1832 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. James Scott

William Clarke and Robert Shelton Mackenzie, in The Georgian Era: Memoirs of the most eminent Persons who have flourished in Great Britain (1832-34) 1:509-10.



JAMES SCOTT, son of one of the domestic chaplains to Frederick, Prince of Wales, was born at Leeds, in 1733. He was sent, in 1752, to the university of Cambridge, where, after studying for a short time at Catherine Hall, he migrated to Trinity college, of which, having previously taken the degree of B.A., he became a fellow in 1757. Shortly afterwards, he obtained the lectureship of St. John's, at Leeds, which he held, until he proceeded to the degree of M.A., in 1760. In the course of the two next years, he gained three prize medals: — the first, for a poem on Heaven; the second, for a moral epistle on Purity of Heart; and the third, for a Hymn to Repentance. He also published some poetical compositions, the last of which, entitled Redemption, a Monody, appears to have proved unsuccessful. After having served the curacy of Edmonton for about a year, he returned to Cambridge, where he rapidly acquired extraordinary eminence as a preacher. He frequently occupied the university pulpit, and, on these occasions, St. Mary's church is stated to have been invariably crowded to excess. On one occasion, he is said to have offended the under-graduates by a sermon against gaming, and, it is added, they evinced their displeasure by scraping the floor with their feet, an act of indecorum, for which the divine severely censured them, shortly afterwards, in a discourse on the text, "Keep thy feet when thou goest to the house of God." In 1765, at the suggestion of the Earl of Halifax, he published some political letters, signed Anti-Sejanus, in the Public Advertiser; and, three years afterwards, he made an attempt to procure his election to the living of St. John's, in his native place; which, proving unsuccessful, he was induced to accept an afternoon lectureship in the neighbouring parish of Trinity, where his popularity was so great, that the regular pew-holders, in order to secure their places, usually obtained admission by a private entrance to the church, an hour before the service commenced. After officiating at Leeds for about a year, he returned to the metropolis, and wrote, in the public journals, a variety of political pieces, under the signature of Old Slyboots. In 1771, he was presented through the interest of Lord Sandwich, to the rectory of Simonburn, in Northumberland, where he soon became involved in litigation with his parishioners. A suit which he commenced against them in 1744 [sic], after having been carried on for twenty years, at an enormous expense on both sides, was at length disposed of by his consenting to relinquish the claim he had set up for the tithe of agistment, on the defendants undertaking to pay 2,400 towards the costs which he had incurred. Pending the proceedings, his flock had evinced the most rancorous hostility towards him; and at length, a desperate attempt appears to have been made upon his life, in consequence of which, he removed to the metropolis; where, after having materially added to his high reputation as a preacher, he died, on the 10th of December, 1814. He was married, in 1772, to one of his relatives, named Ann Scott, by whom he had three children. His virtues and talents have been warmly extolled; and it is certain that his charities were extensive, and his abilities much above mediocrity; but the fact of his having carried on legal hostilities against his parishioners, on the debatable subject of tithes for agistment, during twice the term of the Trojan war, will scarcely be deemed by posterity consistent with the meek yet dignified character of a protestant divine; nor will the present age, it is presumed, agree with those of his admirers, who pronounced his elocution to have excelled that of any man of his time, either in the pulpit or the senate; and who declared his sermons to have surpassed the finest compositions of Porteus or Blair, whether considered as elegant compositions, or persuasive exhortations.