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The Scottish Nation

HENRYSON, ROBERT, a poet and fabulist of the fifteenth century, is usually styled chief schoolmaster of Dunfermline. Lord Hailes conjectures that he officiated as preceptor to the Benedictine convent of that town. He is described by Sir Robert Douglas, in his Baronage of Scotland, as a notary-public. Neither the time nor the place of his birth has been recorded. He is supposed, but on no sufficient grounds, to have belonged to the family of Henryson or Henderson of Fordell. His poetical tale, entitled ‘Orpheus Kyng, and how he yeid to hewin and to hel to seik his Quene,’ was printed by Chepman and Millar in 1508. His “Testament of Faire Creseide,’ first printed at Edinburgh by Henry Charters, in 1593, is usually appended to the common editions of ‘Chaucer’s Troilus and Creseide,’ of which it is professedly the sequel. His principal work is his collection of ‘Babils,’ thirteen in number, printed at Edinburgh by Andrew Hart in 1621. The best of these Fables is considered to be ‘The Borrowstoun Mous and the Landwart Mous,’ the story of which is borrowed from Æsop, and has been told also by Horace, and by Cowley, and Fontaine. This collection in manuscript is still preserved in the Harleyan Library, which is dated in 1571. In the Bannatyne Manuscript ‘Henryson’s Fabils’ also occupy a considerable space. Among his Fables there is an allegorical ballad, called ‘The Bluidy Serk,’ which is intended, in the form of a legendary tale of chivalry, to illustrate the sublime truths of Christianity. The Fables of Henryson were reprinted in 1832, for the Bannatyne Club, from the edition of Andrew Hart, with an excellent Memoir prefixed by Dr. Irving, the editor.

      Henryson wrote a number of other poems, principally of a moral and reflective character, such as ‘The Abbay Walk,’ ‘The Praise of Age,’ ‘The Ressoning betwixt Deth and Man,’ and ‘The Resoning betwixt Aige and Yowth.’ His pastoral of ‘Robene and Makyne,’ which is the earliest specimen of pastoral poetry in the Scottish language, is considered by Dr. Irving to be “superior in many respects to the similar attempts of Spenser and Browne.” Favourable specimens of his poetry may be found in Irving’s Lives of the Scottish Poets, Hailes’ Ancient Scottish Poems, Ellis’ Specimens, Sibbald’s Chronicle of Scottish Poetry, and similar collections. The period of his death is unknown; but he appears to have lived to a good old age, and to have written most of his poems in the decline of life. Sir Francis Kinaston tells us “that being very old, he died of a diarrhoe or fluxe.” His death must have taken place some time before 1508, as we find his name among the latest of the poets, whose decease is lamented by Dunbar in his poem on the ‘Death of the Makkaris,’ printed in that year.

HENRYSON, EDWARD, LL.D., a celebrated civilian and scholar of the sixteenth century, was at one period professor of civil law in the university of Bourges, and at another a senator of the college of justice. Previous to 1551 he was a student of law at the above-named university, and about this period he was fortunate in securing the patronage of Ulric Fugger, lord of Kirchberg and Weisselhome, a Tyrolese noble of munificent disposition and great wealth, who had previously been the patron of his countryman, Scrimger, and who, besides inviting Henryson to reside at his castle, provided for him an ample supply of books and manuscripts, and conferred on him a pension. Henryson afterwards dedicated his works to this liberal-minded nobleman, who devoted a great part of his fortune to the collection of ancient Greek manuscripts and the encouragement of the learned. While residing in Germany he is said to have translated into Latin Plutarch’s ‘Commentarium Stoicorum Contraiorum,’ but if he did, his translation is now lost.

      In 1552 Henryson returned to Scotland, where he practised for some time as an advocate. Soon after he went back to the Continent, where he distinguished himself by writing a pamphlet in favour of a Tractatus on Jurisdiction, published by his former preceptor, Equinar Baro, defending it from the attacks of the civilian govea. In 1554 he was chosen professor of the civil law at Bourges, where he had studied, and from which university he received the degree of doctor of laws; and the year after he published another work, entitled ‘Commentation in Tit. X. Libri Secundi Institutionem de Testamentis Ordinandis,’ which he dedicated to Michael D’Hospital, chancellor of France.

      Having resigned his professorship, Henryson once more made his appearance at the bar in Scotland, and in 1557 we find him nominated counsel for the poor, an office which had been created shortly after the institution of the college of justice, and which was remunerated by a yearly pension of £20 Scots, being half the sum allowed to the king’s advocate. In 1563 he was appointed to the office of commissary, with a salary of 300 merks. In January 1566 he was constituted an extraordinary lord of session. In May of the same year he was nominated one of the commissioners for revising and correcting the laws and acts of the Scots parliament; and in the subsequent June he received an exclusive privilege and warrant to imprint and sell them, the license to continue for ten years. He was the editor of the folio volume published six months thereafter, entitled ‘The Actis and Constitutiouns of the Realme of Scotlande; maid in Parliamentis haldin be the ryct Excellent, Hie, and Mychtie Princeis, Kingis James the First, Secund, Third, Feird, Fyft, Sext, and in the tyme of Marie, now Quene of Scottis, viseit, correctit, and extractit furth of the Registers be the Lordis depute, be hir Majestie’s special commissionn thairto.’ To this work he wrote the preface. On 19th November 1567 Henryson was removed from the bench, on account of being one of the king’s counsel. In 1573 he was one of the procurators for the church. The date of his death has not been recorded. His son, sir Thomas Henderson, also a lord of session under the title of Lord Chesters, erected a monument to his memory in the Greyfriars churchyard, Edinburgh.

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