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The Scottish Nation

MYLNE, ROBERT, an eminent architect, was born at Edinburgh, January 4, 1734. His father, Thomas Mylne, an architect and magistrate of that city, belonged to a family who held the hereditary office of master-mason to the kings of Scotland, conferred by King James III. Robert Mylne of Balfargie, who died 24th December 1667, built Mylne’s Court, and Mylne’s Square, Edinburgh, as well as the additions to Holyrood-house, in the reign of Charles II. Young Mylne received his education in his native city, and afterwards traveled to Rome, where he resided for five years. In September 1758 he gained the first prize in the academy of St. Luke, in the first class of architecture, and was unanimously elected a member of that body, the necessary dispensation having been obtained from the Pope, on account of his being a Protestant. He was also elected a member of the academies of Florence and Bologna. He subsequently visited Naples and Sicily, and his professional skill and classical knowledge enabled him to illustrate several obscure passages in Vitruvius. His account of this excursion, with his fine collection of drawings, intended for publication, was left in manuscript to his son, but never published.

After making the tour of Europe he repaired to London, where his plan for constructing a bridge at Blackfriars was preferred to those of twenty other candidates, and he was employed to superintend that vast public undertaking; which 3was commenced in 1760. It was the first structure of the kind erected in Great Britain, in which arches approaching to the form of an ellipsis were substituted for semicircles; and the great superiority of Mr. Mylne’s mode of centring, though disputed at the time, is now universally allowed. Amongst others, Dr. Johnson came forward to condemn the form of the arch, but the short controversy that took place between Mr. Mylne and his illustrious opponent, on this occasion, did not prevent their afterwards becoming intimate friends. The bridge was completed in 1769, for the exact sum specified in Mr. Mylne’s estimate, namely, £153,000; his own remuneration being an annual salary of £300, with five per cent on the money actually laid out on the work.

On completing the bridge, Mr. Mylne was appointed surveyor of St. Paul’s Cathedral, and it was he who suggested the felicitous inscription, placed over the entrance of the choir, to the memory of Sir Christopher Wren, ending, “Si monumentum requires, circumspice?” Among the buildings erected, altered, or repaired by him, may be enumerated Rochester Cathedral; Greenwich Hospital, of which he was clerk of the works for fifteen years; King’s Weston, the seat of Lord de Clifford; Blaze Castle, near Bristol; the duke of Northumberland’s house on the banks of the Thames at Sion; and other edifices in England; and Ardincaple House, and Inverary Castle, in Scotland. He died May 5, 1811, at the New River Head, London, where he had long resided as engineer to that company. In 1770 he married Mary, sister of Mr. Home, surgeon, by whom he had nine children, and of these one son and four daughters survived him. The burial-place, over which is a suitable monument, of the Mylnes, hereditary master-masons to the kings of Scotland, is in Greyfriars churchyard, Edinburgh, to the left of the eastern gate, as the churchyard is entered from the head of the Candlemaker Row.

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