chiefly known as the translator of Horace, born at Brechin in 1710, was
educated at St. Leonards college, St. Andrews, and was afterwards
appointed professor of philosophy there. In 1747, when the colleges of
St. Leonard and St. Salvador were united, he was deprived of his chair,
on which he went to London. His well-known translation of Horace was
published in two volumes 8vo, with notes. He died in destitute
circumstances near London, in 1756, and was buried at the expense of the
parish. Besides his translation of Horace, he wrote A Clear and
Compendious History of the Heathen Gods and goddesses, and their
Contemporaries, for the use of Schools. London, 1752, 8vo.
WATSON, ROBERT. LL.D., an elegant historian, was born at St.
Andrews about 1730. He was the son of an apothecary of that town, who
was also a brewer. He received his education at the school and
university of his native place, and to improve himself he removed first
to the university of Glasgow, and afterwards to that of Edinburgh.
Having acquired a knowledge of the
principles of universal grammar, he prepared a course of lectures on
style and language, and also one on rhetoric, both of which he delivered
at Edinburgh, by which he secured the friendship of Lord Kames, Mr.
Hume, and other eminent men of that day. About this time he was licensed
to preach; and a vacancy having occurred in one of the churches of St.
Andrews, he offered himself a candidate for it, but was disappointed.
Soon after, however, on the retirement of Mr. Rymer, he obtained the
professorship of logic in St. Salvadors college, to which was added, by
patent from the crown, that of rhetoric and belies letters. On the death
of Principal Tullidelph, in November 1777, he was appointed, through the
influence of the earl of Kinnoul, principal of the college, and at the
same time presented to the church and parish of St. Leonard. He had
previously received the degree of doctor of laws. Dr. Watson wrote the
History of Philip II. of Spain, published in 1777, which obtained for
him a considerable degree of literary reputation. He had finished the
first four books of a History of the reign of Philip III., when he
died, March 31, 1781. The work was completed, by the addition of two
more books, by Dr. William Thomson, and published in 1783. Dr. Watson
married a lady of singular beauty and virtue, the daughter of Dr. Shaw,
professor of divinity in St. Marys college, by whom he had five
daughters, who survived him.
WATSON, GEORGE, an eminent portrait painter, and first president
of the Scottish Academy of Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture, was
the son of John Watson of Overmains, Berwickshire, by his wife, Frances
Veitch of Elliott. He was born at Overmains in 1767; and received his
early education in Edinburgh. His taste for art was first shown by his
employing himself during an illness, while a boy, in copying a print
with pen and ink; and, on being sent to Edinburgh for his general
education, he assiduously set about improving himself in drawing and
acquiring knowledge in the study of nature. When eighteen years of age,
he went to London, carrying with him an introduction to Sir Joshua
Reynolds. For about two years he was a pupil of that great artist.
On his return to Edinburgh he commenced
portrait painter, and about the same time married Rebecca Smellie,
eldest daughter of Mr. William Smellie, printer, one of the founders of
the Scottish Antiquarian Society. At that time there were few portrait
painters in Edinburgh, the two principal being Raeburn and Martin.
In 1808, with some of his brother artists,
he commenced an exhibition of modern art, in Corris Lyceum, Nicholson
Street, under the name of the Society of Scottish Artists, of which he
was elected president. It was attended with so much success that the
members opened another, in the following year, in Mr. afterwards Sir
Henry Raeburns rooms, York Place, where it continued to be held for
four successive years, with increasing encouragement. Mr. Watson also
established a life academy in connexion with the society. A resolution
having been carried at a meeting of the members for the division of the
surplus funds, after payment of the expenses of the exhibition and life
academy, the society was dissolved, in spite of the strenuous efforts of
Mr. Watson and eight other artists, to prevent such a result. On the
dissolution of the society, the members presented Mr. Watson, as their
president, with a handsome piece of plate as a token of their esteem.
After the dissolution of the former society,
a considerable number of the Edinburgh artists continued to exhibit in
the Institution Rooms, till 1826, when the Scottish Academy was founded,
on the model of the Royal Academy of London, and Mr. Watson was
unanimously elected its first president. While his health permitted he
yearly contributed largely to its exhibitions, which were held in the
Waterloo Rooms, and by his zeal and firmness of purpose, during its
early difficulties, he contributed materially to placing it on a
successful and permanent footing. In 1838 the Scottish Academy was
incorporated by royal charter. It consists of thirty academicians, and
twenty associates. Mr. Watson died before the charter was obtained,
September 6, 1837, aged 70, after a long illness of 15 years. He was
survived by a widow, two sons, and three daughters, out of a family of
exhibiting some of his portraits at the Royal Academy of London about
1815, Mr. Watson received numerous invitations to that city, and while
there he painted, among many others, the portraits of the Dean of
Canterbury, Lord and Lady Combermere, and a characteristic one of
Benjamin West, president of the Royal Academy. The latter is now in the
National Gallery of Scotland at Edinburgh, having been presented to the
Royal Scottish Academy by his son, Mr. William Smellie Watson, R.S.A. A
duplicate of this portrait having been sent to the Academy of Art at
South Carolina, Mr. Watson was elected an honorary member thereof. It
was afterwards exhibited through the whole of the United States of
America, with great éclat.
Sir John Watson Gordon, the distinguished
portrait painter, who was elected president of the Royal Scottish
Academy, on the death of Sir William Allan, in 1850, is the nephew of
the subject of this memoir, who was a third cousin of Sir Walter Scott.
Among the paintings of Mr. Watson while
president of the Scottish Academy were: -- Portrait of Sir Charles Kerr;
The Hermit; James Hogarth; Colonel MDonald, 91st regiment, and his
Lady; Forrest Alexander, painted for the commercial Bank of Scotland;
Jewish Doctor; Rev. Bishop Patterson; Old Soldier; Female Ornithologist;
Sir Peter Murray, Threiplaud; Narrative interrupted, with Portraits of
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