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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume XIV. The Victorian Age, Part Two.

III. Critical and Miscellaneous Prose

§ 19. Hugh Miller; W. and R. Chambers

Of the ill-defined genus miscellaneous prose, there is no species more delightful than that of the essay in the stricter sense of the word, the essay which is the expression of a mood rather than, like Macaulay’s, a fragment of history, or, like Matthew Arnold’s, a fragment of criticism. Quite a considerable group of essayists in this stricter sense belongs to the Victorian period. The eldest of the group were Hugh Miller and Robert Chambers, both born in 1802, the one in the north, and the other in the south, of Scotland, both, ultimately, editors in Edinburgh. The most valuable of Miller’s contributions to journalism have been gathered into books which have a coherence of their own, like The Old Red Sandstone and the delightful autobiography My Schools and Schoolmasters; but much still remains in the form of scattered essays, of which one volume was published in 1862 and another in 1870. Science, however, on the one hand, and religious controversy, on the other, absorbed most of Miller’s energy, and, though he was the greater writer of the two, left him a smaller place, in this particular sphere, than Robert Chambers, the founder, in conjunction with his elder brother William, of Chambers’s Journal. Both the brothers were busy writers, and the younger had a gift of humour which served him in good stead in the numerous essays which he contributed to his own journal.