1859 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Alexander Fraser Tytler

William Anderson, in Scottish Nation (1859-66) 3:587-89.



ALEXANDER FRASER TYTLER, LORD WOODHOUSELEE, elder son of the subject of the preceding notice, was born at Edinburgh, October 15, 1747. In his eighth year he was sent to the High School of his native city, where he distinguished himself by his proficiency, and in the last year of his course became dux of the rector's class. In 1763 he was placed under the care of a Mr. Elphinston, who kept an academy at Kensington. Here he cultivated, with assiduity, his talent for Latin versification, and one of his poems having been shown to Dr. Jortin, that eminent scholar, as an encouragement to him to proceed, presented him with a copy of his own Latin poems. After residing at Kensington for two years, he returned home, and, in 1765, entered the university of Edinburgh, where he prosecuted his studies with great success. In 1770 he was admitted advocate, and in the spring of 1771 he accompanied his relation, Mr. Kerr of Blackshiels, on a tour to Paris, returning by Flanders and Holland. In 1771 he published, at Edinburgh, Piscatory Eclogues, with other Poetical Miscellanies, by Phineas Fletcher; illustrated with Notes, Critical and Explanatory. To the Works of Dr. John Gregory, published in 1778, he contributed the Preliminary account of the Author's Life and Writings. During the same year he published a folio volume, Supplementary to Lord Kames's Dictionary of Decisions. In 1780 he was appointed, conjunctly with Mr. Pringle, professor of civil history in the university of Edinburgh, and in 1786 he became sole professor. For the use of his students he printed, in 1782, A Plan and Outlines of a Course of Lectures on Universal History, Ancient and Modern, which he afterwards enlarged and published, in 1801, in 2 vols. 8vo, under the title of Elements of General History, Ancient and Modern. In 1791 appeared, anonymously, his best work, being an Essay on the Principles of Translation, the third edition of which, considerably enlarged, was published in 1813.

In 1790, through the influence of Lord Melville, Mr. Tytler was appointed judge-advocate of Scotland; and on the death of his father, in 1792, he succeeded to the estate of Woodhouselee, near Edinburgh. He had previously, on the death of his father-in-law, become possessed, in right of his wife, of the estate of Balnain, in the county of Inverness. In 1799 he published an edition of Dr. Derham's Physico-Theology, with an Account of the Life and Writings of the Author, and a short Dissertation on Final Causes, accompanied by notes. During the same year be wrote a pamphlet, which was published at Dublin, under the title of Ireland Profiting by Example; or the Question Considered, whether Scotland has Gained or Lost by the Union? which came out at such a seasonable time that, on the day of publication, the sale amounted to three thousand. In 1800 appeared from his pen an Essay On Military Law, and the Practice of Courts-Martial; a second edition of which was printed at London in 1806. — Lord Woodhouselee's portrait is subjoined.

Having been appointed a senator of the college of justice, he took his seat on the bench of the court of session, February 2, 1802, with the title of Lord Woodhouselee, and in 1811 he became a judge of the justiciary court. In 1807 he published at Edinburgh, in two vols. 4to, Memoirs of the Life and Writings of the Hon. Henry Home, Lord Kames; and in 1810 he produced An Historical and Critical Essay on the Life and Character of Petrarch; with a Translation of a few of his Sonnets. Among other literary projects, which his death prevented his completing, was the Life of George Buchanan. He died at Edinburgh, January 5, 1813, in the 68th year of his age. He was a contributor to the Mirror and the Lounger, and also communicated some papers to the Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, of which he was an original member. By his wife, Ann,, eldest daughter of William Fraser, Esq. of Balnain, whom he married in 1776, he left four sons and two daughters. The eldest son succeeded to the estate of Balnain, and the second to that of Woodhouselee. Another son, Alexander, published, in 1816, a work in two volumes, entitled Considerations on the Present Political State of India. Lord Woodhouselee's principal works are:

The Decisions of the Court of Session, from its first institution to the present time; abridged and digested under proper heads in form of a Dictionary. Edin. 1778, fol. 1797, 2 vols. fol. (A Supplement to Lord Kames's Dictionary.)

Plan and Outlines of a Course of Lectures on Universal History, ancient and modern, delivered in the University of Edinburgh. Edin. 1783, 8vo.

Essay on the Principles of Translation. Lond. 1797, 8vo.

An Essay on Military Law and the Practice of Courts-Martial. Edin. 1800, 8vo.

Elements of General History, ancient and modern; to which is added, a Table of Chronology, and a Comparison of ancient and modern Geography. Edin. 1801, 2 vols. 8vo.

Memoirs of the life and Writings of the Hon. Henry Home of Kames; containing Sketches of the Progress of Literature and general Improvement in Scotland during the greater part of the eighteenth century. Edin. 1807, 2 vols. 4to. Supplement. 1810, 4to.

An Historical and Critical Essay on the Life of Petrarch; with a Translation of a few of his Sonnets. Lond. 1810, 8vo. Edin. 1812, 8vo.

An Account of some extraordinary Structures on the tops of Hills in the Highlands; with Remarks on the Progress of the Arts among the ancient Inhabitants of Scotland. Trans. Soc. Edin. 1790, vol. ii. 3.

Remarks on a mixed Species of Evidence in Matters of History. Ib. 1805, vol. v. 119.