an eminent antiquarian and philologist, and compiler of the
‘Etymological Dictionary of the Scottish Language,’ was born in
Glasgow, March 5th 1759. His father, the Rev. John
Jamieson, was minister of the Associate congregation of Duke Street in
that city, and by his mother’s side he was descended from the Bruces
of Kennet, Clackmannanshire. He received the elementary part of his
education in the grammar school, and, in his ninth year, commenced his
studies in the university, of Glasgow. Having passed through the
ordinary curriculum, he studied theology under Professor Moncrieff of
Alloa, and at the age of twenty was licensed to preach the gospel. In
August 1780, he received two calls, one from the Antiburgher
congregation of Perth, and the other from Forfar. The synod decided in
favour of the latter, and he was accordingly ordained in Forfar, with
a stipend of Ł50 a-year. Here he officiated for a period of sixteen
years. In 1788, the college of New Jersey in America conferred upon
him the degree of doctor in divinity; and the bestowal of the title,
says Mr. M’Kerrow, deserves to be specially noticed as the first
instance of such an honour being conferred on any minister belonging
to the Secession church.
In 1793, on
the death of Mr. Adam Gib, of the Antiburgher congregation, Nicholson
Street, Edinburgh, Dr. Jamieson received a call to be his successor,
but on account of the strong opposition made by his people in Forfar,
to his translation, the synod refused to sanction it. On a subsequent
vacancy, however, in 1797, in the same church, and a second call being
sent to Dr. Jamieson, the synod acquiesced in his removal, and he was
accordingly translated to Edinburgh, where he spent the remainder of
strong predilection for antiquarian research, he had become a
corresponding member of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland so
early as 1783, and was admitted an ordinary member in 1815, when he
was appointed joint-secretary, an office which he held till 1820.
During his residence in Forfarshire he contributed to their
‘Transactions’ several interesting papers illustrative of the
antiquities of that county. His first separate publications, however,
were of a ministerial and literary nature, having in 1789 published
two volumes of ‘Sermons on the Heart,’ and also a poem in blank verse,
descriptive of the horrors of the slave-trade, long since through the
exertions of Samuel Wilberforce and other enlightened philanthropists,
happily abolished, entitled ‘The Sorrows of Slavery.’ To Scott’s
Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border he contributed ‘The Water Kelpie, or
spirit of the Waters;’ a poem descriptive of the superstitions
prevalent in Forfarshire. His great work, ‘The Etymological Dictionary
of the Scottish Language,’ appeared in 1809-10, in two volumes 4to.
Though not at first with a view to publications, the author, as he
mentions in his preface, had begun his researches into the Scottish
language, thirty years previously. In the valuable dissertation
prefixed, he claims for it the dignity of a separate language, and not
merely a dialect of the English, on the ground that it is not more
allied to the latter, “than the Belgic is to the German, the Danish to
the Swedish, or the Portuguese to the Spanish.” Two supplemental
volumes were added in 1825; and an abridgment was published in 1814.
In 1827 Dr.
Jamieson was elected a member of the Bannatyne Club, founded by Sir
Walter Scott. Besides being a fellow of the Society of Scottish
Antiquaries, he was also a fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh,
of the American Antiquarian Society, of the Society of Northern
Literature of Copenhagen, and an associate of the first class of Royal
Associates of the Royal Society of Literature of London, the latter
society having been instituted by George IV., for the express purpose
of encouraging literary men. As a reward for his historical,
antiquarian, and philological researches, he received a pension of one
hundred pounds a-year. For one of the anniversary meetings of the
Society of Antiquaries, at the request of several fellow-members, he
wrote an appropriate song, which was sung on the occasion by one of
the members, to the air of Auld Lang-syne.
union between the Burgher and Antiburgher synods took place, on 8th
September 1820, Dr. Jamieson was elected moderator of the Antiburgher
synod, to which he belonged, (Mr., afterwards Dr., Balmer of Berwick
being the moderator of the Burgher synod,) that he might act as their
representative in the proceedings of an occasion so important to the
Secession church. In 1830, his age and increasing infirmities induced
him to resign the charge of his congregation. He died at Edinburgh
July 12, 1838, in his 80th year. By his wife, charlotte,
daughter of Robert Watson, Esq. of Shielhill, Forfarshire, and Easter
Rhind, Perthshire, whom he married in August, 1781, and who
predeceased him in 1837, he had seventeen children, but only two
daughters and one son survived him. A portrait of Dr. Jamieson is
[portrait of Dr. Jamieson]
One of his sons, Robert, was an eminent member of the Scottish
bar, and his premature death, in January 1835, alone prevented him
from being elevated to the bench. He uniformly spelt his name Jameson,
which was different from that of his father. Being admitted a member
of the Bannatyne Club in 1830, he presented that society with a
beautiful reprint, in 4to, of Simeon Graham’s ‘Anatomie of Humours,’
and the ‘Passionate Sparke of a Relenting Minde,’ by the same author,
with a brief prefactory notice. As a mark of respect for his great
abilities and many good qualities, the faculty of advocates erected
over his grave, in the West church burying-ground, Edinburgh, an
elegant monument to his memory. Another son, Alexander, a bookseller
in Edinburgh, was the reputed author of a little work, well known in
his day, entitled ‘A Trip to London in a Berwick Smack.’
Dr. Jamieson’s works are:
Sermons on the Heart, 2 vols, 8vo. Edin. 1789.
Sorrows of Slavery; a Poem, containing a faithful statement of
facts respecting the Slave Trade. Lond. 1789, 12mo.
Socinianism Unmasked; occasioned by Dr. MacGill’s Practical
Essay on the Death of Christ. 8vo.
An Ordination Sermon. 8vo.
A Dialogue between a Socinian Divine and the devil, on the
confines of the other world. Small 8vo.
An Alarm to Great Britain; or an Inquiry into the Rapid Progress
of Infidelity in the present age. Lond. 1795, 12mo. Occasioned by the
Vindication of the Doctrines of Scripture, and of the Primitive
Faith, concerning the Divinity of Christ, in reply to Dr. Priestley’s
History of Early Opinions, &c. 1795, 2 vols. 8vo.
Cougal and Fenella, a Tale, 8vo.
Eternity; a Poem, addressed to Freethinkers and Philosophical
Christians. London, 1789, 8vo. Reprinted, with the Grave, the Last
Day, *c., in a little work, entitled ‘The Christian Shade,’ edited by
James Brownlee, Esq., Advocate, 1831.
Remarks on Rowland Hill’s Journal. Lond. 1799, 8vo.
The Use of Sacred History, especially as Illustrating and
confirming the Great Doctrines of Revelation; with Two Dissertations
prefixed, the one on the Authenticity of the History contained in the
Pentateuch and the Book of Joshua; and the other proving that the
Books ascribed to Moses were actually written by him, and that he
wrote them by Divine Inspiration. Lond. 1802, 2 vols. 8vo.
Important Trial in the Court of conscience. London, 1806, 8vo.
An Etymological Dictionary of the Scottish Language;
illustrating the words in their different significations, by examples
from ancient and modern Writers; showing their affinity to those of
other languages, and especially the northern; explaining many terms
which, though now obsolete in England, were formerly common to both
countries; and elucidating National Rites, Customs, and Institutions,
in analogy to those of other nations. To which is prefixed a
dissertation on the Origin of the Scottish Language. Edin. 1809-10, 2
vols. 4to. Two supplemental volumes were published in 1825. The author
also left a mass of manuscript sufficient to form two additional
volumes. This he bequeathed to the Advocates’ Library.
Abridgment of the above. 8vo. Edin. 1814.
The Beneficent Woman, a Sermon. 1811, 8vo.
Hermes Scythicus, or the Radical Affinities of the Greek and
Latin Languages to the Gothic, illustrated from the Moeso-Gothic,
Anglo-Saxon, French, Alemannic, Suio-gothic, Islandic, &c. To which is
prefixed a Dissertation on the Historical Proofs of the Scythian
Origin of the Greeks. London, 1814, 8vo.
On the Origin of Cremation, or the Burning of the Dead. Trans.
Soc. Edin. viii. 83. 1817.
The Hopes of an Empire Reversed; or the Night of Pleasure turned
into Fear; a Sermon on the Death of the Princess Charlotte. 1818.
The Duty, Excellency, and Pleasantness of Brotherly Unity, in
Three Sermons. 1819, 8vo. Preached with the view of recommending the
then proposed union between the burgher and Antiburgher Synods.
The Bruce and Wallace, published from two ancient manuscripts
preserved in the library of the faculty of Advocates; the former by
Barbour, the latter by Blind Harry. Edited, with introductory Lives
and Explanatory Notes, by Dr. Jamieson. Edin. 1820, 2 vols. 4to.
Dedicated to the Marchioness of Hastings, Countess of Loundoun, &c.
Historical Account of the Ancient Culdees of Iona, and of their
Settlement in Scotland, England, and Ireland. Edin. 1821, 4to.
Sletzer’s Theatrum Scotiae, with Illustrations, &c. Folio.
Views of the Royal Palaces of Scotland, with Historical and
Topographical Illustrations. 1828, royal 4to.
Remarks on the Progress of the Roman Army in Scotland, during
the sixth Campaign of Agricola, and an account of the Roman Camps of
Battle-dykes and Haerfauds, with the Via Militaris
extending between them, in the county of Forfar; an article in the
36th number of the Bibliotheca Topographica Britannica.
The Water Kelpie, or Spirit of the Waters, in the third volume
of Scott’s Minstrelsy of the Border; also the Glossary of Scottish
words at the end.
Dr. Jamieson was also the writer of an article in the
Westminster Review, On the Origin of the Scottish Nation, which
attracted considerable notice at the time.