a poet of the seventeenth century, was the son of James Adamson, dean of
guild in Perth in 1600, the year of the Gowrie conspiracy, and provost of
that city in 1610 and 1611. He was educated for the church, and is stated
to have been a good classical scholar. He wrote some Latin poems which are
described as being far above mediocrity. In 1638 he published a poem, in
4to, entitled ‘Muses Threnodie, or Mirthful Mournings on the Death of
Mr.Gall, with a description of Perth, and an account of the Gowry
conspiracy,’ &c. He was honoured with the approbation of Drummond of
Hawthornden, and appears, from the complimentary verses prefixed to his
poems, to have been much respected for his talents and worth. It was at
the request of Drummond that Adamson published his ‘Muses Threnodie,’
after having resisted the solicitations of his friends to print it.
The letter which
the poet of Hawthorn-den wrote to him on the occasion, is dated Edinburgh,
12th July 1637. It was inserted in the introductory address to the reader,
prefixed to the first edition, and contains the following passage: "Happie
hath Perth been in such a citizen, not so other townes of this kingdorne,
by want of so diligent a searcher and preserver of their fame from
oblivion. Some Muses, neither to themselves nor to others, do good, nor
delighting nor instructing. Yours inform both, and longer to conceal them,
will be, to wrong your Perth of her due honours, who deserveth no less of
you than that she should be thus blazoned and registrate to posterity, and
to defraud yourself of a monument which, after you have left this
transitory world, shall keep your name aud memory to after times. This
shall be preserved by the towne of Perth, for her own sake first, and
after for yours; for to her it hath been no little glory that she hath
brought forth such a citizen, so eminent in love to her, so dear to the
Muses." Adamson died unmarried in 1639. A new edition of his poem was
published in 1774, with illustrative notes, by James Cant, in 2 vols.
l2mo. The book is now scarce.—Campbell’s Introduction to the History of
Poetry in Scotland.
an eminent prelate and Latin poet, was born at Perth, March 15,1537. His
parents are said to have been poor, but he received a sufficiently liberal
education, first at the grammar school of his native town, and afterwards
at the university of St. Andrews, where he studied philosophy, and took
his degree of master of arts. His name first appears in the diaries and
church records of the period, not as Adamson, but under the varieties of
Coustaine, Cousting, Constan, Constant, and Constantine. (See
Bannatyne’s Journal, p. 323; James Melville’s Diary, pp. 25 and
42; Calderwood, vol. ii. p. 46; and The Booke of the Universall
Kirk of Scotland, pp. 2 and 23.) His biographers state that on
quitting the university he became a schoolmaster at a village in Fife, but
on the meeting of the first General Assembly, in December 1560, he was,
under the name of Patrick Constan, among those who were appointed in St.
Audrews, "for ministering and teaching."
At the tenth
General Assembly, held at Edinburgh in June 1564, he preferred a request
to be allowed to pass to France and other countries, "for augmenting of
his knowledge for a time;" but the Assembly unanimously refused his
application, and ordained that he should not leave his congregation,
"without speciall licence of the haul kirk." [Booke of the Universall Kirk
of Scotland, p. 23.] Early in 1566, on the invitation of Sir James Nakgill
of Rankeillor, clerk-register, he accompanied his eldest son, as tutor, to
France, where the latter was going to study the civil law, on which
occasion he appears to have demitted himself of the office of the
ministry. On the 19th of June of that year, Mary Queen of Scots was
delivered of a prince, afterwards James the Sixth, on which occasion
Constant or Adamson, then at Paris, wrote a Latin poem, styling the royal
infant "Prince of Scotland, England, France, and Ireland," which so
offended the French government that he was imprisoned for six months.
herself, and several of the nobility, interceded for his liberation. On
regaining his freedom he proceeded with his pupil to the universities of
Poitiers and Padua, where he applied himself to the study of the civil and
canon laws. On their return from Italy, they visited Geneva; and here,
from his intercourse with Beza, he imbibed the Calvinistic doctrines of
theology. Some time before their return to Scotland they revisited Paris.
As well-known Protestants, however, they found it dangerous to remain in
the capital, and retired to Bourges, where Constant concealed himself for
seven months in an inn, the master of which, an old man 70 years of age,
was, for harbouring heretics, thrown from the roof of his own house and
killed on the spot. In this sepulchre, as he called it, he employed his
time in composing a Latin poetical version of time Book of Job, and in
writing in the same language a piece called the Tragedy of Herod—the
latter of which has never been published. Before leaving France he was
bold enough to publish a Latin translation of the Confession of Faith, for
which lie obtained great credit.
At what period
Constant returned to Scotland does not appear, but it must have been
previous to 5th March 1571, for the Assembly which met at Edinburgh at
that time earnestly desired him, in consideration of the lack of
ministers, th reenter the ministry. He craved time till next Assembly,
which met on 6th August thereafter, to which he sent a written answer,
complying with their request. He had previously married the daughter of a
On the election
of Mr. John Douglas, rector of the university of St. Andrews, to the
archbishopric of that diocese, on the 8th of February 1572, Constant is
mentioned as having preached a sermon, and John Knox the discourse before
the installation. On this occasion he was not, as afterwards alleged by
his enemies, a candidate for that see. Most of his biographers represent
him to have been in France at the period of the massacre of St.
Bartholomew, which occurred on the 24th August of this year (1572), but he
had certainly returned to Scotland more than a year before that event, and
no mention is made of a second visit to that country. Constant appears at
this time to have enjoyed the friendship of Andrew Melville and of many of
the ministers of Edinburgh. He had been appointed minister of Paisley, and
through his influence with time regent Morton the valuable living of
Govan, near Glasgow, was in the year 1575 annexed to the university of
that city, "the only good thing," says the spiteful James Melville, "he or
Morton were ever known to have done."
generally acceded to the new views which Melville introduced from Geneva
as to the Presbyterian form of government for the church, sought to impose
limitations on his powers, which were contrary to the previous usage of
the church and to the laws of the kingdom; to which restrictions, however,
Adamson from the outset and even before his installation declared, when
questioned by that court, that he would not submit. From the period of his
instalment, therefore, he was engaged, for several years, in almost
perpetual altercation with the General Assembly. "Adamson," says Bishop
Keith, "did not receive, for what we know, any ecclesiastical
consecration." This, however, is incorrect. From the acts of the General
Assembly threatening proceedings against his inaugurators, the chapter of
St. Andrews, we infer that he was installed by a form of consecration
similar to that of his predecessor; which, as formally settled by the
General Assembly with reference to that ceremony, was the same as that of
the superintendents, and of which Bannatyne details the formula, (p. 321).
In the General
Assembly, which met at Edinburgh in April, 1577, Adamson was cited to
answer before some commissioners who had been appointed to examine him ;
and, in the interim, it was ordered that he should be discharged from
exercising his episcopal functions "till he should be admitted by the
Assembly." (Calderwood’s History, vol. iii. p. 379.) The same year
he published a translation of the Catechism of Calvin in Latin verse, for
the use of the young prince (James VI.), which was much commended in
England, France and the Netherlands, where he was already well known by
his translation of the Confession of Faith. In 1578 he was induced to
submit himself to the General Assembly, but this did not long secure his
tranquillity ; for in the year following he was exposed to fresh troubles.
In the record of the 38th General Assembly, which met at Stirling, 11 June
1578, as printed in ‘The Booke of the Universall Kirk of Scotland,’ there
are five pages blank, supposed, as marked in. an old hand on the copy
transcribed, " to be pairt of that which was torn out by Adamson B. of
St. Andrews." Some after blanks are also pointed out. (B. of Universall
K&k, pp. 180, 183, 203, 207, 338, footnotes.) This, however, is as
likely to have been done by another.
Assembly which met at Edinburgh 7th July 1579, summoned him to answer to
five several charges, three of which were for voting in parliament without
a commission from the Assembly, for giving collation of the vicarage of
Bolton, and for opposing the policy of the church in his place in
parliament. Finding it expedient to retire for a time to the castle of St.
Andrews, where he lived, as James Melville expresses it, " like a tod in
his hole," he was, in the year 1582, attacked with a grievous chronic
distemper, from which, as he could get no relief from his physicians, he
had recourse to a simple remedy, administered by an old woman named Alison
Pearson, which completely cured him. His enemies now accused him of
dealing with a witch, and applying to an emissary of the devil for means
whereby to save his life. The old woman herself was committed to the
castle of St. Andrews for execution, but by the connivance of the
archbishop she contrived to make her escape. Four years thereafter,
however, she was again apprehended, and burnt for witchcraft.
In the year
1583, King James visited St. Andrews, when Archbishop Adamson preached
before him with great approbation. In his sermon, he inveighed, as
Calderwood expresses it, against the Presbyterian clergy, the lords
reformers, and all their proceedings. (Calderwood’s History, vol.
iii. p. 716.) The doctrines which the archbishop avowed on this occasion
recommended him to the favour of the king, who sent him as his ambassador
to the court of Queen Elizabeth, where his object was twofold, namely, to
recommend the king his master to the nobility and gentry of England, and
to obtain support to the tottering cause of episcopacy in Scotland. His
eloquent sermons and address attracted such numerous auditories, and
excited such a high idea of the young king, that Queen Elizabeth’s
jealousy was kindled, and she prohibited him from preaching while he
remained in England. In 1584 he was recalled, and on his return to
Edinburgh, he exerted hum— self strenuously in support of King James’
views in favour of episcopacy. He sat in the parliament held at Edinburgh
in the month of August of that year, and concurred in several laws which
were enacted for establishing the king’s supremacy in ecclesiastical
matters. In the following year he was appointed to vindicate these acts of
parliament, and his apology is inserted in Holinshed’s English Chronicle.
Mr. James Melville gives a full copy of what he styles "a Bull which the
archbishop of St. Andrews got of the king as supreme governor of the kirk,
whereby he has power and authority to use his archiepiscopal office within
the kirk and his diocese." (Diary, p. 132.)
In April 1586,
the provincial synod of Fife met at St. Andrews, when Mr. James Melville,
as moderator of the previous meeting, preached the opening sermon, in the
course of which he denounced the archbishop to his face, and demanded that
he should be cut off, for having devised and procured the passing of the
late acts of parliament in 1584, which were subversive of the Presbyterian
discipline. In his defence Adamson said that the acts were none of his
devising, although they had his support as good and lawful statutes. He
then declined the jurisdiction of the court, and appealed from it to the
king and parliament, but nevertheless was formally excommunicated by the
synod. In return, he next day ordered Mr. Samuel Cunningham, one of his
servants, to pronounce the archiepiscopal excommunication against Andrew
Melville, James Melville, and others, with Andrew Hunter, minister of
Carnbee, who had denounced the anathema of the synod against the
archbishop. The proceedings of the synod being manifestly informal, the
General Assembly, which met at Edinburgh in the following month, annulled
the sentence of excommunication against him, and reponed him to the same
position which he had held before the meeting of the provincial synod of
Fife. The Melvilles being summoned before the king for their conduct in
this harsh and vindictive transaction, were ordered to confine themselves,
Andrew to his native place during the king’s will, and James to his
college. (Melville’s Diary, p. 165.) The archbishop, besides his
usual clerical duties, was required to teach public lessons in Latin
within the Old college, and the whole university commanded to attend the
same. (Ibid. p. 166.) As archbishop of St. Audrews he was ex
officio chancellor of the university.
About the end of
June 1587, M. Du Bartas, the famous French poet, being in Scotland as
ambassador from the king of Navarre, afterwards Henry IV. of
France, accompanied King James to St. Andrews. His majesty, desirous of
hearing a lecture from Mr. Andrew Melville, principal of St. Mary’s
college, gave him an hour’s notice of his wish. Melville endeavoured to
excuse himself, but his majesty insisting, he delivered an extem— pore
discourse, upon the government of the church of Christ, when he refuted
the whole acts of parliament which had been passed against the
presbyterian discipline. On the following day an entertainment was given
by the archbishop to the king and the French envoy, when Adamson took
occasion to pronounce a lecture, to counteract that of Melville, his
principal topics being the pre eminence of bishops and the supremacy of
kings. Melville was present and took notes, and had no sooner returned to
his college than he caused the bell to be rung, and an intimation to be
conveyed to the king that he intended to deliver another lecture after an
interval of two hours. On this occasion, besides the king, Du Bartas and
Adam-son were present. Avoiding all formal reference to the previous
speech of the archbishop, Melville dexterously quoted from popish books,
which he had brought with him, all his leading positions and arguments in
favour of episcopacy. When he had shown them to be plain popery, he
proceeded to refute them with such force of reason that Adamson remained
silent, although he had previously requested permission from the king to
defend his own doctrines. The king, however, spoke for him, and after
making some learned and scholastic distinctions, he concluded with
commanding them all, to respect and obey the archbishop. The whole of this
narrative, however, rests upon the authority of James Melville, which,
besides being that of a prejudiced opponent, is unfortunately in other
matters relative to Adamson found to be opposed to facts recorded in the
proceedings of the Church.
By the act of
annexation passed in 1587 the see of St. Andrews, with all the other
church benefices in the kingdom, was annexed to the crown. The revenues of
the archbishopric were thereafter bestowed on the duke of Lennox, by James
VI., excepting only a small pittance, reserved for the subsistence of
Archbishop Adamson. In the following year he was exposed to a fresh
prosecution by the church, having been summoned for having, contrary to an
inhibition of the presbytery of Edinburgh, married the Catholic earl of
Huntly to the king’s cousin, the sister of the duke of Lennox, without
requiring the earl to subscribe the Confession of Faith, although he had
already subscribed certain articles which were required of him previous to
the proclamation of the bans. Adam-son on this occasion appeared by his
procurator, Mr. Thomas Wilson, (very likely his son-in-law,) who produced
a testimonial of his sickness, subscribed by the doctor who attended him
and two bailies, but the memorial was not admitted as sufficient. The
presbytery of St. Andrews proceeded against him in absence, deprived him
of all office in the church, and threatened him with excommunication. The
Assembly ratified the sentence of the presbytery, and for this and other
alleged crimes he was deposed and again excommunicated.
In the beginning
of 1589 he published the Lamentations of Jeremiah, in Latin verse, which
he dedicated to the king in an address, complaining of the harsh treatment
he had received. The same year he also published a Latin poetical
translation of the Apocalypse, and addressed a copy of Latin verses to his
majesty, deploring his distress. The unfortunate prelate had at one period
stood so high in the royal favour that James had condescended to compose a
sonnet in commendation of his paraphrase of the Book of Job; but times
were altered, and the king paid no attention to his appeals. In his need
Adamson is said to have addressed a letter to his former opponent, Mr.
Andrew Melville, with whom he at one period lived on terms of good
neighbourhood, but opposite views in church government had long not only
driven them asunder, but rendered them bitter antagonists. On receipt of
his letter containing the sad disclosure of his destitute situation,
Melville hastened to pay the archbishop a visit, and besides procuring
contributions on his behalf from his brethren of the presbytery of St.
Andrews, continued for several months to support him from his own private
purse. Reduced by poverty and disease, the unfortunate prelate, in the
year 1591, sent to the Presbytery of St. Andrews a paper expressive of his
regret at the course he had pursued, and desiring to be restored into the
church. This is not the same paper which afterwards appeared under the
title of ‘The Recantation of Maister Patrick Adamsone,’ and which was
published as a pamphlet in 1598. Some of the Episcopal writers are
disposed to deny the genuineness of the latter, and it is to be regretted
that the proofs of its genuineness are not more complete.
Adamson died on
the 19th February 1592, and his death was speedily followed by the
restoration of the presbyterian form of church government in Scotland. A
collection of his Latin poetical translations from the Scriptures was
published in a quarto volume in London in 1619, with his Life by his
son-in-law, Thomas Wilson, an advocate, under the title of Poemata
Sacra. Several of his other poems are to be found in the Delitiae
Poetarum Scotorum, tome i., and in the Poetarum Scotorum Musae
Sacrae, tome ii.
character has been much traduced by contemporary writers, but by none more
so than by Robert Semple, a minor poet of that day, who wrote a gross and
scurrilous work professing .to be his life, which he styled ‘A Legend of
the Bischop of St. Androis’ Life.’ It is thought that this ‘legend’ had an
effect on the king’s mind unfavourable to Adamson, but he fell more into
disgrace with his majesty after having been "put to the horn," in 1587,
amid "denounced rebel," for withholding their stipends from several
ministers in his diocese, and "for not furnishing of two gal-lons of wine
to the communion."
address to his departing soul, written by Adamson in Latin poetry, in
which he so much excelled, is, says Dr. Irving, "as much superior to that
of Adrian as Christianity is superior to Paganism :"
O animal assiduis
vitae jactata procellis,
Exilii, pertaesa gravis, nunc lubrica, tempus
Regna tibi, et mundi invisas contemnere sordes:
Quippe parens rerum caeco te corpore clemens
Evocat, et verbi crucifixi gratia, coeli
Pandit iter, patrioque beatam limine sistet.
Progenies Jovis, quo te coelestis origo
Invitat, felix perge, aeternumque quiesce.
Exuviae carnis, coguato in pulvere vocem
Angelicam expectent, sonitu quo putro cadaver
Exiliet redivivum, et totum me tibi reddet.
Ecce beata dies! nos
agni dextera ligno
Fulgentes crucis, et radiantes sanguine vivo
Excipiet: quam firma illic, quam certa capesses
Gaudia, felices inter novus incola cives!
Alme Dens! Deus alme! et non effabile numen
Ad te unum et trinum, moribundo pectore anbelo.
poems and translations already mentioned, Archbishop Adamson wrote many
things which were never published, among which may be mentioned Six books
on the Hebrew Republic, various translations of the Prophets into Latin
verse, Prelections on St. Paul's Epistles to Timothy, various apologetical
and funeral orations, and a very candid history of his own times. The
following is a list of his published works:
Carmine Redditus, et in libros quatnor digestus. Edin. 1581, 12mo.
Poemata Sacra, cum aliis Opusculis, et cum Vita ejus; a T. Voluseno. Lond.
Do Sacro Pastoris Munere Tractatus: cum Vita Auctoris, per Tb. Volusenum.
Lond. 1619, 4to. 8vo.Refutatio Libelli le Regimine Ecclesiae Scoticanae.
Lond. 1620, 8vo.
Adamsoni Vita et Palinodia. 1620, 4to.
Genethliacon Jacobi VI. Regis Scotiae, Angliae I. Carmine. Amst. 1637,
8vo. Inter Poet. Scot. vol. i. p. 13.
Recantation of Mr. Patrick Adamson, sometime Archbishop of St. Andrews in
Scotlande. To which is added, his Life in Latin. 1598, 8vo.
Sermons. 1623, 8vo.
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