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Kay's Originals Vol. 1


BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. 93 No. XLI. THE REV. WILLIAM ROBERTSON, D.D., AUTHOR OF THE “HISTORY OF SCOTLAND,” AND “CHARLES v.” THIS eminent divine resided within the old College, at the south gate, nearly on the spot where the centre of the library now is. He was born in the year 1721, in the manse of Borthwick, of which parish his father, also called William, was then minister, but who was afterwards presented to the Old Greyfriars’ Church, Edinburgh. His mother was Eleanor, daughter of David Pitcairn, Esq. of Dreghorn ; by the father’s side he was descended from the Robertsons of Gladney in Fife, a branch of the ancient house of Strowan. Dr. Robertson received the first rudiments of his education at Dalkeith, under Mr. Leslie ; and, in 1733, when his father removed to Edinburgh, he commenced his course of academical study, which he completed at the University of Edinburgh in 1741. In the same year he was licensed to preach by the Presbytery of Dalkeith ; and in 1743 was, by the Earl of Hopetoun, presented to the living of Gladsmuir in East Lothian. Soon after this, his father and mother died within a few hours of each other, when six sisters,’ and a younger brother,” were left almost wholly dependent on him. He immediately took them home to his humble residence at Gladsmuir, where his stipend amounted to little more than 260 a year, and devoted his leisure hours to the superintendence of their education. After seeing them all respectably settled in the world, he married, in 1751, his cousin Mary, daughter of the Rev. Mr. Nisbet, one of the ministers of Edinburgh. In the Rebellion of 1745, when Edinburgh was threatened by the Highlanders, he hastened into the city, and joined a corps of Volunteers raised for its defence ; and when it was resolved to deliver up the city without resistance, he, with a small band, tendered his assistance to General Cope, who lay with the royal army at Haddington-an offer which the General (fortunately for the Doctor and his party) declined. He then returned to the sacred duties of his parish, where he was much beloved ; and soon afterwards began to display his talents in the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, where he became the object of universal attention and applause. It was about this time that Dr. Robertson so ably defended his friend Mr. Home, the author of the tragedy of Douglas, from the proceedings adopted against him in the clerical courts. The first publication of Dr. Robertson was a sermon, which was preached by him before the Society for propagating Christian Knowledge, in 1755 ; and to it may be attributed the unanimity of his call to the charge of Lady Yester’s Church in Edinburgh, to which he was translated in 1758. InFebruary 1759, One of his sisters, Mrs. Syme, who lived at the head of the Cowgate, waa the grandmother of ’ Mr. Patrick Fbbertaon, who was bred a jeweller, and was very successful in businaw in Edinburgh. Lord Brougham and Vaux.
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94 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. appeared his “History of Scotland during the reigns of Queen Mary and James VI.” The effect this work produced was instantaneous and extraordinary- congratulatory letters of praise, from the most eminent men of the time, poured in upon him ; and it is said that the emoluments derived from it exceeded 2600. Preferment immediately followed, which changed at once the whole aspect of his fortunes; for in the same year he was appointed Chaplain to the Garrison of Stirling Castle, in the room of Mr. William Campbell ; next year he was nominated one of his Majesty’s Chaplains for Scotland ; in the year following (1761), on the death of Principal Goldie, he was elected Principal of the University of Edinburgh, and translated to the Greyfriars’ Church. Two years afterwards he was appointed by the King Historiographer for Scotland, with a salary of 3200 a year. In 1779 Dr. Robertson published, in three volumes quarto, a “History of the Reign of Charles V.,” which still farther increased the reputation of its author. For the copyright he received no less than 24500, the largest sum then known to have been paid for a single work; and which, according to the calculation of the Rev. Dr Nisbet of Montrose,’ amounted exactly to twopencehalfpenny for each word in the work. Dr. Robertson, in 1778, gave to the world his “History of America,” in two volumes quarto, a work which was well received at the time, and which still continues to be popular. On this occasion he was elected an honorary member of the Royal Academy of History in Madrid, who appointed one of their members to translate the work into Spanish; but after it was considerably advanced, the Spanish Government interfered and prevented it. In the year 1781, he was elected one of the Foreign Members of the Academy of Sciences at Padua, and, in 1783, one of the foreign Members of the Imperial Academy of Sciences at St. Petersburgh. In 1791 appeared his last work, also in quarto, entitled, “Historical Disquisitions concerning the Knowledge which the Ancients had of India, and the Progress of Trade with that country, prior to the Discovery of the Cape of Good Hope.” No. XLII. DR. WILLIAM ROBERTSON, D.D., IN HIS FULL CLERICAL DRESS.^ THE Doctor’s powerful and persuasive eloquence had gained him an influence in the General Assembly which intimately and conspicuously associated his name with the Ecclesiastical affairs of Scotland. He was a long time leader of the Court party in our Ecclesiastical Parliament, and as a speaker, it is said, he Some time the Principal of the College of Carlisle in Pennsylvania, and a frequent opponent of Dr. Robertson in the General Assembly. It waa remarked that Dr. Robertson always appeared to greatest advantage in this attire.
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