Lives of
Scottish Poets
edited by

Center for Applied Technologies
in the Humanities

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Literary Chronicle
New Monthly Magazine
Monthly Review
Notes and Queries
Gibson and Laing
Halkett and Laing
Scottish Notes & Queries

Part I. (Volume I.)
James the First
Thomas the Rhymer
John Barbour
Andrew Wyntoun
Gavin Douglas
Allan Ramsay
William Meston
John Home
James Beattie
Robert Burns

Part II. (Volume I.)
James the Fifth
William Dunbar
Sir James Inglis
Henry the Minstrel
Sir David Lyndsay
Alexander Barclay
Alexander Montgomerie
William Alexander
William Drummond
James Thomson
John Oswald

Part III. (Volume II.)
James the Sixth
Sir Richard Maitland
Arthur Johnston
Hamilton of Bangour
Hamilton of Gilbertfield
Samuel Colvil
Alexander Ross
John Armstrong
John Ogilvie
James Macpherson
Charles Salmon

Part IV. (Volume II.)
Alexander Hume
John Bellenden
Mark Alexander Boyd
Ninian Paterson
William Wilkie
Robert Fergusson
William Julius Mickle
Alexander Geddes
James Grahame

Part V. (Volume III.)
Robert Henryson
Alexander Scott
Walter Kennedy
John Ogilby
Alexander Pennecuik
Alexander Cunningham
David Mallet
William Falconer
Francis Garden
Robert Blair
James Moor
James Graeme
Caleb Whitefoord
James Grainger
Hector Macneill
John Wilson

Part VI. (Volume III.)
Robert Kerr
Richard Lord Maitland
Thomas Hamilton
Charles Hamilton
Michael Bruce
Thomas Blacklock
John Logan
Andrew Macdonald
James Mercer

Appendix. (Volume III.)
James I
Allan Ramsay
John Home
Robert Burns
William Drummond
Robert Fergusson
Alexander Scott
John Wilson

Part  VI:

  Buchanan, George. [note] The Latin poetry of George Buchanan has been the subject of munch extraordi-
nary eulogium, from some of the ablest judges both at home and abroad, in past as well as in present times; but for myself, I confess, that I never read one of these encomiums without a deep feeling of regret, that the genius of Buchanan should ever have been so employed. When we are told that in poetry “he did imitate Virgil [note] in heroics, Ovid [note] in elegiacs, Lucretius [note] in philosophy, Seneca [note] in tragedies, Martial [note] in epigrams, Horace [note] and Juvenal [note] in satires;” and that “he copied after these great masters so perfectly, that nothing ever approached nearer the original;”* what more, after all, do we learn, than that Buchanan was among poets what the Mocking Bird is among the tenants of the forest? Had he, we ask ourselves, no “wood-note wild” of his own? Was he ashamed of his parent tongue? Did he disdain to touch the same reed from which a Barbour, a Dunbar, and a Lindsay, had drawn sounds so sweet to their admiring countrymen? What else than a learned vanity could have induced him so to desert the path of nature, and, we may add, of true patriotism? Let Buchanan's motive have been what it may, for preferring the Latin to his native language, the choice is not less to be condemned, than its consequences are to be deplored. The genius with which Buchanan was gifted beyond most men, enabled him to attain a degree of excellence in Latin composition, which no other man of that day could probably have reached; the praises of

* Crawford's [note] Hist. of the house of Este.
all the learned in all parts of the world followed him; he had a weak pedant for his sovereign,
(James VI.) who not only delighted to boast of having been taught Latin by that Buchanan whom the world applauded, but who encouraged all around him to compose in Latin, as alone worthy the pens of the learned; cloister and court thus united their influence to cast discredit on the cultivation of our native language; and the ultimate consequence was, that for nearly a century after, men of education and genius in Scotland did nothing but waste their powers in barbarous and vain attempts to rival the excellence of Buchanan in Latin poetry; for among many hundreds of imitators, not more than two or three— Johnson, Pitcairn, and perhaps, Boyd, —deserve to be named along with him. Can one then be blamed for not looking with complacency on that error in a great man's life, which has been the cause of so vast a blank in the literary history of our country, at the very period when that of England was attaining to even Augustan perfection? Can it be wrong to wish, that there should be an end of re-echoing praise which has done so much harm, and which is, even at this distant period, every now and then seducing some favourite son of the Muses from his native haunts? It is only the other day, that that ingenious and accomplished scholar, Mr. Isaac Hawkins Browne, [note] conceived the freak of writing a poem in Latin, “De Animi Immortalitate.” All who could judge of it, were instantly struck with the excellence of the sentiments which it con-
tained; but in proportion as they admired, they felt regret that so much good should he locked up from the participation of society at large. Translation after translation was accordingly attempted; but not till that of Mr. Soame Jenyns,
[note] the eighth on the list, made its appearance, could the beauties of the original be said to be transferred rather restored, into English. How much valuable labour was here lost! Not only the labour of the original author, for, in spite of his affectation of English; writing in Latin, he must have thought in English; but the labour of eight other ingenious persons besides; and all this merely to furnish what Mr. Browne himself might as well have supplied at once! Surely it is high time that such wanton perversions of intellect as this should be scouted as a reproach, instead of an honour, to genius. For whatever may be the advantage derived from academic exercises in the dead languages, and it is far from the intention of the present writer to undervalue them, it must on all hands be allowed, that after academic exercises are past, that language which is natural to a man, which he understands best, and which it is his duty to do all in his power to improve beyond any other, is that alone in which he ought to express his thoughts. Buchanan, like Browne, must be allowed to have shewn great proofs of genius in his poetical apostasy; but as long as there are so many other memorials by which the true greatness of his mind can be established, without tending to perpetuate a false taste in others—as long as his transcendant merits, as an historian and a jurist, survive—perhaps it is
on these, rather than his poetry, that the biographer should delight to dwell.