1798 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Robert Alves

Alexander Campbell, in Introduction to the History of Poetry in Scotland (1798) 305-06.



Robert Alves "was born at Elgin, (as he himself informs us) in the end of the year 1745. In 1766, he took his degrees in philosophy at Aberdeen." His poetical talents gained him the friendship of Dr. Beattie, and other literary gentlemen. He had been designed for the church, but preferred the more humble, and not less useful station of a schoolmaster, and taught at Deskford and Banff. At the latter of these places, he remained from 1773 to 1779, when he came to Edinburgh. What induced him to abandon his charge, is said to have been a disappointment in love. Here he remained teaching the Greek, Roman, French, and Italian classics to such pupils as chance threw in his way, for he was not over solicitous for gain. In 1784, he began a work of considerable merit, entitled, Sketches of a History of Literature, which was in the press when he died, on the 1st day of January, 1794, and is since published by the learned and amiable Dr. Alexander Chapman, at whose press it was printed, for the intended benefit of the author. I am sorry to observe what relates to Scottish literature, is, in many places, inaccurate, and, but too often, devoid of necessary information. For instance, he says, "Barbour, author of the Bruce, flourished in the reign of David I." see p. 154. and that "D. Pitcairn was physician to James and Charles I." see p. 166. These cannot be errors of the press — notwithstanding, Sketches on Literature, the last work of our poet, discovers an extensive acquaintance with ancient and modern learning, and merits a careful and judicious revisal.