Story, Robert (1790-1859) (DNB00)


STORY, ROBERT (1790–1859), Scottish writer, was born on 3 March 1790 at Yetholm, Roxburghshire, where his father, George Story, was parish schoolmaster. His mother was Margaret Herbert, of a Northumbrian family. After receiving elementary education at home he entered Edinburgh University in 1805, associating with Thomas Pringle (1789–1834) [q. v.], the son of a neighbouring farmer. He was a good student, earning distinction in the debating societies as well as the class-rooms. From July 1811 to the beginning of 1815 he was tutor in several families, preparing at the same time for entrance into the church of Scotland. One of his tutorial posts was in the family of Lord Dalhousie, his youngest pupil being James Andrew Broun Ramsay [q. v.], afterwards governor-general of India, whose warm friendship he enjoyed through life. Licensed as a preacher in July 1815, Story was in December appointed assistant at Rosneath, Dumbartonshire. In 1817 Carlyle, on a walking tour with a common friend, sojourned with him several days, which days, he says, are ‘all very vivid to me and marked in white’ (Reminiscences, ii. 50, ed. Norton). Ordained minister of the parish on 26 March 1818, Story was introduced to his congregation by Dr. Chalmers.

Devoting himself mainly to his professional work and the improvement of a somewhat demoralised parish, Story stoutly defended his friend and neighbour, M'Leod Campbell of Row, who was deposed in 1831 by the general assembly for his views on the Atonement. He was himself threatened for a time with trouble on the same grounds, but the prejudice passed, and in both cleric and lay circles he came to be called ‘Story the beloved.’ In 1830 his parishioner, Mary Campbell, professed to have received the ‘gift of tongues;’ and, though Story exposed her imposture, she found disciples in London, and was credited by Edward Irving [q. v.], then in the maelstrom of his impassioned fanaticism. On the basis of her pretensions arose the ‘Holy Catholic Apostolic Church’ (see Carlyle, Life, ii. 213, and Reminiscences, ed. Norton, ii. 204). Story remained in his charge at the secession in 1843, and in 1853 saw a new parish church erected and a supplementary church placed on his southern borders—the expenses largely defrayed through his own exertions—to meet the needs of a young community when Lochlongside was feued. After a period of weak health, he died on 22 Nov. 1859. He was buried in Rosneath churchyard, and a monument to his memory, from a design by the sculptor William Brodie [q. v.], was placed on the wall of the chancel in the parish church. Story married, in 1828, Helen Boyle, daughter of Mr. Dunlop of Keppoch, Dumbartonshire, and was survived by her and two children.

In 1811 appeared ‘The Institute,’ an heroic poem in four cantos, written conjointly by Story and Thomas Pringle. Its youthful satire is direct and pungent, and the couplets display ingenuity and ease. In 1829 he published, under the title of ‘Peace in Believing,’ a memoir of a devout girl named Isabella Campbell, sister of the Mary Campbell who later professed the ‘tongues.’ The book ran into three editions in a few weeks. Wilberforce said that the narrative filled him ‘with reverence and admiration.’ Story wrote on his parish for the ‘Statistical Account’ of 1841.

[R. H. Story's Memoir of the Life of the Rev. Robert Story, 1862; Mrs. Oliphant's Life of Edward Irving, ii. 128; Memorials of m'Leod Campbell; Hanna's Life of Chalmers.]

T. B.