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offered by the Philosophical Society of Edinburgh, for the most correct edition of a Latin classic; on which occasion he set up and corrected an edition of Terence in 12mo, Harwood calls it an immaculate edition : the date is 1768: it is become very scarce, and sells when perfect for two guineas. It should be mentioned to the honour of Mr. Smellie, that a considerable part of the pecuniary recompense which he derived from his early skill and assiduity, was appropriated to the relief of his two sisters. The term of his apprenticeship expired when he was about nineteen: he then engaged himself to Messrs. Murray and Cochrane, to correct the press, and superintend the publication, of the Scots Magazine. In this undertaking he persevered about six years; and, during the whole of this period, seems to have continued his attendance upon the college lectures without interruption. His precise course of study is not known; but it is certain that he passed through the usual course preparatory to the study of theology, which includes the greek and humanity classes, mathematics, natural philosophy, logic, belles letters, moral philosophy, and Hebrew. He also attended all the medical classes, and botany, for which he had a strong predilection, and in which he made very considerable proficiency.
In the early part of his life, Mr. Smellie appears to have been principally actuated in his literary pursuits, by an ardentin thirst for general knowledge; but, occasionally, his views were i confined within a narrower range. He was strongly urged by some of his friends to devote himself to one of the learned professions, as more suitable to his taste and habits than the labour of a printing office; and it is evident, from some parts of his correspondence, that he hesitated long whether he should enter the Church, or become a member of the medical profession: conscientious motives seem to have determined him to reject the one, and his early marriage, and the want of pecuniary resources compelled him to forego the other. The late Dr. Buchan, who was one of his early friends, was extremely solicitous to induce him to study medicine with a view to practice, though it appears pretty clearly, even from his own correspondence, that he wished to serve himself by this recom. mendation at least as much as his friend. The doctor, at that time resident in Yorkshire, had projected his since celebrated work on Domestic Medicine, and in the execution of it was not a little anxious to obtain the aid of Mr. Smellie. Being unsuccessful in his attempts to engage him as a domestic assistant, he returned to Edinburgh himself, where the work was submitted to the revision of his friend, previous to its publication. It has been asserted, indeed, on the authority
of the late Dr. Gilbert Stuart, that the work was completely written by Mr. Smellie; but for this assertion there appears to be no sufficient evidence. On the contrary, Mr. Smellie was accustomed to relate to his friends, that the original manuscript of Dr. Buchan was so excessively redundant, that a single chapter would have filled nearly as large a volume as that in which it was afterwards published, and that he merely compressed the whole into reasonable bounds. Even from tliis statement, however, it would appear that this work, of which twenty regular editions of 6000 each bare been sold, · was indebted almost entirely to Mr. Smellie for its popularity and extensive sale.
Mr. Smellie married at the age of twenty three; but the narrowness of his circumstances prevented him from entering into business on his own account for several years after that period; and he was indebted even then to the kindness of literary or scientific friends for assistance. Among these we find the late Dr. Hope, professor of Botany, Dr. Robertson, professor of Oriental languages, and Lord Kames. His acquaintance with Lord K. commenced in some anonymous remarks, which he adventurously sent to his Lordship, while employed in printing the Elements of Criticism. To this communication his Lordship returned a polite and respectful answer, acknowledging their propriety, and soliciting his farther observations, observing at the same time that he could see no reason “for this sort of blind intercourse." From this period a friendly correspondence existed between them, which experienced no interruption until the time of his Lordstrip's death.
The first important literary undertaking in which Mr. Smellie engaged, was the compilement of the Encyclopædia Britannica, of which the first edition was published in 1771, in three volumes quarto. He undertook to draw up fifteen of the principal sciences, and to arrange the whole work for the press, for which he received the trifling sum of £200. He wrote besides some valuable original articles. One of these (æther) gave considerable offence to the late Dr. Cullen, who had endeavoured to explain some of the functions of the animal economy by imagining the existence of a nervous æther. In this excellent article Mr. Smellie, with admirabie force and perspicuity of reasoning, exposed the extreme absurdity of that false philosophy, which, consisting entirely of ingenious but idle speculation, can have no solid foundation in experiment or observation, and consequently can never advance our knowledge a single step; and as Dr. Cullen's theory had made a conspicuous figure ia a recent medical thesis, Mr. S. took occasion to hold it
up to severe, but merited condemnation. As this article has not appeared, we believe, in any subsequent edition of the Encyclopædia, our readers will not be displeased, perhaps, with a short extract.
. To give a formal refutation of this author's reasoning, is no part of our plan. It is perhaps wrong to say that he has reasoned ; for the whole hypothetical part of his essay is a mere farrago of vague assertions, non-entities, illogical conclusions, and extravagant fancies. His æther seems to be an exceedingly tractable sort of substance. Whenever the qualities of one body differ from those of another, a different modification of æther at once solves the phenomenon. Theæther of iron must not, to be sure, be exactly the same with the nervous æther, otherwise it would be in danger of producing sensation in place of magnetism. It would likewise have been very improper to give the vegetable æther exactly the same qualities with those of animal æther; for, in such a case, men would run great risk of striking root in the soil; and trees and hedges might eradicate and run about the fields. Nothing can be more ludicrous than to see a writer treating a mere ens rationis as familiarly as if it were an object of our senses. The notion of compounding the æther of an acid with that of an alkali, in order to make a neutral of it, is completely ridiculous. But if men take the liberty of substituting names in place of facts and experiments, it is an easy matter to accourt for any thing. By this method of philosophising, obscurity is for ever banished from the works of nature. It is impossible to gravel an ætherial philosopher. Ask him what questions you please, his answer is ready :-As we cannot find the cause any where else ; ergo, by dilemma, it must be owing to æther! For example, ask any one of these sages, what is the cause of gravity? he will answer, 'tis æther! Ask him the cause of thought, he will gravely reply, the solution of this question was once universally allowed to exceed the limits of human genius : but now, by the grand discoveries we have lately made, it is as plain as that three and two make five! Thought is a mere mechanical thing, an evident effect of certain motions in the brain produced by the occillations of a subtle fluid called ather! This is indeed astonishing !
Such jargon, however, affords an excellent lesson to the true philosopher. It shows to what folly and extravagance mankind are led, whenever they deviate from experiment and observation in their enquiries into nature. No sooner do we leave these only faithful guides to science, than we instantly land in a labyrinth of nonsense and obscurity, the natural punishment of folly and presumption.' Vol. 1. p..382.
When a second edition of the Encyclopædia was called for, in 1776, Mr. Smellie was applied to by Mr. Bell to take a share in the work, as well as again to superintend the publication; but this offer, unfortunately for himself and his family, he declined, because the proprietors insisted upon the introduction of a general biography. This Mr. S. disapproved of, as inconsistent with the plan and title of the work; and he thus lost, either from timidity
or excessive fastidiousness, a share in a work, the third edition of which, alone, is said to have left a clear profit to the proprietors of £42,000.'
In the year 1773 Mr. Smellie engaged, in conjunction with the noted Dr. Gilbert Stuart, (a man of uncommon talents, and capable of intense application, but the slave of irregular habits and uncontrolled passions,) in the publication of the Edinburgh Magazine and Review. The work was conducted with considerable ability, but failed in a few years, in consequence of Stuart's indiscriminate severity and illiberal abuse. Mr. Smellie managed the historical department; and Dr. Blacklock and Professor Baron were prominent contributors. The fate of the work was sealed by a virulent and unjust attack upon Lord Monboddo's Essay on the Origin and Progress of Language, which gave great and general offence to the friends of that respectable, though eccentric character with whom, however, Mr. Smellie continued in habits of intimacy, notwithstanding the abuse of his Lordship's work, which had issued from his press. . In 1781, Mr. Smellie was elected Keeper and Superintendant of the Museum of Natural History belonging to the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, then recently es. tablished under the influence and patronage of the Earl of Buchan, with whom it originated. It is singular enough that his connection with this Society raised a very powerful opposition to their petition to the King for a royal charter of incorporation. Mr. Smellie had been induced, by the solicitation of Lord Kames, to prepare a course of lectures upon the philosophy and general economy of nature; and the plan was so much approved by Dr. Ramsay, the Professor of Natural History, that he gave him his assistance and advice in the most frank and liberal manner. These lectures, however, had not been delivered when Mr. Smellie received his first appointment to the Antiquarian Society and as he had failed in his attempt to obtain the Natural History Professorship, on the death of Dr. Ramsay, in 1775 they made him an offer of their hall, and desired lectures to be read there to themselves and T. : This proposal alarmed the jealousy of D successful candidate for the Professor his his interest, a memorial was pr by the Senatus Academia charter to the Society unsuccessful with res unexpected and
office such was bis anositors as it Wafter it was.se
called into action, occasioned Mr. Smellie to abandon his proposed lectures.
About this period Mr. S. commenced the translation of Buffon's Natural History, which he published in 9 vols 8vo. with many valuable notes and illustrations. In the execution of this laborious undertaking, he was accustomed to read over six or eight pages until he was perfectly master of their ideas and language; and then proceeded to write his translation, without any immediate reference to the particular language or arrangement of the original. It is a very striking proof of the strength and steadiness of his mind, that though this work was executed, for the most part, in a small correcting room, connected with his privting office, in which he was exposed to very frequent interruption, yet such was his accuracy and self-possession, that he gave it out to his compositors as it was written ; and rarely had occasion to alter a single word after it was set up from the original manuscript. This very uncommon degree of accuracy in composition, may have been in a good measure, no doubt, the result of his early application to study, and of the habit' of committing his speculations to writing : but still that mind must have been steady and powerful in no common degree, which could send forth its pro. ductions in so perfect a state. Indeed in mature life, his biographer informs us, he never made a second copy of any literary effort; and the whole expence of alterations in printing his Philosophy of Natural History, consisting of 526 quarto pages, was only half a crown.
This work, the first volume of which was published in 1790, and the second some years after his death, contained the materials which Mr. Smellie had collected for his intended Lectures, but to which it is probable he made considerable additions, before he ventured to commit it to the press. It is unnecessary to discuss the plan or merits of a work which has now been more than twenty years before the public, and which will probably remain unrivalled in that department of literature; but we cordially join Mr. Kerr in recommending it to the attentive perusal of young persons in the more advanced period of education, calculated, as we think it is beyond any other work with which we are acquainted, to inspire a taste for the most delightful of all studies, the study of nature; and to lead the mind, at that interesting period of life, when it is most susceptible of impression, and ere it has yet reached the full maturity of its strength, “ from nature to nature's God." -For the first volume of this work Mr. Smellie received