William Russell, the son of a Selkirk farmer, after a brief period of schooling was apprenticed to an Edinburgh bookseller. He joined a literary club and became a client of Lord Elibank. Russell emigrated to London in 1767, where he became a corrector of the press for the firm of Strahan. After some early failures, his History of Modern Europe made his reputation and was several times reprinted. In 1787 Russell married and retired to Scotland; in 1792 he was made a doctor of laws by the university of St. Andrews.
Collection of modern poems, ed. Russell. 1756.
Ode to fortitude. 1769.
Sentimental tales. 2 vols, 1771.
Essay on the character, manners, and genius of women [translated]. 1772.
Fables moral and sentimental. In familiar verse. 1772.
Julia: a poetical romance. 1774.
The history of America, from its discovery by Columbus to the conclusion of the late war. 2 vols, 1778.
The history of modern Europe. With an account of the decline and fall of the Roman Empire. 5 vols, 1779-84.
The tragic muse: a poem. Addressed to Mrs. Siddons. 1783.
Letters of William Russell, on the doctrine of constructive contempt. 1786.
The history of ancient Europe; with a view of the revolutions in Asia and Africa. 2 vols, 1793.