25 MARCH 1882, Page 17


DR. JOHN BROWN'S NEW VOLUME.* ONE good word, says Emerson, will serve us a great while, and, perhaps, no better illustration could be given of the truth of the saying of the American transcendentalist than is contained in the happy expression, Home Subsecivce. Dr. John Brown has to be congratulated on the fact that he has made this delicious bit of Latin a familiar phrase among all readers of books in this Madieval era. But, if we are not mistaken, it was that most genial and attractive of Professors, a veritable instructor in the "Humane Letters," the late James Pillans, who, in these last days, first gave currency—in the North—to this nomenclature of "hours secretly stolen from the day's work ;" the present writer himself having had the good-fortune of listening to one of his charming and unique exercitations, from the Humanity Chair, on this, his pet text. All the same, it is to the author of Bab and his Friends that the credit is due of making the terms before us an integral portion of our common speech ; and the present' volume, like its predecessors, will tell the world how well this disciple of Asculapius, this successor of Aristotle—who was, perhaps, the greatest physician who ever appeared in the ranks of authorship, though, it seems, he never "practised "—and of countless other brethren of the healing art who have combined medicine with literary endeavour, has snatched his own Hone Subsecivce from the engagements of a busy life. Dr. Mason Good, among various other creditable performances, accomplished his trans- lation of Lucretius in the intervals that came to him between the houses of his patients ; and we believe that Dr. Abercombie, of Edinburgh, wrote his treatises on The Brain, on The Intellec- tual Powers, and on The Moral Feelings, in similar circumstances. We have not been told by Dr. Brown himself, so far as we can re- member, at what special time of the day or night he has found it least difficult to escape from the routine of daily toil into those fields of Art, Nature, criticism, and biography, from each of which he has furnished us with so many picturesque, humorous, pungent, and at times, exceedingly powerful, and not less pathetic illustrations. In the absence of the direct intima- tion of its author, we should be ready to imagine that he had stolen his leisure from the night-watches. Of course, we may be quite mistaken in our guess ; but there is in almost every one of Dr. John Brown's inimitable papers such an "eeriness," as befitteth best only the hours of darkness, and such an apparent resolve not to "execute a large order," as would seem to indicate that they are the presomnial essayings of a man who has to be np by times in the morning.

The first paper, which gives its title to the volume, "John Leech," has a pathos of its own which all readers of it would gladly have been spared. It appears that Dr. Brown had it in contem- plation at one time to give to the world a memoir of the greatly. gifted and genial art-humorist, and as a contribution to the pro- jected work, Leech's friend, Canon Hole, of Lincoln, sent him some personal reminiscences of the intercourse he had had with the creator of the immortal "Mr. Briggs:' But we greatly regret to find Dr. Brown announcing that "ill-health put a stop to this con- genial labour, as well as to much else, and that there is but small likelihood now of the author carrying out his intentions," and that Canon Hole's "beautiful tribute of friendship" [and such it certainly is], "after remaining for the last dozen years in an old box, among wood-blocks, proof-sheets, sketches, and other &ejecta rnernbra of 'a book in progress,' " must now be accepted,

• John Leech, and Other Papers. By John Brown, ILD., LL.D., ie. Edin- burgh: David Douglas. 1ik2. with the essay to which it is appended, in lieu of the larger work.

Still, should the reader never have the pleasure of reading the memoir of John Leech by John Brown, Leech's memory, as a man, would be safe for all coming time in the volume before us.

The story of his life is here preserved in amber by the physician and the Canon ; while the artist himself is so set forth as to be loved by all who love purity, and gentleness, and generosity, combined with a manly enjoyment of all manly recreations, and who can realise to themselves that these qualities are the setting of an intense laboriousness, which in Punch alone pro- duced before 1862 no fewer than 3,000 separate drawings.

We are informed by Canon Hole that when the author of Vanity Fair was asked to name his dearest friend, he replied, "John Leech," and these two famous "week-day preachers," both Carthusian boys, as it appears, and loyal friends to the last, are enshrined together, as it was meet they should be in the pages of this volume, which contains so much that is rich and rare. The summing-up of the lessons which John Leech has be- queathed to us, the "object lessons" of "purity, affection, pluck, kindliness, humour, good-humour, good-feeling, good. breeding, the love of nature, of one another, of truth, the joys of children, the sweetness and strength of English womanhood, the loveliness of our homely English fields, with their sunsets and village spires, their glimpses into the infinite beyond, the sea and all its fullness," with many others, which our space forbids our alluding to, is beyond all praise of ours. Dr. John Brown is not a Celt, but he has something like the Celtic "second sight," and he has the sympathy which, whether or not it be as Adam Smith maintains, the foundation of our moral sentiments, is absolutely indispensable in the case of the critic who would interpret for us the creations of a humourist like John Leech. Of Dr. Brown's in memoriam of Thackeray, we can only speak in terms alike unqualified. We do not say that we are altogether prepared to endorse the estimate of Mr. Thackeray's genius which is submitted to our consideration by the author. But we have no hesitation in saying that the paper is admirable in tone, in power, and portraiture, as it is exquisite in finish, and that no one will rise from the perusal of this prose elegy on the "Death of Thackeray," without gratitude to Dr. Brown for enabling us to become acquainted with certain aspects of the mind of Thackeray, which, if more or less suggested in his various writings would apparently have been but little known to us, but for the " divining-rod " of the present author which drew them forth. Thackeray, like John Stuart Mill among the Foxes at Falmouth, seems to have, consciously or unconsciously, revealed not a little of the hidden side of his life to Dr. Brown ; and we quote the following touching pasPage, in illustration of what we have just been writing :—

"We cannot resist recalling here one Sunday evening in December, when Thackeray was walking with two friends along the Dean Road, to the west of Edinburgh, one of the noblest outlets to any city. It was a lovely evening, such a sunset as one never forgets. A rich, dark bar of cloud hovered over the sun, going down behind the Highland hills, lying bathed in amethystine bloom ; between this cloud and the hills there was a narrow slip of the pure ether, of a tender cowslip colour, lucid, and as if it were the body of heaven in its clear- ness; every object standing out as if etched upon the sky. The north-west end of Corstorphine Hill, with its trees and rocks, lay in the heart of this pure radiance ; and there a wooden crane, used in the quarry below, was so placed as to assume the figure of a cross ; there it was, unmistakable, lifted up against the crystalline sky. ill three gazed at it silently, and as they gazed, be gave utterance, in a tremulous, gentle, and rapid voice, to what all were feeling, in the word Calvary.' The friends walked on in silence, and then turned to other things. All that evening he was very gentle and serious, speaking, as he very seldom did, of divine things, of death, of sin, of eternity, of salvation ; expressing his simple faith in God, and in his Saviour."

The world at large knows what Thackeray has achieved, both with pen and pencil ; but Dr. Brown has made the man himself one of the companions of our solitude, and he has taught us afresh in this sketch how superficial our acquaintanceship with men we meet every week may be. Indeed, he has made it impos- sible for any reader of his pages to take up Vanity Fair, Esmond, or The Newcomes, without profound reverence and sympathy. A few years after his marriage, a great cloud of life-long sorrow settled down over Thackeray's heart and home. He did not dis- play his grief, but "his night of loss was always there," and it was discovered after that morning "when he was found dead in his bed, like Thomas Chalmers, with the same childlike, unspoiled open face, the same gentle mouth, the same spaciousness and soft- ness of nature, the same look of power, dy ing, while his mother and daughters were asleep and, it may be, dreaming of his goodness," that "years of sorrow, labour, and pain had killed him before his time, and that, though he looked always fresh, with his abounding silvery hair, and his young, almost infantine face, he was worn to a shadow, and his hands wasted as if by eighty years !"

But there are fourteen other papers in this volume of which no notice has yet been taken by us, and what, in our remaining, alas ! too brief space, can we say of them P This, first of all, that they are Dr. John Brown all over ; and secondly, they are Scotch of Scotland, in a genuine Scotsman's best manner. But we can only take note, by name, of a few of them. Here is that Miss Stirling Graham, of Duntrune, whose " mystifi- cations," or impersonations of character, completely took in all Edinburgh, including Jeffrey and Walter Scott, the latter of whom, speaking with his characteristic Doric and" burr," said to her, at the end of a sgance, when the secret had been dis- covered, "Awa', awa' ! the Deil's ower grit wi' you." Then we have that gem of gems, "Pet Marjorie Fleming," the darling of Walter Scott, whom he would sally forth in an on-ding o' snow to carry in the " neuk of his plaid" to his own house in Castle Street, for the sake of the delectation the precocious child afforded to his guests, and chiefly to himself. Marjorie, though she was apparently a perfectly healthy child, until she was seized with measles, followed by water on the brain which carried her off at eight years of age, would probably in these days have been more scientifically looked after. Brain excitement would have been forbidden, and gymnastics of all kinds, with abundance of fresh country air, would have been prescribed. But we have here to deal not with the contingent or possible, but with the actual "psychological curiosity" of a child of eight years who entranced Walter Scott by her recitations of Shakespeare, "like one possessed ;" criticising in the most delicious way "The Book of Esther," "The Newgate Calendar," "Gray's Elegy," " Macbeth," " Tom Jones," 41 Dean Swift," and "Miss Edgware]." (i.e., Edgeworth); alike familiar with the damnatory clauses of the Calvinistic creed, and with those of daily speech, in those days. Dr. John Brown's study of this marvellous child is, perhaps, the finest thing which even he has ever written.

The Jacobite _Family supplies materials for a novel of the most sensational character, and shews, once more, how much stranger fact is than fiction. As we read the thrilling story of the love of " James " and "Margaret," with the astonishing feats of "John Gunn," and the final, providential cignouement,we said to ourselves, if only Dr. Brown had had leisure or inclina- tion to develope the facts here presented to us in an extended, fictitious narrative, the work would have been one of the most exciting, and, in his hands, edifying, too, of modern imaginative literature. If Dr. Brown writes at night, he knows well how to take his walks abroad in daylight, when off duty; and if our readers are at a loss where to go during the next holiday-time, we would counsel them to undertake an adventure into Scotland, and, with the present volume in their hand-bag, let them make a pilgrimage to "God's Treasure House in Scotland," de- scending from Leadhills by the weird pass of Enterkin, so grandly described by the present author, as by Daniel Defoe ; let them visit Minchmuir, and duly note all the Border localities of which Dr. Brown has made such exquisite mention ; above all, let them make friends with Jeems, the doorkeeper, perhaps the most lifelike of all the author's portraitures,—Jeems, with the tremendous proboscis, the terror of all intruders, or late fre- quenters, at church ; Jeems, who kept up "family worship" all his life, with singing of Psalms, and "reading the chapter," and prayer, all aloud, though left alone and a widower in the second year of his married lire, because, as he said to the author, " 'Oo be good sae," i.e., "We so commenced," and then let them climb to " Tintock Tap." For,— " On Tiotock Tap there is a Mist, And in the Mist there is a Kist, And in the Kist there is a Cap.

Take up the Cap, and sup the Drap, And set the Cap on Tintock Tap."

These lines are familiar to all the inhabitants of the upper ward of Lanarkshire, and we are acquainted with some sexa- genarians who have recited them from their childhood ; but the moral which Dr. Brown educes from them is simply one of the finest sermons we ever read.