or BURNETT, originally BURNARD, a surname of Saxon
derivation. Robert Burnard, who settled in Teviotdale as early as 1128,
was the first of the name in Scotland. In the charter of the foundation
of the abbacy of Selkirk by Earl David, younger son of Malcolm Canmore,
Robertus de Rurnard is a witness, and he, or his son of the same name,
is also witness in the same prince’s charters, after he had become King
David the First.
There are two
principal families of the name in Scotland, namely, Burnet of Barns, in
Peebles-shire, anciently designed of Burnetland, or of that ilk; and
Burnet of Leys in Kincardineshire. Both claim the chiefship. The first
profess to be descended from the above-named Robertus de Burnard, but
there is no trace of them in authentic history till the year 1500, when
returns of the services of the portion of a widow of one nomination of
tutors to another of the name are extant, by which it appears they had
borne for some time the designation of Burnets of Burnetland, but having
also acquired lands called Barns, afterwards became designated as
Burnets of Barns. Of this family was descended Dr. Alexander Burnet,
archbishop of St. Andrews after Archbishop Sharp, that is from 1679 till
his death in August 1684. He had previously been bishop of Aberdeen, and
subsequently archbishop of Glasgow, and while in the latter see, he
preached a funeral sermon of the death of the marquis of Montrose, from
the text, “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord,” published at
Glasgow in 1673, 4to.
principal family of the name, Burnett of Leys, has flourished for more
than five centuries in the north of Scotland. In 1324, Alexander de
Burnard, ancestor of the Burnetts of Leys, obtained a charter from
Robert the Bruce of lands in the shire of Kincardine. The grandson of
this Alexander, John de Burnard, held the office of king’s macer. His
eldest son, Robert Burnett, was the first that bore the designation of
Leys. Alexander Burnett, eleventh proprietor of Leys, had, with seven
daughters, six sons. 1. Alexander, who predeceased his father, without
issue. 2. Thomas, first baronet. 3. James, of Craigmyle, progenitor of
the Burnetts of Monboddo and Kemno. 4. Robert, Lord Crimond, a lord of
session (1661), father of the celebrated Bishop Burnet (see next
article). 5. George, died unmarried. 6. John, factor for the Scots at
son, Sir Thomas, was created a baronet of Nova Scotia, 31st
April 1626. He was an earnest supporter of the covenant. The 3d baronet,
Sir Thomas, member for Kincardineshire in the last Scottish parliament,
was a strenuous opponent of the union. At the death of Sir Robert, 5th
baronet, unmarried, the title devolved upon his cousin, Sir Thomas, 6th
baronet, eldest son of William Burnett of Criggie, 2d son of 3d baronet.
He married Catherine, sister of Sir Alexander Ramsay, 6th
baronet of Balmain, with issue. He died in 1783. His eldest son, Sir
Robert, 7th baronet, an officer in the Royal Scots Fusileers,
served throughout the first American war, and was taken prisoner at
Saratoga, on the surrender of General Burgoyne in 1777. He died in 1837.
Alexander Burnett of Strachan, 2d son of the 6th baronet,
assumed the name of Ramsay, in lieu of his patronymic, Burnett, and was
created a baronet, 13th May 1806, on inheriting the estates
of his uncle, Sir Alexander Ramsay, 6th baronet of Balmain.
Burnett, 8th baronet of Leys, eldest son of 7th
baronet, died in February 1849, when his brother, Sir Alexander, H.I.C.S.,
became 9th baronet, and died, unmarried, 20th
March 1856. His next brother, Sir James Horn Burnett, succeeded as 10th
Sir George Mackenzie, the Burnetts of Leys, in their arms carry the
hunting horn, in base, with a Highlander in a hunting barb and a
greyhound, for supporters, to show that they are the king’s foresters in
BURNET, GILBERT, D.D.,
a celebrated historian and divine, eldest son of Robert Burnet, of
Crimond, (see above), was born at Edinburgh, Sep. 18, 1643. His father,
who was strongly attached to episcopacy, was after the restoration
appointed one of the lords of session under the title of Lord Crimond.
His mother, Rachel Johnston, was sister of Sir Archibald Johnston, Lord
Warriston. His youngest brother, Sir Thomas Burnet, was an eminent
physician in Edinburgh.
being instructed by his father in Latin, was at ten years of age sent to
Marischal college, Aberdeen, where he took the degree of M.A. before he
was fourteen years of age. His inclination at first led him to the study
of the law, but he soon applied himself to that of divinity, and was
licensed to preach, in 1661, before he had reached his eighteenth year,
when his cousin, Sir Alexander Burnet, offered him a benefice, which he
refused, on account of his youth. In 1663, about two years after the
death of his father, he went for about six months to Oxford and
Cambridge. In 1664, he made a tour in Holland and France, where,
especially in the former country, he acquired those principles of
toleration in religious matters which afterwards distinguished him. On
his arrival in London, on his way home, he was admitted a member of the
On his return
to Scotland, he was, by Sir Robert Fletcher, presented to the parish of
Saltoun in East Lothian, in 1665, on which occasion he received
ordination from the bishop of Edinburgh. He remained at Saltoun for five
years, and while there he distinguished himself by his pastoral
assiduity. So great was his generosity and self denial, that of his
stipend, all that remained above what was required for his own
subsistence, he gave away in charity. A parishioner whose goods had been
seized for debt, once applied to him for some little assistance. He
inquired how much it would take to enable him again to begin business,
and on being told he ordered his servant to give him the money. “Sir,
said his servant, “it is all the money we have in the house,” “It is
well,” was the reply, “go and pay it to the poor man. You do not know
the pleasure there is in making a man glad.” Although he afterwards rose
to dignity and wealth, he ever retained an affectionate remembrance of
the parishioners of Saltoun, his first cure, and on his death he
bequeathed twenty thousand merks for the benefit of that parish, to be
applied in erecting and partially endowing a new schoolhouse, in
enlarging a library for the use of the parochial incumbent, in clothing
and educating thirty poor children, and in relieving the necessities of
the parochial poor. The children who continue to reap the fruits of his
bequest are popularly called “bishops,” and occupy in the church a
gallery which bears the name of “the bishop’s laft.”
in his ministerial duties, Burnet was not inattentive to the neglect and
misconduct of many of the clergy who had been thrust into benefices
after the violent introduction of episcopacy at the Restoration, and in
1666 he drew up and circulated in manuscript, a strong representation,
or memorial, against certain abuses of their authority, which he imputed
to the Scottish bishops. In 1668 he was consulted by the government as
to a remedy for the disorders that prevailed in consequence of the
overthrow of the presbyterian form of church government, which was most
in accordance with the feelings, the rights, and the spirit of the
people; and at his suggestion the expedient of an Indulgence to the
presbyterian ministers was, in the following year, adopted. This,
however, only made matters worse, as all compromises have inevitably a
tendency to do. About this time he became acquainted with Anne, duchess
of Hamilton, who intrusted him with the papers belonging to her father
and uncle, upon which he drew up the ‘Memoirs of the Dukes of Hamilton,’
which appeared in London in folio in 1677.
In 1669 he was
elected professor of divinity in the university of Glasgow, and at the
urgent recommendation of Archbishop Leighton, whose acquaintance he had
made in 1662, he accepted of the appointment, and removed to Glasgow,
where, the same year, he published his ‘Modest and Free Conference
between a Conformist and a Non-Conformist.’ With Leighton he appears to
have lived upon terms of great cordiality, and to Burnet the world is
indebted for a copious and most interesting record of the evangelical
virtues of that eminent and amiable prelate.
upon his memoirs of the dukes of Hamilton, he was invited to London by
the duke of Lauderdale, by whom he was introduced to the king. At this
time he was offered his choice of one of four vacant Scottish
bishoprics, but he refused to accept any of them. Soon after his return
to Glasgow, he married Lady Margaret Kennedy, daughter of the earl of
Cassillis, a lady of distinguished piety and knowledge, whose sentiments
were strongly in favour of the presbyterians. A collection of Letters
from this lady to John duke of Lauderdale was published at Edinburgh in
In 1672 Mr.
Burnet published ‘A Vindication of the Authority, Constitution, and Laws
of the Church and State of Scotland,’ in consequence of which he was
again offered a Scottish bishopric, with a promise of the next vacant
archbishopric, which he also declined. He resisted all the efforts that
were made to engage him in support of the oppressive measures of the
court. In 1673 he revisited London, when he was appointed one of the
king’s chaplains in ordinary. In the ensuing year he deemed it expedient
to resign his chair at Glasgow, when he removed altogether to London.
The freedom which he used in speaking to the duke of Lauderdale,
regarding the measures of his government, lost him the friendship of
that unprincipled minister; and his opposition to the popish designs of
the court caused his name to be struck out of the list of his majesty’s
chaplains. In 1675, on the recommendation of Lord Hollis, he was
appointed preacher at the Rolls chapel by Sir Harbottle Grimstone,
Master of the Rolls. He was soon after chosen lecturer of St. Clement
Danes in the Strand, and became one of the most popular preachers then
in the metropolis. In 1679 he published the first volume of his ‘History
of the Reformation,’ which procured for him the thanks of both houses of
parliament. The second volume appeared in 1681, and the third, which
contained a supplement to the two former, in 1714.
attended the sick bed of a woman who had been one of the paramours of
the profligate earl of Rochester, that nobleman sent for him, and for a
whole winter held various conversations with him upon those topics with
which sceptics and men of loose principles attack the Christian
religion. The happy effect of these conferences in leading the earl to a
sincere repentance, occasioned the publication of Mr. Burnet’s
interesting account of the life and death of that nobleman, published in
affair of the popish plot, Dr. Burnet was often consulted by Charles the
Second on the state of the nation. The king offered him the bishopric of
Chichester, then vacant, “if he would entirely come into his interests,”
but he declined it on such terms, preferring to remain true to his
principles. In 1682 he published the Life of Sir Mathew Hale, and some
other works. About this time also he wrote his celebrated letter to King
Charles, reproving him in the severest style, both for his public
misconduct and his private vices. His majesty read it twice over, and
then threw it into the fire. In 1683, after the execution of Lord
Russell, whom he attended on the scaffold, he was examined before the
House of Commons, with regards to that nobleman’s last speech, which it
was suspected he had written for him. In 1683 he published a
‘Translation of Sir Thomas More’s Utopia,’ and one or two other
translations. In 1684 he was, by mandate from the court, discharged from
his lecture at St. Clement Danes, and also prohibited from again
preaching at the Rolls chapel. In 1685 he brought out his ‘Life of Dr.
William Bedell, bishop of Kilmore.’
accession of James II. and VII. to the throne, he obtained leave to go
out of the kingdom, and first went over to Paris, but afterwards made a
tour of Italy, an account of which he published in letters addressed to
Mr. Boyle. He subsequently pursued his travels through Switzerland and
Germany. Having arrived at Utrecht, by the invitation of the prince of
Orange he went to the Hague, and had a share in the councils concerning
the affairs of England. He became in consequence an object of great
jealousy to King James, who ordered a prosecution for high treason to be
commenced against him both in England and Scotland; but having obtained
the rights of naturalization in Holland, when James demanded his person
from the States, they refused to deliver him up. His wife, Lady
Margaret, being dead, he about this time married a Dutch lady of
fortune, of the name of Mary Scott, descended from the family of
Dr. Burnet had
a very important share in the whole conduct of the Revolution of 1688,
the project of which he gave early notice of to the court of Hanover. He
accompanied the prince of Orange to England in the quality of chaplain;
and he was rewarded for his services with the bishopric of Salisbury,
being consecrated March 31, 1689. In a ‘Pastoral Letter’ to his clergy,
concerning the oaths of allegiance and supremacy to King William and
Queen Mary, he maintained their right to the throne on the ground of
conquest, which gave so much offence, that, three years afterwards, the
‘Letter’ was ordered by parliament to be burnt by the hands of the
common hangman. In 1698 he was appointed preceptor to the duke of
Gloucester, the son of the princess (afterwards Queen) Anne. On this
occasion he wished to resign his bishopric, but was prevailed upon to
retain it at the request of King William himself. In preference to all
the ministers, he was by the king appointed to name the princess Sophia,
Electress of Brunswick, next in succession to Queen Anne, in the famous
bill for settling the succession to the throne; and in 1701 he was
chairman of the committee to which the bill was referred. Having lost
his second wife by the smallpox, in that year he married Elizabeth the
widow of Robert Berkeley, Esq. This lady died in 1709, leaving a pious
book, entitled ‘Method of Devotion.’ In 1699 he published his
‘Exposition of the Thirty-nine Articles.’ The scheme for the
augmentation of poor livings, out of the first fruits and tenths due to
the Crown, originated with Bishop Burnet. He died 17th march,
1715, and was buried at St. James’, Clerkenwell, where a monument is
erected to his memory. His ‘History of his Own Times’ was published
after his death by his son, Mr., afterwards Sir Thomas, Burnet. Bishop
Burnet possessed a considerable share of vanity and bustling
officiousness, and seems not to have had the most capacious judgment,
but these weaknesses in his character were amply compensated for, by the
excellence of his heart, by his disinterestedness, his courage and his
public spirit, and by the remarkable ability which he displayed both as
a divine and a historian. The following is his portrait:
Bishop Gilbert Burnet
Bishop Burnet’s works are:
Discourse on the Memory of Sir Robert Fletcher of Saltoun, Edin. 1665,
Sermon preached before the Prince of Orange, on Dan. xii. 3. 1668, 4to.
Observations on the First and Second of the Canons, commonly ascribed to
the Holy Apostles. Glasg. 1673. 8vo.
Vindication of the Authority, Constitution, and Laws of the Church and
State of Scotland, in four Conferences; wherein the Answer to the
dialogues betwixt the Conformist and the Nonconformist is examined.
Glasg. 1673, 8vo.
The Mystery of Iniquity unveiled. Lond. 1672, 8vo.
A Rational Method of proving the Truth of the Christian Religion as it
is professed in the Church of England. Lond. 1675, 12mo.
The Dutiful Subject; a Sermon on Rom. xiii. 5. 1675, 4to.
The Royal Martyr lamented; a Sermon on 2 Sam. ii. 12. 1675, 4to.
Relation of a Conference held about Religion, at London, April 3, 1676,
by Dr. Stillingfleet and Gilbert Burnet, with some Gentlemen of the
Church of Rome. Lond. 1676, 8vo.
Subjection for conscience-sake, asserted in a Sermon. Lond. 1675, 4to.
A Vindication of the Ordinations of the Church of England. Lond. 1677,
Memoirs of the Lives and Actions of James and William, Dukes of
Hamilton, &c., in which an account is given of the Rise and Progress of
the Civil Wars of Scotland, with other Transactions, both in England and
Germany, from the year 1625 to 1652. Lond. 1677 fol.
History of the Reformation of the Church of England. Lond. 1679-81, 2
vols. fol. Vol. iii. being a Supplement to the other two. Lond. 1715, 3
vols. fol. Lond. 1699, 4 vols. fol. Abridged. Lond. 1683, and 1715, fol.
Letter to the Earl of Rochester as he lay on his Death-bed. 1680, fol.
The Life and Death of John, Earl of Rochester. 1680, 8vo. 1724, 8vo.
Fast Sermon for the Fire of London, on Amos iv. 11, 12. 1680, 4to.
Sermon of the Election of the Lord Mayor, on Matth. xii. 25. 1681, 4to.
The Policy of Rome; or the True sentiments of the Court and Cardinals
there, concerning Religion and the Gospel, as they are delivered by
Cardinal Palavicini in his History of the Council of Trent. Lond. 1681,
Letters during the late Contest in France, concerning the Regale. Lond.
The last Confessions, Prayers, and Meditations of Lieutenant John Stern,
delivered by him on the art, immediately before his Execution, to Dr.
Burnet; together with the last confession of George Bororky, signed by
him in the prison. Lond. 1682, fol.
History of the Rights of Princes in disposing of Ecclesiastical
Benefices and Church Lands. Lond. 1682, 8vo.
The Life of Sir Matthew Hale, Knt. Lord Chief Justice of England;
Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, and Queen Mary. 1682, 2 vols. 8vo. new edit.
Letter of the Clergy of France to the Protestation. Translated and
examined. Lond. 1683, 8vo.
Copies of certain Letters which have passed between Spain and England,
in Matters of Religion. Lond. 1685, 8vo.
Life of William Bedell, Bishop of Kilmore. Lond. 1685, 8vo.
A Letter to Simon Lowth, occasioned by his book of Church Power. Lond.
Reflections on Mr. Varillas’ History of the Revolutions that have
happened in Europe, in Matters of Religion, and more particularly on his
ninth Book that relates to England. Amst. 1686, 12mo. Continuation. Amst.
1687, 12mo. Defence of the same. Amst. 1687, 12mo.
Travels, with his Answer to Mr. Varillas. Amst. 1686.
Letters, containing an account of what seemed most remarkable in
Switzerland, Italy, &c. 1686, 8vo.
Travels through Switzerland, Italy, and some parts of Germany, in the
years 1685-6. Rott. 1687, 8vo.
Death of the Primitive Persecutors translated from Lactantius, Amst.
Letters concerning the State of Italy. 1688, 8vo.
Reflections on Varillas’ Book of Heresy, as far as relates to English
Matters, especially those of Wickliff. Lond. 1688, 12mo.
Vindication of himself from Calumnies, in Parliamentum Pacificum. Lond.
The Case of Compulsion in Matters of Religion, stated. Lond. 1688, 8vo.
Sermon preached before the Prince of Orange, on Psalm cxviii. 23. 1688,
An Exhortation to Peace and Union; a Sermon on Acts vii. 26. 1689, 4to.
Christmas Sermon, on 1 Tim. iii; 16. 1689, 4to.
Eighteen Papers relating to the affairs of Church and State during the
reign of King James II. Lond. 1689, 4to.
A Letter to Mr. Thevonot, containing a censure of Mr. Le Grand’s History
of King Henry the VIII.’s Divorce, with a Censure of Mr. De Meaux’s
History of the Variations of the Protestant Churches. Lond. 1689. 4to.
Six Papers, with an Apology for the Church of England, and an Enquiry
into the Measures of Submission. Lond. 1689, 4to.
Pastoral Letter concerning the Oath of Allegiance to King William and
Queen Mary. Lond. 1689, 4to.
Sermons on various Occasions. London, 1689-94, 4to. Glasgow, 1742, 12mo.
Some Passages of the Life and Death of John, (Wilmot) Earl of Rochester.
Lond. 1692, 1700, 8vo.
Discourse of the Pastoral Care. Lond. 1692, 4to.
Letter to the Bishop of Litchfield and Coventry, concerning a book
called, Specimen of some Errors and Defects in the History of the
Reformation. Lond. 1693, 4to.
Reflections on the History of the English Reformation. Amst. 4to.
Four Sermons to the Clergy of the Diocese of Sarum, Lond. 1694, 8vo.
Essay on the Memory of the late Queen Mary, consort to King William III.
Lond. 1695, 8vo.
Animadversions on Mr. Hill’s Vindication of the Primitive Fathers,
against Bishop Burnet. Lond. 1695, 4to.
Lent Sermon, preached before the King on 2 Cor. vi. 1. 1695, 4to.
Vindication of his Funeral Sermon on Archbishop Tillotson. Lond. 1696,
Thanksgiving for the Peace; a Sermon on 2 Chron. ix. 8. 1697, 4to.
The time when Christianity was made known; Christmas Sermon, on Gal. iv.
4. 1697, 4to.
Lent Sermon on Ephes. v. 2. 1697, 4to.
Exposition of the Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England. Lond.
1699, fol. 1700, 1720, fol.
Reflections on a Book, entitled The Rights, Powers, and Privileges of
the English Convocation, stated. Lond. 1700, 4to.
Charitable Reproof; a Sermon on Prov. xxvii. 5,6. 1700.
Defence, in Answer to the Prefatory Discourse. Lond. 1703, 4to.
On a Brief for the Exiles of Orange; a Sermon on 2 Cor. xii. 26, 27.
Collection of Tracts and Discourses, written in the years 1677 to 1704.
1704, 2 vols. 4to.
Exposition of the Church Catechism. Lond. 1710, 8vo.
Remarks on the Bishop of Salisbury’s Speech in relation to the first
Article of Dr. Sacheverell’s Impeachment. Nott. 1710. 4to.
Preface to the Introduction to the 3d vol. of the History of the
Reformation. Lond. 1713, 8vo.
Fourteen Sermons; with an Essay towards a New Book of Homilies, in Seven
Sermons. Lond. 1713, 8vo.
A Discourse of the Pastoral Care. Lond. 1713, 8vo.
Four Letters which passed between him and Mr. Henry Dodwell, published
by Mr. Rob. Nelson. London, 1713, 8vo.
Introduction to the 3d volume of the History of the Reformation. Lond.
Demonstrations of True Religion, in 16 Sermons, at Boyle’s Lecture.
Lond. 1726, 2 vols. 8vo.
History of his own Times. From the restoration of King Charles II. to
the conclusion of the Treaty of Peace at Utrecht in the reign of queen
Anne, published after his death. Lond. 1724-34, 2 vols. fol. Another
edit. 1725, 6 vols, 12mo. The best edition is that by Dr. Flaxman, with
Notes, Corrections, and Memoirs of the Author. Lond. 1753, 6 vols, 8vo.
Letters between him and Mr. Hutchinson on the foundation of Virtue and
Moral Goodness. London. 1735, 8vo.
Abridgement of the Sermons preached at Boyle’s Lectures. Lond. 1737, 4
Practical Sermons. Lond. 1747, 2 vols, 8vo.
Thoughts on Education, now first printed from an original Manuscript.
A Memorial offered to her Royal Highness the Princess Sophia,
Duchess-Dowager of Hanover; containing a Delineation of the Constitution
and Policy of England; with Anecdotes concerning Remarkable Persons of
that Time. 1815, 8vo.
Bishop Burnet left three sons. WILLIAM, his eldest son, was
educated as a gentleman-commoner in the university of Cambridge and made
choice of the profession of the law. He was a great sufferer in the
South Sea scheme of 1720, and became governor, first of New York and New
Jersey, and subsequently of Massachusetts and New Hampshire. He died at
Boston in 1729. He was the author of a tract, entitled ‘A View of
the second son, was educated at Leyden and Oxford for the church. He was
made king’s chaplain in 1718; and is said to have been a contributor to
a periodical published at Dublin in 1725-6-7, entitled ‘Hibernicus’s
Letters,’ and also to another called “The Freethinker.’ He distinguished
himself as a writer on the side of Bishop Hoadly in the Bangorian
controversy, and was considered by that eminent prelate as one of his
ablest defenders. In 1719 he published an abridgement of the third
volume of his father’s History of the Reformation. He died early.
Gilbert’s works are:
An Abridgement of the 3d vol. of his Father’s History of the
The Generation of the Son of God as taught in Scripture, considered.
Lond. 1720, 8vo.
On the Accession; a Sermon on Deut. iv. 6-8, 1725, 8vo.
A Letter to the Rev. Mr. Trapp, occasioned by his Sermon on the real
Nature of the Church and Kingdom of Christ.
An Answer to Mr. Law’s Letter to the Lord Bishop of Bangor.
A Full and Free Examination of several Important Points relating to
Church Authority, the Christian Priesthood, the Positive Institutions of
the Christian Religion, and Church Communion, in Answer to the Notions
and Principles contained in Mr. Law’s second Letter to the Lord Bishop
The Free Thinker, afterwards collected into 3 vols. 12mo.
Forty-eight Practical Sermons on Various Subjects. 1747, 2 vols, 8vo.
the third son, studied at Leyden and Oxford, and was destined for the
law. By his dissipation in early life, he gave his father much
uneasiness. In 1712 and 1713, he wrote several political pamphlets in
favour of the Whigs, and against the administration of the last four
years of Queen Anne. One of these caused his being taken into custody in
January 1713. One day being unusually grave, his father asked him what
was the subject of his meditation: – “My own reformation, my lord.” He
afterwards became one of the best lawyers of his time. He was for
several years his majesty’s consul at Lisbon; and in 1741 was appointed
one of the judges of the court of common pleas. He also received the
honour of knighthood, and was admitted a member of the Royal Society. He
died January 5, 1753. He was introduced by Pope into the Dunciad; and
some poems of his were published in 1777.
Sir Thomas Burnet’s works are:
A Letter to the People, to be left for them at the Booksellers, with a
word or two of the Band-Box Plot.
Our Ancestors as wise as we, or Ancient Precedents for Modern Facts, in
Answer to a Letter from a Noble Lord.
The History of Ingratitude, or a Second Part of Ancient Precedents for
Truth, if you can find it; or a character of the present Ministry and
A certain Information of a certain Discourse that happened at a certain
Gentleman’s House, in a certain Country, written by a certain Person
then present, to a certain Friend now at London, from whence you may
collect the great certainty of the Account.
Some new Proofs, by which it appears, that the Pretender is truly James
the Third: the whole of these published in 1712-13. anon.
The Necessity of Impeaching the late Ministry, in a Letter to the Earl
of Halifax. Lond. 1715, 8vo.
A Travestie of the First Book of the Iliad, under the title of Homerides
in conjunction with Mr. Ducket. 1715.
The First Volume of his Father’s History of his own Time, with
Explanatory Notes. 1723.
Some remarks in defence of the preceding. 1732.
The Second Volume of his Father’s History, to which he added, A Life of
that eminent Prelate. 1734.
Verses written on several occasions, between the years 1712-21. Lond.
(Sir), an eminent physician of the seventeenth century, a brother of the
celebrated Bishop Burnet, practised at Edinburgh, and had the degree of
M.D. Very little is known concerning him. On the title-pages of his
books he styled himself “Medicus Regius, et Collegii Regii Medicorum
Edinburgensis Socius.’ He was a friend of Sir Robert Sibbald, and joined
with him in a formal declaration against some oppressive and
unwarrantable proceedings of the College of Physicians at Edinburgh, in
relation to the summary suspension of some of the members, which
declaration is dated 20th November 1699. The date of his
death is unknown. He left two very useful works, the titles of which
Thesaurus Medicinae Practicae praestantissimorum observationibus
collectus. Lond. 1673, 4to. A collection from the best practical
writers, and treating of 410 diseases, with their causes, signs, and
methods of cure. In the end he gives some account of Ruminating Man. Of
this work twelve editions are enumerated by Haller, the last of which,
greatly enlarged by the author was published at Geneva, in 1698, 4to.
Hypocrates contractus, in quo Hipocratis omnia in brevem epitomen
reducta debentur. Edin. 8vo, 1685. a neat edition of this work was
published at London in 1748.
an eminent lawyer, and a learned and ingenious writer, better known by
his judicial title of Lord Monboddo, son of James Burnet, Esq. of
Monboddo, and Elizabeth, only sister of Sir Arthur Forbes of Craigievar,
Bart., was born in 1714, at the family seat in Kincardineshire. He was
educated at home, under Dr. Francis Skene, afterwards professor of
philosophy in Marischal college, Aberdeen, and was subsequently sent to
study at that university, where he distinguished himself by his
proficiency in ancient literature, the study of which, in after life,
became his ruling passion. Being designed for the bar, according to the
custom at the time he repaired to Holland to study the civil law, and
after attending for three years the lectures in the university of
Groningen, he came to Edinburgh, where he arrived on the forenoon of
September 7, 1736, and that night was an involuntary witness of the
famous Porteous Mob. His lodgings were in the Lawnmarket, near the
Bowhead, and when about to retire to rest, his curiosity was excited by
a noise and tumult in the street. In place of going to bed he slipped to
the door half undressed, and with his nightcap on his head. He speedily
got entangled in the crowd, and was hurried along with it to the
Grassmarket, where the unfortunate Captain Porteous was summarily
executed by the mob. This scene made so deep an impression on his mind
as not only to deprive him of sleep during the remainder of the night,
but to induce him to think of leaving the city altogether. Being by some
one who knew him recognised in the crowd, in the sort of disguise which
his half dressed condition seemed to indicate, he was in danger of being
brought into trouble for his unwilling share in the transaction of that
memorable night, and was only saved from being implicated by being able
to prove that he had only that very day arrived in Edinburgh fro
pursuing his studies on the continent, and consequently knew nothing of
the matter till borne away with the crowd, as above stated. In after
life his lordship frequently related this incident, and described with
much force the effect which it had upon him at the time.
He passed his civil law examinations upon the 12th of
February 1737, and, being found duly qualified, was admitted a member of
the faculty of advocates. His practice at the bar, in course of time,
came to be considerable, but he may be said to have been first brought
prominently into notice in consequence of being engaged as counsel for
Mr. Douglas, in the celebrated Douglas cause. In his client’s behalf he
went thrice to France to assist in leading the proof taken there. In
1764 he was appointed sheriff of his native county, Kincardineshire, and
on the 12th February 1767, he was, through the interest of
the duke of Queensberry, then lord-justice-general, raised to the bench
of the court of session, as successor to Lord Milton, when he assumed
the title of Lord Monboddo. His first work was on the ‘Origin and
Progress of Language,’ the first volume of which appeared in 1771, the
second in 1773, and the third in 1776. This work was so severely
criticised in the ‘Edinburgh Magazine and Review,’ by Dr. Gilbert
Stuart, its editor, that it is said the downfall of that publication,
from the general offence which the article gave, was the consequence.
His greatest work he styled ‘Ancient Metaphysics,’ or the Science of
Universals, with an appendix, containing an Examination of Sir Isaac
Newton’s Philosophy, also in 3 vols, 4to. the first published in 1778,
and the last in 1799, only a few weeks before his death. Lord Monboddo
was an enthusiastic admirer of the works of Plato and the Grecian
philosophers. He carried his enthusiasm in favour of classical
literature so far as to get up suppers in imitation of the ancients.
These he called his learned suppers. He gave them once a-week,
and his guests generally were Drs. Black, Hutton, and Hope, and Mr.
William Smellie, printer, including occasionally Mr. Alexander Smellie,
his son. His lordship was very partial to a boiled egg, and often used
to say, “Show me any of your French cooks, who can make a dish like
Lord Monboddo’s writings contain many acute and interesting
observations, but they, at the same time, exhibit some peculiar and very
singular opinions. He was a firm believer in the existence of satyrs and
mermaids, and in his dissertation on the ‘Origin and Progress of
Language,’ he advanced some whimsical theories, relative to a supposed
affinity between the human race and the monkey tribe, particularly that
the former “were originally gifted with tails,” an assertion which
exposed him to a good deal of ridicule on the first publication of that
work. It was in allusion to this extraordinary idea that Lord Kames, to
whom he would on a certain occasion have conceded precedency, declined
it, saying, “By no means, my lord, you must walk first that I may see
your tail!” His patrimonial estate was small, producing only during his
life about three hundred pounds a-year, yet he would never raise his
rents, nor dismiss a poor tenant for the sake of obtaining an increase
from a new one. It was his boast to have his lands more numerously
peopled than any estate of equal size in the neighbourhood. When in the
country, during the vacation of the court of session, he wore the dress
of a plain farmer, and lived on a looting of familiarity with his
tenantry, which greatly endeared him to them. His private life was spent
in the enjoyment of domestic felicity and in the practice of all the
social virtues. though his habits were rigidly temperate, he took great
delight in the convivial society of his friends. He was a zealous patron
of merit, and amongst those who experienced his friendship was the poet
Burns. An annual journey to London became a favourite recreation of his
during the vacations of the court of session. He first began the
practice in 1780, and continued it for many years, till he was upwards
of eighty years of age. In May 1785, during one of these visits to the
metropolis, he was present in the Court of King’s Bench, when an alarm
was raised that the court room was falling, and judges, lawyers, and
audience, rushed simultaneously towards the door. Lord Monboddo,
however, being short-sighted and rather deaf, sat still unconcerned; and
on being asked why he did not bestir himself to avoid being buried in
the ruins, coolly replied, “That he thought it was an annual ceremony,
with which, as an alien to the English laws, he had nothing to do.” He
performed all his journeys between Edinburgh and London on horseback,
with a single servant attending him. A carriage, a vehicle that was not
in common use among the ancients, he considered as an effeminate
conveyance; to be dragged at the tails of horses, instead of being
mounted on their backs, seemed in his eyes to be a ludicrous degradation
of the genuine dignity of human nature. He continued this practice till
he was upwards of eighty years of age. On his return from his last
visit, he became very ill on the road, and unable to proceed, and had he
not been overtaken by his friend, Sir John Pringle, who prevailed upon
him to travel the remainder of the stage in a carriage, he might perhaps
have perished on his journey. While in London he often went to court,
and the king is said to have taken pleasure in his conversation. He died
at Edinburgh May 26, 1799, at the advanced age of 85.
The following is a portrait of Lord Monboddo by Kay:
In spite of his eccentricities, Lord Monboddo was a man of real learning
and ability, an acute lawyer, and an upright judge. He did not generally
assent to the decisions of his colleagues. On the contrary, he was often
in the minority , and not unfrequently stood alone, and more than once
had the gratification of having his decision confirmed in the House of
Peers, when it was directly opposed to the unanimous opinion of his
brethren. Even in his official capacity many peculiarities marked his
lordship’s conduct. Amongst these was his never sitting on the bench
with the other judges, but underneath with the clerks; but though this
practice was said to have been owing to the circumstance of their
lordships having on one occasion decerned against him, in a case when he
was pursuer for the value of a horse, and it which he pleaded his own
cause at the bar, the deafness under which he laboured affords a much
more satisfactory reason. the first time he sat there was upon occasion
of the decision of the Douglas cause, when having been originally, as
mentioned above, the leading counsel on behalf of Mr. (afterwards Lord)
Douglas, he felt a delicacy in giving his opinion from the bench, and
preferred delivering it at the clerk’s table. His speech in favour of
the paternity is admitted to have been the most able one on that side of
the question. His character is thus summed up in the first four lines of
an epitaph written on him by the unfortunate James Tytler, who had
experienced his benevolence:
“If wisdom, learning, worth demand a tear,
Weep o’er the dust of great Monboddo here;
A judge upright, to mercy still inclined,
A gen’rous friend, a father fond and kind.”
married, about 1760, the beautiful Miss Farquharson, a relative of
Marshal Keith, by whom he had a son and two daughters. His wife died in
childbed; his son died young, and his second daughter was cut off by
consumption at the early age of twenty-five. Her beauty was thus, in his
‘Address to Edinburgh,’ celebrated by Burns:
“Thy daughters bright thy walks adorn!
Gay as the gilded summer sky,
Sweet as the dewy milk-white thorn,
Dear as the raptured thrill of joy!
Fair Burnet strikes th’ adoring eye,
Heaven’s beauties on my fancy shine;
I see the Sire of love on high,
And own his work indeed divine.”
her early death was most touchingly commemorated by him, in his ‘Elegy
on the late Miss Burnet of Monboddo,’ of which the following are the
“Life ne’er exulted in so rich a prize
As Burnet, lovely from her native skies;
Nor envious death so triumph’d in a blow,
As that which laid the accomplish’d Burnet low.
Thy form and mind, sweet maid, can I forget?
In richest ore the brightest jewel set!
In thee, high Heaven above was truest shown,
As by his noblest work the Godhead best is
In vain ye flaunt in summer’s pride, ye groves;
Thou crystal streamlet with thy flowery
Ye woodland choir that chaunt your idle loves.
Ye cease to charm – Eliza is no more!
was a frequent guest at 13 John Street, Lord Monboddo’s town residence,
during the poet’s stay in Edinburgh in 1788. His lordship’s eldest
daughter was married to the late Kirkpatrick Williamson, Esq., formerly
his clerk, afterwards keeper of the Outer House rolls. – Scots
Magazine for 1797. – Tytler’s Life of Lord Kaimes. – Kay’s Edinburgh
a landscape painter of great promise, fourth son of George Burnet,
general surveyor of excise in Scotland, and Anne Cruikshank, his wife,
was born at Musselburgh in 1788. The family belonged originally to
Aberdeen. He early displayed a taste for drawing, and with his brother
John, who is acknowledged the first modern engraver in Europe, received
instructions in the studio of Scott, the landscape painter. He
afterwards studied at the Trustees’ academy, under Graham, and was
noticed for the natural truth and beauty of his delineations. In 1810 he
arrived in London. “He had sought,” says his biographer, Allan
Cunningham, “what he wanted in the academy, but found it not; he
therefore determined, like Gainsborough, to make nature his academy; and
with a pencil and sketch-book he might be seen wandering about the
fields around London, noting down scenes which caught his fancy, and
peopling them with men pursuing their avocations, and with cattle of all
colours, and in all positions.” His first picture was ‘Cattle going out
in the Morning,’ which was soon followed by ‘Cattle returning Home in a
shower.’ The latter placed him in the first rank as a pastoral painter.
Ten other productions of his are mentioned with great praise, mostly
cattle-pieces. Several of those pictures were eagerly sought after, and
purchased by different noblemen at high prices, others were reserved for
his relations and friends. This promising young artist resided in his
latter days near Lee, in Kent, the beautiful churchyard of which was one
of his favourite resorts. He died of consumption, July 27, 1816, aged 28
years, and was buried at Lewisham. – Allan Cunningham’s Lives of
founder of the literary prizes at Aberdeen, was born in that city in
1729. His father was an eminent merchant there, and he himself, after
receiving a liberal education, in the year 1750 commenced business on
his own account as a general merchant. His parents were of the episcopal
communion, but though educated in that profession and undoubtedly a man
of piety and virtue, he himself never attended public worship; his
religious sentiments not being in unison with those of any Christian
church. Having acquired a fortune in trade, about 1773 he and one of his
brothers, who had then returned from India, discharged the debts of
their father, paying on his account between £7,000 and £8,000. He was
never married, and died November 9, 1784. His small landed estate of
Dens in Buchan, Aberdeenshire, was inherited by his brother, and
afterwards by his nephew. With the exception of this property, and of
some moderate legacies and annuities to various relatives, the remainder
of his fortune was bequeathed to charitable purposes. A small portion he
directed to be set apart, annually, and allowed to accumulate, first,
for two prizes on subjects prescribed; and, secondly, for the benefit of
the poor of Aberdeen. This accumulated fund is for ever to be applied to
its objects at the end of every fortieth year. The accumulation of the
first 25 years, if not less than £1,600, was to be given thus: £1,200
for the best essay, and £400 for the next in merit, on “the evidence
that there is a Being, all-powerful, wise, and good, by whom everything
exists; and particularly to obviate difficulties regarding the wisdom
and goodness of the Deity; and this, in the first place, from
considerations independent of written revelation, and, in the second
place, from the revelation of the Lord Jesus; and from the whole to
point out the inferences most necessary and useful to mankind.” The
premiums were to be awarded by three judges, chosen by the principals
and professors of King’s and Marischal colleges, the established clergy
of Aberdeen, and the trustees of the testator. These prizes were first
announced to the public in 1807, and repeated notices were given in the
newspapers of their amount, and the subject and conditions of the
essays, one of which was that they were to be given in on 1st
January 1814. On that occasion the judges awarded the prizes in favour
of the treatises of William Laurence Brown, D.D., then principal of
Marischal college, and the Rev. John Bird Sumner, of Eton college,
afterwards archbishop of Canterbury, which have both been published.
author of a valuable treatise on various branches of the Criminal Law of
Scotland, was born at Aberdeen about 1764. He was the son of William
Burnett, procurator-at-law in that city, and, having been educated for
the bar, was admitted advocate December 10, 1785. In 1792 he was
appointed advocate-depute; and, in October 1803, on the resignation of
law of Elvingston, was created sheriff of Haddingtonshire. In April
1810, on the death of the learned R.H. Cay, he was appointed
judge-admiral of Scotland. He was also for some time standing counsel
for his native city. He died December 8, 1810, while engaged printing
his work on the Criminal Law.
Entries for this name in the Dictionary of National Biography