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Kay's Originals Vol. 1


Volume 8 Page 291
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BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. 207 strength of mind, as well as one of the best hearts and keenest wits that I have ever met with,” etc.-Burns’ Vorh, Letter 56. Mr. Smellie was one of the principal writers in the Edinburgh Magazine and Review-a work which commenced in 1773, and was conducted for some years with great spirit and much display of talent. It would assuredly have succeeded, had its management been committed entirely to the calm, judicious, and conciliatory control of Mr. Smellie. But owing to the harsh irritability of temper, and the severe and almost indiscriminate satire, in which Dr. Gilbert Stuart, the principal editor, indulged, several of the reviews which appeared in that periodical gave great offence to many leading characters of the day ; the consequence of which was such a diminution in the sale of the work as to render it necessary to discontinue it altogether. This took place in August 1776, after the publication of forty-seven numbers, forming five octavo volumes. Had the work been only conducted upon the principles developed in the prospectus, it would have had few rivals and fewer superiors. Mr. Smellie was likewise editor of the first edition of the EncycZopmdia Britannica, three volumes, quarto, 1771. The whole plan was arranged, and all the principal articles were written or compiled by him. He also wrote a great number of pamphlets on various subjects, among which may be particularised his Address on thz Nature, Pouiers, and Privileges of Juiies, published in 1784. It is an admirable treatise, and ought to be carefully studied by every true friend to the Constitution, especially by such as have occasion to act as jurymen. It may be remarked that this pamphlet inculcated those doctrines which have been since recognised as English law in Mr. Fox’s celebrated Bill on the subject of libels. The late Honourable Thomas Erskine (afterwards Lord Chancellor), in his defence of the Dean of St. Asaph for a libel, paid Mr. Smellie a very high compliment for this defence of the rights of juries. Such was the high character of Mr. Smellie as an author, that when the first volume of his Philosophy of Natural History was announced as preparing for the press, the late Mr. C. Elliot made him an offer of one thousand guineas for the copyright, and fifty guineas for every subsequent edition, besides the employment of printing it. This was the largest sum ever previously given, at least in Edinburgh, for the literary property of a single quarto volume of similar extent, and evinced both the liberality of the bookseller and the high estimation in which the fame and talents of the author were held. It was, besides, an odd volume, being the first of the work. It is remarkable that this bargain was finally concluded before a single page of the book was written. In his translation of Buffon (9 volumes 8vo), Mr. Smellie introduced many original notes, observations, and illustrations of great importanoe, pointing out particular passages and opinions in which he differed from his author, and furnishing many new facts and reasonings. The Count de Buffon, as appears from his own letters to Mr. Smellie on the occasion, was highly pleased with this translation, of which a considerable number of editions were published.
Volume 8 Page 292
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