1855 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Malcolm

Charles Rogers, in Modern Scottish Minstrel (1855-57) 3:215-16.



JOHN MALCOLM was the second son of the Rev. John Malcolm, minister of the parish of Firth and Stennis, Orkney, where he was born about 1795. Through a personal application to the Duke of Kent, he was enabled to proceed as a volunteer to join the army in Spain. Arriving at the period when the army under General Graham (afterwards Lord Lynedoch) was besieging St. Sebastian, he speedily obtained a lieutenancy in the 42d Regiment, in which he served to the close of the Pyrenees' campaign. Wounded at the battle of Toulouse, by a musket-ball penetrating his right shoulder, and otherwise debilitated, he retired from active service on half-pay, and with a pension for his wound. He now fixed his abode in Edinburgh, and devoted himself to literary portraits. He contributed to Constable's Magazine, and other periodicals. For one of the earlier volumes of Constable's Miscellany, he wrote a narrative of the Peninsular War. As a poet, he became known by some stanzas of the death of Lord Byron, which appeared in the Edinburgh Weekly Journal. In 1828, he published Scenes of War, and other Poems; and subsequently contributed numerous poetical pieces to the pages of the Edinburgh Literary Journal. A small volume of prose sketches also appeared from his pen, under the title of Tales of Field and Flood. In 1831 he undertook the editorship of the Edinburgh Observer newspaper, which he held till the period of his death. He died at Edinburgh, of a pulmonary complaint, in September 1835.

Fond of conversation, and abounding in humorous anecdote, Malcolm was especially esteemed for his gentle and amiable deportment. His poetry, which is often vigorous, is uniformly characterised by sweetness of versification.