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THE private history of the author who is the subject of this memoir, is but imperfectly known.A particular account of his life and writings seem to have been expected from the gentleman (himself conspicuous in the walks of literature) whom Mr. Logan appointed one of his executors, and to whom he entrusted the care of his manuscripts. These, together with the claim of twenty years correspondence and friendship, had imposed a duty on Dr. Robertson, which it is to be regretted he never endeavoured to discharge.
Logan was born in the year 1748. He was the son of George Logan, who at that time occupied a small farm at Soutra in the parish of Fala, on the southern border of the county of Edinburgh, but who afterwards removed to Gosford in East Lothian. John was the younger of two sons. His brother, soon after the death of his father, betook himself to the study of medicine, and afterwards went to America in the capacity of a Surgeon.
The love of learning and the shoots of genius which were early conspicuous in young Logan, were fondly cherished by his parents. Both were religious,-attached to the communion of those dissenters denominated Burghers. They indulged the hope, so grateful to the mind of a Scotch farmer, of one day seeing
the listening peasantry receiving instruction from their younger son; and Mr. Logan was thus early devoted to the ministry.
He received the rudiments of his education in the parochial school of Gosford, and thereafter was sent to the university of Edinburgh, where he prosecuted with ardour and success the study of the languages.
While collecting the treasures of literature, and moulding his taste upon those models of simplicity and elegance which Greece and Rome bequeathed to the world, he was no less assiduously occupied with the physical, but more particularly the moral sciences. After a satisfactory investigation concerning the truth of the Christian religion, and the nature of the evidence by which it is supported, he entered upon the study of theology. During his attendance at the University, he found leisure to cultivate his taste for poetical composition, to which his mind seems to have received an early bias. The works of the English poets, particularly those distinguished by sublimity, or romantic and picturesque description, he read with delight: Spenser, Milton, Collins, Akenside, and Gray, were his favourite authors. Shortly after his arrival in Edinburgh, he became acquainted with the Poet Michael Bruce, his fellow-student at the College. The similarity of their pursuits, as well as of their character, produced an intimacy which lasted till the Poet of Lochleven dropt immaturely into the grave. It was at this period also, and through the same cause, that Mr. Logan's acquaintance with Dr. Robertson commenced, with whom he ever afterwards lived in terms of the most intimate correspondence and friendship.-During the recess of the College, while Logan resided in the country, his reputation as a scholar and poet procured him the friendship of Lord Elibank, then residing at Aberlady; and it was probably through the means of his Lordship that Logan was introduced, when he had completed his academical studies, into the family of
Mr. Sinclair of Ulbster, in the quality of private tutor to his son, now Sir John Sinclair. The situa tion was certainly not congenial with the spirit of independence which Logan possessed. Whether from this feeling, or from any other motive, he had determined to leave his pupil is unknown; but shortly after his acceptance of the office, he was succeeded in it by his friend Dr. Robertson.
Of his employment or studies during this period, till the year in which he was ordained a minister of the Church of Scotland, nothing is known. After the usual probation, he received a licence from the Presbytery of Edinburgh; and such was his popularity as a preacher, that in the 25th year of his age (A. D. 1773,) he received an unanimous call from the Kirk Session and Incorporations of South Leith, to be minister of that parish.
He continued for six years devoted to the proper duties of his office: at least if he gave to the public any specimens of his future eminence in literature, the author must have been known only to his friends.In 1779, however, his reputation came to be known beyond the limits of his parish; and his abilities were put to the test in a department not connected with the duties of the pulpit. During the winter of this year he delivered in Edinburgh a course of Lectures on the Philosophy of History.
In this undertaking, Mr. Logan was patronized by Dr. Robertson, principal of the university, by Dr. Blair, Dr. Ferguson, and other gentlemen of distinction and learning. The approbation of names such as these induced him to repeat the same lectures during the winter session of the following year.
In the second course his success was equal to his warmest hopes; and the general acknowledgement of his merit seemed to point him out as successor to the Chair of Universal History, when it became vacant by the resignation of Professor Pringle; an office which it appears Logan himself had in expecta
tion. He was disappointed. This Chair had on all former occasions been filled by one of the faculty of advocates; and the Town Council, in whose power the appointment resides, did not consider themselves. at liberty to deviate from the ancient custom; though nothing but custom can be pleaded for a restriction so unjust in itself, and it may be in its consequences no less injurious. The office was given to A. F. Tytler, Esq. of Woodhouselee.
Logan felt the disappointment. It was augmented too by the want of encouragement that attended the proposal of a third course of Lectures; an analysis of which, in so far as they relate to ancient history, he afterwards sent to the press. This was followed in the succeeding year by one of his Lectures on the manners and governments of Asia.
In the same year (1782) Logan's poems were first published, the sale of which was so rapid, that a second edition was printed in the course of a few months.
The approbation of the public and of all men of taste, which his talents as a poet naturally called forth, might have wrought as a soothing counterpoise to that irritation of mind so natural to the consciousness of neglected merit, and would undoubtedly have had a kind effect upon his temperament, as well as his future fate, if his next production, to which he fondly trusted the establishment of his fame, had been attended with a coincidence of circumstances and fortune equal to its merit.
There is probably no literary effort to which abilities of the highest order are so necessary, or on which an author's fame can be more firmly erected than that of dramatic composition. Shakespeare is more celebrated than Chaucer, and the author of Every Man in his Humour more regarded than the authors of the Fairy Queen or the Palace of Honour. Though Logan's name had already been established, he was chiefly regarded as a tender and pathetic writer.