Notes to pages 261- 305

p. 264 ‘…an elderly and much respected man named Maidment’; John Maidment was in fact only 44 years old when Crowninshield could have met him, younger indeed than Crowninshield himself. His hobby was the collection of literary rarities, so he would be the perfect person for Ben to consult. He was also a poet and the author of Scottish Ballads and Songs: Historical and Traditionary. One of the copies of Meek’s biography of Tytler now in the National Library of Scotland is from his library. This is the copy that I have imagined as  figuring throughout this story.

p. 265 Kay’s engraving of Lunardi and Tytler, along with the biographical notes added from Kay’s records by Paterson, is online here.

Tytler is the third from the left. Kay’s comment that Tyler ‘became enamoured of a sister of Mr Young Writer to the Signet’, is confused. Elizabeth Rattray was the sister of ‘Mr Young’s wife, though at the time he was still a shop-keeper.

p. 267 ‘The feeling of that Library…’; Pollock’s guide to Edinburgh contains some detailed descriptions of the Library, but it underwent some development in the five years between the publication of the guide and Ben’s visit.

p. 268 ‘The Brunonian system..’; “a theory of medicine which regards and treats disorders as caused by defective or excessive excitation. It was developed by the Scottish physician John Brown and is outlined in his 1780 publication Elementa Medicinae.” (from wikipedia).  Tytler wrote in his letter to Anderson “This is the fourteenth day since I became ill and I am now eating to my breakfast –Waht? Beef-stakes unalloyed even with bread. O rare Bruno.”

p. 269 ‘Perkins and his magnetic tractors’. Tytler’s obsession with the nature of electricity seems to have carried him away on this occassion. The story of the ‘tractors’ is an infamous one; heads of state were convinced that they had experienced healing when treated by these items that were claimed to be made of a mixture of metals designed to focus magnetic energies. \th full story is told here.

Tytler’s treatise on the Yellow fever, an immense survey of the history of pagues and fevers from the earliest times, was published during a period of devastating epidemics in the east coast of the United States, particularly Philadelphia.

p. 270 ‘…that final work you were still promising…’; At the conclusion of his The Second Part of Paine’s Age of Reason Answered, published in Salem in 1796,Tytler wrote “To set forth in a more full and ample manner the doctrines of Scripture ….is a task which I have assigned to myself in a larger work – which I design for my last performance in the religious way.”

Interestingly, the edition of Tytler’s response to Paine that is available online has the following written by hand on the title page; “For Doctor Thornton. This is the pamphlet I mentioned to him. The author is probably the James Tytler he knew at Edinburgh.’
My hunch is that this is the Doctor Thornton who was responsible for the design of the United States Capitol Building in Washington: though he was born in 1759 in the Virgin Islands, ‘ at an early age [he] was sent to England (sic) for an education. He studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh’ [Keith M. Lindgren, M.D. N Engl J Med 1966; 274:790-791]

p. 279 That Maidment had access to a draft of Anderson’s biography of Tytler is pure imagination on my part.

p. 280 Tytler’s  ‘Answers’ to Paine’s Age of reason, parts one and two, are not for the feint-hearted. Tytler works hiis way through Paine’s paragraphs one by one, refuting or dismissing them with his own interpretation of theology. But, more than any other work, with the possible exception of the Essays on the First Principle…etc (which is unfortunately not available on-line) the best source for an understanding of how Tytler joined together his theology and his natural philosophy, using his own version of Hutchinsonian physics (a topic which itself  is even more demanding on the heart).

Forbes’ Letter to a Bishop is here.

Whether Tytler encountered these ideas at Aberdeen, or later through the work of Jones of Nayland, whose Essay on the first principles of natural philosophy, was published in 1762, it is clear that he had already adopted them and begun working with them from his earliest ventures in authorship. That he knew Jones’ work he tells us in the treatise on the Plague and Yellow Fever where he writes of “Mr. William Jones, an English clergyman, whose observations on the generally received system of philosophy contain many particulars worthy of attention.”

p. 283 Though Benjamin Crowninshield was on Salisbury Crags on June 8th, 1838 only in my imagination, Charles Darwin certainly was there, as his diary and notebooks confirm. The notebook of the visit contains the drawings of Hutton’s Section that Ben sees him working on. Darwin was only two years back from his trip on The Beagle, but his thoughts on the mutability of species were already causing him tribulation; the remark about ‘confessing to a murder’ is from a letter he wrote at the time to his friend, the geologist Charles Lyell.

p. 287 ‘..the wretched and pitiful productions…’; the paragraph is from Tytler’s answers to the second part of Paine’s Age of Reason.

‘…William Herschel’s Universe…’ Of all the matters of which I knew very little when I began this work, among the most surprising was to learn just what the astronomer William Herschel had been suggesting about the nature of the universe in the papers he presented to the Royal Society around the turn of the 19th century.
The verse quoted on p288, which was sent to Charles Lyell, had come not from William but from his son John.

p. 292-3 The passage quoted here is from Hutchinson’s Moses Principiae

p. 300 ‘I shall be unable to ressist that dreadful memory…’; the suggestion that it was the young Benjamin Crowninshield that found Tytler’s body is mine, though Bentley had suggested that it was ‘a youth from our family’ that had first found Jean alone; as Ferguson pointed out, ‘this was surely Benjamin Crowninshield’.

p. 305 ‘…Did I truly anticipate from theory more for mankind…’; Tytler’s final musings are in the form of questioning the remarks that Bentley had written in his diary when summing up the life this ‘extraordinary body’.