Check all the Clans that have DNA Projects. If your Clan is not in the list there's a way for it to be listed. Electric Scotland's Classified Directory An amazing collection of unique holiday cottages, castles and apartments, all over Scotland in truly amazing locations.

The Scottish Nation
Knox


KNOX, the surname of a family designed of that ilk, who once possessed the lands of Knock, or Knox, in the county of Renfrew, and which claimed to be derived from Utred, the Saxon earl of Northumberland. Several of the name are to be found witnesses, in the reigns of Alexander II. and III., in the charters of the abbacy of Paisley. The family was also frequently designed of Ranfurly and Craigends, lands which they also possessed in the same county. Nisbet mentions a charter of confirmation of James III., of a resignation of the barony of Ranfurly and Grief castle, by John Knox of Craigends, in favour of Uchter Knox, about 1474. Andrew Knox, a younger son of John Knox of Ranfurly, was in 1606 bishop of the Isles, and in 1622 was translated to the see of Raphoe in Ireland. His son, Thomas Knox, succeeded his father as bishop of the Isles. The family failed in the person of the grand-nephew of Andrew Knox, viz., Uchter Knox of Ranfurly, who had but one daughter, and who sold that estate in 1663, to the first earl of Dundonald.

      The celebrated Reformer, John Knox, is traditionally supposed to have been a cadet of this family. This however is doubtful, although Dr. M’Crie (Life of Knox, Appendix to vol. i. note A), states that in a genealogical account of the Knoxes, in possession of the family of the late Mr. James Knox, minister of Scone, the Reformer’s father is said to have been a brother of the family of Ranfurlie, and “proprietor of the estate of Gifford,” in Haddingtonshire. In David Buchanan’s Memoir of Knox, prefixed to the edition of his “Historie” of 1644, it is also stated that his “father was a brother’s son of the house of Ranferlie.” Dr. M’Crie does not place much reliance on the assertion that the Reformer’s father was “proprietor of the estate of Gifford,” and thinks that his ancestors had settled in East Lothian as early as the time of his great-grandfather. This he infers from Knox’s own words, quoting from his ‘Historie of the Reformation, (p. 306, edit. 1732), a conversation that the Reformer had with the earl of Bothwell, in which he gave the following account of his ancestors: “My lord,” he said, “my great-grandfather, gudeshir, and father, have served your lordship’s predecessours, and some of them have dyed under their standards; and this is a pairt of the obligatioun of our Scottish kindnes.”  For some curious facts relative to the birthplace of John Knox, the reader is referred to a paper by John Richardson, Esq., Haddington, with supplementary notices by Mr. Laing, in the Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, vol. iii, part 1, 1860.

      In Ireland there are several families of this surname, proprietors of estates, of Scottish descent. One of them, originally from Glasgow, possesses the earldom of Ranfurly (created in 1831) in the Irish peerage, and is said to be the representative of the family of Ranfurly in Scotland.

KNOX, JOHN, the chief promoter of the Reformation in Scotland, was born in 1505, at a place called Giffordgate, a suburb of Haddington. The statement, that the village of Gifford, East Lothian, was his birthplace, is a mistake. It was not then built. In the suburb of Giffordgate, there were some houses known by the name of Knox’s Walls. His mother’s name was Sinclair, and in subsequent times many of his letters were, for precaution’s sake, subscribed ‘John Sinclair.’ He received the rudiments of his education at Haddington grammar school, and studied philosophy and theology at St. Andrews, under John Major, then principal of St. Salvator’s college. His progress in learning was rapid, and he took the degree of M.A. before the usual time, after which he taught philosophy as regent of one of the classes in the university. About the same time he was admitted into priest’s orders long before the age appointed by the canons for receiving ordination. The writings of the ancient Fathers, particularly of Jerome and St. Augustine, opened his eyes to the subtleties of the school theology, and he resolved to attach himself to a more plain and practical method of interpreting the Scriptures than that offered by the writings of the scholastic divines. While yet engaged enquiring after the truth, he attended the sermons of Thomas Gwilliam, or Williams, a friar, who had the boldness to preach against the Pope’s supremacy. In 1543 Gwilliam was chosen preacher to the Regent Arran. “The man,” says Calderwood, (vol. i. p. 155), “was of a sound judgment, reasonable good literature in respect of the time, of a prompt and good utterance: his doctrine was wholesome, but without vehemencie against superstitioun. Johne Rough, who after suffered for the truthe in England, howbeit not so learned, and more simple, and more vehement against all impietie, preached also sometimes. This Thomas Gwilliam was a blacke frier, borne beside Elstone-furde (Athelstaneford) in East Lothian, and provinciall of the blacke friers of Scotland. He was the first man from whome Mr. Knox receaved anie taste of the truthe.” But Knox was still more impressed with the unsoundness of the popish system by the preaching of the celebrated George Wishart, who afterwards suffered martyrdom at the stake, through the persecution of Cardinal Bethune.

      About 1542 Knox began to disseminate the new doctrines among his pupils, in consequence of which he incurred the hatred of the popish ecclesiastics, by whom he was degraded from the priesthood, denounced as a heretic, and only escaped assassination by flight. Being appointed tutor to the sons of Douglas of Langniddrie, and Cockburn of Ormiston, who had embraced the Reformed doctrines, he gave regular religious instruction not only to his pupils, but also to the people of the neighbourhood. At this time he appears, as was then not unusual with priests, to have acted occasionally in the capacity of a notary, as, in an odd volume of Protocols belonging to the burgh of Haddington, “Schir John Knox” occurs as a witness to a deed concerning Rannelton, parish of Gordon, Berwickshire, dated March 28, 1543. Two other entries of a similar nature are in the same old Protocol books. He became so obnoxious to Cardinal Bethune, and, after his death, to his successor, Archbishop Hamilton, that he was again driven to seek safety in concealment, and had frequently to change his place of residence. At length, about Easter 1547, being then in his forty-second year, he took refuge, along with his pupils, among the assassins of the cardinal in the castle of St. Andrews, where he resumed his duties of teaching, giving lectures on the Scriptures, and regularly catechising his hearers in the parish church. Being publicly called to the ministry in presence of the congregation at St. Andrews, by Mr. John Rough, already mentioned as a Reformed preacher, he at once accepted the charge thus solemnly imposed upon him, and preached the principles of the Reformation with extraordinary boldness. With Rough, he was summoned before a convention of church dignitaries to answer for the heretical doctrines which they taught, when Knox sustained a theological disputation with a Grey friar, named Arbukill, with so much success, that the Romish clergy found it expedient to avoid all such controversial displays for the future.

      The castle of St. Andrews having been closely invested by the French force sent to the assistance of the regent Arran, the garrison, after a brave and vigorous resistance, was compelled to capitulate, and all with in, including Knox, were conveyed to France as prisoners of war. Most of them were confined in different prisons, but Knox, with some others, was detained for about nineteen months on board the galleys. While in this situation, he wrote a Confession of his Faith, and transmitted it to the adherents of the Reformed religion in Scotland. He was set at liberty about February 1549, being indebted for his release to the personal interposition of Edward VI. with the king of France, and immediately passed over to England. His reputation and zeal recommended him to archbishop Cranmer, who was then endeavouring to advance the Reformation, and he was appointed by the privy council preacher of the Reformed doctrines at Berwick, where he laboured with singular success for about two years. He was afterwards removed to Newcastle, where he had successfully defended his doctrines before the bishop of Durham, and was thus placed in a sphere of greater usefulness. In December 1551 he was nominated one of the chaplains in ordinary to Edward VI., and preached before his majesty at Westminster. He was offered the living of Allhallows, in London, which he declined. He also refused the bishopric of Rochester, not approving of the liturgy, and considering the Episcopal office destitute of divine authority.

      On the accession of the bigot Mary to the English throne in July 1553, he entered on a course of itinerant preaching in the counties of Buckingham and Kent; but at last finding England no longer safe for him, he proceeded to France, arriving at Dieppe January 28, 1554. He afterwards visited Geneva, where he formed a close intimacy with his brother-reformer John Calvin. The persecution of the Protestants in England being at that time very severe, numbers of them emigrated to the Continent, and in September of the same year, he received an invitation from the congregation of English refugees at Frankfort to become their minister. At the request of Calvin, he accepted it, and continued to officiate until embroiled in a dispute with Dr. Cox, afterwards bishop of Ely, and some other of the English exiles, concerning the Service Book of King Edward, rejected by him, but for which they earnestly contended. Having in his ‘Admonition to the Professors of the Gospel in England,’ published shortly before, boldly styled the emperor of Germany “as great an enemy to Christ as Nero,” his opponents in the congregation accused him to the senate of treason. Receiving private notice of his danger, he retired to Geneva, whence, after a residence of a few months, he ventured in the autumn of 1555 to return to his native country.


[portrait of John Knox]

      He immediately commenced preaching at Edinburgh, and various other places, with untiring zeal and energy, and his addresses produced so great an excitement that the Romish clergy, alarmed at his progress, summoned him to appear before them in the church of the Blackfriars at Edinburgh, May 15, 1556. On the 14th he came to the metropolis, attended by such a formidable retinue that his opponents were glad to drop the prosecution for the time. At the request of the Lords Glencairn and Marischal he now addressed a letter to the queen regent, earnestly exhorting her to hear the Protestant doctrines, which she scornfully handed to the archbishop of Glasgow, saying, “Please you, my lord, to read a pasquil.” About this time the Reformer was strongly urged to revisit Geneva to become the pastor of the English congregation there; and he, accordingly, departed for that place in July 1556. He was no sooner gone than the bishops cited him to appear before them; and in his absence they condemned him to death as a heretic, and burned him in effigy at the Cross of Edinburgh. Against this sentence he drew up an energetic appeal, which was printed at Geneva in 1558. In the spring of 1557 he had received letters from the Protestant lords to return to Scotland, and had actually reached Dieppe on his way, when he got other letters containing the most gloomy accounts of the state of the Protestant interest at home. These epistles he answered by strong remonstrances against timidity and inconstancy; and after spending some time in France he returned to Geneva. In 1558 he was admitted a burgess of that city, being called in the Register “Jehan Cnox, natif de Haddington, Eu Escosse.” The same year he published his ‘first Blast of the Trumpet against the Monstrons Regiment of Women,’ in which he denounces the rule of female sovereigns. About the same time he assisted in making a new Translation of the Bible into English, afterwards called the Geneva Bible, and also published his Letter to the Queen Regent, and his Appellation and Exhortation.

      In May 1559 he returned to Scotland. During the time that the lords of the congregation were assembled at Perth, while the queen regent was at Stirling, having summoned the Protestant ministers to stand their trial there, the bold Reformer preached a sermon in the former city against the idolatry of the mass and image worship. The indiscretion of a priest who, immediately on the conclusion of this discourse, was preparing to celebrate mass, excited the mob into fury, and they straightway proceeded to destroy the images and ornaments of the churches and monasteries, and left nothing standing of the latter but the bare walls. On June 9 Knox arrived at St. Andrews, where, in defiance of the threats of his enemies, he preached for three successive days; and such was the influence of his doctrine and the effect of his eloquence, that both the inhabitants and the magistrates resolved upon the establishment of the Reformed worship in that town, and several other places soon after followed its example. As at Perth, the excited populace destroyed the images in the churches, and demolished many of the religious houses, the abbey of Scone, and most of the monasteries in the counties of Perth and Fife, were thus despoiled of their pictures, images, and other ornaments. These violent proceedings were reprobated by the Protestant preachers and the leaders of the party, and Knox himself described them as the work of “the rascal multitude.” About the end of June the Reformer arrived at Edinburgh with the forces of the congregation, and, on July 7, the Protestant inhabitants solemnly chose him for their minister. On account, however, of the hostile feeling of the Papists towards him, Willock, a less obnoxious preacher, was soon after substituted in his place by the lords of the congregation, while Knox himself undertook a tour of preaching through the kingdom.

      At length, in August 1560, the presbyterian religion received the sanction of parliament, the old ecclesiastical courts being abolished, and the exercise of religious worship, according to the rites of the Romish church, entirely prohibited. After preaching for some months at St. Andrews, Knox resumed his station as minister of Edinburgh, and had a principal hand in composing the confession of Faith and the First Book of Discipline, which were at this time duly ratified by parliament.

      In August 1561 the unfortunate Queen Mary arrived in Scotland to assume the reins of government. She immediately established a private mass in the Chapel Royal, which excited the zeal and indignation of Knox, who openly declared from the pulpit, “that one mass was more frightful to him than ten thousand armed enemies landed in any part of the realm.” This freedom gave great offence to the queen, who had several long and angry conferences with the Reformer, when he uttered his admonitions with an apparent harshness and vehemence which often drew tears from her eyes. Having written a circular letter to several of the leaders of the Protestants in behalf of two men who were about to stand their trial for intruding into the palace, in the absence of the queen at Stirling, with the view of interrupting the celebration of mass, the contents were, by the privy council, declared to be treasonable, and Knox was in consequence served with an indictment for high treason. At his trial, which took place before an extraordinary convention of the nobility in December 1563, the queen presided in person, and was at no pains to conceal her triumph at finding him in such a position. “that man,” she remarked, pointing despitefully to the Reformer, “had made her weep, and shed never a tear himself; she would now see if she could not make him weep.” The defence of Knox was satisfactory to the court, and he was acquitted by a large majority, much to the mortification of Mary. He denounced, with great boldness, the marriage of the queen to Lord Darnley; and the latter, after his union with Mary, being induced to attend his preaching, the uncompromising Reformer, in the course of his sermon, quoted a passage of Scripture, to the effect that children were given them for their princes, and women for their rulers. This greatly offended Darnley, and the same afternoon Knox was taken before the council, and prohibited from preaching so long as the court remained in Edinburgh, which was only a few days. In 1566, after the murder of Rizzio, to which there is no reason whatever to believe he was privy, he withdrew to Kyle, and did not return to Edinburgh till after the queen’s dethronement, having in the meantime visited England.

      In July 1567 he preached the coronation sermon of James VI. in the parish church of Stirling. He also delivered a discourse at the meeting of the Regent Moray’s parliament in the ensuing December. On the assassination of the regent, he preached his funeral sermon, February 14th, 1570; and in October of the same year he was seized with an apoplectic fit, in consequence of which, he became much debilitated in body, though the ardour of his mind continued unimpaired. While the queen’s party were in possession of Edinburgh, towards the end of that year he denounced from the pulpit, his old friend, Kirkaldy of Grange, then governor of Edinburgh castle and provost of that city, for having broken open the tolbooth, and liberated one Fleming, who had been apprehended for a murder, under the following circumstances. His cousin, John Kirkaldy, had been summoned to appear in the justice court of Dunfermline, as member of an assize, when he was assaulted by George Durie, son of Durie of that ilk, with whom was one Henry Seton and others, and his life was only saved by the interference of the provost. Soon after Seton being in Edinburgh on business of his own, was attacked in Leith, as he was about to embark for Fife, by six retainers of Kirkaldy whom he had sent to baton him, with strict injunctions, however, not to draw their swords. On being struck by one of them, Seton drew his rapier to defend himself, but falling over the cable of an anchor lying on the beach, was repeatedly thrust through, and slain on the spot. One of the murderers, James Fleming, was apprehended; the other five reached the castle in safety. It was on the 21st of December that Fleming was taken out of prison by Kirkaldy, with a female prisoner, suspected of being cognisant of the assassination of the regent Moray, and on the Sunday following, the 24th, John Knox referred to his conduct in strong terms from the pulpit, reproving “as he mycht sic disorder,” and affirming “that in his dayes he never saw so scanderous, so malepart, so fearfull and so tyrannous a fact.” If the person, he said, guilty of this act, had been a man without god, “a throatcutter,” and such as had never known the works of God, it had moved him no more than other riots and enormities that he had witnessed in his time, but “to see stars fall from heaven,” and a man like Sir William Kirkaldy of the Grange “commit so manifest a treason, what godly heart could not but lament, tremble, and fear,” for “within there few yeiris man wald have luked for uther fruitis of that man than now have buddet furth.” (Bannatyne’s Journal, page 70, edit. 1806). An exaggerated version of Knox’s words having reached Kirkaldy, he the same afternoon sent the following letter to Knox’s colleague, Master John Craig: –

      “This day John Knox in his sermon openlie callit me a murderer and throat-cutter, whairin he has spoken further than he is able to justify; for I take God to be my damnation gif it was my mind that that man’s blood should have been shed of whom he was callit me the murderer; and the same God I desire, from the bottom of my heart, to pour out his vengeance suddenly upon him or me, whether of us two have been most desirous of innocent blood. This I desire you, in God’s name, to declare openly to the people. At Edinburgh castle, the 24th December 1570.”

      This epistle Mr. Craig refused to read from the pulpit, prudently answering that he durst read nothing there, without the knowledge and consent of the Church, and “so that dart being shot,” as Calderwood says, “the force of it vanished,” and Kirkaldy immediately lodged a complaint against Knox with the kirk session of Edinburgh, for the vindication of his honour, his good name and fame, as publicly as they had been assailed. On the following Sunday Knox took the opportunity of explaining from the pulpit the true meaning of his words, which had been greatly misrepresented, on which the laird of Grange withdrew his complaint, on Knox’s words and declaration being put in writing. appearing before the session, the Reformer earnestly besought them to admonish Kirkaldy of the great offence he had committed, and the superintendent of Lothian was sent to the castle for the purpose. The fourth Sunday after, the laird of Grange, after being absent from church for nearly a year, appeared there in compliment to Margaret, countess-dowager of Moray, on which occasion he was attended by a train composed of the same soldiers who had been engaged in Seton’s death, and the release of Fleming from the Tolbooth. In his sermon that day, Knox, taking this to be an attempt to intimidate him, dwelt particularly “on the sinfulness of forgetting benefits received from God,” and warned “proud condemners” that God’s mercy appertained not to such as with knowledge proudly transgressed, and more proudly maintained and defended their transgression (Bannatyne’s Journal, p. 235.) Kirkaldy deeming these remarks levelled at himself, made use of some very threatening language against the preacher, and a report soon spread that he had become the enemy of Knox, and intended to take his life. The barons of Kyle and Cunningham sent him a letter of remonstrance, in which, after reminding him of his former adherence to the cause of the Reformation, they mentioned the rumours that had reached them, and solemnly warned him of any attempts to injure Knox, “that man whom God had made the first planter and waterer of his church among them.” This letter, sent from Ayr, bore the signatures of Knox’s father-in-law, Lord Ochiltree, the earl of Glencairn, and eleven lesser barons.

      On the meeting of the General Assembly in March 1571, an anonymous libel, accusing Knox of publicly speaking and railing against the queen, having been affixed upon the Assembly-house door and other places, was brought by him, through his servant, Richard Bannatyne, under the notice of the Assembly. On coming there the said Richard thus addressed them: “It hath pleased God to make me a servant to that man of God, John Knox. And if I knew he were a false teacher, a seducer and raiser of schisms, or one that maketh division in the kirk of God, as he is reported to be by the former accusations, I would not serve him for all the substance in Edinburgh.” He therefore solicited “some public edict, that ye approve his doctrine; that thereby the rest of the ministry bearing part of the burden with him, which, in my judgment, now lyeth only on his back, the enemies have not occasion to say, ‘It is only John Knox that speaketh against the queen,’” &c. They all answered they would bear their part of the same burden with him. He craved an act thereupon, but it was refused. (Calderwood, vol. iii. p. 46.)

      The unceasing attacks of his enemies, which more than once placed his life in jeopardy, compelled Knox to retire to St. Andrews in May 1571. He remained there till the end of August 1572, when he returned to Edinburgh. His last public act was the admission of Mr. James Lawson, sub-principal of the King’s college of Aberdeen, as his successor, November 9, 1572. His bodily infirmities now daily increased. By an unwearied application to study, as well as by the frequency and energy of his public discourses, he had worn out a constitution naturally strong. On the 11th of the same month he was attacked with a cough, which confined him to his bed, and he sustained his last illness with the utmost fortitude and pious resignation. He died November 24, 1572, and was buried in the churchyard of St. Giles, now the Parliament Square, Edinburgh, his remains being attended to the grave by many of the nobility, and by crowds of mourning citizens. The earl of Morton, the newly elected regent, who was present, pronounced his eulogium, in the often-quoted words, “There lies he who never feared the face of man.”

      John Knox was distinguished above all the Reformers of his time for his exalted principles, great intellectual energy, undaunted intrepidity, and exemplary piety and morality. He was twice married: first to Marjory Bowes, daughter of a gentleman at Berwick, by whom he had two sons, and who died in 1560; and, second, in March 1564 to Margaret Stewart, daughter of Lord Ochiltree. His ‘History of the Reformation of Religion within the Realm of Scotland’ was published after his death; and to the fourth edition (Edinburgh, 1732) are appended all his other works, a list of which follows:

      John Knoxe’s Sermon against the Masse, 4th April, 1550, in presence of the Councell, &c. 16mo.

      A Godly Letter sent too the fayethfull in London, Newcastell, Barwyke, and to all other within the Realme of England that love the cominge of our Lorde Jesus. Rome, 1554, 8vo.

      A confession and Declaratio of Praiers added ther-unto by Jhon Knox, Minister of christes most Sacred Euangely, upon the death of that moste vertuous and most famous King Edward the VI., Kynge of England, Fraunce, and Ireland; in whiche confession, the sayde Iohn doth accuse no lesse hys owne offences, than the offences of others, to be the cause of the awaye-takinge of that moste godly Prince, now raininge with Christ, whyle we abyde plagues for our unthankfulnesse. Rome, 1554, 8vo.

      A faythfull Admonition made by John Knox, unto the Professours of God’s Truthe in England, whereby thou mayest lerne howe God syll haue his churche exercised with troubles, and how he defendeth it in the same. Esaie ix. After all this shall not the Lordes wrath cease, but yet shall hys hande be stretched out styll. Ibidem, Take hede that the Lorde roote thee not out bothe heade and tayle in one daye. Imprynted at Kalykow, 1554, 16mo.

      The Copie of a Letter, sent to the Ladye Mary Dowagire, Regent of Scotland, by John Knox, in the year 1556. Here is also a notable Sermon, made by the sayde John Knox; wherein is evidently proved that the Masse is, and alwayes hath been, abominable before God, and idolatrye. 1556, 8vo. New edition, nowe augmented and explaned by the Author, in the yeare of our Lord, 1558. Geneva, 1558, 16mo.

      The Appellation of John Knoxe, from the cruell and most iniust Sentence pronounced against him by the false Bishoppes and Clergie of Scotland; with his Supplication and Exhortation to the Nobilie, Estates, and Comunalitie of the same Realme. Geneva, 1558, 16mo.

      The First Blast of the Trumpet against the Monstruous Regiment of Women. 1558. 8vo.

      An Answer to a great number of blasphemous Cauillations, written by an Anabaptist, and Adversarie to God’s eternall Predestination; and confuted by John Knox, Minister of God’s Word in Scotland. Wherein the Author discovereth the craft and falshode of that Sect, that the Godly, knowing that error, may be confirmed in the trueth by the evident Word of God. Geneva, 1560, 16mo. Lond. 1591, 8vo.

      A Sermon preached by John Knox, Minister of Christ Jesus, in the publique audience of the Church of Edenbrough, within the Realme of Scotland, upon Sonday the 19 of August, 1565; for the which the said John Knox was inhibite preaching for a season. 1 Tim. iv. The time is come, that men cannot abyde the Sermon of veritie, nor holsome doctrine. To this is adioned, An Exhortation unto all the faithfull within the sayde Realme, for the reliefe of such as faythfully travayle in the preaching of God’s Word. Written by the same John Knox, at the commandment of the Ministrie aforesaid. 1566, 16mo.

      The Form of Divine Service, commonly called Knox’s Liturgy. 1567.

      Johne Knox to his loving brethren, whome God ones gathered in the Church of Edinburgh, and now are dispersed for tryal of our faith, &c. Stirling, 1571, 8vo.

      An Answer to a Letter of a Jesuit, named Tyrie. 1572.

      A Fort for the Afflicted; wherein are ministred, many notable and excellent Remedies againste the Stormes of Tribulation. Written chiefly for the comforte of Christes little flocke, which is the small number of the faithful. London, 1580, 16mo.

      A notable and comfortable Exposition upon the fourth of Mathew, concerning the Tentations of Christ. Lond. 1583, 16mo.

      The Historie of the Reformation of the Church of Scotland, in v Books; with his Life, by David Buchanan. Lond. 1584, 1586, 4to. Edin. 1644, fol. The 4th edition, with the Life of the Author, by Mat. Crawfurd. Edin. 1732, fol.

      Order and doctrine of the General Fast in Scotland, Dec. 25th, 1565. Lond. 1603, 12mo.

      Psalms of David, in prose and meeter; with their whole usuall Tunes, corrected and amended. To which is added, The whole Church Discipline. Edin. 1615, 8vo.

KNOX, WILLIAM, a minor poet, was born in 1789, in Roxburghshire, where his father was a respectable farmer. Sir Walter Scott, in his Diary, says that “he himself, succeeding to good farms under the duke of Buccleuch, became too soon his own master, and plunged into dissipation and ruin. His talent then showed itself in a fine strain of pensive poetry, far superior to that of Michael Bruce. I wished to do what I could for this lad, whose talent I really admired. I had him at Abbotsford (about 1815), but found him unfit for that sort of society. I tried to help him, but there were temptations he could never resist. He scrambled on, writing for the booksellers and magazines, and living like the Otways, and Savages, and chattertons of former days, though I do not know that he was in extreme want. His connexion with me terminated in begging a subscription or a guinea, now and then. His last works were spiritual hymns, which he wrote very well. In his own line of society he was said to exhibit infinite humour; but all his works are grave and pensive.” (Lockhart’s Life of Scott. p. 584.) His chief forte lay in writing sacred pieces, which were for the most part paraphrases of the Scriptures; but though they abound in spiritual simplicity and tenderness, none of them exhibits either the genius or the promise of Michael Bruce. The opening verses of ‘The Songs of Israel’ are in Knox’s best manner, and express his feelings, as regards his domestic relations, with great truth and beauty.

              Harp of Sion, pure and holy,
Pride of Judah’s easter land,
May a child of guilt and folly
Strike thee with a feeble hand?
May I to my bosom take thee,
Trembling from the prophet’s touch,
And with throbbing heart awake thee
To the strains I love so much?

              I have loved thy thrilling numbers,
Since the dawn of childhood’s day;
Since my mother soothed my slumbers
With the cadence of thy lay;
Since a little blooming sister
Clung with transport round my knee,
And my glowing spirit blessed her
With a blessing caught from thee!

           Mother – sister – both are sleeping,
Where no heaving hearts respire,
Whilst the eve of age is creeping
Round the widowed spouse and sire.
He and his, amid their sorrow,
Find enjoyment in thy strain:
Harp of Sion, let me borrow
Comfort from thy chords again!

To habits of the most deplorable dissipation, Knox unfortunately gave way, and in consequence was never out of difficulties. In his necessities Sir Walter Scott showed him great kindness, generously sending him money, ten pounds at a time. He died at Edinburgh on 12th November 1825, aged 36, his latter years being spent under the roof of his father, who, on retiring from farming, had taken a grocer’s shop in that city. – Knox’s works are:

      Songs of Israel. Edinburgh, 1824, 12mo.
      A Visit to Kublin. Edinburgh, 1824, 12mo.
      The Harp of Sion. Edinburgh, 1825, 12mo.
      The Lonely Hearth. Edinburgh, 1825, 12mo.


Return to The Scottish Nation Index Page