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Andrew Dalzel, F.R.S., Professor of Greek


The title of the "Successful Candidate" given to the Portraiture of this gentleman has reference to the memorable struggle for the office of Clerk to the General Assembly, which occurred in 1789. His opponent, Dr. Carlyle of Inveresk (who has already been noticed in a preceding part of this work), was supported by the moderate or Government party, and Mr. Dalzel by the popular, or, as they were then called, "the Wild Party."

After a keen discussion—on an amendment proposed by Henry Erskine (then Dean of Faculty), that the election should proceed under the proviso of a retrospective scrutiny of the votes, which was carried in the affirmative—the two candidates were then put in nomination, viz., "Dr. Carlyle, proposed by Dr. Gerard of Aberdeen and the Solicitor-General ; and Professor Dalzel, proposed by Dr. Bryce of Johnston and the Dean of Faculty; and the vote having been put, it carried by 145 to 142 (being a majority of three) in favour of Dr. Carlyle. The Moderator (Dr. George Hill) being desired to declare in what manner he would give his casting vote, if, upon a scrutiny, there should appear an equality of votes, declared that he gave his vote for Dr. Carlyle.

"The Dean of Faculty then moved for a committee of scrutiny in behalf of Professor Dalzel; and Principal Davidson made the same demand on the part of Dr. Carlyle. A committee was accordingly named, consisting of ten members on each side, together with the Moderator; after which the roll of the Assembly, marked agreeably to the amendment, was sealed up upon the motion of the Dean of Faculty.

"Dr. Carlyle took his place and the oath as Clerk, and addressed the Assembly in a short speech, thanking them for the honour they had conferred upon him ; and declaring that he reckoned it the chief glory of his life to have always stood forward in defence of the Church of Scotland against fanaticism.

"No less than 287 members voted on this occasion. The Assembly consists in all of 364; and, it is said, the greatest number ever known to have voted before this time was 221."

Such is a brief account of the election ; but, when the scrutiny had been entered into, the precaution of the Dean of Faculty was found to have been highly judicious. On finding himself iu a minority, Dr. Carlyle wisely withdrew his claim before the report of the committee was presented. Professor Dalzel was thereupon declared the " successful candidate."

Professor Andrew Dalzel was the son of respectable, although not wealthy, parents. His father was a wright, or carpenter, at the village of Kirkliston, in Linlithgowshire. He was horn in 1742, and .ducated at the school of the village. Dr. Drysdale was at that time minister of Kirkliston; and, fortunately, for the young scholar, took much interest in his progress, by assisting and directing him in his studies.

In course of time young Dalzel entered the University of Edinburgh ; where, with a view to the ministry, he studied with much success, and acquired a classical as well as theological education. In the Divinity Hall he is known to have delivered the prescribed course of lectures to the satisfaction of Professor Hamilton; but it does not appear that he ever was licensed. About this time he was appointed tutor to Lord Maitland (the present Earl of Lauderdale), with whom he travelled to Paris, and pleased his pupil's father so much that, shortly after his return from France, the Earl resolved to use his influence with the Town Council of Edinburgh to procure his election to the Greek Chair, then vacant by the death of Professor Robert Hunter. Among other obstacles in the way of his preferment, some of the Council favoured another candidate, Mr. Duke Gordon, afterwards well known for many years as under-librarian of the College. The interest of the Earl of Lauderdale, however, prevailed, and Dalzel was appointed to the Greek Chair in 1773.

Mr. Duke Gordon was the son of a linen manufacturer, and born in the Potterrow, Edinburgh. His father was a native of Huntly—a Jacobite—and a thorough clansman. Hence, in testimony of his respect to the head of the clan, his son was called Duke Gordon. Duke (who abhorred the name) was educated at a school kept in the Cowgate by Mr. Andrew "Waddell—a nonjurant—who had " been out in the forty-five," and was of course patronised by all his Jacobitical friends. Duke Gordon made great progress under Mr. "Waddell; and, although compelled to follow his father's profession for several years, had imbibed such a desire for languages, that he contrived to prosecute his studies; and, on the death of the old man, abandoned the manufacture of linen altogether, and devoted himself entirely to literature. He had views to the ministry; but some peculiar notions which he entertained on theology shut the church doors upon him. In 1763 he was appointed assistant-librarian of the College Library— a situation for which lie was peculiarly well qualified by his extensive learning and general literary acquirements. The emoluments of the office being limited, he taught classes at his own house, by which he added considerably to his income. He never was married; and, sucli was his frugality, he died in 1802 worth a great deal of money. To three of his particular friends—Professor Dalzel, the Rev. Andrew Johnston, minister of Salton, and Mr. William "White, writer in Edinburgh—he conveyed, by his will, all his effects, burdened with a life annuity to his only sister, the wife of a respectable shoemaker, together with several other private legacies. His public bequests were —<£500 to the Eoyal Infirmary of Edinburgh; the reversion of a tenement of houses, of nearly the same value, to the poor of the parish of St. Cuthbert's; and such of his books to the Library of the University of Edinburgh as the librarian should think proper to be added to that collection.

The enthusiastic manner in which Prof. Dalzel immediately set about discharging the duties of the Greek Chair justified the choice which had been made. In the University of Edinburgh the taste for Grecian literature had been gradually giving way. Besides, the great fame of Professor Moor, of the Glasgow College, together with the excellent editions of the Greek classics, then issuing fr6m the press of the Foulises, had well-nigh annihilated the reputation of the capital altogether. The enthusiasm and ability of Professor Dalzel, however, imparted new life to the study of classical learning; and the various improvements which he introduced in his system of tuition tended in an eminent degree to restore the character of the University, and to draw around him students from the most distant quarters. The elementary class-books he compiled were so well adapted to the object for which they were designed, that they soon found their way into many of the chief schools of England; and, with certain modifications and improvements, are still very generally in use.

Professor Dalzel was in the habit of delivering a series of lectures to his students on Grecian history, antiquities, literature, philosophy, and the fine arts. These discourses were always well attended, and were deeply interesting even to the youngest of his auditors. "There was a witchery in his address which could prevail alike over sloth and over levity," and never failed to rivet the attention of his hearers.

When the Eoyal Society of Edinburgh was instituted in 1783,'Mr. Dalzel was prevailed on to undertake the duties of Secretary to its literary class; and to his labours, while acting in this capacity, the Society is indebted for several able essays, and other interesting communications.

On the death of Dr. James Robertson, Professor of Oriental Languages, in 1795, Mr. Dalzel, who had been associated with him as conjunct Secretary and Librarian, was appointed Keeper of the College Library, having as his assistant Mr. Duke Gordon, with whom he lived on terms of great intimacy; and, on whose death in 1802, he did ample justice to his memory, in an exceedingly well written and very interesting memoir of his life, which he communicated to the editor of the Scots Magazine.

After a lingering illness, Mr. Dalzel died on the 8th December, 1806. He was married to a daughter of Dr. Drysdale, his early friend and benefactor—a lady of distinguished accomplishments and sweetness of temper, by whom he had several children.

The personal appearance of Professor Dalzel was prepossessing. In stature he was among the tallest of the middle size; his complexion was fair; his aspect mild and interesting; his eyes were blue, and full of vigorous expression; and his features plump, without heaviness or grossness. His address was graceful and impressive. He took little exercise; but when he did walk, his favourite resort was the King's Park. The attitude in which he is pourtrayed in the print represents him in one of his rural excursions. During the latter period of his life Mr. Dalzel resided within the College, in the house which had been long occupied by Principal Robertson.


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