this House to give the
overtures recommending them our most serious disapprobation, and our
immediate, most decisive opposition.' The legal mind is not often
remarkable for profundity, but the fine violation of reasoning in the
'nay, certainly will be,' is just on a par with Jonathan Tawse's 'clean
perversion of the constitutional law,' which we have seen before. The
detection of treason, too, lurking in the apparently harmless missions
fairly rivals Serjeant Buzfuz in _Pickwick_, with his exposure of the
danger underlying the 'chops and tomato sauce' of the defendant. Such
had been the unhappy legacy of Robertson. Such was the legal spirit
infused from the bar to the bench that was to act in decisions against
the true interests of the Church during the Ten Years' Conflict.

But the tide was to turn. Years of dissatisfaction had at last produced
the inevitable reaction, and in 1834 the General Assembly had bowed to
the storm and passed the Veto Act. Then were discovered the evils of
co-ordinate jurisdictions, the mistake committed in 1690 and 1707 by
which no provision had been made for a line of clear demarcation
between the ecclesiastical and civil courts, and the blunder committed
in intrusting great questions affecting Scotland to the judgments of
aliens in political sympathies. The tone of many a decision of the
House of Lords was to make people think upon Seafield's brutal jest
about 'the end of an auld sang,' and Belhaven's trumpet-warning about
the risks to the 'National Church founded on a rock, secured by a claim
of right, descending into a plain upon a level with Jews and Papists.'
There were limits even to the loyalty of the most faithful, and for ten
weary years the conflict between the courts was to run its course. In
1842 the Church had instructed its Lord High Commissioner to lay before
Her Majesty a series of resolutions by which it was hoped that a
rupture could be averted. On the 18th of May 1843 the Commissioner for
the Crown was the Marquis of Bute, and after the levée in Holyrood
Palace, the retiring Moderator, Dr. Welsh, preached in St. Giles, and
in St. Andrew's Church the Assembly--the last Assembly of the real
Church of Scotland--met. The scene so often described had best be given
in Miller's own words, as at once affording a capital specimen of his
editorial style and as the work of an eye-witness. We abridge from his
leader of May 20:--

    'The morning levée had been marked by an incident of a somewhat
    extraordinary nature, and which history, though in these days
    little disposed to mark prodigies and omens, will scarce fail to
    record. The crowd in the Chamber of Presence was very great, and
    there was, we believe, a considerable degree of confusion and
    pressure in consequence. Suddenly,--whether brushed by some passer
    by, jostled rudely aside, or merely affected by the tremor of the
    floor communicated to the partitioning, a large portrait of William
    the Third, that had held its place in Holyrood for nearly a century
    and a half, dropped heavily from the walls. "There," exclaimed a
    voice[3] from the crowd,--"there goes the Revolution Settlement."
    For hours before the meeting of Assembly, the galleries of St.
    Andrew's Church, with the space behind, railed off for the
    accommodation of office-bearers, not members, were crowded to
    suffocation, and a vast assemblage still continued to besiege the
    doors.... The Moderator rose and addressed the House in a few
    impressive sentences. There had been infringement, he said, of the
    constitution of the Church,--an infringement so great, that they
    could not constitute the Assembly without a violation of the Union
    between Church and State, as now authoritatively defined and
    declared. He was, therefore, compelled, he added, to protest
    against proceeding further, and, unfolding a document which he held
    in his hand, he read, in a slow and emphatic manner, the protest of
    the Church. For the first few seconds, the extreme anxiety to hear
    defeated its object,--the universal "hush, hush," occasioned
    considerably more noise than it allayed; but the momentary
    confusion was succeeded by the most unbroken silence; and the
    reader went on till the impressive close of the document, when he
    flung it down on the table of the House and solemnly departed. He
    was followed at a pace's distance by Dr. Chalmers; Dr. Gordon and
    Dr. Patrick M'Farlan immediately succeeded, and then the numerous
    sitters on the thickly occupied benches behind filed after them, in
    a long unbroken line, which for several minutes together continued
    to thread the passage to the eastern door, till at length only a
    blank space remained. As the well-known faces and forms of some of
    the ablest and most eminent men that ever adorned the Church of
    Scotland glided along in the current, to disappear from the courts
    of the State institution for ever, there rose a cheer from the
    galleries. At length, when the last of the withdrawing party had
    disappeared, there ran from bench to bench a hurried, broken
    whispering,--"How many? how many?"--"_four hundred_": The scene
    that followed we deemed one of the most striking of the day. The
    empty vacated benches stretched away from the Moderator's seat in
    the centre of the building, to the distant wall. There suddenly
    glided into the front rows a small party of men whom no one
    knew,--obscure, mediocre, blighted-looking men, that, contrasted
    with the well-known forms of our Chalmers and Gordons, Candlishes
    and Cunninghams, M'Farlans, Brewsters, and Dunlops, reminded one of
    the thin and blasted corn ears of Pharaoh's vision, and like them,
    too, seemed typical of a time of famine and destitution.'

          [3] The 'voice' of this now famous utterance was William
          Howieson Crauford, Esq. of Craufurdland.

'I am proud of my country, no other country in Europe could have done
it,' said Lord Jeffrey. The Church had simply, in 1843, reverted to the
precedents of 1560 and 1578, and had, in the simile of Goldsmith
happily used by Miller on the occasion, returned like the hare to the
spot from which it flew. Edinburgh, he maintained, had not seen such a
day since the unrolling by Johnston of Warriston of the parchment in
the Greyfriars'. There was a secession, not from the Church, but from
the law courts, and temporary majorities of the Assembly. But the evil
men do lives in brass after them, and the Act of 1712 had rent the
Church of Scotland. No other country had been so fortunately situated
for the exemplification of an unbroken and a National Church. It was
left to two Tory Governments to ruin it, but opportunities once lost
may not thereafter be recovered. Under the long reign of Moderatism it
looked as if the _Nec tamen consumebatur_ were indeed to be a mockery.
But the revival of national feeling at the beginning of the century,
and the expression of popular rights in the Reform Bill of 1832, were
waves that were destined to extend from the nation to the Church. The
great book of M'Crie in 1811 had truly been fruitful of results. For a
century Moderatism had reigned on a lost sense of nationality. But, as
for long the history of Rome had been written with a patrician bias and
an uneasy remembrance of that figure of Tiberius Gracchus, so through
the influence of M'Crie the figure of John Knox had again risen to
popular consciousness in Scotland. There they could see a greater than
the Boyles, the Hopes, the Kinnoulls, the Broughams, and the Aberdeens.
Yet, till its publication, the face of M'Crie had been almost unknown
upon the streets of Edinburgh.

And the Succession? Did it abide with the Free Church or the residuary
Establishment? Lord Macaulay will show, in his speech in the House of
Commons on July 9, 1845, what the violation of the Treaty of Union had
effected in 1712, and that 'the church of Boston and Carstares was not
the church of Bryce and Muir, but the church of Chalmers and Brewster.'
No one knew that better than Hugh Miller, and no one had done more to
make the issues plain to the people of Scotland. To him it was 'the
good cause,' as Macaulay in his address to the Edinburgh electors had
styled his own. While a plank remained, or a flag flew, by that it was
his wish to be found. It was the cry which M'Crie had said, 'has not
ceased to be heard in Scotland for nearly three hundred years.' From
his first leader in _The Witness_, of January 15, 1840, to the close
of his life in 1856, he was to send forth no other sound. 'Your
handwriting did my heart good,' he writes in a letter before us, of 9th
October 1840, to his friend Patrick Duff in Elgin, 'and reminded me of
old times long before I became ill-natured or dreamed of hurting any
one. I am now "fighting in the throng"--giving and taking many a blow.
But I am taking all the care I can to strike only big wicked fellows,
who lift hands against the Kirk, or oppress the poor man.'

Napoleon feared three papers more than ten thousand bayonets, and
certainly Miller was a tower of strength not to be found in the adverse
battalions. None of the merely 'able editors' of the Establishment
party, much less the pamphleteers of the quality of Dean of Faculty
Hope, could touch him or find a link in his armour. This was a tribute
to character. The men of the opposition had 'nothing to draw with, and
the well was deep'; and many names then blown far and wide by windy
rumour, such as Dr. Cook, Robertson of Ellon, Dr. Bryce, and Principal
Pirie of Aberdeen, survive like flies in amber only because it was
their misfortune to be associated with great men. He might have said
with Landor that he did not strive with these men, for certainly of
them all 'none was worth his strife'; yet, though individually
contemptible, they formed a solid phalanx of Moderatism and of dead
resistance to argument and conviction. It was a time of great men. If
Chalmers was the incarnation of the country and the movement, Murray
Dunlop its jurist, Cunningham and Candlish its debaters, it was yet to
the leaders in _The Witness_ that the great mass of his countrymen
looked for the opinions of Hugh Miller. His relative, Dr. Gustavus Aird
of Creich, the late Moderator of the Free Church, has informed us that
in his own parish he learned the paper was read out in the mill, and
that in many places the same thing took place. It is well to have the
ear of the country, and it was well at the critical hour that there was
a man found who was heard gladly of the common people.



    'In close fights a champion grim,
    In camps a leader sage.'


'We have had,' says Dr. Guthrie in a letter dated 6th September 1839,
'a meeting about our newspaper. Miller, I may say, is engaged, and will
be here, I expect, in the course of two or three weeks. His salary is
to begin with £200, and mount with the profits of the paper. I think
this too little, but I have no doubt to see it double that sum in a
year or two--Johnstone to be the publisher, we advancing £1000, and he
will need other two. I am down with Brown, Candlish, and Cunningham for
£25 each. A few individuals only have as yet been applied to, and
already £600 of the £1000 has been subscribed.' His household he left
behind him in Cromarty for the time, and he lodged in St. Patrick
Square. Fortunate was it for the people that at the right time its ear
should have been caught by such a writer, one whose voice in the arena
was at once recognised by the individuality of its tone. The Edinburgh
press had long been held by the Moderate party, and the belief had been
that the conflict was a mere clerical striving for power. It remained
for Miller to educate the party, and to such effect was this done that,
while the non-intrusion petition to Parliament in 1839 from Edinburgh
had borne but five thousand signatures, the number, says Robert
Chambers, mounted in the first year of _The Witness_ to thirteen
thousand. It was clear to all Scotland that there was a new Richmond in
the field. It is the more necessary to insist on this, because the
clerical mind, which after Malebranche is too prone to see everything
in itself and its own surroundings, has never fully confessed the
services to the country of the layman. As Guthrie points out, a silence
is maintained all through Buchanan's _Ten Years' Conflict_ on Miller.
This he regrets, not only on the ground that it would be Hamlet without
the Prince of Denmark, but also for its missing the cardinal principle
that at such a time the press and public meetings form the most
influential of factors. This such a kindred spirit and public orator as
Guthrie is quick to see, nor does he go beyond the facts of the case,
or the judgment now of the country, in maintaining that 'Miller did
more than any dozen ecclesiastical leaders, and that, Chalmers
excepted, he was the greatest of all the men of the Ten Years'

He certainly was no half advocate or mere 'able editor' in the
Carlylean phrase. If Chalmers, Candlish, and Cunningham were the
leaders in the ecclesiastical courts, Murray Dunlop the jurist, Miller
was the pen-man of the party. 'His business,' says Guthrie, the orator
of the movement, 'was to fight. Fighting was Miller's delight. On the
eve of what was to prove a desperate conflict, I have seen him in a
high and happy state of eagerness and excitement. He was a scientific
as well as an ardent controversialist; not bringing forward, far less
throwing away, his whole force on the first assault, but keeping up the
interest of the controversy, and continuing to pound and crush his
opponents by fresh matter in every succeeding paper. When I used to
discuss questions with him, under the impression, perhaps, that he had
said all he had got to say very powerful and very pertinent to the
question, nothing was more common than his remarking, in nautical
phrase, "Oh, I have got some shot in the locker yet--ready for use, if
it is needed"!'

And that it was needed, in his own and the Church's interest, the
pamphlets of abuse by which he was attacked, and which would form a
small library, would remain to show. Thus he was really, all the more
from his isolated position, as we shall see, indebted to what Professor
Masson, in an appreciation of him in _Macmillan's Magazine_ for 1865,
describes as the Goethean 'demonic element.' He had a better knowledge,
he shows, of the country and its ecclesiastical history than was
possessed by his clerical colleagues, and along with this went what he
calls 'a tremendous element of ferocity, more of the Scandinavian than
the Celt, leaving his enemy not only slain but battered, bruised and
beaten out of shape.' This, though in a sense exaggerated, is true to
the extent that he entered the lists not as a mere servant, but as a
convinced defender of the liberties of the people. To touch on anything
that infringed upon the Presbyterian history of the country--be it by
the Duke of Buccleuch, the Duke of Sutherland, or other site-refusing
landlords of the day, or by some flippant alien and Episcopalian
pamphleteer among the briefless of the Parliament House, was certainly
to court a bout from which the unwary disputant emerged in a highly
battered condition. Yet his pugnacity was really foreign to the nature
of the man. His surviving daughter informs the writer he was 'a very
mild and gentle father, and his whole attitude was one depressed with
humility.' It was, however, well for site-refusers and factors riding
on the top of their commission from absentee landlords to feel that
attacks upon their policy in _The Witness_ were not to be lightened by
any hopes of an apology or by appeals to fear. 'The watchman,' he
writes in a letter before us, dated 9th October 1840, 'is crying
half-past twelve o'clock, and I have more than half a mile to walk out
of town between two rows of trees on a solitary road. Fine opportunity
for cudgel-beating factors I carry, however, with me a five-shilling
stick, strong enough to break heads of the ordinary thickness, and like
quite as well to appeal to an antagonist's fears as to his mercy.'

_The Witness_ started with a circulation of six hundred. Its position
among the Scottish papers was at once assured, and no greater proof of
the personality of the editor and the quality of 'the leaders' remains
than in the curious fact that, now after half a century, to the great
mass of the people his name has been not Miller, nor Mr. Miller, but
Hugh Miller. As in the similar case of John Bright the people seized on
the fact that here was a writer and speaker sprung from themselves, and
his christian name was as familiar as his surname. Yet, curiously
enough, from first to last he never believed in the profession of an
editor, and from the 'new-journalism' of the paragraph and the
leaderette he would have turned in disdain. Nothing but the fact that
he felt convinced of his mission would have induced him to leave
Cromarty for the post. 'I have been,' he could truly say, 'an honest
journalist. I have never once given expression to an opinion which I
did not conscientiously regard as sound, nor stated a fact which, at
the time at least, I did not believe to be true.' He never mastered, or
felt it necessary to master, the routine details of the business, for
the paper was read not for its Parliamentary reports, or the exposition
of party politics, but for the essays, sketches, or leaders which were
known to be by him. Accordingly the mere fluent production of 'copy,'
and the diurnal serving up of the editorial thunder by which the
members of the fourth estate fondly delude themselves that they lead
public opinion, never really came naturally to him. He prepared himself
carefully for his work; and perhaps the bi-weekly issue of the paper
and its peculiar nature lessened the strain upon the editor. His
successor in the editorial chair of the paper, Dr. Peter Bayne, in the
preface to Miller's _Essays_ (1862) says:

    'He meditated his articles as an author meditates his books or a
    poet his verses, conceiving them as wholes, working fully out their
    trains of thought, enriching them with far brought treasures of
    fact, and adorning them with finished and apposite illustration. In
    the quality of _completeness_ those articles stand, so far as I
    know, alone in the records of journalism. For rough and hurrying
    vigour they might be matched, or more, from the columns of the
    _Times_; in lightness of wit and smart lucidity of statement they
    might be surpassed by the happiest performances of French
    journalists--a Prévost-Paradol, or a St. Marc Girardin; and for
    occasional brilliancies of imagination, and sudden gleams of
    piercing thought neither they nor any other newspaper articles,
    have, I think, been comparable with those of S. T. Coleridge. But
    as complete journalistic essays, symmetrical in plan, finished in
    execution, and of sustained and splendid ability, the articles of
    Hugh Miller are unrivalled.'

Certainly few modern editors could produce such a leader as he did on
Dugald Stewart (Aug. 26, 1854), or upon the _Encyclopoedia Britannica_
(April 30, 1842), or could, finding themselves for a day in London,
'when time hung heavy on my hands,' buy a cheap reprint of Eugene Sue's
_Wandering Jew_ and convert its hurried perusal into a capital paper on
the conflict between Continental Ultramontanism and Liberalism. The
individuality of the writer and the tenacity with which he held to his
opinions gave the journal a tone naturally impossible to an ordinary
party paper. The great mass of the readers of _The Witness_ were of
course Liberals, yet he strenuously contended against making it an
organ of any political party. Part of the prospectus ran--'_The
Witness_ will not espouse the cause of any of the political parties
which now agitate and divide the country. Public measures, however,
will be weighed as they present themselves, in an impartial spirit, and
with care proportioned to their importance.' He had noticed, he said,
the Church of Scotland for a time converted by Conservatism into a mine
against the Whigs, and he was determined that no 'tool-making
politician' should again convert it to a party weapon. It was to remain
the organ of 'the Free Church people against Whig, Tory, Radical, and
Chartist.' So careful was he of the good name of the paper that he
'often retained communications beside him for weeks and months, until
some circumstance occurred that enabled him to determine regarding
their real value.' Chalmers read the paper to the last with approval,
and this was a source of joy and support to Miller. Nothing but such a
wise supervision could have piloted _The Witness_ through the abuse and
the inventions of the Tory organs. When the _Edinburgh Advertiser_, of
June 13, 1848, could try to improve on that rhetorical flight of
Barrère, characteristically fathered by its author on 'an ancient
author,' about the tree of liberty being watered by the blood of
tyrants, by an assertion that _The Witness_ had 'menaced our nobles
with the horrors of the French Revolution, when the guillotine plied
its nightly task, and the bloody hearts of aristocrats dangled in
buttonholes on the streets of Paris!'--proof was naturally wanting. A
phantom of a 'grey discrowned head sounding hollow on the scaffold at
Whitehall' was also served up by that paper, in its devotion to the
house of Buccleuch, as a threat in which the irate scribe professed to
detect a subtle attack on the House of Hanover in the interests of the
Free Church. 'I am a Whig, in politics,' he said, 'never a Radical or
Conservative.' He had no cheap sympathy with the working men, for them
he had seen on their worst side. 'Three-fourths of the distress of the
country's mechanics (of course not reckoning that of the unhappy class
who have to compete with machinery) and nine-tenths of their
vagabondism will be found restricted to inferior workmen, who like
Hogarth's "Careless Apprentice," neglected the opportunity of their
second term of education. The sagacious painter had a truer insight
into this matter than most of our modern educationists.' He was no
believer in household, much less in universal, suffrage, and as an
admirer of Delolme's views on our constitution, the radical he regarded
as a 'political quack,' convinced as he was that 'those who think must
govern those that toil.' But he advocated, along with Guthrie, a system
of undenominational education of a kind pretty much what is now
established, a moderate extension of the franchise, abolition of
entail, and the game laws. The Maynooth grant and Macaulay he opposed.
He was an Oliverian for Ireland, and the cause of much trouble in the
most distressful country he viewed as associated with that subsidy,
which he would have preferred to see converted into a grant for

Indeed, like most of his countrymen he had a strong view of historical,
as distinguished from mere party, conservatism. The last has of course
been rendered simply impossible in Scotland by the history and the
ecclesiastical tenets of the country, but he ever carried about him
something like the conviction of Dr. Livingstone, that the common
people of Scotland had read history and were no levellers. Thus he
held, like Burke, to what Mr. Morley calls 'the same energetic feeling
about moral laws, the same frame of counsel and prudence, the same love
for the slowness of time, the same slight account held of mere
intellectual knowledge.' This historic conservatism of Burke would be
taken by most Scotchmen as a pretty good basis for reasoned Liberalism,
and the fixity of Miller's main positions only exposed him the more to
the wearisome Tory vocabulary of 'high-flyer, fire-raiser, fanatic,'
etc. Admirably in the _Letter to Brougham_ does he seize on the ground
of the political Liberalism of Scotland:--

    'I, my Lord, am an integral part of the Church of Scotland, and of
    such integral parts, and of nothing else, is the body of this
    Church composed; nor do we look to the high places of the earth
    when we address ourselves to its adorable Head. The Earl of Kinnoul
    is not the Church, nor any of the other patrons in Scotland. Why,
    then, are these men suffered to exercise, and that so exclusively,
    one of the Church's most sacred privileges? You tell us of
    "existing institutions, vested rights, positive interests." Do we
    not know that the slave-holders, who have so long and so stubbornly
    withstood your Lordship's truly noble appeals in behalf of the
    African bondsman, have been employing an exactly similar language
    for the last fifty years; and that the onward progress of man to
    the high place which God has willed him to occupy has been impeded
    at every step by existing institutions, vested rights, positive

Bitter words, surely, all this for the ecclesiastical wirepullers of
1874, and inheritors of the policy of the Hopes and Muirs, when in
approaching the Government with a statement of the intolerable strain
of patronage, they tabled that same _Letter to Brougham_!

To the last, Miller clung to 'the Established principle.' This need not
seem wonderful. The Free Church he regarded as the Church of Scotland
in all but the state tie, the more so that the coercion by the civil
courts had not failed to impress him with the conviction that the
Headship, as stipulated for the Scottish Establishment by the Treaty of
Union, though defeated by Bolingbroke and lost in the stagnation of the
eighteenth century, had passed as an integral part of her constitution
to the Free Church. The difficulty attaching to his position proved an
unfortunate source of tension between him and some of the leaders, and
to this was due that lamentable quarrel with Dr. Candlish which he
carried to his grave, and which perhaps broke his heart, for he was
what Lord Cockburn had called their mutual friend Murray Dunlop, 'the
purest of all enthusiasts' and though Miller triumphed absolutely, yet
it was not in human nature to forget that the attack was, however
sincere, an attack upon cherished convictions.

There can be, therefore, no good now in minimising the fact that Dr.
Candlish, in his zeal to secure a political and tempting opportunity
against the Tory party, was led to enter on a quarrel with Miller. The
action really amounted to a motion of no confidence in his editorial
management. He proposed to centralise the Church press, and to secure
the intrusion of a sub-editor on the existing staff, and the conversion
of the paper into an explicit and active party organ. But by this time
Miller had become one of the proprietors, by undertaking to pay back
by instalments the thousand pounds advanced by Johnstone to the
subscribers, with the interest, year by year, of the unpaid portion
till the whole debt should be extinguished. The most objectionable
feature was the proposal to secure the services of some smart
Parliament House 'able editor.' _The Witness_ had been accused of
'preferring Protestantism to Macaulay, and damaging the elections.' In
this was shown the cloven foot, for it was an attempt to run the paper
for the Whigs, and to render it the organ of the legal lights of the
Parliament House in pursuit of official posts and spoil, of which
Miller justly thought they had enough. Besides, the fall of a
Government would mean the fall of that Government paper, and thus its
influence as the organ of Free Churchmen would be damaged. Already the
paper had parted with one of its best men who had been attracted to
_The Times_, and in the whole scheme Miller saw 'a censorship; and the
censor, assisted by the nice taste and tact of the Parliament House
editor, is to be Dr. Candlish.' But, he asks, 'who was to control Dr.
Candlish?' He could not see the paper jockeyed for a Government, and he
stood aloof from 'Exhalations blown aslant, over the faces of even the
Evangelical Churches, from the bogs and fens of a hollow Liberalism
that professes to respect all religions, and believes none.' He felt
that he had the people behind him, and 'possessing their confidence, I
do not now feel justified in retiring from my post: Dr. Candlish and
his Parliament House friends are not the ministers and people of the
Free Church of Scotland--"of wiles, more inexpert, I boast not,"--the
difference must either close entirely, or the people of Scotland must
be made fully acquainted with the grounds on which it rests.' The
unfortunate rupture closed by the very pointed question by Chalmers,
'Which of you could direct Hugh Miller?'

Meanwhile, in the Highlands and Islands, things were for a time going
hard with the now disestablished Church. In some cases they had to
preach 'where the snow was falling so heavily upon the people, that
when it was over they could scarcely distinguish the congregation from
the ground, except by their faces.' Baird of Cockburnspath had passed
away in a room, 'a few inches above which were the slates of the roof,
without any covering, and as white with hoar frost within as they were
white with snow without. His very breath on the blankets was frozen as
hard as the ice outside.' At Canonbie, Guthrie had passed Johnny
Armstrong's Tower, and preached in wind and rain to a large
congregation, 'old men, apparently near the grave, all wet and benumbed
with the keen wind and cold rain.' In Cromarty, Miller's old friend
Stewart was now preaching in the factory close, and there, in the
summer of 1843, after a night of rain had swept the streets, his mind
reverts to the congregations over Scotland in the open air--'I do
begrudge the Moderates our snug, comfortable churches. I begrudge them
my father's pew. It bears date 1741, and has been held by the family,
through times of poverty and depression, a sort of memorial of better
days, when we could afford getting a pew in the front gallery. But
yonder it lies, empty within an empty church, a place for spiders to
spin undisturbed, while all who should be occupying it take their
places on stools and forms in the factory close.' The subtle mark of
Scottish _gentility_ in the allusion to the pew will not fail to
strike the reader. Let it not be said that it savours of
'gigmanity'--in that standing bugbear of Carlyle!

In 1844 he set out on a geological ramble round the Hebrides in the
floating manse, '_The Betsey_,' by which the Church served the islands
in the west, owing to the refusal of sites by Lord Macdonald and
others. The yacht was but thirty feet by eleven, and there with his old
Cromarty friend Swanson, the 'outed' minister of the Small Isles, he
learned the hardships to which the miserable policy of the landlords
had exposed the poor Highlanders. But if 'the earth was the _lairds'_
and the fulness thereof,' the water was not! The building in which
the congregation met was of turf--'the minister encased in his
ample-skirted storm-jacket of oiled canvas, and protected atop by a
genuine sou'wester, of which the broad posterior rim sloped half a yard
down his back; and I, closely wrapped up in my grey maud, which proved,
however, a rather indifferent protection, against the penetrating
powers of a Hebridean drizzle.' In none of his works does he exhibit a
happier descriptive view than in _The Cruise of the Betsey_, though in
popularity it has been surpassed by his _First Impressions of England_,
where he records the results of an eight weeks' tour, in 1845, from
Newcastle to London, passing York, Birmingham, and Stratford on the
way. In 1847 he published his _Footprints of the Creator_, in reply to
the _Vestiges_ by Robert Chambers, in which he seeks to controvert the
theory of development, at least in the form in which it was then
presented, by attempting to prove the fishes and the fossils of the Old
Red to be as advanced in character as those now existing. A racy sketch
on _The Geology of the Bass_ formed part of a contribution to a work
then issued, dealing with the history, botany, and zoology of the Bass
Rock. The copyright of this he reserved with a view to its subsequent
incorporation into a long-projected geological survey of Scotland. But
this cherished idea he never lived to accomplish, though such a work
from his hand would have been well-nigh final and perfect in its
descriptive graces.

He was still in the enjoyment of his great physical power in spite of
the severe strain to which his editorial and literary labours exposed
him, added to as these were by his appearances in London and elsewhere
as a public lecturer. As an exponent of science he could attract an
audience in Exeter Hall of five thousand persons, whose attention he
held to the close in spite of his northern accent; though perhaps this,
like the Fifeshire speech of Chalmers and the Annandale tongue of
Carlyle, may have given an extra charm to the individuality of the
lecturer. The quarrel with Candlish had thinned the ranks of some of
his friends, nor did he ever draw to the circle of Edinburgh as he had
done to those in Cromarty. He was not to be easily got at by the
eminent men who sought his acquaintance, yet it is with pleasure we
catch occasional glimpses of him in the society of the best that either
Edinburgh or London could produce. Stewart in Cromarty had passed away,
in 1847, during the prosecution to him of a call to St. George's to
succeed Candlish, who had been translated to the college chair left
vacant by Chalmers. None of his friends were nearer to him than
Mackgill-Crichton of Rankeillour in Fife, and there we find him one
Christmas along with Sir David Brewster and Guthrie. Both Miller and
his host were men of great physical powers, and--as Professor Masson
notes--the geologist had a habit of estimating men by their physique.
Crichton had narrated how he had started by the side of the mail coach
as it passed his gates, and after a run of twenty miles he had been the
first at the ferry. 'A horse could do more than either of you,' was the
amused rejoinder of Brewster.

The issue of his _Schools and Schoolmasters_ (1854), republished from
the columns of his paper, brought him warm encomiums from Carlyle,
Robert Chambers, and others. Miller in politics and other points
differed strongly from Chambers, and of course at this time the secret
of the authorship of the _Vestiges_ had not been divulged. Yet
beautifully does Chambers, to whom Scottish publishing and periodical
literature owes so much, refer to the early days in Cromarty in
comparison with his own struggles in Peebles. Readers who may have not
quite forgiven some passages in Chambers's _History of the Rebellion of
1745_ will doubtless soften their asperity after reading Chambers's
account of his struggling through a whole set of the _Encyclopædia
Britannica_ which he had in a lumber garret,--setting out at sixteen,
'as a bookseller with only my own small collection of books as a
stock--not worth more than two pounds, I believe, quickly independent
of all aid--not all a gain, for I am now sensible that my spirit of
self-reliance too often manifested itself in an unsocial, unamiable
light, while my recollections of "honest poverty" may have made me too
eager to attain and secure worldly prosperity. Had I possessed uncles
such as yours, I might have been much the better of it through life.'

The close was cheered by the thought that he had fairly earned the
admiration and confidence of his country. Yet nothing that could in any
way fetter his editorial independence or freedom of action could he
permit. When the money invested in _The Witness_ was offered to him by
Chalmers it was firmly declined, and the proposal to requite his
services to the country by providing him with a residence he would
not allow. 'I know,' he said, 'that as the defender of Free Church
principles my intentions have been pure and loyal, but I am not quite
sure I have been successful in doing the right thing, nor have I done
anything that is worthy of such consideration from my friends. I
believe my way is to make yet.' The same was his answer to a proposal
to allow his name to stand for election as Lord Rector of Marischal
College in Aberdeen; he met it pretty much in the vein of Carlyle at
Edinburgh, when he felt that here was a generation in young Scotland
rising up who seemed to say that he had not altogether, after a
hard-spent day, been an unprofitable servant. Time had softened the
ecclesiastical asperities of other years, and in 1853 Lord Dalhousie
wrote to Lord Aberdeen to secure his election for the vacant Chair of
Natural History in Edinburgh. But it fell to Edward Forbes. Again he
was singled out by Lord Breadalbane, in 1855, and he was offered the
post of Distributor of Stamps for Perthshire, an office which would to
him have been a comfortable sinecure, securing alike competence and
much leisure. For twenty-eight years Wordsworth in Westmoreland filled
such a post, and Miller's banking experiences would have fitted him
perfectly for it. But he felt that a man turned fifty could not take up
a new vocation with success. That in this he was too modest there can
be no doubt; but after a brief consideration he made up his mind to
decline. 'I find,' he said, 'my memory not now so good as it was
formerly. I forget things which I was wont to remember with ease. I am
not clear, in such circumstances, about taking upon me any money

In fact, the long and severe strain of sixteen years had told. Of the
extraordinary memory whose failure he regrets, Guthrie supplies a
forcible example. In the shop of Johnstone the publisher a discussion
turned on some debate in the Town Council, when Miller said it reminded
him of a scene in Galt's _Provost_. He repeated the passage, halting at
the speech of the convener of the trades, but was evidently vexed at
the temporary breakdown. He got a copy from the front shop, and turned
up the passage. Then they learned that, though it was fifteen years
since last he had seen the book, he had repeated page after page

The year 1856 was one remarkable for garotte robberies. This awakened
in the overtaxed brain of Miller a fear for his museum of geological
specimens which he had housed for himself at Shrub Mount, Portobello.
The last four years of his life he had spent there, and often he would
leave the house and return late in the evening after hours of
investigation of the coast line and geological features of Leith
and the surrounding country. He knew his Edinburgh thoroughly; some
of his happiest papers are to be read in his _Edinburgh and its
Neighbourhood_; and it was after one of these excursions that Sir
Archibald Geikie had seen him, as he describes in the reminiscence to
be found in the last pages of this work. The fear of burglars had taken
hold firmly of his imagination, and he resumed the habit of bearing
fire-arms which he had begun at Cromarty when carrying the money of the
bank between that town and Tain. The inflammation of the lungs in his
early days as a mason had again at intervals returned, and his sleep
was broken by dreams of such a harassing nature that he would wake in
the morning to examine his clothes, in the belief that he was now the
victim of evil spirits. In such a condition it was not unnatural that
his mind should take a colour from other days, where the reader may
remember his own account of seeing the figure at the door after his
father's death. Professor Masson, we see, notes this point, and he
believes that Miller felt a strange fascination for all stories of
second-sight. Though he never wrote or spoke of such, except in the
sober tone of science, yet 'my impression,' he says, 'is that Hugh
Miller did all his life carry about him, as Scott did, but to a greater
extent, a belief in ghostly agencies of the air, earth, and water,
always operating, and sometimes revealing themselves. One sees his
imagination clinging to what his reason would fain reject.' The only
hope lay in a total cessation from all work, but this was found
impossible through the almost second nature which over-exertion had
become to him. He had also a rooted dislike for all medicines, and it
was with difficulty that he was induced to put himself under the
management of Dr. Balfour and Professor Miller. The last day of his
life was given to the revision of the proof-sheets of his _Testimony of
the Rocks_, and in the evening he turned over the pages of Cowper,
whose works had ever been among his standard favourites. By a curious
fatality his eye rested on _The Castaway_, written by the poet in a
similar mental condition, and which for sustained force and limpid
expression is unrivalled as a religious lyric. He retired to rest
on the night of the 24th December 1856. Next morning, his body,
half-dressed, was found with a bullet from a revolver through his left
lung. He had lifted a heavy woven jersey over his chest before he
fired, which showed that death had not been accidental. On a table a
loose sheet of paper was found on which had been written these lines to
his wife:--

    'DEAREST LYDIA,--My brain burns, I _must_ have _walked_; and a
    fearful dream rises upon me. I cannot bear the horrible thought.
    God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy upon me.
    Dearest Lydia, dear children, farewell. My brain burns as the
    recollection grows. My dear, dear wife, farewell.


It fell to Dr. Guthrie, in whose church of Free St. John's the deceased
had been an office member, to apprise the widow of the real nature of
the case; and in order to secure her sanction for a _post-mortem_
examination the above letter had to be produced, showing that his
purpose had been executed almost before the ink was dry. On the 26th
the verdict was issued:--'From the diseased appearances found in the
brain, taken in connection with the history of the case, we have no
doubt that the act was suicidal, under the impulse of insanity.' His
funeral was the largest Edinburgh had seen since that of Chalmers, and
by his side in the Grange Cemetery he was laid. To the mass of his
countrymen abroad he was the greatest of living Scotchmen. His works
had given him a European reputation in science, while to those at home
the work he had accomplished as a tribune of the people had given him a
position second only to that of Guthrie.

A generation has arisen since which hears but by vague report the
principles for which the men of 1843 contended. It takes many a man to
fall in the ditch before glorious revolutions can successfully march
over in their pumps and silk stockings, giving their victorious
three-times-three. It has been sought to minimise these issues, to
explain them away after the manner of 'able editors' and complacent
philosophers cheerfully 'at ease in Zion,' and to maintain, with the
hardy gravity of ignorance, that the combatants really knew not what
they fought for--the Headship of Christ, Anti-Patronage, or resistance
to the civil courts. Similar futilities we have seen ventilated over
the American Civil War. The North, say the philosophic thinkers, or
tinkers, did not know whether it fought for the preservation of the
Union or against slavery. Such speculations are too thin to carry much
weight. In both cases many went to their grave for what they believed
to be principle, and all such men may be safely trusted to have reached
some conclusions and clear issues. These issues obviously all met;
after Auchterarder on the one hand, and South Carolina on the other,
had led the way, no such easy subterfuge was possible for either party.

The lesson then learned at such a cost might never have been necessary,
with a better adjustment of the political balance, which has been again
found wanting and craves a final and a rational settlement. What
Fairfoul in 1662 told Middleton had been simply again repeated in 1843
by Muir and Hope, who held the ear of Sir James Graham, to whom Peel
had resigned the whole management of Scottish affairs. For all that
Graham knew of them, Peel might as well have left them to a foreigner.
It took the death of thousands of Irishmen in the potato famine of 1847
to convince the overfed John Bull of even the barest existence of an
Irish Question, and many a man went to his grave before Lord Aberdeen,
Peel, Graham, and other official people could learn for themselves the
true condition of Scotland. Then it was too late, and their regrets
were vain. The bill of Bolingbroke brought in, as Burnet said, to
weaken the Scottish Church, had produced its logical effects in
widening the gulf between the people and the nobility of Scotland;
education at Eton, Harrow, and the English Universities had done the
rest. Carlyle is known to have regarded the action of the Church in
1843 as the greatest thing in his time; the sole survivor of the Peel
ministry, Mr. Gladstone, has expressed the same opinion; while the
critical, wiry, and alert little Jeffrey was 'proud of his country.' It
bears to-day the mark very strongly of Hugh Miller. Nor need the
workman be ashamed of his work--from which, therefore, let him not be



    'In league with the stones of the field.'--JOB v. 23.

The geologist writes in sand literally and historically, and in the
science of the Testimony of the Rocks super-session is the law. 'Such,'
says Miller himself in the preface to the first edition of the
_Old Red Sandstone_, 'is the state of progression in geological science
that the geologist who stands still but for a very little must be
content to find himself left behind.' The advancing tide of knowledge
leaves the names of the early pioneers little more than a list of
extinct volcanoes. Hooke and Burnet, Ray and Woodward, Moro and Michel,
are to the ordinary mass of readers about as obsolete as the saurian
and the mastodon. Only the very few can live in a tide so strong, which
bears away not only the older landmarks but even such names as Werner
and Hutton, Hall and Fleming.

From about 1830 to 1850 the old metaphysical reign seems to have
ceased; and Jeffrey, in the palmy days of the _Edinburgh Review_,
could declare that the interest in psychology had well-nigh passed
away with Dugald Stewart. Natural Science seemed to be taking its
place, and the British Association movement lent impetus to the new
_régime_. Sedgwick, Buckland, Murchison, Owen, and others, followed by
Huxley and Tyndall, appeared to herald the advent of an age when the
most difficult problems could be read off the book of Nature, and the
public turned eagerly from the Babel of the philosophers to the men of
the new school in a sort of expectation of a royal road to learning,
without missing their way in theological jungle or 'skirting the
howling wastes' of metaphysics. Needless to say, the hopes were no
more realised than were the expectations of a golden age of material
prosperity in the wake of the Reform Bill. The problem of man and his
destiny remains as rooted as ever, and the metaphysician has not been
dislodged. The old battle of the evidences had been fought in the
domain of mental science, and when transferred to the natural sciences
the fight was not productive of the expected results. The times, as
Richter said, were indeed 'a criticising critical time, hovering
between the wish and the ability to believe, a chaos of conflicting
times: but even a chaotic world must have its centre, and revolve
round that centre: there _is_ no pure entire confusion, but all such
presupposes its opposite, before it can begin.' In Scotland and in
England the great ecclesiastical currents of the Disruption and the
Oxford Movement had left the nation for a time weary of theology, and
the school of natural science was in possession of the field. Now the
tide has turned, and the geologist is threatened with eclipse. Of
the _doyen_ of the new school, Richard Owen, Professor Huxley
says:--'Hardly any of those speculations and determinations have stood
the test of investigation. I am not sure that any one but the
historian of anatomical science is ever likely to recur to them.
Obvious as are the merits of Owen's anatomical and palæontological
work to every expert, it is necessary to be an expert to discuss them;
and countless pages of analysis of his memoirs would not have made the
general reader any wiser than he was at first.' Even Buckland is
regarded by Boyd Dawkins as belonging to a type of extinct men. Thus
is the deposition effected of the scientific Pope of the day. If such
rapid supersession be the law, who can expect in departing to leave
footprints in the annals of so shifting a science? Who can be a fixed

There is some comfort in the reflection that, as in Political Economy,
so in Geology, it is the inspiration that lives and not the mere amount
of positive contribution to knowledge. Bacon has effected nothing for
science; in everything that he attempted it may be shown that he was
wrong and that his methods have led to nothing. His name is associated
with no new discovery, no new law, not even with a new or inductive
method. But his niche is secure through the spirit in which he
approached the question; if he did not see the Promised Land, at
least he was a firm believer in its existence, and that spirit has
outlived his unhappy detraction of greater men than himself in mental
philosophy. His mind was swift to perceive analogies, and such a type
of mind, if it adds little to actual knowledge, is at least valuable
as a stimulus. Carlyle in his political pamphlets has certainly not
advanced the lines of the 'dismal science'; he even contemptuously
doubted its existence, and he has done harm to it through the
ready-reckoner school of _à priori_ economists who refer everything
with confidence to their own internal consciousness. Yet Carlyle at his
worst has his value. He has the merit of showing that the problem is in
its very nature an everlasting one, and that the plummet line of the
mere profit-and-loss moralist will never sound the depths of man and
his destiny. Such thinkers are, however, rare; but in natural science
they are the salt. Such are Oken, Cuvier, Darwin; their position is
independent of the truth of their theories, and they have the gift of a
fused and informing imagination, by which their theories are landmarks.
Much of their work has already been recast, and some of their once
supposed safest generalisations have been abandoned. But the progress
of science revolves round them as central suns. Hardly one of Niebuhr's
interpretations of Roman history has stood the test of subsequent
investigations, any more than those of Ewald in the field of Biblical
criticism. Yet in historical science no two men have a more assured

It is this informing power that keeps alive the geologist. Hume owes
his position in metaphysics to this power, and to his great gifts as a
stylist. Few men of science have had graces of style. In Darwin it is
lacking, and he has himself set on record that literature and art had
ceased for him to exert any influence, and that a mere novel had become
the highest form of intellectual amusement. Hutton needed a Playfair to
make him intelligible, as Dugald Stewart was needed for the exposition
of Reid. But it is this power that will keep Miller alive. His views
upon the Old Red Sandstone, on the Noachian Deluge, on the Mosaic
Cosmogony, may be right or wrong. But they have the sure merit of
abiding literature, and men highly endowed with this gift have a
lasting and assured fame. Mr. Lowell has declared Clough to be the true
poet of the restlessness of the later half of the century, and Tennyson
to be but its pale reflex. But the answer is ready and invincible:
Tennyson is read, and Clough is already on the shelf. As a piece of
imaginative writing, _The Old Red Sandstone_ is not likely to be soon
surpassed in its own line. 'I would give,' we find Buckland declaring,
'my left hand to possess such powers of description as this man has.'
'There is,' says Carlyle, 'right genial fire, everywhere nobly tempered
down with peaceful radical heat, which is very beautiful to see.
Luminous, memorable; all wholesome, strong, fresh, and breezy, like the
"Old Red Sandstone" mountains in a sunny summer day.' We doubt if a
single page of Sedgwick, or of Buckland even in his _Bridgewater
Treatise_, be read--at least as literature. But a man, whose book upon
the 'Old Red' has seen its twentieth edition, whose _Testimony of the
Rocks_ is in its forty-second thousand, and whose _Footprints_ has seen
a seventeenth edition, has only attained this popularity by his solid
merits as a writer and thinker. Mere popularisation cannot explain it.
When a man has fully mastered his subject, and his subject has mastered
him, there is sure to emerge a certain demonic force in literature or
in science, all the more if the writer be a man with a style.

It need hardly be said that geology, from its very first appearance,
had been associated with distinct views in Biblical criticism. The old
chronology of Archbishop Ussher in the margin of the Authorised
Version, by which B.C. 4004 was gravely assigned as the date of the
Creation of the world, and B.C. 2348 for the Deluge, was in conflict
with a science which required ages for its operations and not the
limited confines of six thousand years, which form but a mere
geological yesterday to the scientist like Lyell, who postulates some
eighty millions of years for the formation of the coal-beds of Nova
Scotia. The six 'days' of the Biblical Creation were thought unworthy,
as a mere huddling of events into a point of time, of the Divine
Wisdom, and impossible in conception. Mistakes in positive statement,
no less than of implication, were also alleged against the Mosaic
record, which was said to be admirable as literature if not immaculate
in science. For long geology was regarded as a hostile intruder, and it
required much time to assuage the fears on the one hand and lessen the
rather vague pretensions on the other, before the lines of demarcation
could be firmly drawn, if indeed, in a certain class of both
theological and scientific minds, they can be said to be even yet
settled. There is still the Voltairian type of thinker which is not yet
exploded; and which, even in the case of Professor Huxley, has imagined
that a mere shaking of the letter of a text or two is tantamount to an
annihilation of the Christian faith. 'That the sacred books,' as
Carlyle says, 'could be all else than a Bank of Faith Bill, for such
and such quantities of enjoyment, payable at sight in the other world,
value received; which Bill becomes a waste paper, the stamp being
questioned; that the Christian Religion could have any deeper
foundations than books, nothing of this seems to have even in the
faintest matter occurred to Voltaire. Yet herein, as we believe the
whole world has now begun to discover, lies the real essence of the
question.' Science, in fact, after a long _régime_ of even more than
Macaulayesque cocksureness, is now abating its tone. It now no longer
threatens like a second flood to cover the earth, and it is possible
for mental and historical science to reappear like the earth out of the
waters, and a clear line to be drawn between the limits of mind and
matter. Happily, accordingly, it is no longer possible for a Voltaire
to meet the theologian with a belief that the shells found on high
hills were dropped by pilgrims and palmers from the Holy Land, any
more than it would be possible to assert, with Dugald Stewart, that
the words in Sanskrit akin to Greek were dropped by the troops of
Alexander the Great. It is now as impossible to maintain, with the
mythologists of legend, that the Ross-shire hills were formed by the
_Cailliach-more_, or great woman, who dropped stones through the
bottom of the panniers on her back, as it would be for any reactionary
Chauteaubriand to assert that God made the world, at the beginning,
precisely as we see it with all its completeness and antiquity, since
he believed an infancy of the world would be a world without
romance!--denying creation in periods, and asserting it in
instantaneous processes, by which the fossils were even created just
as we see them. Such a conception is not to exalt the Divine Power;
or, if it appears to do so, it yet effectively annihilates a belief in
the Divine Wisdom that could create pretty toys and useless fossils--a
creation of mummies and skeletons that were never from the very
beginning intended to be anything but skeletons, without any relation
to living beings.

Miller accordingly makes it perfectly plain in what spirit he
approaches the sacred record. The Bible, he says repeatedly, is neither
a scientific text-book nor even a primer. Why, he asks, should it be
regarded as necessary to promulgate the truths of geology when those of
astronomy have been withheld? 'Man has everywhere believed in a book
which should be inspired and should teach him what God is and what God
demands of him, and this expectation is fully met in the Bible. But
nowhere has man looked for the divine revelation of scientific truth,
for it is in accordance with the economy of Providence, that Providence
which is exhibited in gradual developments, that no such expectation
has been or need be realised, the _Principia_ of Newton and the
discoveries of James Watt being both the result of the natural and
unaided faculties of man.' Nay, more; there never could have been such
a revelation given, for never yet has a single scientific truth been
revealed. But, on the other hand, when he contrasts this clear
perception of the demarcation of religion and science in the Bible, and
the all too copious neglect of it in the other sacred books of the
world, he is constrained to regard this very ability of distinction
between two classes of truth as a strong argument for its inspiration.

On Man and his destiny he is no less clear, and he has many fertile
suggestions to offer. His main thesis in this connection we have
already seen as determining in his own life its central point. Man he
regards as literally the fellow-worker with God. Up till his appearance
upon the earth, nature had been remarkable only for what it was, but
not for what it became. The advent of man marks the improver of
creation--God made manifest in the flesh. Between his intellect and
that of his Creator there is a relation, since we find creature and
Creator working by the same methods. Precisely as we see China arriving
at the invention of printing, gunpowder, and the mariner's compass
without any connection with the West, so we see the works of the
Creator in the palæozoic period repeated by the tiny creature-worker,
without any idea that he had been anticipated. Thus Creation is not
merely a scheme adapted to the nature of man, but one specially adapted
to the pattern nature of God. Man made in the image of God is a real
and fitting preparation for God's subsequent assumption of the form of
man. 'Stock and graft had the necessary affinity,' and were finally
united in the one person. History is, therefore, no mere finite record
dating from a human act in Eden, but is the real result of a decree,
'in which that act was written as a portion of the general programme.'

The problem of the origin of evil is of course a difficulty viewed in
relation to the decrees of God, in whom no evil can exist. In the
present state of things he regards evil as due to man himself. The
deputed head of creation has voluntarily and of his own free will
_not_ chosen to be a fellow-worker with God, who, while binding
him fast in the chain of events, has yet left his will free. To ordain
sin would be a self-contradiction of the idea of God; He but creates
the being that in turn creates sin. 'Fore-knowledge,' as Milton says,
'had no influence on their fault, which had no less proved certain
unforeseen.' Perhaps this is as near as we are ever likely to get. But
the Fall in its theological aspect, while it must be fully apprehended
by faith, has nothing to fear from science, which teaches, if it can be
said emphatically to teach one thing, that the sins of the fathers are
visited upon the children. With Coleridge, therefore, he regards the
Fall as a necessary stage in the history of thought and of man. The
creation of the non-absolute gives a pivot without which all subsequent
events would be inexplicable. It gives the true means of colligating
the phenomena: Man, if at the Fall he lost Eden, gained a conscience
and a moral sense.

More remarkable is his attempted reconciliation of science and the
Mosaic cosmogony. Chalmers had regarded the Biblical account as
relating only to existing creations, and believed in the existence of a
chaotic period of death and darkness between this present world and the
prior geological ages. Pye Smith, on the other hand, had regarded chaos
as both temporary and limited in extent, and believed that outside this
area there had existed lands and seas basking in light and occupied by
animals. But subsequent geological knowledge had shown that this theory
of cataclysms and breaks was without evidence--many of the present
plants and animals co-existing with those of the former periods; nor
could Smith's theory of light existing round the coasts of the earth be
brought to square with the distinct statement of the primal creation of
light in Genesis. On the other hand, Miller notices that geology, as
dealing not with the nature of things, but only with their actual
manifestations, has to do with but three of the six days or periods.
The scale of all geologists is divided into three great classes. Lesser
divisions of systems, deposits, beds, and strata may exist; but the
master divisions, as he calls them, are simply those three which even
the unpractised eye can detect--the Palæozoic, the Secondary, and the
Tertiary. The first is the period of extraordinary fauna and flora--the
period emphatically of forests and huge pines, 'the herb yielding seed
after its kind, and tree bearing fruit.' The second is the age of
monsters, reptiles, pterodactyls and ichthyosaurs, 'the fowl that
flieth above the earth, the great sea-monsters and winged fowl after
its kind.' The Tertiary period is that of 'the beasts of the earth and
the cattle after their kind.' In each age, it is true, there is a
twilight period, a period of morning-dawn and evening-decline; but in
the middle of each period it is that we find the great outstanding
features above. Thus there would be no contradictions in the record.
This, it must be allowed, summarises truly enough the process of
creation; but it leaves out of sight the invertebrata and early fishes
of the first period, and regards the succeeding carboniferous era as
the leading features, while perhaps in some subordinate details it
inverts the order of other appearances.

To the wider objection to the Biblical record, with its light before
the creation of the sun upon the fourth day, the vegetation on the
third independent of the sun's warming rays, and to other real or
supposed contradictions, Miller has a highly ingenious reply. We do not
think it fully meets the necessities of the case, but it has
unquestionably the merit of imaginative power, and is in full harmony
with the nature of man's mind, and is therefore preferable to any
theory which would assert the exact science of the Mosaic record by its
anticipation of the theory of Laplace and Herschel, by which the earth
existed before the sun was given as a luminary, and was independent of
the sun for light. Perhaps the theory of progressive revelation will
commend itself to most as the truest and the simplest explanation,
though it should be noted that the extraordinary approximation of the
Biblical version to the latest science does really set it far above the
merely human speculation of some old Hebrew Newton or Descartes.

While regarding the 'days' as ages, Miller views the record as the
result of an _optical vision_ presented to the writer. He truly
enough remarks that any exact revelation would have defeated its own
object through an elaborate statement to man at an early stage. Man
would not have believed it, as it would have contradicted his own
experience. He would no more have believed that the earth revolved on
its own axis than that molluscs had preceded him on the earth. The
record, therefore, he regards as according to appearance rather than to
physical realities: 'The sun, moon, and stars may have been created
long before, though it was not until the fourth day of creation that
they became visible from the earth's surface.' The six days or periods
he takes to correspond with the six divisions in a successive series of
the Azoic, Silurian, Carboniferous, Permian, Oolitic, and Tertiary
ages. To the human eye of the seer, the second day would afford nothing
to divert it from the atmospheric phenomena; on the fourth the
celestial phenomena would alone be so prominent as to call for specific
mention. But, familiar to most readers as the famous passage is, we
here present it as the best example of his descriptive and imaginative
powers. If there are to be reconciliations at all, as either necessary
or desirable, it would be hard to beat this fine piece of fused
strength and imagination.[4]

          [4] _Testimony of the Rocks_, pp. 186-191, ed. 1857.

    'Such a description of the creative vision of Moses as the one
    given by Milton of that vision of the future which he represents as
    conjured up before Adam by the archangel, would be a task rather
    for the scientific poet than for the mere practical geologist or
    sober theologian. Let us suppose that it took place far from man,
    in an untrodden recess of the Midian desert, ere yet the vision of
    the burning bush had been vouchsafed; and that, as in the vision of
    St. John in Patmos, voices were mingled with scenes, and the ear as
    certainly addressed as the eye. A "great darkness" first falls upon
    the prophet, like that which in an earlier age fell upon Abraham,
    but without the "horror"; and as the Divine Spirit moves on the
    face of the wildly troubled waters, as a visible aurora enveloped
    by the pitchy cloud, the great doctrine is orally enunciated, that
    "in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."
    Unreckoned ages, condensed in the vision to a few brief moments,
    pass away; the creative word is again heard, "Let there be light,"
    and straightway a grey diffused light springs up in the east, and,
    casting its sickly gleam over a cloud-limited expanse of steaming,
    vaporous sea, journeys through the heavens towards the west. One
    heavy sunless day is made the representative of myriads; the faint
    light waxes fainter--it sinks beneath the dim undefined horizon;
    the first scene of the drama closes upon the seer; and he sits a
    while on his hill-top in darkness, solitary but not sad, in what
    seems to be a calm and starless night.

    'The light again brightens--it is day; and over an expanse of
    ocean, without visible bound, the horizon has become wider and
    sharper of outline than before. There is life in that great
    sea--invertebrate, mayhap also ichthyic, life; but, from the
    comparative distance of the point of view occupied by the prophet,
    only the slow roll of its waves can be discerned, as they rise and
    fall in long undulations before a gentle gale; and what most
    strongly impresses the eye is the change which has taken place in
    the atmospheric scenery. That lower stratum of the heavens occupied
    in the previous vision by seething steam, or grey, smoke-like fog,
    is clear and transparent; and only in an upper region, where the
    previously invisible vapour of the tepid sea has thickened in the
    cold, do the clouds appear. But there, in the higher strata of the
    atmosphere they lie, thick and manifold--an upper sea of great
    waves, separated from those beneath by the transparent firmament,
    and, like them too, impelled in rolling masses by the wind. A
    mighty advance has taken place in creation; but its most
    conspicuous optical sign is the existence of a transparent
    atmosphere--of a firmament stretched out over the earth, that
    separates the water above from the waters below. But darkness
    descends for the third time upon the seer, for the evening and the
    morning have completed the second day.

    'Yet again the light rises under a canopy of cloud, but the scene
    has changed, and there is no longer an unbroken expanse of sea. The
    white surf breaks, at the distant horizon, on an insulated reef,
    formed mayhap by the Silurian or Old Red coral zoophytes ages
    before, during the bygone yesterday; and beats in long lines of
    foam, nearer at hand, against the low, winding shore, the seaward
    barrier of a widely-spread country. For at the Divine command the
    land has arisen from the deep--not inconspicuously and in scattered
    islets, as at an earlier time, but in extensive though flat and
    marshy continents, little raised over the sea-level; and a yet
    further fiat has covered them with the great carboniferous flora.
    The scene is one of mighty forests of cone-bearing trees--of palms
    and tree-ferns, and gigantic club-mosses, on the opener slopes, and
    of great reeds clustering by the sides of quiet lakes and dark
    rolling rivers. There is a deep gloom in the recesses of the
    thicker woods, and low, thick mists creep along the dank marsh or
    sluggish streams. But there is a general lightening of the sky
    overhead; as the day declines, a redder flash than had hitherto
    lighted up the prospect falls athwart fern-covered bank and long
    withdrawing glade. And while the fourth evening has fallen on the
    prophet, he becomes sensible, as it wears on, and the fourth day
    approaches, that yet another change has taken place.

    'The Creator has spoken, and the stars look out from openings of
    deep unclouded blue; and as day rises, and the planet of morning
    pales in the east, the broken cloudlets are transmuted from bronze
    into gold, and anon the gold becomes fire, and at length the
    glorious sun arises out of the sea, and enters on his course
    rejoicing. It is a brilliant day; the waves, of a deeper and softer
    blue than before, dance and sparkle in the light; the earth, with
    little else to attract the gaze, has assumed a garb of richer
    green; and as the sun declines amid ever richer glories than those
    which had encircled his rising, the moon appears full-orbed in the
    east,--to the human eye the second great luminary of the
    heavens,--and climbs slowly to the zenith as night advances,
    shedding its mild radiance on land and sea.

    'Again the day breaks; the prospect consists, as before, of land
    and ocean. There are great pine woods, reed-covered swamps, wide
    plains, winding rivers, and broad lakes; and a bright sun shines
    over all. But the landscape derives its interest and novelty from a
    feature unmarked before. Gigantic birds stalk along the sands, or
    wade far into the water in quest of their ichthyic food; while
    birds of lesser size float upon the lakes, or scream discordant in
    hovering flocks, thick as insects in the calm of a summer evening,
    over the narrower seas, or brighten with the sunlit gleam of their
    wings the thick woods.

    'And ocean has its monsters: great _tanninim_ tempest the deep,
    as they heave their huge bulk over the surface to inhale the
    life-sustaining air; and out of their nostrils goeth smoke, as out
    of "a seething pot or caldron." Monstrous creatures, armed in
    massive scales, haunt the rivers, or scour the flat rank meadows;
    earth, air, and water are charged with animal life; and the sun
    sets on a busy scene, in which unerring instinct pursues
    unremittingly its few simple ends--the support and preservation of
    the individual, the propagation of the species, and the protection
    and maintenance of the young.

    'Again the night descends, for the fifth day has closed; and
    morning breaks on the sixth and last day of creation. Cattle and
    beasts of the field graze on the plains; the thick-skinned
    rhinoceros wallows in the marshes; the squat hippopotamus rustles
    among the reeds, or plunges sullenly into the river; great herds of
    elephants seek their food amid the young herbage of the woods;
    while animals of fiercer nature--the lion, the leopard, and the
    bear--harbour in deep caves till the evening, or lie in wait for
    their prey amid tangled thickets, or beneath some broken bank. At
    length, as the day wanes and the shadows lengthen, man, the
    responsible lord of creation, formed in God's own image, is
    introduced upon the scene, and the work of creation ceases for ever
    upon the earth.

    'The night falls once more upon the prospect, and there dawns yet
    another morrow--the morrow of God's rest--that divine Sabbath in
    which there is no more creative labour, and which, "blessed and
    sanctified" beyond all the days that had gone before, has as its
    special object the moral elevation and final redemption of man. And
    over _it_ no evening is represented in the record as falling, for
    its special work is not yet complete. Such seems to have been the
    sublime panorama of creation exhibited in vision of old to

        "The Shepherd who first taught the chosen seed,
        In the beginning how the heavens and earth
        Rose out of chaos";

    and, rightly understood, I know not a single scientific truth that
    militates against even the minutest or least prominent of its

The _Origin of Species_ in 1859 was issued after Miller's death, but
the leading doctrines of Darwin were not unknown before that time to
the public through the appearance of Robert Chambers's _Vestiges of the
Natural History of Creation_ in 1844, and a subsequent volume of
'Explanations' in 1846. This book caused almost as considerable a stir
as that of Darwin himself, and the greatest care was taken by Chambers
to conceal the authorship. The proof-sheets sent to Mr. Ireland in
Manchester, were returned to the writer, who reforwarded them to
Ireland, who in his turn despatched them to London. The guesses at the
author ranged from Sir Charles Lyell up to the Prince Consort; and so
strong were the feelings aroused that they defeated a proposal to bring
in Chambers as Lord Provost of Edinburgh in 1848, and the secret was
not formally divulged till the issue by Ireland in 1884 of a twelfth
edition. The book is written in a 'powerful and brilliant style,' as
Darwin says; and, though long out of print, its re-issue by Routledge
and Son in their Universal Library has again drawn attention to its
views, which in Scotland caused something of the stir produced by the
appearance in England of _Essays and Reviews_. Chambers, indeed,
regarded his book as 'the first attempt to connect the natural sciences
into a history of creation. As such, it must necessarily be crude and
unsatisfactory, yet I have thought the time was come for attempting to
weave a great generalisation out of established natural truths.' Much
of the popular ideas or misconceptions about the geological record is
due to the _Vestiges_. It is not very strong in logic nor exact in
individual branches of science, yet its influence fully merited the
detailed reply by Miller, in 1847, in the _Footprints of the Creator_,
which he appropriately dedicated to Sir Philip Egerton, the highest
authority on fossil fishes.

Chambers and his school had largely subscribed to the doctrines of
Oken, by which no organism had been created of larger size than an
infusorial point, and no organism created which was not microscopic;
whatever exists larger, man himself included, having been developed and
not created. To this Miller replies that this at least is not the
testimony of the rocks. If it were true, it would follow that the
oldest fossils would be small, and low in organisation. But, so far is
this from being the case that the oldest organisms, whether that be the
_asterolepis_ or the _cephalaspidæ_ or the _acanthidæ_, are large and
high. One asterolepis found at Thurso measures over twelve feet, and a
Russian specimen described by Professor Asmus of Dorpat seems to have
reached the astonishing length of twenty-three feet. Thus, the earliest
organisms 'instead of taking their place, agreeably to the demands of
the development hypothesis, among the sprats, sticklebacks, and minnows
of their class, took their place among its huge and basking sharks,
gigantic sturgeons, and bulky sword-fishes. They were giants, not

The prevalence of the brachiopods in the Silurian period over the
_cephalaspidæ_ proves little. What the naturalist has to deal with
is not quantity but quality, 'not the number of the low, but the
standing of the high. A country may be distinctly a country of flocks
and herds, or a country of carnivorous mammalia, or like New South
Wales or the Galapagos, a country of marsupial animals or of reptiles.
Its human inhabitants may be merely a few hunters or shepherds, too
inconsiderable in numbers to give it any peculiar standing as a home of
men. But in estimating the highest point in the scale to which the
animal kingdom has attained, it is of the few men, not of its many
beasts, that we must take note.' Thus he maintains that the existence
of a single cephalopod or one cuttlefish among a wilderness of
brachiopods is sufficient to indicate the mark already attained in the
scale of being, just as the existence of the human family, when
restricted to a pair, indicated as clearly the scale as when its
existence can be counted by millions. Under the clearing-system in the
Western Highlands, Miller had, during 'the cruise of the Betsey,'
noticed in the island of Rum a single shepherd and eight thousand
sheep. Yet the human unit, to the naturalist, would outweigh all the
lower organisms. Moreover, the brachiopods of the palæozoic age he
would regard as larger than those existing now which have sunk by
'degradation' into inferior importance.

The proof of the development theory in the realm of fossil flora he
would regard as still more questionable. It had been asserted that in
the carboniferous age no exogenous plant had appeared; that before the
Lias nature had not succeeded in producing a tree, and that the
vegetation of the coal-measures had been 'magnificent immaturities' of
the vegetable kingdom. But the quarry of Craigleith, near Edinburgh,
alone would refute it, not to speak of the coal-fields of Dalkeith and
Falkirk with their araucarians and pines. While Brongniart had denied
to the Lower 'Old Red' anything higher than a lichen or a moss, 'the
ship carpenter might have hopefully taken axe in hand, to explore the
woods for some such stately pine as the one described by Milton:

    "Hewn on Norwegian hills, to be the mast
    Of some great ammiral."'

It might be thought, however, that to the geological argument from
development some consolation might be left from the general fact of the
lower producing the higher. Yet even here the Lamarckian theory fails.
Fishes were earlier than the beasts of the field and man. But we are
still a long way from any proof that 'the peopling of the earth was one
of a natural kind, requiring time'; or that the predecessors of man
were his progenitors. So far as geology is concerned, superposition is
not parental relation, so that there is no necessity for the lower
producing the higher. Nor has transmutation of marine into terrestrial
vegetation been proved. This had been the mainstay of the Lamarckian
hypothesis, and had been adopted from the brilliant but fancifully
written _Telliamed_ (an anagram, by the way, of the author's name) of
De Maillet by both Oken and Chambers, who had found in the _Delphinidæ_
the marine progenitors of the _Simiadæ_, and through them of man--a
curious approximation to some recent crude ideas of Professor Drummond
in his _Ascent of Man_. They had pointed to the general or supposed
agreement in fauna and flora between the Galapagos and South America,
between the Cape de Verde Islands and Africa; yet in such a period of
conversion plants of an intermediate character would be found, and
thousands of years have failed to produce such a specimen. Thus
geology, botany, and zoology would seem to afford slight support to the
Darwinian theory, at least in the state of the argument as presented in
the _Vestiges_, unless a very large draft upon the mere imagination is

And such a demand is made by Darwin. 'If,' says he, 'my theory be true,
it is indisputable that before the lowest Silurian stratum was
deposited, long periods elapsed, as long as, or probably far longer
than, the whole interval from the Silurian age to the present day; and
that, during these vast, yet quite unknown periods of time, the world
teemed with living creatures.' This, however, we may say with the
Regent Morton, is only 'a devout imagination'; and it might be more
scientific to take the geological record as we find it, for, says
Miller, 'it is difficult to imagine that that uniform cessation of
organised life at one point, which seems to have conducted Sir Roderick
Murchison and Professor Sedgwick to their conclusion, should thus have
been a mere effect of accident. Accident has its laws, but uniformity
is not one of them; and should the experience be invariable, as it
already seems extensive, that immediately beneath the fucoidal beds
organic remains cease, I do not see how the conclusion is to be
avoided, that they represent the period in which, at least, _existences
capable of preservation_ were first introduced.' Indeed the hypothesis
of Darwin would fall under the remark of Herodotus, that the old
theorisers and speculators at the last resort betook themselves to a
belief in an imaginary ocean-river or to something in the interior of
the earth where observation was of necessity excluded. For, as
Professor Bain says, the assertion of a fact wholly beyond the reach of
evidence for or against, is to be held as untrue: we are not obliged to
show that a thing is not,--the burden lies on them who maintain that
the thing is.

We have said that those who ultimately live in each branch of science
are few. It is only by the combination in perfection of imagination and
observation that success is ensured. Miller had noticed in the writer
of the _Vestiges_ the absence of original observation and abstract
thinking, or the power of seeing and reasoning for himself. In truth,
there is something in geological speculation akin to what Professor
Jebb has noticed in the field of classical emendation and of textual
criticism, especially in Germany, where scholarship is a crowded
profession, and eminence is often temporarily won by boldness of
handling the texts. But even Ritschl, with all his heavy apparatus of
learning, singularly fails in comparison with the sagacity of Bentley
or the instinct of Porson. What habits of classical verse-composition
had done for these scholars is brought to the geologist by observation.
This, in unison with creative mental power, will alone preserve the
name of the natural scientist. The first has kept White of Selborne a
literary evergreen: the second has maintained his place for Cuvier.
Miller's own friend, Dr. Longmuir, rightly singles out this
Champollion-like trait of _sagacity_ as his most characteristic
feature, by which 'he seemed by intuition to perceive what cost other
minds no small amount of careful investigation.' He was very cautious
in statement, and laborious in the acquisition of his data. In his
works the reader will find no second-hand statements, no airy
generalisation; even in fields where special research in minute
departments had been by circumstances denied to him, his gift of
constructive imagination often enables him to supply such defects as
later investigators may have detected and added. 'The more,' says
Professor Huxley, I study the fishes of the Old Red, the more I am
struck by the patience and sagacity manifested in his researches, and
by the natural insight which, in his case, seems to have supplied the
want of special anatomical knowledge.'

And what is true in science is also no less true in his purely literary
performances. The reader of his articles, political or social, cannot
fail to be struck with the pertinence of his quotations and
illustrations. What he knew was instantly at the call of a powerful
memory and a vigorous imagination. As an editor, he had not to go to
memory for his metaphors, and to his imagination for his facts. Both
came easily and naturally; and his writing, even in its most sustained
flights, shows no signs of effort. Some critics have detected in his
style an element of exuberance; and this may be allowed in his
narrative and descriptive passages. There would appear to have been, as
it were, a Celtic lobe of imagination in his mind for the feeling of
discursive description and external nature. Thus, in his slightest
landscapes his imagination or eye is not satisfied with the few bold
touches such as Carlyle would, after his manner, throw upon the canvas.
It expands, like the method of Ruskin, over the surface. But in each
case the defect is the result of original endowment. The eye, he says,
had been in his case exclusively trained as a mason, and this habit of
seeing the projected line complete from the beginning was at the bottom
of his often spoiling the effect of his narrative with flamboyant
additions, through his possession of the geological eye for its
conformation in detail. Johnson said of Thomson that he had a true
poetical genius--the power of seeing even a pair of candles in a
poetical light. The landscape became to Miller at once anatomised into
its geological aspects.

But in his strictly scientific passages this is not so. There the style
is simple in expression and close in reasoning. When we consider the
great amount of solid literary performance, and of minute observation,
recorded in his _Cruise of the Betsey_ and his _Rambles of a
Geologist_, extending over the West Coast and the Orkneys--when we
know that much of his work consisted of papers in _The Witness_,
republished, like _The Old Red Sandstone_, in book form with the
necessary additions, we shall wonder at the fertility and the quickness
of the mind that could, in the midst of distracting journalistic
demands on his time and attention, produce such a mass of varied and
finished work in science and literature. And of the work in _The
Witness_ as a political writer, we need only say that the present
ecclesiastical condition of Scotland bears largely his impress. Till he
came and gave expression to the feeling of the country in the columns
of his paper, the people had to a considerable extent believed the
question at issue to be one that concerned mainly the clergy. This had
been the standpoint of the Moderate organs, in a wary attempt to win
over the laity. But by the _Letter to Brougham_ he won the ear of the
people, and to the end he never lost it. By 1841 the political
candidates in Scotland at the general election had proclaimed
themselves, with a single exception, in favour of some distinct
alteration of the law of patronage. Whether Church papers are or are
not a blessing--in England they have become a menace to political
action and a medium for the most offensive clericalism and reactionary
measures--may safely be left out of account in settling the question in
his own case, for, as we have seen, he had never consented to make his
paper a merely ecclesiastical organ. But of the work which he
accomplished as a leader-writer and as an exponent of popular rights we
have the unhesitating estimate of Guthrie: 'The battle of Christ's
rights as Head of the Church, and of the people's rights as members of
the body of which He is the Head, was fought and won in every town and
a large number of the parishes of Scotland, mainly by Hugh Miller,
through the columns of _The Witness_ newspaper.' Of it he himself, in
the closing sentences of the _Schools and Schoolmasters_, could say
with modesty that it took its place among our first-class Scottish
newspapers, and that it numbered among its subscribers a larger
percentage of readers with a university education than any other. Nor
would he, perhaps, have considered it as among the least of his
journalistic successes that his name and connection could win for the
elder Bethune, at the close of his wintry day, the proposed editorship
of the _Dumfries Standard_, which would have done much to have
brightened the life of his old fellow-contributor to Wilson's _Border
Tales_ had not the poet been removed before him by death.

In science there are stars and stars, to borrow the adage of Thackeray
upon men. There are stars that are fixed. In his own line of geology,
as an inspirationist, we think his name will not soon pass away. There
may be defects of knowledge, but there is no defect of spirit; and here
we cannot do better than set down the opinion of his friend, Sir
Archibald Geikie, who has a connection both with Miller and with
Murchison through his occupancy of the Murchisonian Chair of Geology in
the University of Edinburgh. Both Miller and Murchison came out of the
Black Isle. In a communication to us of the date 22nd December 1895, he
thus writes:--

    'Hugh Miller will always occupy a peculiar place in the history of
    geology, and in the ranks of geological literature. He was not in
    any sense a trained geologist. He lacked the habit of patient and
    detailed investigation in departments of the science that did not
    specially interest him, but which were essential as a basis of
    accurate induction and successful speculation. In all that relates
    to the stratigraphical sequence of the formations, for example, he
    accepted what had been done by others without any critical
    examination of it. Thus, in his own region--the north of
    Scotland--he believed that a girdle of Old Red Sandstone nearly
    encircles the older crystalline rocks of Ross and Sutherland--a
    view then generally adopted. Yet he had actually walked over ground
    where, with even an elementary knowledge of structural geology, he
    could have corrected the prevalent error. It is, of course, no
    reproach to him that he left matters as he found them in that
    respect; his genius did not find in such questions the appropriate
    field of its exertion.

    'Nor though he occupied himself all through his life with fossils,
    can he be called a palæontologist. He had no education in
    comparative anatomy, and was thus incompetent to deal adequately as
    a naturalist with the organisms which he discovered. He was himself
    perfectly conscious of the limitations of his powers in this
    department, and thus wisely refrained from burdening the literature
    of science with descriptions and names which would have been
    revised, and perhaps entirely recast, by some subsequent more
    competent biologist.

    'Hugh Miller's unique position is that of a poetic student of the
    geological side of Nature, who possessed an unrivalled gift of
    vividly communicating to others the impressions made on his own
    mind by the observation of geological fact and by the inferences
    which such observation seemed to warrant. His lively imagination
    led him to seize more especially on those aspects of the past
    history of the earth which could be most vividly realised. He loved
    to collect the plants and animals of which the remains have been
    entombed among the rocks, and to re-people with them the scenes in
    which they lived long ages ago. Each scattered fact was marshalled
    by his eager fancy into its due place in the mental picture which
    he drew of such long-vanished lands, lakes, rivers, and seas. His
    enthusiasm supplied details where facts were wanting, and enabled
    him to kindle in his readers not a little of the burning interest
    which he felt himself.

    'Long study of the best English literature had given Miller a rare
    mastery of his mother tongue. For elegance of narrative combined
    with clearness and vividness of description, I know no writing in
    the whole of scientific literature superior, or, indeed, perhaps
    equal to his. There can be no doubt that this literary gift,
    appealing as it did to so wide a circle of readers, formed a chief
    source of the influence which he exerted among his contemporaries.
    It was this that enabled him to spread so widely a curiosity to
    know something of geological science, and an interest in the
    progress of geological discovery. I do not think that the debt
    which geology owes to him for these services, in deepening the
    popular estimation of the science, and in increasing the number of
    its devotees, has ever been sufficiently acknowledged. During his
    lifetime, and for some years afterwards, Hugh Miller was looked
    upon by the general body of his countrymen as the leading geologist
    of his day. And this exaggerated but very natural estimate spread
    perhaps even more extensively in the United States. His books were
    to be found in the remotest log-hut of the Far West, and on both
    sides of the Atlantic ideas of the nature and scope of geology were
    largely drawn from them.

    'Of the extent and value of Miller's original contributions to
    geology I am, perhaps, hardly fitted to speak. He was one of my
    earliest and kindest scientific friends. He used to relate to me
    the results of his summer rambles before he had time to set them
    down in writing. He admitted me into the intimacy of his inner
    thoughts on geological questions and controversies. He brought me
    completely under the spell of his personal charm, and filled me
    with an enthusiastic love for the man as well as a passionate
    admiration for the geologist. Nor has the glamour of that early
    friendship passed away. I would rather leave to others the
    invidious task of coldly dissecting Hugh Miller's work and seeing
    how much of it has been a permanent addition to science, and how
    much has passed away with the crudities of advancing knowledge. I
    will only say that there cannot be any doubt that his contributions
    to the stock of geological fact were much less important than the
    influence which his writings ever had in furthering the spread of
    an appreciation of geological science throughout the
    English-speaking world.

    'There were two departments in which his best original work was
    done. One of these was the Old Red Sandstone, where he laid the
    foundations of his fame as an observer and describer of Nature. His
    unwearied devotion to the task of collecting the fishes of the Old
    Red Sandstone, and his patient industry in piecing their broken
    fragments together, opened up a new chapter in the history of Life
    on our globe. The other department was that which embraces the
    story of the Ice Age. Miller was one of the pioneers in the study
    of the Boulder-Clay. The last years of his life were more
    especially devoted to that interesting formation in which he found
    fossil shells in many parts of Scotland where they had never been
    found before. I well remember my last interview with him, only a
    few evenings before his death. He had spent a short holiday in the
    low ground about Bucklyvie between the Forth and Clyde, and had
    collected a number of marine shells, which led him to draw a
    graphic picture of what must have been the condition of central
    Scotland during a part of the glacial period. On the same occasion
    he questioned me as usual about my own geological doings. I had
    been surveying in detail the geological structure of Arthur's Seat
    at Edinburgh, and showed him my maps. He went over them with lively
    comments, and, when he had done, turned round to his eldest
    daughter, then a girl at school, and gave her in his own pictorial
    way a sketch of the history of the volcano that had piled up the
    picturesque hill on the eastern outskirts of the city.

    'I count it as one of the privileges of my life to have known Hugh
    Miller, and as one of its chief losses that he was so suddenly
    removed when I had hardly realised the full value of his friendship
    and of his genial enthusiasm. His writings formed my earliest
    geological text-books, and I shall never cease to look back upon
    their influence with gratitude. They ought to be far more widely
    read than they seem now to be. Assuredly no young geologist will
    find more stimulating chapters than those penned by the author of
    the _Old Red Sandstone_.'

The statue erected to him by his countrymen presents to the eye of the
traveller one of the most striking features of the landscape as he
approaches the little town of Cromarty. No more fitting scene could be
found than that which commands the magnificent sweep of water over
which Miller's eye had ranged when a boy. Of the Scott Monument in
Edinburgh he had said that no monument could be in keeping and in
character that was not Gothic; and no one to himself could be true that
forgot the interpreter of the Old Red Sandstone. As late as 1836,
Buckland in his _Bridgewater Treatise_ had briefly dismissed it, and
it was a new revelation in geology to make known its scientific
importance. In dedicating the book to Sir Roderick Murchison, who had
been born at Taradale on the Beauly Firth in 1792, he could say that
Smith, the father of English geology, had been born upon the Oolite:
they, he added, had been born upon the Old Red. Rarely could nature
afford a more striking example of the true and the picturesque, than in
these two widely differing memorials, the one in the Princes Street of
his 'own romantic town,' the other looking over the expanse of the
Cromarty Firth. In life these men had never met, and in type they were
totally distinct. Yet in the great features of integrity and force of
character no two men could more strikingly agree. Both wrote with their
eyes on the object, and both were loyal to fact. Of Miller we may say
what Carlyle had said of Sir Walter, that no sounder piece of British
manhood had been put together in this century of time, and that, when
he departed, he took a man's life along with him.

A man of the people, he was understood by the people; and he wished it
to be so. When we passed through the Sutors of Cromarty some years ago,
about six in the morning of a fine summer day, there was a sailor at
the wheel on the bridge. Under the belief that we were strangers to the
locality, he pointed out the statue in the distance and gave an
account, correct in the main, of what Miller had been and what he had
done. In dwelling upon the life the narrator seemed to borrow respect
for the dignity of all labour and of his own calling. Goldsmith thought
of Burke that in giving up to party what was meant for mankind he had
narrowed his mental powers and lessened his influence and force. It may
be that there are some who think that, in doing the ecclesiastical work
which he accomplished, he had given up to the Church of Scotland in all
her branches what was meant for science. Such a judgment would be
incorrect; it would certainly be one which would but feebly reflect the
convictions of all Scotchmen. It is a true remark of the elder Disraeli
that few men of science have either by their work or in their life
influenced the staple of the thinking of humanity. To influence a whole
people is certainly given but rarely to any one man. But to mould the
opinions of his countrymen in a lasting sense,--and no higher object
would he have desired--was no less certainly given to Hugh Miller.


1829. Poems written in the Leisure Hours of a Journeyman Mason.

1829. Letters on the Herring Fishery. _Inverness_ (reprint from
_Inverness Courier_).

1835. Scenes and Legends of the North of Scotland; or, The Traditional
History of Cromarty. _Edinburgh._

1839. Letter from one of the Scottish People to the Right Hon. Lord
Brougham and Vaux, on the opinions expressed by his lordship on the
Auchterarder case. _Edinburgh._

1839. The Whiggism of the Old School as exemplified by the Past History
and Present Position of the Church of Scotland. _Edinburgh._

1841. The Old Red Sandstone; or, New Walks in an Old Field.
_Edinburgh_ (republished from _Witness_).

1847. First Impressions of England and its People. _Edinburgh._

1847. Footprints of the Creator; or, the Asterolepis of Stromness.
_London_, 1849.

1848. The Sites Bill and the Toleration Laws; being an Examination of
the Resolutions of the Rev. Dr. Alexander of Argyle Square Chapel
Congregation. _Edinburgh._

1848. Geology of the Bass Rock (section contributed to M'Crie's
_History of the Bass Rock_). _Edinburgh._

1850. Thoughts on Education. _Edinburgh_ (republished from _Witness_.)

1852. My Schools and Schoolmasters; or, the Story of My Education
(_Edinburgh_, 1854). _Popular_ edition by W. P. Nimmo, Hay & Mitchell,
_Edinburgh_, 1893.

1854. The Fossiliferous Deposits of Scotland. _Edinburgh_ (address
to Royal Physical Society, 22 Nov. 1854).

1855. Geology versus Astronomy; or, the Conditions and the Periods;
being a view of the Modifying Effects of Geological Discovery on the
Old Astronomic Inferences respecting the Plurality of Inhabited Worlds.

1857. The Testimony of the Rocks; or, Geology in its bearing on the
Two Theologies, Natural and Revealed. _Edinburgh_ (Twelve lectures
before the Edinburgh Philosophical Society, British Association, 1855,

1858. The Cruise of the Betsey; or, A Summer Ramble among the
Fossiliferous Deposits of the Highlands; with Rambles of a Geologist,
or Ten Thousand Miles over the Fossiliferous Deposits of Scotland.
Edited by W. S. Symonds. _Edinburgh._

1859. Sketch Book of Popular Geology. Edited by Mrs. Miller. (Lectures
delivered before the Philosophical Institution of Edinburgh.)

1862. Essays. Edited by Dr. P. Bayne (republished from _Witness_).

1863. Tales and Sketches. Edited by Mrs. Miller (contributions to
Wilson's _Border Tales_, etc.).

1864. Edinburgh and its Neighbourhood. Edited by Mrs. Miller.
_Edinburgh_, 1891. W. P. Nimmo, Hay & Mitchell.

1889. The Headship of Christ and the Rights of the Christian People.
With preface by Dr. P. Bayne. _Edinburgh_, new edition, Nimmo, Hay
& Mitchell.

1890. Leading Articles. Edited by his Son-in-law, the Rev. John
Davidson. New edition, _Edinburgh_, W. P. Nimmo, Hay & Mitchell.

The following list of a uniform edition of Hugh Miller's Works is
taken from Messrs. W. P. Nimmo, Hay & Mitchell's 1896 Catalogue:--

My Schools and Schoolmasters; or, The Story of my Education.

The Testimony of the Rocks; or, Geology in its Bearings on the Two
Theologies, Natural and Revealed. _Profusely Illustrated._

First Impressions of England and its People.

Sketch-Book of Popular Geology.

Scenes and Legends of the North of Scotland; or, The Traditional
History of Cromarty.

The Old Red Sandstone; or, New Walks in an Old Field. _Profusely

The Cruise of the Betsey; or, A Summer Ramble among the Fossiliferous
Deposits of the Hebrides. With Rambles of a Geologist; or, Ten Thousand
Miles over the Fossiliferous Deposits of Scotland.

Footprints of the Creator; or, The Asterolepis of Stromness. With
Preface and Notes by Mrs. Miller, and a Biographical Sketch by
Professor Agassiz. _Profusely Illustrated._

Tales and Sketches. Edited, with a Preface, by Mrs. Miller.

Edinburgh and its Neighbourhood, Geological and Historical. With the
Geology of the Bass Rock.

Essays: Historical and Biographical, Political and Social, Literary and

Leading Articles on Various Subjects. Edited by his Son-in-law, the
Rev. John Davidson. With a Characteristic Portrait of the Author,
facsimile from a Photograph, by D. O. Hill, R.S.A.

The Headship of Christ and the Rights of the Christian People. With
Preface by Peter Bayne, A.M.




'One of the very best little books on Carlyle yet written, far
outweighing in value some more pretentious works with which we are
familiar.'--_Literary World._

'We heartily congratulate author and publishers on the happy
commencement of this admirable enterprise.'--_British Weekly._

'As an estimate of the Carlylean philosophy and of Carlyle's place
in literature and his influence in the domains of morals, politics,
and social ethics, the volume reveals not only care and fairness,
but insight and a large capacity for original thought and

'Lets us get a correct glimpse into the complex workings of a
master-mind, and is lighted up by many airy touches of fact and
fancy.'--_Weekly Free Press._

'A fascinating story of a wonderful writer.'--_Leeds Mercury._

'An eminently readable book.'--_Evening Dispatch._

'Is distinctly creditable to the publishers, and worthy of a national
series such as they have projected.'--_Glasgow Daily Record._

'The book is written in an able, masterly, and painstaking
manner.'--_Educational News._



'Graphic and winning.'--_Dundee Advertiser._

'Gives many quaint and pleasant glimpses of Scottish life in the last
century.'--_Newcastle Chronicle._

'A most interesting monograph.'--_Arbroath Herald._

'Discussing Ramsay as a pastoral poet and elegist, the biographer gives
an able analysis of his chief writings. The whole book is, indeed,
marked by authority and ability.'--_Banffshire Journal._

'A new and most important addition to our national biography.'--_Scottish
Notes and Queries._

'Eminently readable.'--_Border Advertiser._

'The story throughout is told with vigour.'--_Glasgow Citizen._

'Presents a very interesting sketch of the life of the poet, as well as
a well-balanced estimate and review of his works.'--_Peoples Friend._

'The author has shown scholarship and much enthusiasm in his
task.'--_Edinburgh Dispatch._

'The kindly, vain, and pompous little wig-maker lives for us in Mr.
Smeaton's pages.'--_Daily Record._

'A careful and intelligent study.'--_Glasgow Herald._

'A very capable piece of literary craftsmanship by a competent
hand.'--_Edinburgh Evening News._

'It is not a patchwork picture, but one in which the worker, taking
genuine interest in his subject and bestowing conscientious pains on
his task, has his materials well in hand, and has used them to produce
a portrait that is both lifelike and well-balanced.'--_Scotsman._

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Hugh Miller" ***

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