1855 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

David Vedder

Charles Rogers, in Modern Scottish Minstrel (1855-57) 3:74-75.



DAVID VEDDER was the son of a small landowner in the parish of Burness, Orkney, where he was born in 1790. He had the misfortune to lose both his parents ere he had completed his twelfth year, and was led to choose the nautical profession. At the age of twenty-two, he obtained the rank of captain of a vessel, in which he performed several voyages to Greenland. In 1815, he entered the revenue service as first officer of an armed cruiser, and in five years afterwards was raised to the post of tide-surveyor. He first discharged the duties of this office at Montrose, and subsequently at the ports of Kirkcaldy, Dundee, and Leith.

A writer of verses from his boyhood, Vedder experienced agreeable relaxation from his arduous duties as a seaman, in the invocation of the muse. He sung of the grandeur and terrors of the ocean. His earlier compositions were contributed to some of the northern newspapers; but before he attained his majority, his productions found admission into the periodicals. In 1826, he published The Covenanter's Communion, and other Poems, a work which was very favourably received. His reputation as a poet was extended by the publication, in 1832, of a second volume, under the title of Orcadian Sketches. This work, a melange of prose and poetry, contains some of his best compositions in verse; and several of the prose sketches are remarkable for fine and forcible description. In 1839, he edited the Poetical Remains of Robert Fraser, prefaced with an interesting memoir.

Immediately on the death of Sir Walter Scott, Vedder published a memoir of that illustrious person, which commanded a ready and wide circulation. In 1842, he gave to the world an edition of his collected poems, in an elegant duodecimo volume. In 1848, he supplied the letterpress for a splendid volume, entitled Lays and Lithographs, published by his son-in-law, Mr. Frederick Schenck of Edinburgh, the distinguished lithographer. His last work was a new English version of the quaint old story of Reynard the Fox, which was published with elegant illustrations. To many of the more popular magazines and serials he was in the habit of contributing; articles from his pen adorned the pages of Constable's Edinburgh Magazine, the Edinburgh Literary Journal, the Edinburgh Literary Gazette, the Christian Herald, Tait's Magazine, and Chambers's Journal. He wrote the letterpress for Geikie's volume of Etchings, and furnished songs for George Thomson's Musical Miscellany, Blackie's Book of Scottish Song, and Robertson's Whistlebinkie. At the time of his death, he was engaged in the preparation of a ballad on the subject of the persecutions of the Covenanters. In 1852, he was placed upon the retired list of revenue officers, and thereafter established his residence in Edinburgh. He died at Newington, in that city, on the 11th February 1854, in his 64th year. His remains were interred in the Southern Cemetery.

Considerably above the middle height, Vedder was otherwise of massive proportions, while his full open countenance was much bronzed by exposure to the weather. Of beneficent dispositions and social habits, he enjoyed the friendship of many of his gifted contemporaries.