[ Pamphlet. ] The Heresy Hunters and the Heresy Hunters' Song. Respectfully Inscribed to the Baffled Inquisitors.

[ William Robertson Smith (1846-1894), Scottish theologian, Professor of Hebrew at Aberdeen Free Church College
Publication details: 
'No. 2. Bon-Accord Rhymes and Ballads. ] Aberdeen: George Middleton, Skene Square. 1878.
SKU: 17686

Smith's entry in the Oxford DNB explains the background to this pamphlet, explaining that he was 'commissioned to write some articles on biblical subjects for the ninth edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, and the first two of these appeared in 1875—‘Angel’ in volume 2 and ‘Bible’ in volume 3. These articles marked a turning point in his career. The Bible was regarded by the Free Church of Scotland as ‘the supreme rule of faith and life’, and so anything that might seem to undermine its authority was bound to arouse opposition. An investigation by the college committee of the Free Church found that Smith's opinions as expressed in the article ‘Bible’ were hardly compatible with his position as a teacher of candidates for the ministry of the church, but provided insufficient grounds to support a process for heresy. Smith maintained that he accepted that the Bible was the one sufficient and authoritative record of divine revelation, and that his critical views were the fruit of studies carried out under the guidance of his teachers at New College, Edinburgh. He therefore demanded that he be given a formal trial by libel (indictment) for his alleged heresies and errors. In the subsequent protracted proceedings in the various church courts Smith, by sheer dialectical skill, was able to beat back the attack on all points except the authorship and purpose of Deuteronomy. The libel proceedings were eventually terminated, but a vote of no confidence in Smith was passed by the general assembly of 1881 and was followed by his summary removal from his chair.' 8pp., 12mo. Disbound without covers. In fair condition, on aged paper, with first and last leaf separated. Comprises a poem 'To the Publisher', dated by 'THE AUTHOR' to 15 April 1878; a poem titled 'The Heresy Hunters'; and another titled 'The Heretic Hunter's Song'. All three are written in lowland Scots. 'The Heresy Hunters' features references to 'The College' and 'SELBIE', as well as the stanza: 'Let dabbler DAVIES spit their spite, | And CRAVENS croak, and BINNIES bite, | And slippery SLOANS, and all unite, | They've neither pith, | Nor can, nor calibre to fight | Professor Smith.' 'The Heretic Hunter's Song' features references to 'Professor Smith' ('a wily loon') and 'Lawyer Davie', as well as 'Doctor Broon'. Pencil comment on line of poem in margin of p.7: 'But faith '. Scarce: the only two copies found on COPAC at the National Library of Scotland and British Library.'s>