1825 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

George Chalmers

Anonymous, Obituary in Gentleman's Magazine 95 (December 1825) 564-65.



May 31. At his house in James-street, Buckingham-gate, aged 82, George Chalmers, Esq. F.R.S. and F.S.A. Chief Clerk of the office of the Board of Trade and Plantations.

He was a native of Scotland, and was educated at King's College, Aberdeen, principally under the celebrated Dr. Reid. He afterwards removed to Edinburgh, and studied law, which he practised in America, until the Colonies declared themselves independent. Soon after his return to England, his extensive knowledge of commerce and colonial relations, introduced him to a connexion with the Board of Trade.

As an author Mr. Chalmers's range of publications was very extensive. In History he produced Political Annals of the United Colonies, from their settlement to the Peace of 1763, 4to. 1780; and Caledonia, or a Topographical History of North Britain, 4to. vol. I. 1807, II. 1810, ad III. 18... In Biography the Life of Daniel De Foe, 1790, 8vo. (reviewed in vol. LXI. p. 346); and also prefixed to Mr. C.'s edition of De Foe's History of the Union, and Stockdale's edition of his Robinson Crusoe; the Life of Thomas Ruddiman, M.A. 1794, 8vo. (reviewed in vol. LXIV. p. 441); the Life of Sir John Davies, prefixed to his Tracts; the Life of Allan Ramsay, prefixed to an edition of his Poems, 1800; the Life of Sir James Stuart, with his Works, 1805; the Life of Gregory King, with his Political Observations, 1794; the Life of Charles Smith, with his Corn Tracts; and, under the name of Oldys, a name well known to the literati of this Country, in 1793, a Life of that bold, insidious, and baleful disciple, or rather master, of democracy and infidelity Thomas Paine. He had previously issued, under his own name, a Letter addressed to Dr. Currie on the same subject, which had excited great public attention. In Political Oeconomy Mr. Chalmers published an Estimate of the Comparative Strength of Great Britain, during the present and four preceding reigns, 1782, 4to.; 1786, 8vo.; Opinions on interesting Subjects of Public Law and Commercial Policy, arising from American Independence, 1784, 8vo.; Considerations on Commerce, Bullion, Com. Circulation, and Exchanges, 1811, 8vo.; and an Historical View of the Domestic Economy of Great Britain and Ireland (reviewed in vol. LXXXIV. ii. 657.) In Criticism, An Apology for the Believers in the Shakspeare Papers, which were exhibited in Norfolk-street, 1796, 8vo.; (of which see vol. LXVII. 91, 495); and Supplemental Apology, 1799, 8vo. and an Appendix to the same, containing the Documents in favour of the Opinion that Hugh Boyd wrote Junius's Letters, 1800. As an Editor Mr. Chalmers published a Collection of Treaties between Great Britain and other Powers, 1790, 2 vols. 8vo. (of which see vol. LXI. 936); the Works Political, Metaphysical, and Chronological, of the late Sir James Stuart, bart. 1805; The Natural and Political Observations of Gregory King, 1804; the Corn Tracts of Charles Smith, in 1804; the Poems of A. Ramsay, 1800; and the Poetical Works of Sir David Lyndsay, of the Mount, Lion King at Arms, 1806, 3 vols. 8vo. Mr. Chalmers also published, an Appeal to the Generosity of the British Nation, on behalf of the family of the unfortunate Bellingham, 1812, 8vo.; and many anonymous pamphlets on the side of Administration have been attributed to him. He was the writer of two very good papers in the Looker on, the one on Illicit Hopes, the other on the Equalization of Follies and Diseases. Both of these, especially the latter, abound with much genuine humour.

The following character of Mr. Chalmers appeared in that respectable Newspaper, The Sun. "It may fairly be said that the Government has lost a zealous, intelligent, and most useful servant in this gentleman. He was always alive to the interests of the country, and suffered no subject of national importance to pass without due observation, and the full exertion of his endeavours to render it intelligible to the world at large. Commerce, Manufactures, the Bullion Question, &c. &c. were rendered easy of comprehension by his clear and strenuous elucidations. He seemed to have been born with an indefatigable zeal for the interests of mankind, but more particularly for those of the British Empire. He passed much of the earlier part of his life in America, and was thoroughly conversant with those principles which were best calculated to promote the interest of that Country, and to secure harmony between it and the parent state. His disposition was social and cheerful, but his mind was always vigilantly directed towards the advantage of the community. His political principles were soundly constitutional. Scotland, of which he was a native, has lost in Mr. Chalmers a great and active friend, anxious to do honour to her on all occasions. His Caledonia, of which three large quarto volumes have been published, contains the most valuable information respecting that Country, and a fourth, which was nearly ready for the press, would have completed that extraordinary proof of elaborate research and unmitigable ardour in pursuit of knowledge. He had prepared materials for a life of his countryman Thomson the Poet, which would have contained much novel and interesting information respecting the history of the author of those Seasons, which will live as long as the Earth. Mr. Chalmers, in person, was tall, stout, and manly, so nearly resembling the late Lord Melville, that they were often taken for each other. The writer of this humble tribute to his memory had the pleasure of passing a few hours with him a very few days before his death, and never found him in better spirits, or more likely, for a long time, notwithstanding his advanced age, to spare his friends the regret of losing so valuable a member of society."

An excellent portrait of this eminent author, engraved by R. Cooper, from a drawing by H. Edridge, was published in Cadell and Davies's British Gallery.