1855 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Dr. David Macbeth Moir

Charles Rogers, in Modern Scottish Minstrel (1855-57) 3:242-44.



DAVID MACBETH MOIR was born at Musselburgh on the 6th January 1798. His elementary education was conducted at a private seminary and the Grammar-school of that town. He subsequently attended the medical classes in the University of Edinburgh, and in his eighteenth year obtained a surgeon's diploma. In partnership with Dr Brown, a respectable physician of long standing, he entered on medical practice in his native place. He wrote good poetry in his fifteenth year, and about the same age contributed some prose essays to the Cheap Magazine, a small periodical published in Haddington. In 1816 he published a poem entitled The Bombardment of Algiers, For a succession of years after its commencement in 1817, he wrote numerous articles for Constable's Edinburgh Magazine. Soon after the establishment of Blackwood's Magazine, he became one of its more conspicuous contributors; and his poetical contributions, which were generally subscribed by his literary nom de guerre, the Greek letter Delta, long continued a source of much interest to the readers of that periodical. In 1824 he published a collection of his poetical pieces, under the title of Legend of Genevieve, with other Tales and Poems. The Autobiography of Mansie Wauch, originally supplied in a series of chapters to Blackwood, and afterwards published in a separate form, much increased his reputation as an author. In 1831 appeared his Outlines of the Ancient History of Medicine; a work which was followed, in 1832, by a pamphlet entitled, Practical Observations on Malignant Cholera; and a further publication, with the title, Proofs of the Contagion of Malignant Cholera. A third volume of poems from his pen, entitled Domestic Verses, was published in 1843. In the early part of 1851 he delivered, at the Philosophical Institution of Edinburgh, a course of six lectures on the Poetical Literature of the Past Half-century, which, afterwards published in an elegant volume by the Messrs Blackwood, commanded a large share of public attention. In a state of somewhat impaired health, he proceeded to Dumfries on the 1st day of July 1851, hoping to derive benefit from a change of scene and climate. But his end was approaching; he died at Dumfries on the 6th of the same month, having reached only his 53d year. His remains were interred, at a public funeral, in the burying-ground of Musselburgh, where a monument has been erected to his memory. Indefatigable in the discharge of his professional duties, Moir regularly devoted a portion of his time to the gratification of his literary tastes. A pleasant prose writer, he will be remembered for his inimitable drollery in the adventures of Mansie Wauch. As a poet, his style is perspicuous and simple; and his characteristics are tenderness, dignity, and grace. He is occasionally humorous, but he excels in the plaintive and elegiac. Much of his poetry breathes the odour of a genuine piety. He was personally of an agreeable presence. Tall in stature, his countenance, which was of sanguine hue, wore a serious aspect, unless kindled up by the recital of some humorous tale. His mode of utterance was singularly pleasing, and his dispositions were pervaded by a generous benignity. He loved society, but experienced his chief happiness in the social intercourse of his own family circle. He had married in 1829; and his amiable widow, with eight children, still survive. A collected edition of his best poems, in two duodecimo volumes, has been published since his death, by the Messrs Blackwood, under the editorial superintendence of Thomas Aird, who has prefixed an interesting memoir.