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Raphaelite-like accuracy of minute detail and severe truthfulness to nature the guerdun must be awarded to Hugh Miller. His geological studies were to him what the study of anatomy is to the painter; they enabled him to present, not merely a boldly delineated image of the thing or the scene described, but they also enabled him to preserve, amidst the utmost boldness and vigour of outline, the minutest verisimility.
In literature and in science, as in all else he did, Hugh Miller worked from a centre outwards. Given the nature of the rocks of a country, and Hugh Miller would describe its scenery; but to describe its scenery as he deemed description, such knowledge was necessary. From a peculiarity of his mental nature, manifested from the very earliest epoch, and not, as some have alleged, from an overweening fondness for those scientific pursuits with which his name has become so honourably associated, is he found so frequently treating literary questions in a semi-geological strain. eminently a pictorial and analogical, rather than analytical mind; and being so, his geological studies were on all occasions of pre-eminent service, furnishing him with a perennial source of fresh and apposite illustration. In this peculiar idiosyncrasy, we apprehend, is to be sought the wholeness of Hugh Miller's scientific speculations. With the positive school of philosophy he had no sympathy, being, in point of fact, the most conspicuous illustration of its falsity modern times have furnished. Instead of finding in Hugh
His was pre
Miller's works a winnowing of science from those philosophical and theological puzzles with which in earlier
ages it was laden,—on the contrary, we find it oppressed with the same problems which, from the remotest antiquity, have engaged and exhausted the ingenuity of man—problems which baffled the acumen of the sages of Arabia thousands of years before they tasked the acumen of the doctors of the Sorbonne, or exercised the wits of the illuminati of our own agewhile the positive philosophy does not encounter those difficulties, only because it wants courage to come abreast with them. It had been the dread of Hugh Miller, in entering upon his editorial duties, that he might possibly be deprived of the opportunities he had formerly enjoyed of prosecuting his favourite geological investigations. The first year of his connection with the Witness set these fears at rest. The brilliant success of his papers on the “Old Red Sandstone” showed how compatible, in his case at least, are the duties of the journalist with the tastes of the man of science.
Some, we know, for whom the records of the rocks have no charm, have lamented that so much of his time should have been given up to the stony science, thinking it might have been better spent upon topics of the day. In reply to such fault-finders, we have only to say, that on looking over that large mass of controversy upon questions of the hour which the Witness contains, and on which its editor long so freely lavished
the opulence of his intellectual powers, he surely must have a most unhealthy relish for polemics, who would have desired any greater attention to them than they seem to have received. There is, however, a class of persons who, because the editor of the Witness was something more than the echo of the opinions of a coterie of Church leaders, a presbytery, or an assembly, see in that fact a want of interest in the pet schemes of his party. Such is erer the fate of the man of superior powers. He is not absorbed by a special pursuit. A cause which has swallowed up the entire energies of the ordinary man, can have justice done it by the extraordinary, and yet leave him leisure for devotion to other themes, which it may be supposed by the fanatic bear no relation to what should have been the absorbing passion of his life. But so far, therefore, from lament. ing Hugh Miller's devotion to science, we believe mainly to that devotion we owe it, that the magnificent powers with which he was gifted budded and bloomed to the last.
Had it been possible for him to have lost that taste for those studies nursed in his many wanderings, until it had become an overmastering passion, and sunk down into the mere party leaderthe fighting man of his Church—he might indeed oftener have received the bigot's huzza, but he would have dwarfed his highest endowments. Operating under such conditions, that purely illustrative and beautifully analogical power which he possessed, would have borne no more likeness to the native faculty, than the stunted and doddered oak upon the blasted heath hears to the monarch of the forest in his pristine glory;
“ The form of beauty smiling at his heart,"
must have drooped and withered beneath that wintry sky.
“The quarrel among the Scotch parsons,” which English statesmen expected the decision of the House of Lords in the Auchterarder case would effectually set at rest, after a brief breathing-time became only all the more portentous in consequence of that decision. It had not been anticipated the judgment of the Court of Session would have been affirmed in the face of so influential a dissent as Lords Fullarton, Glenlee, Moncrieff, Cockburn, and Jeffrey. And though anticipation was disappointed by a tribunal from whose decision there lay no appeal, the Church was not disposed to accept either Lords Brougham or Cottenham as true exponents of the polity of the Scottish Establishment. In point of fact, the evangelical party looked upon Lord Brougham, whose lead Lord Cottenham seemed implicitly to have followed, as not an independent exponent of the principles of their Church, but simply the echo of the policy of his great relative, Principal Robertson. To them it seemed the historian's literary eminence veiled the odiousness of his ecclesiastical policy, and in the shadow of a great name, the ex-chancellor forgot his