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Kay's Originals Vol. 1


Volume 8 Page 83
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BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. 5s deliver in the public hall the usual academical exercise prescribed prior to ordination as a clergyman of the Scottish Establishment. At this point he stopped, and relinquished the profession of divinity altogether ; the sequel will sufficiently explain his motives for this change. Its immediate consequence was his retreat from Edinburgh to Dunse. Here he engaged himself as usher to the school which he had lately quitted ; and in this capacity he officiated a whole year, in the course of which one of the classes in the High School at Edinburgh becoming vacant, Brown appeared as a candidate, but proved unsuccessful. When Brown renounced divinity, he turned his thoughts to the study of medicine ; and in order to defray the necessary expense attendant upon this new pursuit, he became what in college parlance is termed a “grinder,” or preparer of Latin translations of the inaugural dissertations which medical students are bound to publish before taking their degree as Doctors in Medicine. His attention was first directed to this employment by accident. Application being made to one of his friends to procure a person sufhiently qualified to turn an essay of this kind into tolerable Latin, Brown was recommended, and performed the task in a manner that exceeded the expectations both of the friend and the candidate. When it was observed how much he had excelled the ordinary style of such compositions, he said he had now discovered his strength, and was ambitious of riding in his own carriage as a physician. This occurred towards the close of 1759. Brown next turned his attention to the establishment of a boarding-house for students, a resource which would enable him to maintain a family. His reputation for various attainments was, he thought, likely to draw round him a number sufficient to fill a large house. With this prospect he married in 1765 Miss Euphemia Lamont, daughter of Mr. John Lamont, merchant in Edinburgh, by whom he had twelve children. His wccess answered his expectations, and his house was soon filled with respectable boarders ; but he lived too splendidly for his income ; and it is said that he managed so ill, that in two or three years he became bankrupt. Towards the end of 1770, he was miserably reduced in circumstances, but he nevertheless continued to maintain his original independence of character. He seemed to be happy in his family ; and, as far as could be observed, acquitted himself affectionately both as a husbhd and a parent. He still attended the medical classes, which, according to his own account, he had done for ten or eleven years. From the celebrated Cullen he early received the most flattering marks of attention. This speculatist, like Boerhaave, and other men of genius in the same station, was accustomed to watch the fluctuating body of students with a vigilant eye, and to seek the acquaintance of the most promising. Brown’s intimate and classical knowledge of the Latin language served him as a peculiar recommendation ; and his circumstances might induce Cullen to believe that he could render this talent permanently useful to himself. Taking, therefore, its possessor under his immediate patronage, he gave him employment as a private instructor in his own family, and spared no pains in recommending
Volume 8 Page 84
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