Murray, Hugh (DNB00)


MURRAY, HUGH (1779–1846), geographer, born in 1779, was the younger son of Matthew Murray (1735–1791), minister of North Berwick, and grandson of George Murray (d. 1757), who had held the same benefice. His elder brother, George (1772–1822), was also minister of North Berwick from 1795 till his death (Hew Scott, Fasti Eccl. Scot. pt. i. 345). His mother was daughter of John Hill, minister of St. Andrews, and sister of Henry David Hill, professor at St. Andrews. Hugh entered the Edinburgh excise office as a clerk, but from the first devoted his leisure to literary pursuits, publishing 'The Swiss Emigrants,' a tale (anon.), in 1804; two philosophical treatises ('The Morality of Fiction,' 1805, and 'Enquiries respecting the Character of Nations,' 1808); and another romance, 'Corasmin, or the Minister,' in 1814. On 22 Jan. 1816 he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, to whose 'Transactions' he contributed, among other papers, one, in 1818, ‘On the Ancient Geography of Central and Eastern Asia, with Illustrations derived from Recent Discoveries in the North of India’ (Trans. viii. 171–203). In 1817 he enlarged and completed Dr. Leyden's ‘Historical Account of Discoveries and Travels in Africa.’ Similar works by him on Asia and North America followed; the former being published in three volumes at Edinburgh in 1820 (cf. Quarterly Review, xxiv. 311–41), and the latter in London in 1829.

Murray's magnum opus was the 'Encyclopedia of Geography, a Description of the Earth, physical, statistical, civil, and political' (London, 1834), of which the purely geographical part was written by himself, while Sir W. Hooker undertook the zoological, Professor W. Wallace the geological, and V. W. Swainston the astronomical departments. A supplement was published in 1843. The work contained eighty-two maps and over a thousand woodcuts. It was well received, and an American edition (1843) in three volumes, edited by Thos. G. Bradford, had a large sale. Murray also contributed largely to the press, and in the Edinburgh Cabinet Library there appeared compilations by him on the history or geography of the Southern Seas' (1826), the 'Polar Seas' 1830), 'British India' (1832), 'China' (1836), 'British America' (1839), 'Africa' (1830), 'The United States' (1844). Many of these volumes had the advantage of contributions on natural history by Jameson, Traill, J. Nicol, and others. Murray was for a time editor of the 'Scots Magazine,' and was a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society of London. His connection with Constable's 'Edinburgh Gazetteer ' caused him to figure in in the celebrated tory squib, written by Hogg and others, called ‘Translation from an Ancient Chaldee MS.’ (ch. iii. 47–8), which appeared in ‘Blackwood's Magazine’ for October 1817. He died after a short illness, while on a visit to London, in Wardrobe Place, Doctors' Commons, on 4 March 1846. T. Constable refers to him as ‘an eminent geographer, whose extreme modesty prevented his being known and honoured as he deserved to be’ (Arch. Constable and his Friends, ii. 381).

Besides the works mentioned Murray's chief publications were: 1. ‘A Catechism of Geography,’ 4th ed. enlarged, Edinb. 1833, 12mo, 7th ed. 1842. 2. ‘Travels of Marco Polo,’ amended and enlarged, with notes,’ 1844 8vo, 1845 12mo. Posthumously: 3. ‘The African Continent: a Narrative of Discovery and Invention … with an Account of recent exploring expeditions by J. M. Wilson,’ 1853, 8vo. 4. ‘Pictorial History of the United States of America to the close of Pres. Taylor's Admin. … with Additions and Corrections by H. C. Watson,’ illustrated, Boston, Massachusetts, 1861, 8vo.

[Literary Gazette, 7 March and 11 April 1846; Ann. Reg. 1846, App. to Chron. pp. 243, 244; Irving's Book of Scotsmen; Cat. of Living Authors, 1816; Men of the Reign; Journ. Roy. Geog. Soc. vol. xvi. p. xl.]

G. Le G. N.