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AMONG the many eminent men who shed lustre on the latter part of what has been termed the Georgian era, certainly not the least conspicuous was Sir John Sinclair. The position which he held in public esteem was altogether peculiar, and the means by which he attained it were not less so. Sir John Sinclair entered public life at a period more than ordinarily fruitful in great men and great events; when the departments of law, science, politics, and literature were crowded with competitors, and consequently the attainment of distinction was in the highest degree difficult. Under such circumstances he might, at first sight, appear to have been deficient in many of the qualities requisite to success. Considered merely in a literary point of view he was not a great author; nor was he highly gifted as an orator, nor profoundly versed in any branch of science; nor had he drank deeply at "the stream divine of high philosophy;" nor as a politician did he rise above the middle rank. With all these disadvantages, however, his success was extraordinary. No man ever succeeded in acquiring a reputation more honourable or more widely spread. Throughout Europe and America his name became familiar almost as a household word, and he enjoyed his great honours, with this remarkable distinction, that none ever

questioned the justice with which they had been bestowed. The labours of a long life have been at length closed by death, yet no man has hitherto attempted to tear a leaf from his chaplet, and the high place he occupied in public opinion remains-and is long likely to remain-untenanted.


The public were entitled to expect that the memoirs of a life so successfully devoted to their service should be written for the instruction both of the present generation and posterity. This duty, we rejoice to say, has been discharged with a degree of talent, good taste, and sound judgment which leaves nothing to be desired. biographer is already well known to the world as the author of several valuable works on criticism and theology, and the present work will assuredly not derogate from his high reputation. In the execution of his task Mr Sinclair has not suffered his feelings of filial attachment to influence his judgment. Indeed, if he has even erred at all, it certainly has not been in forming too lofty an estimate either of the charac ter or services of his distinguished father. Of eulogy Mr Sinclair is even rigorously sparing. He never heaps the measure of his praise, and in some instances we think that a larger portion might have been fairly arrogated by the biographer of Sir John Sinclair, and are quite sure it would have been

Memoirs of the Life and Works of the late Right Hon. Sir John Sinclair, Bart. By his Son, the Rev. John Sinclair, M. A., Pemb. Coll. Oxford, F.R.S.E.; Author of Dissertations vindicating the Church of England; an Essay on Church Patronage, &c In Two Volumes. William Blackwood and Sons, Edinburgh. 1837.


freely conceded by the public.

It is a defect, perhaps inseparable from the memoirs of men of genius, that, however largely they contribute to the gratification of curiosity, they rarely convey a lesson generally useful. Individuals so gifted may be considered as exhibiting exceptions to the ordinary laws which regulate and limit human intellect, and their success being the result of a rare idiosyncrasy, their example is little available to those who, from difference of mental organization, can experience but imperfect sympathy either with their peculiar temptations or higher impulses. But the case is different in regard to individuals who, without any remarkable superiority of original endowment, have achieved great objects merely by the strenuous and judicious application of powers which they possess in common with the majority of mankind. The lives of such men must ever be full of valuable instruction. The instruments of their success are within reach of all. They were en dowed with no preternatural strength, nor did they wield a charmed weapon. Yet men so constituted and so armed, without dazzling appliances of any sort, have achieved the most astonishing results, and established a permanent and acknowledged claim to the gratitude of mankind.

Of this class, it is almost needless to say, was Sir John Sinclair. His life was one of intense activity and labour, and scarcely less remarkable for the variety of pursuits to which it was devoted, than for the degree of success by which, in most of them, his labours were rewarded. In almost all his works we find a picture of his mind, and in these we might almost trace its progress from youth to middle age, and from that period to the closing years of a long and valuable life. Perhaps the writings of no man were ever more legibly impressed with the character of their author. Unlike those writers who think it necessary to appear before the public with an air of rhetorical pomp, Sir John Sinclair despised such artifices, and wrote as he spoke and as he thought, with perfect simplicity and directness. With genius he was not endowed. His mind was deficient in imagination, and the powers connected with it, which probably he had never cultivated; and his talent for logical deduction was not

remarkable. In his writings we rarely discover any close and connected chain of reasoning. Perhaps the most prominent feature of his intellect was its extraordinary vivacity. His faculties never slept. They were always up and stirring; always on the look-out; always active. Two other qualities he possessed in a remarkable degree -enthusiasm and perseverance. The one led him to make light of difficulties, however formidable, and the other enabled him to overcome them. We do not believe that Sir John Sinclair ever resigned a task he had undertaken from dread of any obstacle-or shrank from any degree of labour, however vast, which might be necessary for its completion. To know that success was possible was all that he required; for, with this knowledge, his confidence in his own powers was too great to have a doubt of his attaining it. This sanguine constitution of mind was fortunate, both for himself and his country: without it, he could have brought few of his great works to a successful termination, and in all probability the Statistical Account of Scotland would have remained unwritten.

No man, perhaps, was ever less fitted than Sir John Sinclair for a life of contemplation. Action was as neces sary to him as the air he breathed. It was to his mind what the pole is to the needle the terminus, towards which all his thoughts and intellectual impulses were directed. He could not, like Mr Coleridge, be content to dwell in a world of visionary abstractionsmerging all thought of material existence in contemplation of the microcosm within. To the latter, the abstract and speculative were every thing


the purely practical nothing. the material wants and necessities of man he took no interest. In him action was at all times the offspring rather of painful necessity than of voluntary impulse. In the eyes of Mr Coleridge the great globe itself, and all that it inhabit, were valueless, when compared with that universe of mysterious possibilities on which he delighted to speculate and refine. Perhaps a more striking contrast was never exhibited in human character than existed between these two distinguished individuals.

The Memoirs of Sir John Sinclair's Life are, of course, those of his Works.

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