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



Of Dr. James Moor, [note] professor of Greek in the University of Glasgow, and author of the well-known Elements of Greek Grammar, no memoir has ever come under my observation, nor is his name to be found in any of the general collections of biography. The particulars of his history which have come to my knowledge are too scanty to have much pretension to the merit of supplying the deficiency; but having through the kindness of a friend been put in possession of some unpublished poetical remains of Dr. Moor, * and had my attention directed to others, which, though they have graced a periodical column, are not known to the world to have been the effusions of his muse; whatever service may be done to his memory by bringing these under notice, will, it is hoped, atone for the defects of the memoir by which they are accompanied.


The University in which Dr. Moor had the honour to he a Professor was also his alma-mater. The stu-

* To the same source, the Society are indebted for a spirited likeness of Dr. Moor, from which the portrait given with this part has been engraved.
dies to which he chiefly attached himself were the ancient languages, mathematics, and geometry. The celebrated Simson
[note] filled, at this period, the mathematical chair, and to the happy manner which that eminent teacher is said to have had of making the abstruse subjects of his prelections engaging to young minds, we may ascribe the great partiality which Moor acquired for them, and retained through life. When he had gone through the usual course of academical study, he was engaged as a tutor in the family of the Earl of Kilmarnock; [note] the same who afterwards expiated his rebellion against the House of Hanover on the scaffold. While residing with this nobleman at the family seat in the neighbourhood of Kilmarnock, the mansion-house accidentally took fire, and was burnt to the ground. Dr. Moor was not among the least of the sufferers. He had, ever since leaving the University, been pursuing with great ardour both his philological and mathematical researches; and his writings on the subject had accumulated to a considerable mass, when they had the misfortune to share in the general conflagration. Dr. Moor was often heard to lament their loss, and felt it so severely that he could never muster resolution enough to make any attempt to repair it.


When the rebellion of 1745 broke out, Dr. Moor was far from sharing in the views of his noble patron. Among the poetical remains now before me, there is a fragment on the spirit which characterised the Scots on this occasion, in which they are told, that

———God nor Man,
Nor Law, nor Reason, can approve their plan.

Dr. Moor must have known besides, from his personal intercourse with the Earl of Kilmarnock, a fact, now pretty well ascertained, that a desperate state of fortune, and not any real attachment to the Stuart family, was the cause of his joining the rebel standard.


After the death of that nobleman and the ruin of his house, a long time had not elapsed, when Dr. Moor was elected to be Professor of Greek in the University of Glasgow, in which situation he spent the remainder of his life.


The abilities which he displayed in the department of instruction assigned to him, soon proved him to be an accession to the number of eminent men for which the university of Glasgow became, about this period, remarkable. He made the Greek, from being the most neglected, one of the most popular branches of study; and had, ere long, the pride of hearing it allowed, that Glasgow produced the best Grecians of whom Scotland could boast. His brother professors found in Dr. Moor, at the same time, one who was as well suited as inclined to participate with them in those social relaxations, for which they were only not so remarkable, as for their learning. The following picture of this collegiate brotherhood, which Mr. Stewart [note] has drawn in his Life of Reid, is that of an advanced period of Dr. Moor's connection with it; but till Reid [note] was added, the picture could not be complete. “ Robert Simson, [note] the great restorer of ancient geometry, was still alive, and, although far advanced in years, preserved unimpaired his ardour in study, his relish for social relaxation, and his amusing singularities of humour. Dr. Moor combined,
with a gaiety and levity foreign to this climate, the profound attainments of a scholar and a mathematician. In Dr. Black, [note] to whose fortunate genius a new world of science had just opened, Reid acknowledged an instructor and a guide; and met a simplicity of manners congenial to his own. The Wilsons, [note] father and son, were formed to attach his heart by the similarity of their scientific pursuits, and an entire sympathy with his views and sentiments. Nor was he less delighted with the good humoured opposition which his opinions never failed to encounter in the acuteness of Millar, [note] then in the vigour of youthful genius and warm from the lessons of a different school (of Hume). [note] Dr. Leechman, [note] the friend and biographer of Hutchinson, [note] was the official head of the college; and added the weight of a venerable name to the reputation of a community which he had once adorned in a more active station.” Of the habits of this select fraternity, something yet remains to be told. From Dr. Trail's [note] Life of Simson, we learn, that one evening in the week was devoted to a club, which met in a tavern near the college. The first part of the evening was spent in playing the game of whist, of which Simson was particularly fond. The rest of the night was spent in social conversation, and in singing Greek odes, to which modern music had been adapted. On Saturdays, they usually dined in the village of Anderston, about a mile from Glasgow, where they met a variety of respectable visitors, all desirous of cultivating the acquaintance, and enjoying the society, of the most eminent persons of their day.


The “Elements of Greek Grammar,” by which
Moor's name is so familiar to every Grecian, were followed, in 1766, by his
Essay on the Prepositions of the Greek language. The merit of this work, which has always been spoken of in high terms, has never been overrated. “On the subject of the Greek prepositions,” says Dr. Irving, [note] “he had perhaps formed more correct notions than any other modern writer.” The “Essay,” as well as the “Grammar,” were, however, left incomplete; they were but introductory sections, and seem as if they had been fragments saved from that calamity which destroyed so large a portion of his early speculations in philology.


Although thus distinguished as a Greek scholar, it is curious, that Dr. Moor himself made but little account of his attainments in that capacity, compared with his researches in mathematical science. Among his Remains, is the following Epitaph for himself, in which his poetical genius seems to be ranked among the lowest of his merits, and his knowledge of geometry as the highest.

Here lye the bones of Dr. Moor,
Who lived contented, though but poor.
Piece of a poet he was once,
By inspiration or by chance;
Nor was he very far to seek
Either in Latin or in Greek;
And what is more rare 'mong men of letters,
He was well vers'd in the Greek Geometers;
Knew too the Rules and the Reductions
Of Algebra, Fluents and Fluxions;
Could penetrate into the natures
Of Curves, their Tangents and Quadratures,
And bring to Fluxional Equation
Problems of Curve-Rectification.
Friend of the fatherless and poor,
Who wail the death of Dr. Moor.
Know that these verses, ye who see 'em,
Were by himself wrote—ante-diem.
“Himself too much he praises.” Hush!
Or ye will make his ashes blush:
Had he himself not done it, Brother,
It ne'er had been done by another.

Of his poetical abilities, the proofs are much more favorable than any thing in this Epitaph would lead one to suppose. The fragment which has been already mentioned on the rebellion of 1745, contains some vigorous lines, and acquires no ordinary interest from the obvious allusion which it contains to the conduct of the unfortunate Kilmarnock. The manuscript is embarrassed with corrections and interlineations; but the following appears to have been the intended reading;

Spirit of the Scots' and English Rebels in 1745 characterised.
Scots' Spirit.
The Scots, warm in mistake, too high of spirit,
Think, if they die, 'twill be with Heaven a merit;
Forsake wife, children, fortune, nay, their reason,
Rather than not be guilty of high treason.
Driven like the hogs, when hurried by the devil;
Thoughtless of success; right, wrong; good or evil;
Run furious on, precipitately brave,
Madly to meet the gallows, or the grave.
Yet many were inveigled, many cheated,
By words of honour given and oaths repeated
Who had resolv'd before at home to stay,
And leave to fools the fortune of the day.
Those wept for anguish, to be thus outwitted,
Yet, for their word was given, not one man quitted.
O Gothic Honour! thy unnatural rules,
Thy tyrant customs, make even wise men fools.
Mad, honest, luckless, brave men! God nor Man,
Nor Law, nor Reason, can approve your plan,
Nay, not yourselves at bottom. Reason thus,
And one example will the point discuss.—
—You'll play at hazard, will you, sir? Yes. Come.—
You sit, play, lose, and instant pay the sum;
Why so? Because you think he play'd you fair.
You're wrong, sir try, you'll find some false dice there.
Agreed; you try and find out in a trice,
He palm'd upon you full four loaded dice;
That moment you compell him to repay,
And swear with such you ne'er again shall play.
The application may be made with ease,
I shall not mention it, except you please.
Some few there were, whose deeds of horror tell,
Their hearts of brass were cast in hottest hell;
Monsters confest, but soon they met their match
From victor-monsters, who made quick dispatch:
In cold, cold blood, to kill each man they met,
Such easy slaughter did their swords but whet;
And wanton show'd (let us to both be just)
Of savage butchery, the raging lust.

The next piece for which notice is solicited must be familiar to most persons who are versant in Scottish song. It is entitled “The Chelsea Pensioners,” and was published in most of the newspapers at the commencement of the French Revolution, as the production of “a Young Lady.” The person who gave it this parentage—from some whim, now forgotten—assures me, that the real author was Dr. Moor. It was found, among other scraps in the doctor's hand writing, among the sweepings of his chamber, after his death.

Chelsea Pensioners.
Tune— “Days o' lang syne.”
When war had broke in on the peace of auld men,
And frae Chelsea to arms they were summon'd again,
Twa vet'rans grown grey, wi' their muskets sair soil'd,
With a sigh were relating how hard they had toil'd;
The drum it was beating, to fight they incline,
But ay, they look'd bark to the days o' lang syne!
Eh, Davie man, weil thou remembers the time,
When twa brisk young callans, and just in our prime,
The Duke led us conq'rors, and shew'd us the way,
And mony braw cheilds we turn'd cawld on that day;
Still again I would venture this auld trunk o'mine,
Could our general but lead, and we fight, as lang syne!
But garrison-duty is a' we can do,
Though our arms are grown weak, our hearts are still true;
We car'd na for dangers by land or by sea,
But Time is turn'd coward, and not you and me;
And tho' at our fate we may sigh and repine;
Youth winna return, nor the strength o' lang syne!
When after our conquest, it joys me to mind
How Janet caress'd thee, and my Meg was kind;
They shar'd a' our dangers, tho' never so hard,
Nor car'd we for plunder when sic our reward.
E'en now they're resolv'd baith their hames to resign,
And will share the hard fate they were us'd to lang syne.

A twin-foundling of this popular ballad was the following humorous tale:

the mistake.
Gude honest Davie and his wife
Led lang an easy kindly life;
When hogmanay came round, at night,
The year was done, and a' was right;
And up they raise, on New Year's day,
Life to begin, new bode, new play.
Thus on they liv'd, and on they lov'd,
He well content, and she weill woo'd
By him when he came home at e'en;
Then life was like an ever green.
A nibour chield, wha had some spunk,
Contrives to play them a begunk:
Comes lang before the break o' day,
And steeks their winnock up wi' clay.
They, waken'd at their usual time,
Look'd up, but cou'd na see a styme;
Their weary'd limbs were weel content,
And sae to sleep again they went;
Their een, glad of a hearty dose,
Took their ain sweet fill o' repose.
Seldom they could sic dainties get,
And now the sun began to set;
The wife got up, ran to the door
And saw—what ne'er was seen before!
Na, what was never yet seen since,
Nowther by subject nor by prince;
Nor ever will be seen again
By daughters nor by sons o' men;
She saw, and troth it is nae jest,
A sight that kept her mind frae rest;
To tell the ferlie, in she ran,
Wi' peghing heart, to her gude man:
“O Davie, Davie, man! come here,
The like was not this thousand year!
See, but say nought—silence is best;
See the sun rising in the West!”

To the Edinburgh Magazine, so famous in its day as a vehicle for the vindictive passions of Gilbert Stewart, [note] Dr. Moor appears at one time to have been induced to lend his countenance. In this repository, we find the following poetical contribution headed with all due solemnity, as intended “For the Edinburgh Magazine.”

By Dr. James Moor.

Sweet Linnet! shall I disengage
Thee, from this prison of thy cage;
And let thee forth, freely to fly,
And range around thy native sky?
It gives my soul a pang of grief
To see thee pent up like a thief.
[note] owns, he saw no marrow
To thee, since he saw Lesbie's sparrow.
Thou art call'd, by the Queen of love,
The sweetest songster of the grove.
———“I thank you, Sir! in the first place;
But, good friend, ye mistake the case;
King George himself will frankly own,
He is not happier on the throne;
Yet happier far, I scarce can doubt him,
Where he has wife and bairns about him.
My happy life I shall not grudge
To tell; be you yourself the judge.
Christian* is careful me to feed
With water pure and mustard seed;
Safe hangs my cage from the cat's paws,
To fear her fangs, I have no cause;

* The Doctor's housekeeper.
And what ye call my prison tower,
I call my palace or my bower;
Where all day long, I trip and sing,
Or plume the feathers of my wing.
Never need I to fear the sight
Of either hawk's or eagle's flight;
Never need I to dread the noise
Of guns, discharg'd by murd'ring boys.
Jove's eagle, soaring through the sky,
Is not a happier bird than I.
Think me not then less happy, stranger,
Because not through the skies a ranger;
But learn from me, from time to come,
Best happiness is found at home.
Glasgow College,
Oct. 20.

From the specimens now given, it will be seen that Dr. Moor's claims to poetic rank, are of no ordinary cast. The “Chelsea Pensioners” and the “Mistake,” are distinguished by a dryness of humour and truth of painting, which have not often been surpassed.—They evince powers which only required to have been cultivated, to place their author on a level with the very best of our minor poets.

B. T.