ROBERT FERGUSSON, who at an early period of life obtained a considerable degree of celebrity as a Scotch poet, was born at Edinburgh Sept. 5, 1750, or 1751, and was educated partly in his native city, and partly at Dundee, from whence he was sent to the university of St. Andrew's, where his diligent application, and probably his turn for poetry, obtained him the patronage of Dr. Wilkie, himself a poet, and author of the "Epigoniad," but some gross irregularities having procured him to be expelled, he returned to Edinburgh, without resolving on any permanent employment. Having an opulent relation, he visited him in hopes, by his interest, to procure some sinecure place, but at the end of six months, this relation ordered him abruptly to leave his house, and Fergusson returned to Edinburgh, stung with indignation; and as soon as he recovered from a severe illness, brought on by disappointment and the fatigue of his journey, he composed two elegies, one on "The Decay of Friendship," and the other "Against repining at Fortune." He was now so destitute, that he submitted to copy papers in a public office, but not liking the employment, and quarrelling with his employer, he soon left the office in disgust.
Hitherto he had lived rather in obscurity; and happy had it been for him, if he had been suffered to remain in that obscurity; but, possessing an inexhaustible fund of wit and good nature, he was viewed with affection by all to whom he was known; and his powers of song, and almost unrivalled talent for mimicry, led him oftener into the company of those who wished for him merely to enliven a social hour, than of such as by their virtue were inclined, or by their influence were able, to procure him a competent settlement for life. The consequence of this was great laxity of manners, and much of his life was disgraced by actions which, in his cooler moments, he reflected on with abhorrence. His conscience indeed was frequently roused, and once so powerfully that all his vivacity forsook him. From this state of gloom, however, he gradually recovered, and, except that a settled melancholy was visible in his countenance, had apparently recovered his health, when one evening he fell, and received a violent contusion on the, head, which was followed by a delirium that rendered it necessary for his friends to remove him to the lunatic hospital of Edinburgh, where, after two months' confinement, he died Oct. 16, 1774. He was interred in the Canongate church-yard, where his friends erected a monument to his memory that was afterwards removed to make way for a more elegant monument, by his enthusiastic admirer Robert Burns, who resembled him in too many features. Most of Fergusson's poems were originally published in the "Weekly Magazine," but have since been collected in a volume, and often printed. The subjects of them are sometimes uncommon, and generally local or temporary. They are of course very unequal. Those in the English language are scarcely above mediocrity; but those in the Scottish dialect have been universally admired by his countrymen; and when it is considered that they were composed amidst a round of dissipation, they may be allowed to furnish complete evidence of his genius and taste.