Book of the moment
Hugh Miller, stonemason, geologist, writer
by Michael A Taylor,
National Museums of Scotland, 2007 ISBN 1 905267 05 3
"the quiet enthusiasm of the true fossil hunter"
Hugh Miller would seem to have been one of those careful Victorian gentlemen* who peered and probed and revealed county flora and folklore, geology and palaeontology and who mixed science with culture and religion in an intriguing, if sometimes patronising, whole.
He was much more than this: a complex mix of pride and humility with a strong sense of his working-class Presbyterian roots and values that guided his out look and informed his attitudes through his sadly shortened life
From the environmental side of things, Miller's collections of fossils from the early 1800s are invaluable as he found, named and laid bare to our fascinated eyes the fish of the Old Red Sandstone of northern Scotland. (They are still fascinating now)
|P milleri, revived|
This books weaves it way through this intriguing life and the connections and companions that inspired, helped and frustrated him. While "quiet enthusiasm" seems right, he was also clearly ready to wade into issues and, as the editor of The Witness , Edinburgh's second-best-selling newspaper of his time, his words on suffrage, land-owneship, the Clearances and the Disruption of the Church of Scotland carried influence.
A good read!
(* for adventurous Victorian ladies, I would recommend the outspoken and sometimes appallingly judgemental Isabella Bird - Adventures in the Rocky Mountains; and the much more sympathetic Mary Kingsley's The Congo and the Cameroons - both available in Penguin Classics edited versions)