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The Scottish Nation

MESTON, WILLIAM, a burlesque poet, the son of a blacksmith, was born in the parish of Midmar, in Aberdeenshire, in 1688. After completing his studies at the Marischal college of Aberdeen, he became one of the teachers in the grammar school of that city. He was subsequently for some time tutor to the young Earl Marischal and his brother, afterwards Marshal Keith; and in 1714, by the interest of the countess, was appointed professor of philosophy in the Marischal college. On the breaking out of the rebellion in 1715, he espoused the cause of the Pretender, and was by the Earl Marischal made governor of Dunnottar castle. After the defeat of the rebels at Sheriffmuir, he was forced to flee for refuge to the mountains, where, till the passing of the act of indemnity, he lurked with a few fugitives like himself, for whose amusement he composed several pieces in rhyme, which he styled ‘Mother Grim’s Tales.’ He subsequently chiefly resided in the family of the countess of Marischal, till the death of that lady; and some years afterwards, in conjunction with his brother Samuel, he commenced an academy in Elgin, which, however, did not ultimately succeed. He then successively settled at Turriff, Montrose, and Perth, and finally became preceptor in the family of Mr. Oliphant of Gask. His health beginning to decline, for the benefit of the mineral waters, he removed to Peterhead, where he was principally supported by the bounty of the countess of Errol. Subsequently he removed to Aberdeen, where he died in the spring of 1745. He is said to have been a superior classical scholar, and by no means a contemptible philosopher and mathematician. He was much addicted to conviviality, and is stated to have had a lively wit, and no small share of humour. His poems, however, are very coarse productions. The first of them printed, called ‘The Knight,’ appeared in 1723. It is a scurrilous description of Presbyterianism, after the manner of Butler, of whom he was a professed imitator. Afterwards was published the first decade of ‘Mother Grim’s Tales;’ and next the second decade, by Iodocus, her grandson; and some years after, the piece called ‘Mob contra Mob.’ The whole, collected into a small volume, appeared at Edinburgh in 1767, with a short account of his life prefixed. Some Latin poems are included in the second decade, but these are of inferior merit.

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