1859 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Andrew Macdonald

William Anderson, in Scottish Nation (1859-63) 6:727.



Andrew MacDonald, an ingenious but unfortunate poet, son of George Donald, gardener at the foot of Leith Walk, Edinburgh, was born about 1755. He studied at the university of Edinburgh, and in 1775 was admitted into deacon's orders in the Scottish Episcopal Church. On this occasion he assumed the prefix of Mac to his family name. He was admitted as tutor into the family of Mr. Oliphant of Gask; and in 1777 became pastor of the Episcopal congregation at Glasgow. In 1782 he published his Velina, a Poetical Fragment, in the Spenserian stanza, which is described as containing much genuine poetry. His next adventure was a novel, called The Independent, from which, however, he derived neither profit nor reputation. Having written Vimonda, a Tragedy, he got it acted at Edinburgh, with a Prologue by Henry Mackenzie, but though it was received with great applause, it produced no advantage to the author. Finding his income, which was derived solely from the seat rents of his church, decrease as his congregation diminished, he resigned his charge, and with it the clerical profession, and removed to Edinburgh; but not succeeding there, he repaired to London, accompanied by his wife, who had been the maid-servant of the house in which he had lodged in Glasgow. In the summer of 1787 Vimonda was performed at the Haymarket Theatre to crowded houses. He next engaged with much ardour upon an opera, but neither this nor any of his subsequent dramatic attempts was equal in merit to his first tragedy. Meanwhile, by writing satirical and humorous poems for the newspapers, under the signature of "Matthew Bramble," he contrived to earn a precarious subsistence for a time; but this resource soon failed him. He was at last reduced almost to the verge of destitution; the privations to which he was subjected had a fatal effect on a constitution naturally weak, and he died in August 1790, aged only 33, leaving a widow and one child in a state of extreme indigence. A volume of his Sermons, published soon after his death, met with a favourable reception; and in 1791 appeared his Miscellaneous works, in one volume, containing all his dramas, with Probationary Odes for the Laureateship, and other pieces.