“He was upright, candid, and sincere: strongly attached to his friends; ready to sacrifice anything to assist them; humane and charitable”
Hutton had a wide circle of friends reflecting his wide interests, and tt is apparent from John Playfair’s descriptions that he was popular; vivacious, quick-witted and slightly eccentric coupled with acute powers of observation, reasoning and argument. He was also widely read and knowledgeable, with a singular independence of mind.
“To his friends his conversation was inestimable; as great talents the most perfect candour, and the utmost simplicity of character and manners….This simplicity pervaded his whole conduct; while his manner, which was peculiar displayed a degree of vivacity, hardly ever to be found among men of profound and abstract speculation. His great liveliness, added to this aptness to lose sight of himself, would sometimes lead him into little eccentricities…”
“His conversation was extremely animated and forcible,
and whether serious or gay, full of ingenious and original observation…Great
information and an excellent memory, supplied an inexhaustible fund of
illustration, always happily introduced… and in which the witty
and ludicrous never failed to occupy a considerable place”.
He was known for his bawdiness and his brevity “I ain’t like in haste to wax to fat nor fart nor fling neither”, of his description of life farming in Berwickshire, referring no doubt to the hard work he endured.
“The volcano was not created to scare superstitious minds and plunge them into fits of piety and devotion. They should be considered as the vent of a furnace” – this at a later stage in his life in defence of the formation of igneous rocks from hot liquid magma (from beneath the earth’s crust).
In Quakerish Raiment?
We know from his letters that James Hutton was rather keen on young ladies
and also liked brandy toddy! John Playfair also says, “It
was always true of Dr Hutton, that to an ordinary man he appeared to be
an ordinary man, possessing a little more spirit and liveliness, perhaps
than is usual to meet with”.