Thursday, September 28, 2006

Marcus Dods - Victorian Emergent? III.

Marcus Dods began his theological course at New College, Edinburgh, in 1855. In one of the earliest New College letters in the first volume of his letters he reflects on some of the professors:
"I have a thing to write for Dr. Cunningham, which I must work at in the holidays. I enjoy his class very much, but find Dr. [James] Buchanan painfully prolix. However, there are some very fine passages in his lectures, and I think his course is in itself more uninteresting than Cunningham's. Dr. Duncan is going through Job just now, and gives some most valuable notes, a good many queer [odd] stories, and a great quantity of minor matter difficult to carry away." (Letter dated 8th December 1855)

"[Dr. Duncan] is getting fonder of us every day, and seems inclined to teach us all languages, living, dead, buried, and a few which might be but are not yet; and he keeps ominously before us a book printed in seventy-two languages, and called 'The Napoleon Polyglot', towards which he every now and then casts a loving grin, as much to say, How I wish I had lived at the time of Babel, or been interpreter at the court of Shem. You can't blame me fo being so wordy when Dr. Duncan is the theme." (Letter dated 'Nearly August' 1857.)

Where, our readers may ask, is the 'Emergent' in this series. Well, seeing as Brian Maclaren was in his forties when he became 'emergent', and Marcus Dods was twenty-four when he left New College, he still has time. Going through the staunchly conservative New College of the 1850s, Marcus Dods came out as conservative as his father had been. And Dr. Duncan never did teach the class 'all languages'. Dods, like many students before and since, was intimidated by the square characters of Hebrew. In another letter he confesses to using his lexicons as dumb-bells to exercise the body, rather than the mind (a mighty lexicon in each hand would certainly do the trick).

But in 1858 Marcus Dods graduated from New College to the ranks of the probationers of the Free Church of Scotland. A minister without a charge has an obscene amount of time for reading. As well as a tendency to depression when he reflects how many churches he has preached at without being called to the pastorate of any of them.

But THAT, God willing, shall be our subject next time.



Blogger Jonathan Moorhead said...

Thanks for this series. It is very interesting.

7:35 pm  

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