|Description||Brown was born in Biggar, Lanarkshire, Scotland, on 22 September 1810, the elder son of John Brown, minister of the Secession church there, and his wife, Jane, daughter of William Nimmo, a Glasgow surgeon. Most of the boy's early education took place at home, under his father; but in October 1824 he joined the rector's class in the city's high school, where he proved himself a good scholar. Two years later Brown entered Edinburgh University, and after a year in arts he began the study of medicine in May 1827. At the same time he became a pupil and apprentice of the eminent surgeon James Syme. In 1829 Syme founded his own Surgical Hospital and Dispensary in Minto House, George Square; and there John served as dispenser, dresser, clerk, and assistant-incidentally witnessing the scenes to be graphically described in 'Rab and his friends'. Despite his admiration and affection for Syme, John opted for the life of a physician rather than a surgeon, and in 1831 he was appointed assistant to a Scottish doctor in Chatham, England. On his return to Edinburgh, Scotland he graduated MD and set himself up in general practice. |
In the 1840s, while building up a select and devoted medical clientele in Edinburgh, Scotland, Brown also made his literary début. Already known as a charming correspondent, he began contributing short articles and reviews to The Scotsman and other periodicals.
Individual papers-'Rab' above all-were frequently republished in various guises; but Brown's work as a whole was made conveniently accessible in three comprehensive volumes, each issued during his lifetime under the title Horae subsecivae (translated by him as 'By-hours'). The first series appeared in 1858, the second in 1861, and the third shortly before his death in 1882.
He died of pneumonia at his home, 23 Rutland Street, Edinburgh, Scotland, on 11 May 1882, and was buried five days later beside his father, his wife, and his infant daughter in the new Calton cemetery.
[Source: Dictionary of National Biography]
Contents: 'Rab and his Friends', 1857