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Significant Scots
Sir Thomas Urquhart


URQUHART, (SIR) THOMAS, of Cromarty, as he designates himself, was a writer of some note, in the seventeenth century, but is much more remarkable for the eccentricity, than either the depth or extent, of his genius. Of this singular person, there is scarcely anything more known, than that he was knighted, though for what service is not recorded, by Charles I., at Whitehall; and that having, at an after period, viz., in 1651, accompanied his successor, Charles II., from Scotland, in his invasion of England, he was taken prisoner at the battle of Worcester. After his capture, he was detained in London on his parole; and this interval he employed in writing some of the extraordinary works which have perpetuated his name.

He appears to have travelled, at some period of his life, through the greater part of Europe, to have been well skilled in the modern languages of the continent, and to have been tolerably accomplished in the fashionable arts of the times in which he lived.

Meagre and few as these particulars are, they yet comprehend all that is left us regarding the history of a person, who, to judge by the expressions which he employs, when speaking of himself in his writings, expected to fill no inconsiderable space in the eyes of posterity. Amongst Sir Thomas’s works, is a translation of Rabelais, remarkably well executed; but, with this performance begins and ends all possibility of conscientiously complimenting him on his literary attainments. All the rest of his productions, though in each occasional scintillations of genius may be discovered, are mere rhapsodies, incoherent, unintelligible, and extravagantly absurd. At the head of this curious list, appears "The Discovery of a most exquisite Jewel, more precious than diamonds inchased in gold, the like whereof was never seen inany age: found in the kennel of Worcester streets, the day after the fight, and six before the autumnal equinox, &c., &c., anno 1651." This extraordinary work was written, as its author avows, for the extraordinary purpose of helping him, by the display of talent which he conceived it would exhibit, to the recovery of his forfeited estates in Cromarty. As may be readily conceived, however, it had no such effect; and it will be at once understood why it should not, when it is mentioned that Cromwell was then protector of England. The "Jewel," its author boasts, was written in fourteen days; there being a struggle between him and the printer, which should get on fastest: a contest which sometimes bore so hard upon him, that he was, as he tells us, obliged to tear off fragments from the sheet he was writing, in order to keep the press going. The "Jewel" contains, amongst other piquant matters, the adventures of the Admirable Crichton, and a pedigree of the author’s family, in which he traces the male line, with great precision and accuracy, from Adam to himself; and on the female side, from Eve to his mother; regulating, as he goes along, the great events in the history of the world, by the births and deaths of the Urquharts; to which important events, he, with a proper sense of the respectability and dignity of his progenitors, makes them quite subordinate.

This multifarious and elaborate work, although the most important of the learned knight’s productions, was not the first in point of time. In 1645, he published, in London, a treatise on Trigonometry, dedicated, in very flowery language, to "the right honourable, and most noble lady, my dear and loving mother, the lady dowager of Cromartie." This work, though disfigured by all the faults of manner and style peculiar to its author, yet discovers a knowledge of mathematics, which, when associated with his other attainments, leaves no doubt of his having been a man of very superior natural endowments.

See also the book...

Sir Thomas Urquhart of Cromartie Knight
By John Willcock M.A.B.D. Lerwick (1899)


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