Lives of
Scottish Poets
edited by

Center for Applied Technologies
in the Humanities

*    *    *    *    *

Literary Chronicle
New Monthly Magazine
Monthly Review
Notes and Queries
Gibson and Laing
Halkett and Laing
Scottish Notes & Queries

Part I. (Volume I.)
James the First
Thomas the Rhymer
John Barbour
Andrew Wyntoun
Gavin Douglas
Allan Ramsay
William Meston
John Home
James Beattie
Robert Burns

Part II. (Volume I.)
James the Fifth
William Dunbar
Sir James Inglis
Henry the Minstrel
Sir David Lyndsay
Alexander Barclay
Alexander Montgomerie
William Alexander
William Drummond
James Thomson
John Oswald

Part III. (Volume II.)
James the Sixth
Sir Richard Maitland
Arthur Johnston
Hamilton of Bangour
Hamilton of Gilbertfield
Samuel Colvil
Alexander Ross
John Armstrong
John Ogilvie
James Macpherson
Charles Salmon

Part IV. (Volume II.)
Alexander Hume
John Bellenden
Mark Alexander Boyd
Ninian Paterson
William Wilkie
Robert Fergusson
William Julius Mickle
Alexander Geddes
James Grahame

Part V. (Volume III.)
Robert Henryson
Alexander Scott
Walter Kennedy
John Ogilby
Alexander Pennecuik
Alexander Cunningham
David Mallet
William Falconer
Francis Garden
Robert Blair
James Moor
James Graeme
Caleb Whitefoord
James Grainger
Hector Macneill
John Wilson

Part VI. (Volume III.)
Robert Kerr
Richard Lord Maitland
Thomas Hamilton
Charles Hamilton
Michael Bruce
Thomas Blacklock
John Logan
Andrew Macdonald
James Mercer

Appendix. (Volume III.)
James I
Allan Ramsay
John Home
Robert Burns
William Drummond
Robert Fergusson
Alexander Scott
John Wilson



John Logan [note] was a native of Soutra, in the parish of Fala, and county of Edinburgh. He was born about the year 1748. His father, who was a small farmer, and of the religious sect called Burghers, educated him to fill a place in the ministry of that persuasion. but, while going through the preparatory course of studies at the University of Edinburgh, his notions about conformity changed, and he prepared to take orders in the establishment.


While prosecuting his own studies, he was in 1768, through the recommendation of Dr. Blair, [note] employed to superintend those of Mr. Sinclair of Ulbster's eldest son, the present Sir John Sinclair, [note] Baronet, so well known for his patriotic efforts to promote the agricultural prosperity of his country; and such honour as belongs to one who has contributed by his precepts to the formation of a character, in no ordinary degree useful to the state, belongs to John Logan.


In 1770, the melancholy duty devolved on Mr. Logan of editing the poetical remains of a fellow student and friend, who had fallen a victim to early decay—the lamented Michael Bruce. Logan had, as well as Bruce, been distinguished among their companions for his poetical taste; and it was naturally supposed, that the present task could not have fallen into better hands. It has since appeared, however,
that Mr. Logan, in his editorial capacity, deviated widely from the line of honest executorship, and introduced into notice, among the poems of Michael Bruce, several pieces which were in reality written by himself, or were, at least, afterwards claimed by him as his own.


Having completed the usual term of study, Mr. Logan was about this period admitted into orders; and soon acquired popularity as a preacher. In 1773, he received a call to the pastoral charge of South Leith, a living not only of superior value, but peculiarly desirable from its close vicinity to the metropolis.


Shortly after Mr. Logan's introduction into this cure, the General Assembly engaged in a plan of revising the psalmody of the Church, and Mr. Logan was appointed one of a Committee for that purpose. In 1781, the collection of “Translations and Paraphrases” which is now generally bound up with the psalms, was published; and those which Mr. Logan contributed to it, though below the standard of his other poetry, have come into very general use in the established church.


Mr. Logan's official duties were happily not so extensive as to prevent him from devoting considerable attention to literary pursuits. The Scottish metropolis abounded at that time in active and able writers; Robertson, [note] Blair, [note] Ferguson, [note] Hume, [note] Smith, [note] Stuart, [note] were all then in the field, and Mr. Logan, who was on terms of friendship with most of them, partook in a large degree of their ambition for literary distinction. In the winter of 1779-80, he commenced reading a public course of Lectures, on the Philoso-
phy of history, and acquired so much reputation by them, that on a vacancy occurring in the Professorship of History in the University of Edinburgh, he started as a candidate for it, with great hopes of success. The magistrates and council of Edinburgh, with whom the patronage of the situation lay, gave the preference, however, to Mr. Frazer Tytler, [note] (the late Lord Woodhouselee.) Chagrined at this disappointment, Mr. Logan no longer persevered in his Course of private lecturing; but he committed to the press an analysis of such portion of his lectures as related to Ancient History, and published it under the title of “Elements of the Philosophy of History,” which was shortly after followed by one of the lectures entire, “On the Manners and Governments of Asia.”


In 1782 he published a collection of his poems in one vol. 8vo. The reputation which he had acquired for the possession of poetical talents, secured for it a very favourable reception, and a second edition was almost immediately called for. This encouragement stimulated his muse to greater exertions, and, in 1783, he offered a tragedy called “Runnamede” to Mr. Harris, [note] the manager of Covent Garden theatre, who thought so well of it, that he put it in rehearsal. When the necessary licence, however, was applied for to the Lord Chamberlain, it was refused. The play was founded on the history of Magna Charta, and contained some appeals, the influence of which, on public opinion, the ministers of the day had probably occasion to dread. It was printed, however, the same year, and afterwards acted at Edinburgh, though with no great success. An Edinburgh audience was not at that period, nor for a long time
after, exactly that sort of public body, on which sound political sentiments, clothed even in the most glowing language, were likely to make much impression; and, notwithstanding their verdict, the tragedy of Runnamede may still be pronounced one which, if slightly amended, would be worthy of revival.


The ancient prejudice which the Scottish people entertained against theatrical representations, and which had already driven a Home from the country, had not at this period greatly subsided; and though it assumed not the same outrageous form against Logan, it generated in the minds of his parishioners a suspicion of his religious sincerity and zeal, which proved equally prejudicial to his temporal fortunes. From suspicion they proceeded to scrutiny, and, with minds biassed to view every thing in the worst light, it was not long before they discovered that Logan had in reality more of the habits of the poet than the preacher. He was fond of social intercourse, and had neither the prudence nor resolution to avoid the occasional excesses to which it almost invariably leads. A proposition to vacate his charge was made; and partly in disgust, and partly from a fear of worse consequences, he acceded to it, on condition of receiving a moderate annuity out of the stipend.


Mr. Logan now repaired to London, consoled and animated with the confidence that his talents would there have full scope, and command rewards with which neither local nor general prejudices could interfere. His first literary occupation in the metropolis, was as a contributor to the periodical journals, but more particularly the English Review. In 1788 he was employed to write a pamphlet, entitled, “A
Review of the principal Charges against Mr. Warren Hastings,” which had the good fortune to give great offence to the leaders of the impeachment against that gentleman, who construed it into an infringement of their privileges, and went so far as to institute a prosecution against the publisher, Mr. Stockdale. [note] The jury, however, who sat on the cause, found nothing libellous in it, and unanimously acquitted the defendant. In truth, party fury alone could have discovered in this production any thing worthy of so much notice; for of all the political pamphlets which have made a noise in the world, Logan's Review of the Charges against Mr. Hastings, is one of the least calculated to gratify the curiosity of a reader who is free from the angry passions in which it had its rise. It is certainly the weakest of all Logan's productions.


The triumph which the verdict of the jury gave to the publisher of the pamphlet, its ingenious author did not live to witness. His health had been for some time much impaired, and he fell into a lingering illness, of which he died, on the 28th Dec. 1788, in the fortieth year of his age.


The end of Logan, we are told, was truly Christian. When he became too weak to hold a book, he employed his time in hearing such young persons as visited him, read the scriptures. His conversation turned chiefly on serious subjects, and was affecting and instructive. He foresaw and prepared for the approach of death; gave directions about his funeral with the utmost composure, and dictated a will, by which he appointed his old friend Dr. Robertson, [note] and Dr. Donald Grant, his executors; and bequeathed to them his property, books, and MSS., to be converted
into money for the payment of legacies to such relations and friends, as had the strongest claims on his affectionate remembrance.


Two volumes of sermons, selected from his manuscripts, were accordingly published at Edinburgh, under the superintendance of Dr. Robertson, in 1790 and 1791. Few works of the kind have been more successful. They have (1808) reached a fifth edition, and are still in request. More ardent and imaginative than Blair, [note] Logan is less read only because his eloquence is of a kind more suited to the pulpit than the closet.


Mr. Logan left several other works in MS., among which were the unpublished part of his Lectures on History; * Electra, a tragedy; The Wedding-Day, a tragedy, being a translation of the Deserteur of Mercier; [note] and the first act of a tragedy, called The Carthaginian Hero.


His chief ambition appears to have been to shine in the drama; but in this he can be scarcely said to have followed the natural bent of his genius. For though “Runnamede” is a respectable production, it is not altogether a happy one; the sentiments are often strained, and the action artificial, leaving an impression that the author has been trying something to which his powers are not quite equal. The muse of Logan was naturally of a pensive and contemplative

* It is said, I know not with what truth, that these were deposited, by Mr. Logan, with a gentleman who kept an academy near London, as security for a loan of money; and that they have been since published in that person's own name. A. S.
cast; disposed to shun those busy haunts which furnish materials for dramatic delineation, and delighting to pour forth her simple wail in the most sequestered spots. His
“Visit to the Country in Autumn,” “The Lovers,” and “The Braes of Yarrow,” are master-pieces of sentimental tenderness and, of themselves, justly entitle Logan to a high station among the poets of his country. Had he cultivated ballad or narrative poetry more, he would doubtless have attained to a still greater eminence; for within this range of composition, there was no quality which he did not possess in the amplest degree. The prevailing style of his language is chaste and simple; he is choice in his selection of points, and has a felicitous brevity in enforcing them, which is only to be acquired by much judgement and sensibility united.

E. L.