Edinburgh Bookshelf

Kay's Originals Vol. 2


398 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. No. 111. of the “ Book of Fame” is of a still more political and theological As an accessory to bribery and corruption, the press, which he accuses In cast. of dealing in “thick-skinned lies,” does not escape the lash of the cynic. a letter addressed to the Editor of the Tyne Mercury, he says- ‘‘ Sir-As the business of the philosopher is to warn mankind of their danger, and lash vice without personality, and let the sins find out the thief, you ought therefore to be caudid, and give both sides of the question ; for when you manufacture the French news, you deceive yourself, and impose on your readers ; for, since the schemes taken to deceive the country have induced the manufacturers to read the papers backwards, on purpose to come at the truth, proves that corruption defeats its own purpose, by promoting investigation. Please to give the following a place in your paper.” [Here follows a long paragraph entitled “A Receipt for reading Newspapers”] 25th October 1808. Among the other prose effusions is to be found an account of his muchvaunted discovery of “The Perpetual Motion, or Eternal Machinery of Uncreated Nature.” In this document, astronomical truisms and infidel dogmas are strongly blended with his own rude conceits and audacious levity of language. Speaking of the clergy, who, as he asserts, persuade ‘‘ the ignorant to deny themselves the comforts of this life, and submit to the cheat, assuring them of the riches of the next world for the riches of this,” he concludes by observing-“ for a bird in hand is worth two in the bush ; we have shown the way to heaven, but we are going about by Stirling bridge !7’ But enough of the Doctor’s opinions and his Books of Fame. As already stated, Brown frequently suffered severely for the promulgation of the ‘<new philosophy ;” and it must have required all his enthusiasm to bear the load of martyrdom. He was patronised, however, by many who, while they pitied him, were amused with his eccentricities and absurdities. The Print, done in 1819, affords a very accurate portraiture. He was then a little bent by age, still he maintained, in appearance, a degree of respectability. Over his neatly tied hair, which was grey and well powdered, he wore a whitishbrown hat ; and his white neckcloth and ample length and breadth of frill sufficiently indicated that he was no common person. That the Doctor experienced a full share of the’vicissitudes incident to such a devious career may justly be inferred. At Dunse, on one occasion, when stocks were evidently low, he entered the shop of a victualler, to purchase the luxury of a hay-penny worth of cheese I The shopman declared his inability to accommodate him with so small a portion. “Then, what is the least you can sell 1’’ inquired the Doctor. “ A penny worth,” replied the dealer, and instantly set about weighing the quantity, which he speedily placed on the counter in anticipation of payment. “ Now,” said the Doctor, taking up the knife, ‘‘ I will instruct you how to sell a half-penny worth in future ;” upon which he cut the modicum of cheese in two, and appropriating one of the halves, paid down his copper and departed. Brown was a frequent visitor at the shop of the late eccentric David Webster -a vendor of books, who was much patronised by Sir Walter Scott j and it was not a little amusing to be present at their colloquies. Webster,
Volume 9 Page 532
  Enlarge Enlarge  
Volume 9 Page 533
  Enlarge Enlarge     Pictures Pictures