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ART. XII.-Memoirs of the Life and Writings of the Rev. Claudius Buchanan, D. D. late Vice-Provost of the College of Fort William, in Bengal. By the Rev. Hugh Pearson, M. A. of St. John's College, Oxford. 2 vols. 8vo. pp. 781. Parker. Oxford, 1817.

LORD BACON, as Mr. Pearson observes, expresses his surprise that those of his "own age should have so little value for what they enjoy as not more frequently to write the lives of eminent men." And this complaint, like many other of that distinguished person, has tended to cure the evil of which he complains. Certain it is, that no charge of this kind can fairly be brought against the present time. The fault of our own days is, evidently, not that of overlooking or forgetting the incidents in the lives of our distinguished contemporaries, but rather of raking into them with impertinent curiosity-not of passing by the eminent, but of unduly exalting the insignificant-not of shrowding the excellencies of the great, but of blazoning the follies by which their virtues have been disfigured. If the luminaries of science and virtue were suffered to rise and set unnoticed upon the horizon of our predecessors, we are disposed, on the contrary, to mark, with the most laborious exactness, every spot on their disk, and every variation in their course.

Such, however, being the character of the age as to Biography, one result will necessarily be the deterioration of this branch of literature. Where all write freely, many will write ill. Those, therefore, who have little time for any books, and none at all for bad ones, cannot but feel somewhat anxious when they see two new octavo volumes of this kind laid upon their table. And, amongst the questions they will be first tempted to ask, upon such an occasion, will be these, "Who is the subject of these Memoirs, and who is the author of them?" Now, as we conceive it to be our peculiar duty to ease the public shoulders, when unusually pressed, we shall begin by giving our readers sufficient information upon these points, to satisfy them of the general expediency of proceeding any further with the work.

Dr. Buchanan, then, is, as we think, and as is observed by the author before us, peculiarly suited to become the subject of a biographical memoir by that union of public and private interest in the circumstances of his life, which recommends it to the consideration of all classes of the community-by possessing enough of what is public in his character to give weight to petty incidents in his history-and enough of what is domestic to throw a softer colouring over the dry chronicle of public events. He acted a very conspicuous part in the society of which he was a member.

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His writings have been very popular. He was so decidedly the first and most distinguished individual, who called the public attention to the moral condition of our sixty millions of fellow subjects in India—who turned into that neglected soil the ploughshare of civilization-who laid there the foundation of our National Church, and planted, amidst temples of licentiousness and blood, the standard of the cross, that to him fairly belongs the character of the first apostle of the Church of England to the nations of Asia. His domestic life also is very interesting. His mind is fairly turned out to the public. Its changes and progress are accurately delineated. A large mass of his private papers and letters, composed in a high style of excellence, are preserved, and here given to the public.

Of Mr. Pearson's pretensions to become the author of this memoir none will doubt, who consider the general reputation of this gentleman in the University of which he is a member-who remembers that he was the gainer of a prize proposed to that University by Mr. Buchanan, on the subject of civilizing and evangelizing the East-and who will further take the trouble of perusing the following extract:.

"With respect to his own undertaking, the author has only to state, that he engaged in it at the request of the family and friends of Dr. Buchanan. They were, doubtless, induced to place this task in his hands from the circumstance of his having some years since had occasion to consider the great subject to which the life of that excellent man was devoted, which led to a subsequent acquaintance with him. And though he has to regret that his intercourse with Dr. Buchanan was less frequent and intimate than he wished, it tended greatly to increase that lively interest in his character, which the previous knowledge of his history had excited. He felt also that he owed a debt of gratitude and service to his memory, which he was anxious to have an opportunity of discharging; and however inadequately he may have acquitted himself of this obligation, he trusts that his intention will be approved; and that the following work, thus designed to record the excellencies of a benefactor and a friend, to adopt the affectionate apology of a Roman biographer, Professione pietatis aut laudatus erit, aut excusatus.' (Preface, p. x. xi.)

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We conceive it to be a circumstance not a little favourable to Mr. Pearson's pretensions as a Biographer, that he was enough connected with the subject of his memoir to gain an accurate knowledge of facts, and not enough to be under any very strong temptation to distort or conceal them. He has been near enough, and not too near the object he paints; near enough for accuracy, but not too near for impartiality. And we should have little doubt, from the internal testimony of the work, if we had not the fullest guarantee in the integrity of Mr. Pearson


himself, that his delineation of Dr. Buchanan is executed with much fidelity.

Having thus slightly introduced both Dr. Buchanan and his Biographer to the public, we have set ourselves to consider in what way we can best convey to them our own impression of these volumes, and prompt them to turn from our imperfect copy to the original work. And we have determined that we shall best accomplish this double object by giving our readers pretty copious extracts from those letters of Dr. Buchanan, which occupy so large a portion of this interesting memoir-and by attaching to these extracts a few such observations as may arise in our progress. Our readers, we are persuaded, will not regret that we suffer Dr. Buchanan to speak as much as possible for himself.

The life of the subject of these memoirs may be naturally divided into four parts-the period before he went to collegethat which he spent there-the years spent in India-those after his return.

Dr. Buchanan was the son of virtuous parents in Scotlandand discovered, at various moments of his early years, a mind not altogether insensible to the devout instructions which he received. At fourteen, especially, it appears that he spent much time in meditation amidst the rocks on the sea shore. But these serious impressions were soon dissipated, and he conceived the extraordinary and criminal desire of deceiving his parents, of quitting their roof by stealth, and of making the tour of Europe on foot. In the following letter we have a curious account of a part of the journey, on which he entered in consequence of this resolution.

"I had the example of the celebrated Dr. Goldsmith before me, who travelled through Europe on foot, and supported himself by playing on his flute. I could play a little on the violin, and on this I relied for occasional support during my long and various travels.

"In August 1787, having put on plain clothes, becoming my apparent situation, I left Edinburgh on foot with the intention of travelling to London, and thence to the continent: that very violin which I now have, and the case which contains it, I had under my arm, and thus I travelled onward. After I had proceeded some days on my journey, and had arrived at a part of the country where I thought I could not be known, I called at gentlemen's houses, and farm houses, where I was in general kindly lodged. They were very well pleased with my playing reels to them, (for I played them better than I can now,) and I sometimes received five shillings, sometimes half a crown, and sometimes nothing but my dinner. Wherever I went, people seemed to be struck a little by my appearance, particularly if they entered into conversation with me. They were often very inquisitive, and I was some

times at a loss what to say. I professed to be a musician travelling through the country for his subsistence: but this appeared very strange to some, and they wished to know where I obtained my learning; for sometimes pride, and sometimes accident, would call forth expressions, in the course of conversation, which excited their surprise. I was often invited to stay for some time at a particular place; but this I was afraid of, lest I might be discovered. It was near a month, I believe, before I arrived on the borders of England, and in that time many singular occurrences befel me. I once or twice met persons whom I had known, and narrowly escaped discovery. Sometimes I had nothing to eat, and had no where to rest at night; but, notwithstanding, I kept steady to my purpose, and pursued my journey. Before, however, I reached the borders of England, I would gladly have returned; but I could not: the die was cast; my pride would have impelled me to suffer death, I think, rather than to have exposed my folly; and I pressed forward.

"When I arrived at Newcastle, I felt tired of my long journey, and found that it was indeed hard to live on the benevolence of others: I therefore resolved to proceed to London by water; for I did not want to travel in my own country, but on the continent.

"I accordingly embarked in a collier at North Shields, and sailed for London. On the third night, of the voyage we were in danger of being cast away, during a gale of wind; and then, for the first time, I began to reflect seriously on my situation."" (Vol. i. p. 8-10.)

He next describes the bitter fruits which he reaped from this treacherous expedition. Having reached London, he says,

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My spirits were nearly exhausted by distress and poverty. I now relinquished every idea of going abroad. I saw such a visionary scheme in its true light, and resolved, if possible, to procure some situation, as an usher or clerk, or any employment, whereby I might derive a subsistence: but I was unsuccessful. I lived some time, in obscure lodgings, by selling my clothes and books; for I did not attempt to obtain any assistance by my skill in music, lest I should be discovered by some persons who might know me or my family. I was in a short time reduced to the lowest extreme of wretchedness and want. Alas! I had not sometimes bread to eat. Little did my mother think, when she dreamt, that she saw her son fatigued with his wanderings, and oppressed with a load of woe, glad to lie down, and sleep away his cares on a little straw, that her dream was so near the truth! What a reverse of fortune was this! A few months before, I lived in splendour and happiness! But even in this extremity of misery my eyes were not opened. I saw indeed my folly, but I saw not my sin: my pride even then was unsubdued, and I was constantly anticipating scenes of future grandeur, and indulging myself in the pleasures of the imagination.

"After I had worn out many months in this misery, observing one day an advertisement in a newspaper, for a "clerk to an attorney," I offered myself, and was accepted. I was much liked, and soon made friends, I then obtained a better situation with another gentleman in the law, and, lastly, engaged with a solicitor of respectable character

and connexions in the city, with whom I remained nearly three years. During all this time I had sufficient allowance to appear as a gentleman; my desire for going abroad gradually abated, and I began to think that I should make the law my profession for life. But during a great part of this time I corresponded with my friends in Scotland, as from abroad, writing very rarely, but always giving my mother pleasing accounts of my health and situation."" (Vol. i. p. 11, 12.)

We find him recovering the proper tone of mind under the friendly counsels of Mr. Newton, by whom he was taught the extent of his delinquency, and the depth of the precipice, on the edge of which he stood.

At this time, generally speaking, the decisive change in his character must be said to have taken place. He passed from a state of occasional licentiousness, of almost habitual indifference, of falsehood, disobedience, and unkindness to his parents, to a state of serious and habitual devotion of himself to God. If there be any who doubt the reality of such a change, we would entreat them to consider the language in which Mr. Buchanan himself describes it—and the judicious comment of Mr. Pearson. One class, Mr. Pearson says, may be disposed to treat the whole as visionary and delusive, the other as weak and unimportant. We can afford to give the reply only to the former of these objectors.


"In reply to the former of these objections, it may be observed, that, even admitting the change in question to have been sudden, it does not necessarily follow that it was enthusiastic and visionary. do not in the smallest degree,' says a peculiarly calm and cautious writer, 'mean to undervalue, or speak lightly of such changes, whenever, or in whomsoever they take place; nor to deny that they may be sudden, yet lasting: nay, I am rather inclined to think that it is in this manner that they frequently do take place.' But in the present case, sudden as that impression appears to have been, which was the turning point in the mind of Mr. Buchanan between a life of sin and of religion, between the world and God, it was neither the first nor the last which he experienced; but one of many previous convictions, which had been comparatively ineffectual, and of many subsequent influences, which issued in the real conversion of his heart to God, and which continued through his future course to establish and edify him in Christian faith and holiness. The substantial effects which followed sufficiently rescue the impressions which have been described from the imputation of enthusiasm, and vindicate their claim to a more legitimate and divine origin." (Vol. i. p. 29, 30.)

The change wrought in Mr. Buchanan was a change from the practice of falsehood to the love of truth-from occasional licentiousness to habitual holiness—from a life of self-indulgence to a life of usefulness and benevolence-from the state of a weed

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