FERGUSON, or FERGUSSON,
the surname (son of Fergus) of a Highland sept, which had its seat on the
borders of the counties of Perth and Forfar, immediately to the north of
Dunkeld, and the distinctive badge of which was the little sunflower. In
the Roll of 1587, they are named as among the septs of Mar and Athol,
where their proper seat as a clan originally lay, having chiefs and
captains of their own. In Galloway, the Craigdarroch Fergussons, of whom
afterwards, have flourished from an early date, and in Fife the Fergusons
of Raith have long held a high position as landholders.
In Ayrshire, the
family of Fergusson of Kilkerran have been settled from an early period.
From the loss of most of the early writings of the family, their origin
and first settlement in that county has not been ascertained. Robert the
Bruce granted a charter to Fergusio Fergusii filio, (Fergus the son of
Fergus,) and King James the Third granted one, dated 21st April
1466, to Fergusio Fergusson and Janetae Kennedy, his spouse, This last
is the first clear and undoubted charter of the family to be met with in
the public register, and from this Fergus Fergusson, who was the son of
John Fergusson of Kilkerran, knight, who was possessed of a large estate
in the shire of Ayr, and also of property in Galloway, but having by his
adherence to the interest of Charles the First, for which he was knighted,
contracted large debts, and his estate being forfeited, the lands of
Kilkerran were adjudged from his eldest son, Alexander, and transferred to
the lord Bargeny. Honourable mention is made of him in Burnets Memoirs of
the Dukes of Hamilton, as one who had firmly adhered to the king, and who
had received several marks of his majestys favour. He had four sons:
Alexander, who succeeded his father; James and John, who were both
captains in the army during the civil wars, and died unmarried; and Simon,
proprietor of the lands of Auchinwin, and other parts of the estate of
Kilkerran, which he acquired by adjudication led at his instance against
John, afterwards Sir John Fergusson, acquired considerable wealth as an
advocate, and with the concurrence of his cousin, Alexander Fergusson, and
of John Fergusson, son of the latter, he advanced the money necessary for
clearing off the adjudication of the lands held by Lord Bargeny; and
Alexander, with his sons John and William, having, by a formal declaration
in his favour, renounced their right to the estate, or to the reversion
thereof, Sir John assumed the title of Fergusson of Kilkerran; of which
family, upon the extinction of the male issue of Alexander Fergusson and
his sons, his descendants became, of course, the lineal representatives.
Nisbet (Heraldry, vol. i. p. 412) states that John, the eldest son
of Alexander, the heir to Kilkerran, with his father, sold these lands to
Sir John, the first baronet, in the year 1700. He also adds that he saw a
separate writ, signed by Alexander, the father and the sons, John and
William, by which they renounced all interest and title to the lands, and
wished a happy enjoyment thereof to the said Sir John, and his; yet still
the primogeniture and right of blood, as heir male, is in the person of
William Fergusson of Auchinblain, who acquired that property by marriage
with the eldest daughter and coheiress of John Kennedy of Auchinblain. In
1703 Sir John was created a baronet, by patent, from Queen Anne, to him
and the heirs male of his body. He died in 1729. By his wife, Jean,
daughter of James Whiteford of Dinduff, he had two sons, the second of
whom, Adam, a major in the army, died in 1770.
The elder son,
Sir James, second baronet, an eminent lawyer, was admitted advocate, 20th
February, 1711, and elected member for the county of Sutherland in
parliament, in 1734. He was appointed a lord of session 7th
November 1735, when he took the judicial title of Lord Kilkerran, and
nominated a lord of justiciary, 3d April 1749. He died 20th
January 1759, aged seventy-one. He collected the decisions of the court of
session from 1738 to 1753, digested in the form of a dictionary, which
were published by his son in 1775. Lord Woodhouselee states that he was
one of the ablest lawyers of his time, and in his Life of Lord Kames (vol.
i.) He gives a very high character of him. By his wife, Lady Jean
Maitland, only child of James, Lord Maitland, eldest son of James earl of
Lauderdale, he had nine sons and five daughters, but only five of the
former attained the age of manhood, namely, John, cornet in Sir John
Mordaunts dragoons, who died in the 22d year of his age, unmarried; Adam,
who succeeded his father; Charles, a merchant in London, who married Anne,
daughter of John Fordyce, Esq. of Ayton, and was father of James, who
succeeded as fourth baronet; George, a lord of session under the title of
Lord Hermand, of whom afterwards; and James, who died in the island of
Tobago in 1778. The youngest daughter, Helen, married Sir David Dalrymple,
the celebrated Lord Hailes, senator of the college of justice, and lord of
mentioned, the eighth but fourth surviving son, was admitted advocate 17th
December 1765, appointed a lord of session, 11th July 1799,
when he took the title of Lord Hermand, from a small estate of that name
which he possessed about sixteen miles west of Edinburgh, and was
constituted a lord of justiciary, 4th August, 1808. He was one
of the last of the old race of Scottish advocates, and when on the bench
was distinguished by his hasty temper, sarcastic remarks, and other
peculiarities. He was a great favourite with the younger advocates
especially, and at the convivial board, his vast store of anecdotes and
amusing stories, with a vein of dry caustic humour peculiarly his own,
rendered his society most fascinating. He was a keep farmer, and during
the vacations of the court of session, spent his time entirely in the
country. He was, however, a capital lawyer, and an honest upright judge.
In Peters Letters to his Kinfolk it is stated that he was so much
delighted with the picture of the life of the old Scottish lawyers in Guy
Mannering, that when that novel came out, he carried it about with him,
and actually read aloud a passage from it from the bench! He married Miss
Graham MDowall, daughter of William MDowall of Garthland, Esq., but had
no issue. He resigned his offices as a lord of session and justiciary in
1826, and died at Hermand 9th August 1827, upwards of eighty
years of age. He left the liferent of his estate of Hermand to his widow;
and, after her death, to her niece, the wife of Thomas Maitland, Esq.,
advocate, (afterwards a lord of session under the title of Lord Dundrennan,)
and their second son; with special legacies to the second son of each of
his other nieces, Mrs. Cockburn and Mrs. Fullerton, the wives of Lords
Cockburn and Fullerton, also lords of session.
The second son
of the second baronet, Sir Adam, third baronet, was M.P. from 1774 to
1796, having sat for Ayrshire eighteen years, and for the city of
Edinburgh, four. On the death of the last earl of Glencairn in 1796, Sir
Adam Fergusson entered a claim to the House of Lords for the titles of
earl of Glencairn and Lord Kilmaurs, as lineally descended from, and
heir-general to, Alexander Cunningham, created earl of Glencairn in 1488,
and to Alexander, earl of Glencairn, who died in 1670, whose eldest
daughter, Lady Margaret Cunningham, was the wife of John earl of
Lauderdale, and mother of James Lord Maitland, Sir Adams grandfather. The
judgment of the Lords was: That Sir Adam Fergusson has shown himself to
be heir-general of Alexander earl of Glencairn, who died in 1670, but hath
not made out the right of such heir to the dignity of earl of Glencairn.
He died 23d September 1813, without issue.
James, already mentioned, born 22d October 1765, became fourth baronet. He
was twice married; first, to his cousin Jean, daughter of Sir David
Dalrymple, baronet, Lord Hailes, (by Helen, his wife, daughter of Lord
Kilkerran,) issue, a son, Charles Dalrymple, his successor, and two
daughters; 2dly, to Henrietta, daughter of Admiral Viscount Duncan, issue,
8 sons and 5 daughters. He died 14th April 1838.
His eldest son,
Sir Charles Dalrymple Fergusson, burn 26th August 1800, became
an advocate in 1822. He was a member of the Speculative Society, and at
its meetings read two essays, one on the Origin and Progress of Criminal
Jurisprudence, and another on the History of Painting. He married Helen,
second daughter of Right Hon. David Boyle, lord-justice-general of
Scotland, issue two sons and five daughters. On the death of his aunt,
Miss Christian Dalrymple of New Hailes, 9th January 1839, he
succeeded her in that estate (see DALRYMPLE, Sir David, Lord Hailes), and
died in 1851.
His eldest son,
Sir James Fergusson, born in Edinburgh 11th March 1832, became
the sixth baronet. Educated at Rugby, and appointed lieutenant and captain
of the grenadier guards in 1851, he was wounded at the battle of Inkermann.
He retired from the army in 1855, and became lieutenant of the Ayrshire
yeomanry, and lieutenant-colonel Royal Ayrshire Rifles in 1858. In 1853 he
was appointed a deputy-lieutenant of Ayrshire, and was M.P. for that
county from Dec. 1854 to April 1857; re-elected in Oct. 1859. He married
Lady Edith Christian, 2d daughter of 1st Marquis of Dalhousie.
In Ayrshire were
also the Fergussons of Monkwood. John Fergusson of Doonhohn, one of the
most enterprising British merchants of his day in Calcutta, where he
established an extensive mercantile house, which long continued to
perpetuate his name, left the following bequests, namely one thousand
pounds, the interest of which to be divided yearly between the two
ministers of Ayr, and the same sum for behoof of the public teachers of
that town, which formed the germ of the fund for the formation of the Ayr
Academy established in 1798; also one thousand pounds for the behoof of
the poor of Ayr. His descendant, James Fergusson of Monkwood, born in
1769, passed advocate in 1791, was a member of the Speculative Society,
and became one of the principal clerks of the court of session. In 1817 he
published Reports of Decisions by the Consistorial Court of Scotland in
Actions of Divorce, having been previously a judge in that court; and in
1829, A Treatise on the present state of the Consistorial Law in
Scotland, with Reports of Decided Cases. He died in 1842.
of Craigdarroch are of old standing in the parish of Glencairn,
Dumfries-shire, and several families derive their origin from them. Burns
celebrates them as
that have struggled for freedom with Bruce.
According to an
account of the family inserted in the Appendix to Nisbets Heraldry (vol.
ii. p. 97), the first charter that is extant among the family muniments
was granted by John of Crawford, son of the laird of Dalgarnock, to John
Fergusson dominus de Craigdarroch, his cousin, pro suo consilio et
auxilio, of the mill of Balmacannie in Jedburgh, barony of Glencairn,
Dumfries-shire. This charter is without a date, but is supposed, from the
names of the witnesses, to have been executed in the early half of the
Fergusson of Craigdarroch who, in 1484, was infeft as son and heir of
Matthew Fergusson of Craigdarroch, lineally descended Alexander Fergusson
of Craigdarroch, chosen M.P. in 1717, who married Anne, daughter of Sir
Robert Lawrie of Maxwelton, and had, with a daughter, Jean, married in
1731 to Robert Riddell, Esq. of Glenriddel, two sons, James and Robert,
from one of whom descended Alexander Fergusson, Esq. of Craigdarroch, an
eminent advocate, so famous for wit, worth, and law, the hero of Burns
ballad of The Whistle.
His eldest son,
the Right Hon. Robert Cutlar Fergusson of Craigdarroch, celebrated as an
accomplished lawyer and scholar, was born in 1768. Besides his own family
he was the representative also of the old and honourable family of the
Cutlars of Orroland in the stewartry of Kirkcudbright. One of his
ancestors was among the first that signed the solemn league and covenant;
another headed a small handfull of men, who, in 1651, defeated a portion
of Cromwells army at Glencairn; and another fell at the battle of
received a liberal education, and early gave proofs of future eminence.
Mrs. Riddell of Glenriddell, writing to Mr. William Smellie, the
celebrated naturalist, in 1793, thus mentions him: Craigdarroch has a
source of happiness and comfort few parents can boast of, in his eldest
son, who seems everything that is elegant and accomplished. From some
hints contained in the same letter, and others to be found in Kerrs Life
of Smellie, it appears that young Fergusson was an admirer of the
writings of Mirabeau and the French Jacobins. His political opinions being
liberal in the extreme, he became a member of the friends of the people,
and connected himself with Lord Daer and the other parliamentary reformers
of that period. So early as 1792 he had published a pamphlet entitled The
proposed Reform in the Representation of the Counties of Scotland
intention of studying the English law, Mr. Fergusson entered at Lincolns
Inn, and was called to the bar in July 1797. Being connected with Arthur
OConnor and others, who were apprehended when going to France with
OCoighly, he was in the court at Maidstone during their trial for high
treason, and an attempt having been made to assist OConnor in his escape,
the earl of Thanet and Mr. Fergusson were charted with joining in the
rescue; for which they were tried, and being found guilty, were sentenced
to twelve months imprisonment his lordship in the Tower of London, and
Mr. Fergusson in the Kings Bench prison. On this occasion he published
Proceedings against the Earl of Thanet, Robert Fergusson, Esq., and
others, upon an information, ex officio, for a Riot; to which are
added Observations on his own case, 1799, 8vo.
afterwards proceeded to Calcutta, and commenced there the practice of his
profession. His success was so great that he was soon regarded as the head
of that bar, and he acted for some time as attorney-general. After a
brilliant career of about twenty years, he returned to his native country
with a liberal fortune; and at the general election in 1826, was chosen
member of parliament for the stewartry of Kirkcudbright, which he
continued to represent till his death. In 1834 he was appointed
judge-advocate-general, and sworn a privy councillor on the 16th
of July. He resigned this office on Sir Robert Peel being nominated prime
minister, but was re-installed on the return of Lord Melbourne to power.
Late in life he married a french lady, named De Beauchamp, by whom he had
two children. He died November 16, 1838, and was succeeded by his son,
Robert Fergusson, Esq. of Craigdarroch and Orroland.
A family of the
name of Fergusson possessed the estate of Auchtererne in Cromar, from the
time of David the Second to that of James the Fifth, when it seems to have
become extinct. Another family of the name possessed the lands of
Badiforrow, near Inverury, in the sixteenth century, and afterwards
acquired the estate of Pitfour, in the parish of Old Deer. One of the
later members of this family, James Fergusson of Pitfour, was
distinguished, in his day, by his agricultural improvements, planting,
&c., and was the first to introduce the alternate system of husbandry on
A family of the
same name possess the lands of Kinmundy, in the same county. The ancestor
of this branch of the name is said to have settled in Aberdeenshire about
the year 1690.
The family of
Ferguson of Raith in Fife is also an ancient one. They have possessed that
estate since the death of the first earl of Melville, to whom it belonged,
in 1797. The uncle of the present representative of the family, Robert
Ferguson, Esq. of Raith, M.P. for the Kircaldy district of burghs, and
lord-lieutenant of the county of Fife, was the eldest son of William
Ferguson, Esq., by Jane, daughter of Ronald Crawford of Restalrig, and
sister of Margaret, countess of Dumfries. He was elected in 1806 for
Fifeshire, and in 1831 was returned for the Kirkcaldy district of burghs.
In 1835 he was chosen for Haddingtonshire, but at the general election of
1837 he was defeated by Lord Ramsay, and again returned for Kirkcaldy. He
was a cordial supporter of the measures of the Whig government, and died
3d December 1840. He married Mary, only child and heiress of William
Hamilton Nisbet, Esq. of Dirleton, who had previously been countess of
Elgin, but had no children by her.
General Sir Ronald Crawford Ferguson, colonel of the 79th
regiment, and M.P. for Nottingham, succeeded him, but died 10th
April 1841, aged 68. He was born at Raith House in 1773, and entered the
army at the age of seventeen as an ensign in the 53d foot, and in 1793,
with the rank of captain, accompanied his regiment to Flanders. With the
14th and 37th regiments it was formed into a
brigade, commanded by Sir Ralph Abercromby, which served at Valencinnes
and Dunkirk. In the course of this campaign Captain Ferguson received a
severe wound in the knee. In 1794 he became major in the 84th
foot. Upon a second battalion being raised, he was appointed
lieutenant-colonel of that regiment, and was employed in the reduction of
the Cape of Good Hope. In 1800 he attained the rank of colonel, and was
employed in the expedition under Brigadier-general Maitland, destined to
attack various ports on the French coast. In 1804 he was appointed
brigadier-general, with the command of the York district, and at the
conclusion of 1805 he was appointed to the command of the Highland
brigade, consisting of the 71st, 72d, and 93d regiments, in the
expedition under Major-general Sir David Baird, for the recapture of the
Cape of Good Hope. On the surrender of Capt Town, 10th February
1806, ill health obliged him to return to England. In 1808, with the rank
of major-general, he was appointed to the command of a brigade under Sir
Arthur Wellesley, (afterwards duke of Wellington,) who, in his despatches
relating to the battles of Roleia and Vimiera, fully detailed the
operations of the troops under Major-general Ferguson, and dwelt with high
commendation on the conduct of their commander. After the convention of
Cintra, he returned to England, and was examined by the court of Inquiry
appointed on that business. He was presented with an honorary medal by his
majesty for his distinguished conduct, and included in a vote of thanks
which both houses of parliament bestowed upon the gallant officers engaged
at Roleia and Vimiera. On 25th January 1809, he was appointed
colonel of the Sicilian regiment, and in the same year was nominated to a
command in the army under Sir David Baird; but he did not arrive at
Corunna until the British troops had quitted that place. In the following
year he was appointed second in command at Cadiz, but in a few months the
return of a liver complaint, to which he was subject, rendered it
necessary for him to resign his command and repair to England. On 4th
June 1813, he received the rank of lieutenant-general, and in 1814 he was
appointed second in command of the troops in Holland. At the enlargement
of the order of the Bath in 1815, he was nominated a knight commander, and
subsequently a grand cross. He attained the full rank of general 22d July
1830. He first sat in parliament for the Kirkcaldy burghs, and
subsequently for Nottingham.
son, Robert Ferguson, Esq., born in 1802, succeeded to the estate of Raith,
and in January 1841 became M.P. for the Kirkcaldy burghs. He married in
1859, Emma, daughter of James Henry Mandeville, Esq.
one of the early ministers of the Church of Scotland, supposed to have
been descended from a respectable family of that surname in Ayrshire, was
born about 1532, and received his education in the university of Glasgow.
In 1559, he was one of the reformed teachers, and appears first to have
been settled at Carnock, but in July 1560 the committee of parliament,
when distributing ministers to the chief places in the kingdom, alloted
Mr. Ferguson to the town of Dunfermline. He was moderator of the Assembly
which met at Edinburgh on the 6th of March 1573, and again on
the 24th October 1578, and was usually afterwards, for many
years, chosen one of the assessors to the moderator, to prepare matters to
be treated in the Assembly. He took a prominent part in all the
ecclesiastical proceedings of the period, and was one of the ministers who
were with the regent Morton previous to his execution, June 2, 1581. On
that occasion, with two of his brethren, he was sent to the king at
Holyroodhouse, to report to him the exact truth of Mortons confession. In
1582 he was appointed by the Assembly, commissioner for the west end of
Fife, to plant ministers and establish churches in that district, and was
often one of the ministers sent to wait upon the king on the affairs of
the church. In July 1583, when Mr. Robert Pont, Mr. Robert Lindsay, and
Mr. John Davidson were directed, by the presbytery of Edinburgh, to go to
the king at Falkland, and admonish him to beware of innovations at court,
&c., they were accompanied thither by Mr. Ferguson. On being admitted to
the kings cabinet, his majesty asked where were all their admonitions
that time twelvemonth? Mr. Ferguson replied, If it were not for love of
your grace, we could have found another place to have spoken our minds
than here; which saying made the king to shrink in his face, Fr.
Ferguson then merrily said, Sir, I would there were not a surname in
Scotland, for they make all the cummer. The king answered, And so would
I. No, Sir, he continued in the same strain, if you go to surnames
with it, I will reckon with the best of you in antiquity, for King Fergus
was the first king in Scotland, and I am Ferguson-son; but, always,
because, Sir, you are an honest man, and hath the possession, I will give
you my right, which put the king in a good humour, and he exclaimed,
See, will you hear him! He afterwards said, There was no king in Europe
would have suffered the things that he had suffered; to which Mr.
Ferguson answered, I would not have you like any other king in Europe.
What are they all but murderers of the saints of God? the king of France
especially; but you have been otherwise brought up. I am catholic king
of Scotland, said the king, and may choose any that I like best to be
company with me, and I like them best that are with me for the present.
Some of the ministers were not well pleased with this speech. Mr.
Ferguson, addressing them, said, No, brethren, he is universal king, and
may make choice of his company, as David did, in the 110th
Psalm. He had previously told the king that he had seen his version in
metre of that psalm, and, commending it highly, he exhorted him that, as
he had acquainted himself especially with it, so he should follow Davids
example. On Mr. Davidson making some severe remarks to the king, Mr.
Ferguson, fearing that he was going too far, said to his majesty, There
was no wisdom in keeping the murderers that slew his good-schir and
father, or their posterity, about him. He subsequently directed his
speech to Colonel Stewart, (created earl of Arran,) the kings favourite
at that time, and exhorted him to beware what counsel he gave to the king;
for, assure yourself, said he, if you counsel him to place and displace
the nobility as you please, they will not bear it at your hands, who is
but a mean man. The colonel, we are told, stormed at the first, but was
soon glad to cool down. After some fair speeches, they took their leave,
the king laying his hands upon every one of them. [Calderwoods Hist.
of the Kirk of Scotland, vol. iii. p. 717, and App. vol. viii. pp.
247, 248.] In the following month he and six other ministers were cited by
the king to attend a convention at St. Andrews, when they appeared and
gave in a paper, in answer to certain allegations made against them, but
nothing of importance was done, except the issuing of a new proclamation
against those engaged in the Raid of Ruthven.
On the renewal
of the covenant of the synod of Fife, 12th May 1596, after an
exhortation and address by the moderator, Mr. Ferguson spoke, says
Melville, very pleasantly and comfortably of the beginning and success
of the reformation in Scotland, when the ministers were few in number,
only six, whereof he was one, but they went mightily forward in the work,
without fear or care of the world, and prevailed, when there was no
mention of stipend, and the authorities, both ecclesiastical and civil,
opposed themselves, and scarcely a man of name or reputation gave the
cause their support; but now it had fallen to that, that the fear of
flattery of men, care of getting, or fear of losing stipend and means of
life, had weakened the hearts of a multitude of ministers, and others. He
concluded by joining to his remarks an exhortation suitable to the
occasion. [Melvilles Diary, p. 236.]
At the meeting
of the synod of Fife in February 1597, Mr. Ferguson, the oldest minister
at that time in Scotland, spoke gravely, clearly, and at length, against
the bishops, showing how that the corruptions of that office had been
espied by the Church of Scotland from the beginning, and what pains had
been taken both in doctrine from the pulpits and in assemblies, for
purging and altogether putting away thereof, but now he perceived a design
of erecting them again, conveyed in such a manner as he could compare to
nothing better than that which the Greeks used for the overthrow of the
ancient city and kingdom of Troy, busking up a brave horse, and by a
crafty Sinon persuading them to pluck down the walls with their own hands,
to receive that in for their honour and welfare, which served for their
utter wreck and destruction. Therefore, he would, with the brethren who
had given good warning, cry, Equo ne credite Teucri!
died the following year (1598). Three years before, his daughter Grizel
was married to Mr. John Row, minister of Carnock, one of the sons of Mr.
John Row, the eminent reformer. In all the church histories, Mr. Ferguson
is spoken of in the most respectful terms. Spottiswood says of him that
he was jocund and pleasant in his disposition, which made him well
regarded in court and country, and that he was a wise man and a good
preacher. Some of what were called his wise and merry sayings, which he
directed against the prelates, whom he always opposed, have been recorded.
It is supposed that he was the person who first applied the ludicrous name
of Tulchan bishops to those ministers who accepted of bishoprics, the
revenues of which were chiefly enjoyed by the nobles and great barons. A
tulchan in the old Scottish language means a calfs skin, stuffed with
straw, set up beside a cow, to make her yield her milk. While the new
order of bishops, established in 1572, nominally held the benefices, the
greater part of the revenues were drawn by some nobleman or another, and
thus the term was a very appropriate one.
began a History of the Church of Scotland, which was continued by his
son-in-law, the minister at Carnock, whose son, Mr. John Row, principal of
Kings college, Old Aberdeen, enlarged it with additional information. The
work bears the name of Rows manuscript, and consists chiefly of an
abridgment of the acts of the General Assembly. A collection of Scots
Proverbs, published at Edinburgh, shortly after his death, were said to
have been collected by the minister of Dunfermline, who both in speaking
and preaching, used to talk proverbs; and there is no doubt that we owe to
him many of those colloquial sayings which have long, in Scotland at
least, been familiar as household words.
styled The Plotter, a famous Independent preacher and political
intriguer, was born in Scotland about 1638. It is stated in some of the
accounts regarding him that he at one time held a benefice in the county
of Kent, from which he was ejected in 1662 for non-conformity. He
afterwards taught an academy at Islington, in the neighbourhood of London,
and preached at a chapel in Moorsfields. His intriguing disposition,
restless and unprincipled character, and great influence as a popular
preacher in the city, recommended him to the earl of Shaftesbury as a fit
person to engage in the plans then in agitation against the government.
His chapel was crowded by fanatics, whom he fired by his political
sermons, and occasionally excited by libels and pamphlets, printed from a
private press of which he had the management. His style was of that
diffuse, coarse, and periphrastic nature, which is most suited to the mob.
Among other pamphlets he wrote an Appeal from the Country to the City,
in which he plainly pointed out the duke of Monmouth as successor to the
In the Ryehouse
plot, and particularly with regard to the ten thousand London boys whom
Shaftesbury was to head, Ferguson acted a prominent part, and was
intrusted with the secret of that statesmans place of retirement in the
neighbourhood of Wapping, while it was concealed from Russell and
Monmouth. In the proclamation, dated August 2, 1683, issued for
apprehending the conspirators, he is thus described: Robert Ferguson, a
tall lean man, dark brown hair, a great Roman nose, thin-jawed, heat in
his face, speaks in the Scotch tone, a sharp piercing eye, stoops a little
in the shoulders. He has a shuffling gait that differs from all men; wears
his periwig down almost over his eyes; about 45 or 46 years old. When
Shaftesbury left England, Ferguson was one of the companions of his
flight. He soon, however, returned from Holland, and engaged in a new
conspiracy for assassinating the king and the duke of York, on their
return from Newmarket. As treasurer of those involved in it, he paid for
the arms, and by his daring language encouraged them to the enterprise;
offering, in mockery, to consecrate the blunderbuss which was to be fired
into the carriage. When the plot was discovered, he took leave of his
associates with so much gaiety that he was suspected of having
correspondence with the Government.
retired a second time to Holland, where he joined the unfortunate
Monmouth, and drew up the declaration issued on his landing. He earnestly
entreated Monmouth to assume the title of king; and at their last
interview, the duke informed his uncle that Ferguson had been the chief
instigator of the whole affair. Ferguson was taken the third day after the
battle of Sedgemoor, and James freely pardoned and dismissed hi8m; when he
returned to Holland, and took an active part in the intrigues which
preceded the Revolution. He secured the support of the Dissenters for the
prince of Orange, and endeavoured to press upon William a due sense of the
importance of that section of the people. After the Revolution, he was
rewarded with the post of housekeeper to the Excise Office, worth five
hundred pounds a-year. But he was only in his element when engaged in
treasons, stratagems, and spoils; and having taken an active share in
all the cabals which had for their object the expulsion of James from the
throne, he now joined with the same zeal in endeavouring to get him
restored to it. In 1689 he became deeply engaged with Sir James Montgomery
and the other presbyterians, who, discontented with King William, had
united with the Jacobites. The marquis of Annandale having absconded,
Ferguson secreted him for several weeks; a kindness which the marquis
repaid by betraying him to the Government. With his usual good fortune, he
was dismissed without trial or punishment; yet still continued to show
himself worthy of the title of the Plotter, by engaging in every new
conspiracy; and every year published one or two political pamphlets, the
last being an attack upon Trenchard, the secretary of state, for the use
of blank and general warrants. What was perhaps the most remarkable
feature in the character of this extraordinary individual was, that
although he was an active agent in all the plots of that period, and was
intrusted with the secrets of all parties, he never betrayed any of his
associates. He died in 1714. His publications are:
only upon a satisfaction. Lond. 1668, 12mo.
Enquiry into the
Nature of Moral Virtue, and in distinction to Gospel Holiness. Lond. 1673,
The Interest of
Reason in Religion, of the use of Scripture Metaphors, and of the Union
betwixt Christ and Believers; with Reflections on a Discourse by Mr.
Sherlock. London, 1675, 8vo.
A just and
modest Vindication of the Scots design for the having established a Colony
at Darien. Lond. 1699, 12mo.
requisite in a Minister of State. Lond. 1710, 8vo.
An account of
the Obligations the States of Holland have to Great Britain. Lond. 1711,
History of the
Revolution. Lond. 1727, 8vo.
a painter of some eminence, who flourished in the seventeenth century, was
a native of Scotland, and after learning the rudiments of his art in his
native country, travelled to Italy and France. He excelled in painting
dead fowls, particularly pigeons and partridges, and other subjects of
still life. He died about 1690.
an eminent self-taught experimental philosopher, mechanist, and
astronomer, was born of poor parents in the neighbourhood of Keith in
Banffshire, in 1710. He learned to read by hearing his father teach his
elder brother the Catechism, and very early discovered a peculiar taste
for mechanics, which first arose on seeing his father use a lever in
mending a part of the roof of the house which had become decayed. He
afterwards made a watch in wood-work, on being once shown the inside of
one. When very young he was employed by a neighbouring farmer to tend his
sheep, in which situation he acquired a knowledge of the stars, and
constructed a celestial globe. By another self-informed genius, one
Alexander Cantley, butler to Thomas Grant, Esq. of Achoynamey, he was
taught decimal arithmetic, algebra, and the elements of geometry. His
extraordinary ingenuity introduced him to Sir James Dunbar of Durn, and
some of the neighbouring gentlemen, who assisted him by their countenance
and advice; and having learned to draw, he soon began to take portraits in
miniature with Indian ink, by which employment he supported himself and
family (for he had married in May 1739) for several years, at first in
Edinburgh, and afterwards in London. It appears that having acquired,
during his first residence in Edinburgh, some knowledge of anatomy,
surgery, and physic, he endeavoured to establish himself as a doctor in
that part of the country where his father lived; but to his mortification
he found that all his medical theories were of little use in practice, and
he soon relinquished the attempt.
In 1740 he
invented his Astronomical Rotula for showing the new moons and eclipses,
and having got the plates engraved, he published it; and this ingenious
invention sold very well till 1752, when the change in the style rendered
it useless. In 1743 he went to London, where he published some
Astronomical Tables and Calculations, and afterwards delivered public
lectures in experimental philosophy, which were very successful. He was
the author of various other works in astronomy, mechanics, &c., a list of
which is subjoined. But his greatest work is his Astronomy explained upon
Sir Isaac Newtons Principles, and made easy to those who have not studied
mathematics. His delineation of the complex line of the moons motion
procured him, in 1763, the honour of being elected a Fellow of the Royal
Society of London, without the payment of the usual fees. His
dissertations and inventions in mechanics and other branches of the
mathematics introduced him to the notice and favour of George the Third,
who, when prince of Wales, attended his lectures, and on his accession to
the throne, conferred on him a pension of fifty pounds a-year. Subjoined
is his portrait:
[portrait of William Ferguson]
Mr. Ferguson died November 16, 1776. By occasional presents, which were
privately sent to him, under the belief that he was very poor, as well as
by his own frugality and prudence, he had saved money to the amount of six
thousand pounds. His works are:
Description of a new Orrery. Lond. 1746, 4to.
Dissertation on the Phaenomena of the Harvest Moon; also The Description
and Use of a new four-wheeled Orrery; and an Essay upon the Moons turning
round her own axis. Lond. 1747, 8vo.
brief Description of the Solar System; to which is subjoined, An
Astronomical Account of the year of our Saviours Crucifixion. Lond. 1754,
idea of the Material Universe, deduced from a Survey of the Solar System.
Lond. 1754, 8vo.
Astronomy explained, upon Sir Isaac Newtons Principles, and made easy to
those who have not studied Mathematics. Lond. 1756, 1757, 4to. The same;
to which is added, A plain Method of finding the distances of all the
Planets from the Sun, by the transit of Venus over the Suns disk. Lond.
1764, 4to. 5th edit. 1772. A new edit. by Dr. Brewster. 1811, 2
vols. 8vo. And Plates, 4to.
Lectures on Select Subjects in Mechanics, Hydrostatics, Pneumatics, and
Optics; with the Art of Dialling, and the use of Globes, and the
Calculation of the mean times of new and full Moons and Eclipses. Lond.
1760, 8vo. 1764, 4to.
Supplement to Mr. Fergusons book of Lectures on Mechanics, Hydrostatics,
Pneumatics, and Optics; containing 13 copperplates, with descriptions of
the machinery which he had added to his apparatus since that book was
published. Lond. 1767, 4to. 4th edit. 1772, 1790, 8vo. Of this
work an improved edition was published, Edin. 1805, 2 vols. 8vo, by Dr.
plain Method of determining the Parallax of Venus, by her transit over the
Sun; and from them, by analogy, the Parallax and distance of the Sun, and
of all the rest of the Planets. Lond. 1761, 4to.
Letter to Mr. John Kennedy, in answer to his Examination of M.F.s Remarks
(inserted in the Critical Review for May, 1763) upon Mr. Kennedys System
of Astronomical Chronology. Lond. 1763, 8vo.
Astronomical Tables, and Precepts, for calculating the true times of new
and full Moons, &c. Lond. 1763, 8vo.
Tables and Tracts relative to several Arts and Sciences. Lond. 1767, 8vo.
Easy Introduction to Astronomy, for young Gentlemen and Ladies. Lond.
1768, 8vo. 2d edit. Lond. 1769, 8vo.
Introduction to Electricity, &c. Illustrated with copperplates. Lond.
1770, 8vo. 2d edit. 1775, 1790.
Select Mechanical Exercises, showing how to construct different Clocks,
Orreries, and Sun-dials, on plain and easy principles. Illustrated with
plates; to which is prefixed, A short Account of the Author, written by
himself. London, 1773, 8vo.
The Art of Drawing in Perspective, made easy to those who have no previous
knowledge of Mathematics. Plates. Lond. 1775, 8vo.
The Phenomena of Venus, represented in an Orrery. Phil. Trans. Abr. ix.
improvement of the Celestial Globe. Ib. 351. 1747.
Description of a piece of Mechanism contrived by him, for exhibiting the
time, duration, and quantity of Solar Eclipses, in all places of the
earth. Ib. x. 456. 1754.
Delineation of the Transit of Venus, expected in the year 1769. Ib. xi.
a remarkable Fish taken in Kings Road, Bristol. Ib. 717. 1763. The Long
Angler of Pennant, or Sophius Conubicus of Shaw.
the Eclipse of the Sun, April 1, 1764, Ib. xii. 5. 1763.
Description of a new Crane which has four different powers. Ib. 86. 1764.
Observations made at Liverpool of the Lunar and Solar Eclipses. Ib. 113.
Description of a new Hygrometer. Ib. 151.
The quantity of time in any number of Lunations, &c. &c. &c. Ib. 197.
new Method of constructing Sun-dials, for any given Latitude, without the
assistance of Dialling Scales, or Logarithmic calculations. Ib. 454. 1767.
FERGUSON, ADAM. LL.D.,
an eminent historian and moral philosopher, was born, in 1724, at
Perthshire, of which parish his father was minister. He was the youngest
of a numerous family of children, by a lady who was a native of
Aberdeenshire. He was educated at the school of Perth, from whence he
removed, in October 1739, to the university of St. Andrews, and after
obtaining his degree of M.A. he went to Edinburgh to attend the divinity
class. The Scottish capital, at this period, seemed justly to merit the
appellation, subsequently bestowed by Dr. Johnson, of a hot-bed of
genius; and soon after his arrival young Ferguson became a member of a
philosophical society, which numbered among its members Dr. Robertson, Dr.
Blair, Mr. John Home, the author of Douglas, Mr. Alexander Carlyle, and
other distinguished names. By the influence of Mr. Murray, brother to the
celebrated Lord Elibank, Mr. Ferguson obtained the situation of chaplain
to the 42d regiment, with which he served in Flanders till the peace of
Aix-la-Chapelle, when he returned home on leave of absence. In 1757 he
resigned his chaplaincy, and soon after became tutor in the family of the
earl of Bute, in which situation he continued for two years.
1759 he was appointed professor of natural philosophy in the university of
Edinburgh, which chair he resigned, in 1764, for that of moral philosophy.
In 1767 he published his Essay on Civil Society, a work which
contributed not a little to raise him in public estimation, and the
university accordingly hastened to confer on him the degree of LL.D. Soon
after this he married a Miss Burnet, the niece of Dr. Black. In 1773 he
accompanied the late earl of Chesterfield in his travels on the Continent.
After an absence of a year and a half he resumed his former occupations,
the chair of moral philosophy having been, in the meantime, filled by
1778, through the influence of his friend, Mr. Henry Dundas, afterwards
Lord Melville, he was appointed secretary to the commissioners sent out to
America, to endeavour to effect a reconciliation with the revolted
colonies, and accordingly accompanied them to Philadelphia; but the
mission, as might have been expected, proved a failure. On his return, Dr.
Ferguson resumed the duties of his professorship, and proceeded with the
preparation of his History of the Progress and Termination of the Roman
Republic, on which he had been engaged before going to America. In 1785
he resigned the chair of moral philosophy in favour of Mr. Dugald Stewart;
while he himself was permitted to retire on the salary of the mathematical
class. The subjoined woodcut is from a portrait by Reynolds:
[portrait of Adam Ferguson, LL.D.]
Being now in the enjoyment of good health and a competent fortune, he
again visited the Continent, with the intention of proceeding to Rome, but
was prevented by the events of the first French Revolution. On his return
he settled at St. Andrews, where he died, February 22, 1816, at the
patriarchal age of ninety-three, leaving three sons and three daughters.
He was the last of the great men of the preceding century whose writings
did honour to their age and to their native country. His works are:
Essay on the History of Civil Society; treating of the general
characteristics of human nature, of the history of rude nations, of the
history of policy and arts, of the consequences that result from the
advancement of civil and commercial arts, of the decline of nations, and
of corruption and political slavery. Edin. 1767, 4to. 7th edit.
Lond. 1814, 8vo.
Institutes of Moral Philosophy, for the use of Students. Edin. 1769, 1770,
Answers to Dr. Prices Observations on Civil and Religious Liberty. 1776.
The History of the Progress and Termination of the Roman Republic.
Illustrated with maps. Lond. 1783, 3 vols. 4to. Also in 5 vols, 8vo.
Principles of Moral and Political Science; being chiefly a retrospect of
Lectures delivered in the College of Edinburgh. Lond. 1792, 2 vols. 4to.
Lectures on select subjects; with Notes, and an Appendix, by David
Brewster. Edin. 1805, 2 vols. 8vo.
a poet of considerable merit, was born at Edinburgh, September 5, 1750,
the third son of William Fergusson, who came originally from Tarland,
Aberdeenshire, and Elizabeth, his wife, youngest daughter of John Forbes,
tacksman of Templeton, Hillockhead, and Wellhead in the same county, a
cadet of the family of Tolquhon. His father was first a clerk to a
haberdasher, afterwards to a company of upholsterers, subsequently to a
namesake, a writer to the signet, and ultimately he became managing clerk
in the linen department of the British Linen Company, now one of the
wealthiest banking establishments in Scotland. After being for about six
months at the school of a Mr. Philp, a teacher of English in Niddrys Wynd,
of his native city, the poet was removed to the High School, in 1756,
where he remained for four years, his attendance being occasionally
interrupted by ill health. While yet a mere child, he took great delight
in reading the Bible, and as a proof of the impression which at this
period its precepts made on his susceptible mind, one of his biographers (Peterkin)
relates that one day, after perusing a portion of the Proverbs, he entered
his mothers apartment in tears, calling on her to whip him. On his
mother asking him why? he answered, O mother! He that spareth the rod,
hateth the child. Through the influence of the earl of Findlater, then
chancellor of Scotland, to whom his uncle, Mr. John Forbes, was factor, a
presentation was procured for him by his father, to a bursary, (or
exhibition, as it is called in England,) by the Rev. David Fergusson of
Strathmartine, which provided for the maintenance and education of two
poor male children, of the name of Fergusson, at the Grammar school of
Dundee and the college of St. Andrews, and he was accordingly removed in
1762 to Dundee, at the school of which town he remained for two years. At
the age of fourteen he was transferred, in terms of the bursary, to the
university of St. Andrews, and entered in the united colleges of St.
Salvator and St. Leonard, with an allowance of ten pounds sterling yearly.
He was originally intended for the church, and on matriculating in
February 1765, he became a student in the Latin and Greek classes, but
although his attainments were respectable, he had no great predilection
for the classics. Possessing an inexhaustible fund of wit and good nature,
with a natural talent for mimicry, he indulged, whilst at college, in many
youthful frolics, one of which caused him to be extruded for four days,
(not formally expelled, as inconsiderately stated by one of his
biographers) from the university. From his excellent voice, he was
required frequently to officiate as precentor in the college chapel, and
to get rid of this to him distasteful employment, he had given up the name
of a person to be prayed for, in the following very indecorous terms:
Remember in prayer, a young man (then present) of whom, from the sudden
effects of inebriety, there appears but small hope of recovery. He had
also taken part in a riot. It was while at college that he first began to
rhyme, and certain Macaronic satires against some of the masters were
early ascribed to him. His biographers generally have agreed that none of
the college productions of his muse are among his published pieces. The
author, however, of his life prefixed to the edition of his poems
published by A Fullarton and Co. in 1851, thinks the Elegy on the death
of Dr. Gregory one of these early pieces, written when Fergusson had not
attained his fifteenth year, and his has accordingly placed it first in
the poems. His superior abilities, playful disposition, and turn for
poetry, recommended him to the favour of Dr. Wilkie, author of the Epigoniad,
then professor of natural philosophy at St. Andrews, who occasionally
employed him to transcribe his lectures. While at the university, it
seems, that mathematics was his favourite study, and he had made
considerable progress in natural philosophy.
the close of the session 1767-8, his bursary course being concluded,
Fergusson left St. Andrews, and his father having died the previous year,
he returned to his widowed mother in Edinburgh, He had abandoned the
design of becoming a minister, and after some time spent at home undecided
what to do, he paid a visit early in 1769 to his uncle (a brother of his
mother), Mr. John Forbes, at Round Lichnot, near Aberdeen, who was in good
circumstances, in the hope of procuring some employment through his
influence. He had previously during a college vacation spent several weeks
with him, and he how, in consequence of a renewed invitation, remained
with him six months. Much unmerited obloquy has been thrown by Fergussons
biographers on this uncle for his treatment of the poet. According to Dr.
Irving, who seems to have received very incorrect information on the
subject, his clothes beginning to assume a shabby appearance, he received
a hint that he was no longer considered a proper guest at his uncles
table, on which, in a highly indignant mood, he retired to a public-house
in the neighbourhood, and wrote a letter of remonstrance to his relative,
which induced the latter to send him a few shillings to assist him on his
return to Edinburgh, which journey he performed on foot. The author (A.B.G.)
Of the Life of Fergusson published in 1851, deriving his information from
Mr. John Forbes, writer, Old Meldrum, grandson of the poets uncle, gives
the following account of the real circumstances attending the departure of
the poet from his uncles house, on the occasion in question: The earl of
Findlater, having occasion to travel north to Mr. Forbes residence, wrote
to him that he intended to pass his house on a given day, and that he
should dine with him. Mr. Forbes, in consequence, invited Keith Urquhart,
Esq., of Meldrum, his nearest employer, to meet his lordship; and on the
day appointed he instructed Fergusson to dress himself, and to be in
waiting to come into the dining-room, along with his own sons, one of whom
was the father of the present Mr. Forbes, and my narrator, when he should
send for them after dinner, as he was very desirous to introduce his
nephew to his guests, who might, from their high station and influence,
materially forward his future prospects. Fergusson timeously appeared in
his best suit, but finding the intervening hours hang heavily on his
hands, he proceeded to the Wood of Lichnot at about a quarter of a miles
distance, and there consumed the time in climbing trees and swinging on
the branches. He returned in the nick of time to answer the summons to the
dining-room, but without having had a leisure either to brush the green
and soil from his clothes, or to get some unseemly rents repaired.
Seeing him appear in such a sorry plight, Mr. Forbes was greatly
irritated, and from his disreputable appearance, to a certain extent lost
his temper, and sharply ordered Fergusson out of the room. On the party
rising from table some hours afterwards, it was found that the poet had
disappeared. On inquiry being made, a servant remembered seeing him, with
a bundle under his arm, on the road which led to Aberdeen. His uncle at
once surmising, from his peculiarly sensitive nature, that he had left,
despatched a messenger on horseback after him, to entreat his return;
or, at all events, his acceptance of the means to carry him comfortably to
Edinburgh, which he sent with the servant. The messenger overtook him, a
dozen of miles or so on his journey; but he peremptorily declined coming
back, nor would he accept the proffered supplies. It is farther stated
that no inn or public-house existed within miles of Round Lichnot, and no
letter of remonstrance or otherwise from Fergusson was ever received by
Mr. Forbes. As a proof, continued the biographer, that the mother of
the poet entertained no ill feeling against her brother for the
(apocryphal) ungenerous treatment of her son, it may be mentioned that,
after his death, she was accustomed to visit the north, when she
invariably resided with her brother at Forresterhill. He relates, on the
authority of his informant above mentioned that while at Round Lichnot,
the poet was accustomed to assemble the servants who had been detained
from public worship on the Sabbaths; and, taking his stand at the mouth of
the peat-stack, he would address them for more than an hour at a time, in
language so eloquent and fervid, that Mr. Forbes (the uncle) distinctly
remembered to have often seen them bathed in tears. [Life, 1851, p.
Shortly after his return to Edinburgh he obtained an inferior situation in
the commissary clerks office, his sole occupation being the copying of
law papers at so much per page. This he soon relinquished, and, after some
months idleness, he accepted a similar situation in the office of the
sheriff-clerk, where he continued for the remainder of his life. Before he
had reached his twentieth year, many of his poems had made their
appearance in Ruddimans Weekly Magazine. The great merit of his
productions soon began to be acknowledged; he became a knight or member of
the famous Cape club, and as his powers of song and convivial qualities
rendered him at all times an attractive companion, his society was eagerly
sought after, and he was thus led into habits of excess and dissipation,
which impaired his feeble constitution, and brought on, first, religious
melancholy, and ultimately insanity. Having experienced a temporary relief
from this dreadful malady, he resumed his visits to his friends, but had
one night the misfortune to fall down a stair, when he received a severe
contusion on the head. He was carried home insensible, but at length in
his delirium became so outrageous, that it was not without difficulty that
the united force of several men could restrain his violence. The humble
circumstances of his mother compelled her to remove him to the public
lunatic asylum, or Bedlam. Two of his most intimate friends called and
induced him to go into a sedan-chair, as if he had been about to make an
evening visit. When they reached the place of their destination, and
stopped within the porch, the poor youth discovered instantaneously the
deception. He looked with a strange, wild, questioning glance all around;
and with choking agony raised such a piteous and fearful cry as never
departed from the memory of those who accompanied him. He was restless and
desperate the whole of the first night; but in the morning when his mother
and sister visited him he was calm and resigned. He had at first imagined
himself a king, and had placed on his head a crown of straw neatly plaited
with his own hands. This delusion, however, had vanished. He thanked his
mother and sister for their kindness. He reminded them of his presentiment
of the calamity that was now upon him. He entreated his sister to bring
her seam and sit beside him. To all which they could only reply with
tears. He checked their grief; told them he was well cared for; and
expressed a hope that he should soon be restored to them. At other times,
however, he was greatly and painfully excited, exclaiming that he should
be a minister of the glorious gospel, that they should all see him a
burning and shining light. Frequently too he would sing with a beauty and
pathos and tremulous tenderness the Birks of Invermay, and other
favourite Scottish melodies, such as before he had never reached. At the
end of two months he died in the asylum, October 16, 1774, aged only
twenty-four. The circumstances of his death are peculiarly touching. The
evening was chilly and damp. His feet felt very cold. He asked his mother
to gather up the bed-clothes and sit upon them. She did so. He looked
wistfully at his mother, and said, oh! Mother, this is kind indeed; but
again he complained that his feet were cold, cold. When they prepared to
leave he entreated them to remain. O do not go, mother, yet, do not
leave me. It was the time however for shutting up. They parted. And in
the silence of that night, and alone, he died.
was buried in the Canongate churchyard, and his grave remained without a
stone to tell the place, till the kindred spirit of Robert Burns led him,
in 1787, to erect one at his own expense, with the following inscription:
No sculpturd marble here, nor pompous lay,
No storied urn, nor animated bust!
This simple stone directs pale Scotias way,
To Pour her sorrows oer her poets dust.
One of Fergussons early associates of the name of Burnet, belonging, it
is understood, to the Burnets of Kemnay, having prospered in the East
Indies, had sent a pressing invitation to Fergusson to go out to India,
enclosing a draught of a hundred pounds to defray the expenses of his
outfit, but it arrived a few days after the poets death. The relatives in
Scotland of the generous donor ordered the amount to be retained by his
The first edition of Fergussons Poems, being a collection of such pieces
as had appeared in the Weekly Magazine, with the addition of a few
others, was published in 1773, the year before his death, and they have
often been reprinted. It is gratifying to know that the belief that
Fergusson never reaped any pecuniary benefit from his poems, is not
founded in fact. According to a statement made by Miss Ruddiman to his
biographer of 1851, for his contributions to the Weekly Magazine the
poet received from the proprietors thereof, W. and T. Ruddiman, not large
but regular payment, and two suits of clothes, an everyday and Sabbath
suit every year. Moreover, his volume of 1773 was published by a
subscription obtained the previous year, and he sold upwards of five
hundred copies, many of them at an advanced price. He had a balance
remaining of at least £50; a sum which was to him a little fortune. [Live
of, 1851, p. lxxxv.] An edition of his poems published at Glasgow in
1800, contains an account of his life by Dr. Irving. A Life by Peterkin is
also prefixed to the London edition of his Poems, which appeared in 1807.
Fergusson is represented by all his biographers as being of a humane and
amiable disposition. To the most sprightly fancy, we are told, he joined
the more engaging qualities of modesty, a gentle temper, and the greatest
goodness of heart; and such was the benevolence of his disposition that he
would often bestow the last farthing upon those who solicited his charity.
His poems are admired by all who are capable of appreciating true poetry,
and he is justly considered the third of Scotlands national poets, Burns
and Ramsay only being classed before him.
his personal appearance, Sommers, one of his biographers, who knew him
personally, has left the following account: He was about five feet six
inches high, and well-shaped. His complexion fair, but rather pale. His
eyes full, black, and piercing. His nose long, his lips thin, his teeth
well set and white. His neck long, and well proportioned. His shoulders
narrow, and his limbs long, but more sinewy than fleshy. His voice strong,
clear, and melodious. Remarkably fond of old Scots songs, and the best
singer of the Birks of Invermay I ever heard. When speaking, he was
quick, forcible, and complaisant. In walking he appeared smart, erect, and
unaffected. Fergussons manners, says the author of the Life prefixed
to his Works published in 1857, were always accommodated to the moment;
he was gay, serious, set the table in a roar, charmed with his powers of
song, or bore with becoming dignity his part in learned or philosophical
disquisition. In short, he had united, remarks Alexander Campbell
(Life. p. 300), the sprightliness and innocence of a child, with the
knowledge of a profound and judicious thinker.
The poet had a brother, Henry, who was at one time a teacher of fencing
and sword exercise in Edinburgh. His class book, entitled, A Dictionary,
explaining the terms, guards, and positions, used in the art of the small
sword. By Hary Fergusson, was Printed [at Edinburgh] in the year
MDCCLXVII.Tract, pp. 23, with the motto,
Ah me! What perils do environ,
The man who meddles with cold iron.
meeting, it appears, with anything like adequate success as a teacher, he
became a sailor, and served as master-at-arms on board the Tartar
man-of-war, on the breaking out of hostilities with America. He procured
his discharge from the Tartar on 12th Feb. 1776, and it is
believed that he settled in America, where he is supposed to have died.
One sister, Barbara, was married to Mr. David Inverarity, cabinetmaker,
Edinburgh, whose son was father of Miss Inverarity, afterwards Mrs. Martyn,
a vocalist of some eminence in her day, who died at Newcastle in 1846, and
was considered to bear a striking resemblance to her unfortunate
grand-uncle. Margaret, another sister of the poet, married a Mr. Alexander
Duval, purser in the navy. She also had a taste for poetry.
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