1859 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

George Chalmers

William Anderson, in Scottish Nation (1859-66) 1:620.



GEORGE CHALMERS, a distinguished historical, political, and antiquarian writer, descended from the family of Chalmers of Pittensear, in the county of Moray, was born at Fochabers in the end of the year 1742. He received the early part of his education at the grammar school of his native town, and afterwards removed to King's College, Old Aberdeen, where he had as one of his preceptors the celebrated Dr. Reid, then professor of moral philosophy. From thence he went Edinburgh, where he studied law for several years. In 1763 he sailed to America with an uncle, to assist him in the recovery of a tract of land of considerable extent in Maryland. He subsequently settled at Baltimore, where he practiced as a lawyer till the breaking out of the revolutionary war. On his return to Britain in 1775 he settled in London, where he applied to literary pursuits, and in 1780 produced his Political Annuals of the United Colonies; and in 1782 his Estimate of the Comparative Strength of Great Britain during the Present and Preceding Reigns. These works are said to have recommended him to the notice of the government, and in August 1786 he was appointed chief clerk of the Committee of the Privy Council, for the consideration of all matters relating to trade and foreign plantations. He also acted as colonial agent for the Bahama islands. A list of the various works of Mr. Chalmers, who was a member of the Royal and Antiquarian Societies, as well as an honorary member of the Antiquaries of Scotland, and of other learned bodies, is subjoined. His greatest production is his Caledonia, the first volume of which appeared in 1807, and which he himself styled his "standing work." This truly national production was intended to illustrate the antiquities, the language, the history, civil and ecclesiastical, and the agricultural and commercial state of Scotland from the earliest period, and displays a vast amount of research and erudition. It was left unfinished, only three out of four volumes having appeared. He had for many years been engaged in collecting materials for a History of Scottish Poetry, and A History of Printing in Scotland. Under the name of Oldys he published a Life of Thomas Paine. His Life of Ruddiman the grammarian, throws much light on the state of literature in Scotland during the earlier part of the eighteenth century, and his Life of Mary, Queen of Scots, is a work of great labour and research, but it is understood not to have been entirely original. Mr. Chalmers published various pamphlets, apologising for those who, like himself, believed in the authenticity of the Shakespeare manuscripts of Voltigern and Rowena, forged by Mr. Ireland. He died May 31, 1825, aged 82 years.