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Significant Scots
Abercromby, Patrick


ABERCROMBY, PATRICK, historian, was the third son of Alexander Abercromby of Fetterneir, in Aberdeenshire, a branch of the house of Birkenbog in Banffshire, which again derived its descent from Abercromby of Abercromby in Fife. Francis, the eldest son of Abercromby of Fetterneir, was created Lord Glassford in 1685; but as the patent, by an extraordinary restriction, was limited to his own life only, the title did not descend to his children. Patrick Abercromby was born at Forfar in 1656, and was educated at the university of St. Andrews, where he took the degree of Doctor in Medicine in 1685. His family being eminently loyal, the young physician is said to have changed his religion, to please James VII., who consequently made him one of the physicians of the court. A proceeding so adverse to all propriety, however loyal, and accordant with the temper of the times, was speedily and severely punished; for, at the Revolution, Abercromby was deprived of his appointment. For some years after he appears to have lived abroad; but he returned to Scotland in the reign of Queen Anne, and devoted himself to the study of national antiquities. In 1707, he published a translation of M. Beauge's very rare book, L'Histoire de la Guerre d'Ecosse, 1556, under the title of, The History of the Campagnes 1543 and 1549; being an exact account of the Martial Expeditions performed in those days by the Scots and French on the one hand, and the English and their foreign auxiliaries on the other: done in French by Mons. Beauge, a French gentleman; with an introductory preface by the Translator. In the preface, the ancient alliance between Scotland and France is strenuously asserted. This curious French work, which gives a complete account of the war carried on by the Popish government of Cardinal Beatoun, aided by the French, against the English under Protector Somerset, was reprinted in the original by Mr Smythe of Methven for the Bannatyne Club, 1329, along with a preface, giving an account of Abercromby's translation. The great work of Dr Abercromby is in two volumes, folio, entitled, The Martial Achievements of the Scots Nation. He tells us in the preface, that, not venturing to write regular history or biography, he had resolved to relate the deeds of all the great men of his country, in a less ambitious strain, and with a more minute attention to small facts, than is compatible with those styles of composition. He also, with great modesty, apologises for his manner of writing, by saying, "When my reader is told that 'twas my fate to spend most part of my youth in foreign countries, to have but viewed, en passant, the south part of Britain, and to have been conversant with Roman and French, rather than with English authors, he will not expect from me those modish turns of phrase, nor that exact propriety of words, Scotsmen, by reason of their distance from the fountain of custom, so seldom attain to." The first volume of the Martial Achievements was published, in 1711, by Mr Robert Freebairn, and shows a respectable list of subscribers. About one-half of it is occupied by the early fabulous history of Scotland, in which the author, like almost all men of his time, and especially the Jacobites, was a devout believer. It closes with the end of the reign of Robert Bruce. The second volume appeared, with a still more numerous and respectable list of subscribers, in 1715; it was partly printed by Freebairn, and partly by Thomas Ruddiman, who not only corrected the manuscript, but superintended its progress through the press. This is said by Chalmers to have been the first typographical effort of Ruddiman. Abercromby's Martial Achievements is upon the whole a very creditable work for a Scottish antiquary of that period; the author is not superior to the credulity of his age and party, but he is eminently industrious, and his narrative is written in an entertaining style. The work shows a wide range of authorities, and is liberally interspersed with controversial discussions of the points most contested by antiquaries. Dr Patrick Abercromby died poor in 1716, or, as other writers say, in 1726, leaving a widow in distressed circumstances.

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