The History of Leith

May 22, 2007

The sad story of Rev John Logan

John logan was minister of the second charge at South Leith Parish Church between 1773-1786 and is rightfully famous for writing some of the finest Scottish Paraphrases.

However he became friends with Michael Bruce who was also a poet who died in 1767 of Consumption aged 21. The problem was when John Logan published a Memorial volume to his friend he added some of own work without saying which was his and what were Michael Bruce’s. When the father of Michael Bruce seen the book he was really upset and asked “where are Michael’s sacred poems which he wrote” and although he called on Logan he never got an explanation nor was Michael Bruce’s manuscript ever returned. The strange thing is John logan didn’t need to steal another man’s work, as he was a man of some ability; however he was just very careless and perhaps a bit thoughtless. This has been substantiated by people like Sir Walter Scott who knew him well. Furthermore we find in Wards English poets a notice written by Professor Minto of Aberdeen.

“A song writer of wider culture was Rev John Logan minister of Leith, the writer of the most eloquent sermons which the church has produced. It is difficult in reading Logan’s poetry to divest oneself of sympathy with the story of his unhappy life, but there seems to be more in his verse than mere general literary facility. He was a writer of the “sacred” as well as “profane” songs but his essays in the later direction though they disturbed his relations with his brethren help to redeem the ministers of the Scotch Church from the reproach of having contributed less than any class in the community to the National lyric movement of the eighteenth century”.

However his problems really started when his name was put forward as a candidate for the Chair of Universal History at Edinburgh University. However the Faculty of Advocates who were the patrons of the Chair appointed one of their own number as was their custom. The disappointment was very real for logan and he slowly took to drink He started to fail in his duties as a parish minister and in 1786 he resigned and went to London where he died at his house in Great Marlborough Street in 1788.

As Issac Disraeli said about him “This genius became a prey to that melancholy which constituted so large a portion of it”

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