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Significant Scots
Sir James Balfour


BALFOUR, (Sir) JAMES, an eminent antiquary, herald, and annalist, was born about the close of the sixteenth century. He was the eldest son of a small Fife laird, Michael Balfour of Denmylne, who derived his descent from James, son of Sir John Balfour of Balgarvy, a cadet [This branch was ennobled in 1607, in the person of Michael Balfour of Balgarvy, who, having served King James in several embassies to the principal courts of Europe, was created Lord Balfour of Burleigh. This peerage was attainted in consequence of the concern of its occupant in the civil war of 1715.] of the ancient and honourable house of Balfour of Balfour in Fife. James Balfour, the ancestor of Sir Michael had obtained the estate of Denmylne from James II., in the fourteenth year of his reign, which corresponds with 1450-1. Michael Balfour, the father of Sir James, and also of Sir Andrew, whose life has been already commemorated, was, in the words of Sir Robert Sibbald, "equally distinguished for military bravery and civil prudence." He bore the honourable office of Comptroller of the Scottish Household, in the reign of Charles I., and in 1630 was knighted, at Holyrood house, by George, Viscount Dupplin, Chancellor of Scotland, under his Majesty’s special warrant. This eminent personage was, by Jean Durham, daughter of James Durham of Pitkerrow, the father of five sons, all of whom attained to distinction in public life, besides nine daughters, who all formed honourable alliances, except two, who died unmarried. He lived to see three hundred of his own descendants; a number which his youngest son, Sir Andrew, lived to see doubled.

Sir Michael Balfour gave his eldest son an education suitable to the extended capacity which he displayed in his earliest years. This education of which the fruits are apparent in his taste and writings, was accompanied by a thorough initiation into the duties of religion, as then professed on a Presbyterian model. The genius of the future antiquary was first exhibited in a turn for poetry, which was a favorite study among the scholars of that period, even where there was no particular aptitude to excel in its composition, but for which Sir James Balfour appears to have had a genuine taste. His juvenile proficiency in versification is thus alluded to by the poet Leoch, or Leochaeus, in his Strenae, published in 1626, of which that entitled Janus is dedicated Generoso Juveni Jacobo Balfourio Kincardio:

Hunc tu carminibus constrictum, Jacobe, Latinis
Coge tuis numeris, quos Musa Caledonis aptat,
Et natura tibi; nam tu quoque Scotica Siren.
Panthea nostra tu est ita cultu iaeta Britanno,
Et meliora mea, si quid queat esse, Puella.

It appears that Balfour, who cultivated Scottish vernacular poetry, had successfully translated Leoch’s Latin poem, entitled, Panthea, into that style of verse; therefore the Latinist says—

Namque ut pulchra satis, minus est mea Panthea casta;
Quum non pulchra minus, et tua casta magis.

Sir Robert Sibbald informs us that he had seen a volume containing Latin and Scottish poems by Sir James Balfour, which, however, is now lost. In its absence, the taste at least of the youthful antiquary for poetical objects of contemplation, is evinced by the following letter, extracted from a transcribed collection of his epistles in the Advocates’ Library at Edinburgh. It is addressed to Lord Elcho, but has no date.

MY LORD,

Ye aske of my health and quhat I am aboute. I make a returne, by that rill issewing from the ocean of your love, that I am now taken with the plesur of the fieldes, and delyght als much in my reteired quietnes from out of the city, als your lordship does to find a drag going cole at Cameron, [A coal field at Cameron, in Fife.]for as that promises you for your pains riches, so does this to me healthful houres, and bountiful recreations with the Muses, quhen as I often feid my eiyes with the fruitful usery of my winter labors, much rejoysing that with healthful prosperity, you should remember your poorest freindes. Onley let me pleid for my bypast silence, since I have nothing to wreatt but foolries, which I presume to be bot harsh musicke for so wyse and weill tuned eares. Howsoever, quhen you are most idle, will ye be bot pleased to overlook this paper, in which, without aney mentall reservatione, I subscribe myselve, my lord,

Your lo: most faithful servant.

Balfour also appears, at an early period of his life, to have cultivated the society of William Drummond of Hawthornden, then by far the highest poetical name in Scotland. Probably, as none of his own pieces have escaped to posterity, they were such as to render their loss no matter of regret: he must, however, have possessed the sort of qualification which we have elsewhere [See Life of George Bannatyne.] designated as passive or negative poetry, that is, a keen perception and relish of the compositions of others, though perhaps destitute of the active power of creating good poetry himself. This seems to be evidenced by the following letters to Drummond, which breathe strongly of that ardent affection, which we are apt to entertain towards distinguished literary personages whose writings have made a deep impression upon our minds.

"To HAWTHORNDEN,

"Sir, - That love I beare you hath mened me, with this passing bearir, to vreatt thesse few lynes, content thus in haist to salut you, in doing quhereof, altho I fulfill not the office of a frind, nevertheless I evedince the constancey of my affection. You may therfore returne something to reid: and, if necessity urge, imitat my brevity; although I be bewitched wit the neatness of your pieces, yet, finding heir in my selve consciouns, I daire hardly be bold to crave a quholl sheitt of you; howsoever, I will be yours quhill I am. "JA: BALFOUR."

"TO THE SAME,

"Sir,_You desyre of me quholl sheitts, I must confess a symboll of our inteirest affections. Bot I, conscious of my own imbecility, rather prove a Laconick. No wounder altho my vaine be stopt, since this longe tyme you have not lanced it, aither with the reiding of some of your pieces, or with so much as with a lyne of your hand. Whence, then, is it that you should become such a usurer to him that has not receved so long aney learnid annuity of you. Your starrie Urania, on the wings of a strong wind, flees by us, in every ones handes: quherfor, I intreid you, wold you have me deprived of it? Have you thought me dead to the Muses, that aither I could not judge of it, or so dull that I could not praise it. In so doing, you have dirogatt much from my genius, and daily conversatione. Nevertheless, in despight of your interdictione, I have gained a sight of it. I wold conceill my thoughts with silence. I wold be revenged, if the admiratione of your writtings did not breke all sense of injury; and though you scatter abroad your pieces (yet ceasse not to love me,) I sall enjoy them, though by the bountifull hand of ane other. Faire ye weill."

The poetical temperament of Sir James, and the courtly grace which generally is, and ever ought to be the accompaniment of that character, is further shown in the following epistle to a lady, which we consider a very elegant specimen of the English prose of the age of Charles I., and, indeed, singularly so, when the native country of the writer is considered: -

"TO A LADY FOR A FRIEND,

"Madam,—You must appardone me if, after the remembring of my best love to you, I should rander you hartly thanks for your affectione, since thankes are the best knowen blossomes of the hartes strongest desyres. I never, for my pairt, doubtit of your affectione, bot persuadit myselve that so good a creature could never prove unconstant, and altho the fairest dayes may have some stormy overshadowings, yet I persuade myselve that these proceids not from heavenly thinges, bot from vapors arising from below, and though they for a tyme conte (ract) the sun’s heat, yet make they that heat in the end to be more powerfull. I hope your friends sall have all the contentment that layes in my power to gif them: And, since Malice itselve can not judge of you bot noblie, I wisch that tyme make your affectione als constant, as my harte sail ever prove, and remaine loyall; and lest I seinie to weirey you more than myselve, again I must beg pardone for all my oversights (if you think of aney) wich will be a rare perfectione of goodness in you to forgive freely, and love constantly him quhosse greatest happines under heaven is always to leive and die.

"Your trewly affectionat servant."

Sir James seems to have spent some of the years subsequent to 1626 in foreign countries, where he is said to have improved himself much by observing the manners of nations more polished than that to which he himself belonged, and by forming the acquaintance of eminent literary men. At the close of his continental travels, he spent some time in London, and obtained the friendship of the distinguished antiquary, Sir Robert Cotton, and also of Sir William Segar, Garter King at Arms. He had now turned his attention to the study of heraldry, and the friendship of these men, which he obtained rather through the intense sympathy produced by a common taste for rare pursuits, than by the recommendations of others, was of material service in the completion of what might be called his professional education. He also contracted a literary acquaintance with Roger Dodsworth, and Sir William Dugdale, to whom he communicated several charters and other pieces of information regarding Scottish ecclesiastical antiquities, which they attached to their Monasticon Anglicanum, under the title, Caenobia Scotica, and which Sir James afterwards expanded into a distinct volume, under the title, Monasticon Scoticum, though, as Bishop Nicholson has remarked, it looked more like an index to such a work than the complete work itself. The friendship of Sir William Segar appears to have been of considerable influence in the direction of Balfour’s course of life. He exerted himself to conciliate to his Scottish protege, the respect of the college of heralds; and his efforts were crowned with such success, that, in 1628, that body presented to Balfour the following honourable diploma:

"To all and singular to whom thir presents shall come, Greeting: Sir William Segar, Sir Richard St George, and Sir John Barroughe, Garter, Clarentius, and Norroy, Kings of Arms; William Penson, Lancaster; Sir Henry St George, Richmond, etc. According to the laudable custome of nations, not to conceill that honour which is due to verteu and learning, We doe testifie and beare record, that James Balfour, Esq. by and attour his insicht and knowledge in diverse Languages, has also singular good experience and knowledge in all antiquities and forraine histories, but especiall in these concerning the illand of Great Britain and Irland; as also we testifie and does vitness him to be ane expert and graduate herauld, in blazing of cotta and armories, in inventing of crests and supporters, in searching of genealogies and discents, in marshalling of funeralls, triumphs and inaugurations, etc. and in all ceremonies whatsoever pertaining to honour or armes. In witnes of the premisses, we above named, kings of armes, heraulds, and pursevants, hes to this our present testificate and approbatione, with the several cotts of our armes, affixed our manuall subscriptions, at our office of armes in the cittie of London, Oct. 3, and Dec. 4, 1628."

Besides these antiquarian friends, Balfour secured several others of a more courtly complexion, who were natives of his own country. He enjoyed the friendship of Sir Robert Aytoun, the poetical courtier, with whom he afterwards became distantly connected by marriage. He was also on the most familiar terms with another poetical attendant on the elegant court of Charles I.—the Earl of Stirling. [We quote from his correspondence in the Advocates’ Library, the two following letters to this distinguished nobleman: - TO MY LORD VISCOUNT OF STREVELING, PRINCIPALL SECRETARY OF SCOTLAND. My Lord, - I love your letters, because they bring with them still some matter of gladness. The retribution of your innumerable favours to me, are a few naked lynes, which, by the generosity of your noble mynd, are als much in esteeme with you as riches are o the most miserable world-mongers. According to your Lordship’s command, I have, by my letters, huymbly randred thanks to the Kingis Majestie, my master, although ordnardly dayed in homely russet, yet doubled with the best tissew, and full of the strong desires of ane ardent affectione, quhillks, at the redicing, your goodness will extend one word of unanimity with me, and sympathize with tir gratulations as a patrone of their mater: Then sall your lordship find that your favors hes beine putt upone ane quho will ever be myndful of the least of them, and remaine a daily headsman for the further incresse of your health and honour. Fairweill, my lord. Halyroodhouss this 7 of March, 1631. TO THE SAME, My werry noble good Lord, - This bearir, my frind, as in a sure sanctuary, casts himselve in the bossame of your patrociney; a man every way worthy of your respect; by profession a lover of nobility; quhosse ingenious spirit and modest carriage betters his stock. If your lordship suspecte my recommendatione as partiall, hes obsequious carriage and worthy parts, after your triall, will make all good: So wishing your lordship all happiness, heir and for ever, I will live and die, Your lordship, JA: BALFOUR. Ed. 12 Maii, 1631.] His chief patron, however, was George, Viscount Dupplin, [Afterwards created Earl of Kinnoul, on the occasion of the coronation of King Charles at Edinburgh in 1633. Sir James Balfour related the following curious anecdote of his lordship. The King, in 1626, had commanded, by a letter to his Privy Council, that the Archbishop of St. Andrews should have precedence of the Chancellor. To this his lordship would never submit. "I remember," says Sir James, "that K. Charles sent me to the Lord Chancellor on the day of his coronation, in the morning, to show him that it was his will and pleasure, bot onlie for that day, that he wold ceed and give way to the archbishop, but he returned by me to his Majestie a very bruske answer, which was that he was ready in all humility to lay his office doune at his Majestie’s feet; bot since it was his royal will should he enjoy it with the knowen privileges of the same, never a priest in Scotland should sett a foot before him, so long as his blood was hote. Quhen I had related his answer to the king, he said, ‘Weel, Lyone, letts goe to business: I will not medle farther with that olde cankered gootish man, at quhose hand ther is nothing to be gained bot soure words.’" What makes this anecdote the more expressively illustrative of the rancour with which the secular officers and nobility behold the newly dignified clergy is, that the Lord Chancellor had just on the preceding afternoon been raised to the rank of Earl of Kinnoul.] who held the high and almost vice-rega1 office of Chancellor of Scotland. By the recommendation of this nobleman, aided by his own excellent qualifications, he was created by Charles I., Lord Lion King at Arms, a dignified legal office in Scotland, in which resides the management of all matters connected with armorial honours, as also all public ceremonials. Sir Jerome Lyndsay having previously resigned the office, Balfour has crowned and installed at Holyroodhouse, June 15, 1630, having in the preceding month been invested with the necessary honour of knighthood by the king. On this occasion, Lord Dupplin officiated as Royal Commissioner.

Sir James Balfour now settled in Scotland, in the enjoyment of his office. On the 21st of October, he was married to Anna Aiton, daughter of Sir John Aiton of that Ilk, and in January, 1631, he obtained, in favour of himself and his spouse, a grant of the lands and barony of Kinnaird in Fife. In December, 1633, he was created a baronet by Charles I., probably in consequence of the able manner in which he marshalled the processions and managed the other ceremonials of the royal visit that year. At this period of peace and prosperity, a number of learned and ingenious men were beginning to exert themselves in Scotland. It was a peaceful interval between the desolating civil wars of the minority of King James, and the equally unhappy contest which was soon after incited by religious and political dissentions. Like soldiers enjoying themselves during a truce, the people were beginning to seek for and cultivate various sources of amusement in the more elegant arts. This was the era of Jamieson, the painter of Drummond, the poet—of the geographer Pont—and the historians Spottiswood, Calderwood, Johnston, and Hume. [David Hume of Godscroft, author of the History of the House of Douglas.] Sir James Balfour, inspired with the common spirit of these men, commenced the writing of history, with as much zeal as could be expected in an age, when, the printing of a written work being a comparatively rare occurrence, literature might be said to want the greater part of its temptations.

Sir James, as already mentioned, had been bred a strict Presbyterian. In this profession he continued to the last, notwithstanding that, in politics, he was an equally firm royalist. In a letter to a young nobleman, (Correspondence, Advocates’ Library,) he is found advising a perusal of "Calvine, Beza, Parens, and Whittaker," as "orthodox writers." When the introductions of the liturgy imposed by Charles I, roused Scotland from one end to the other in a fit of righteous indignation, Sir James Balfour, notwithstanding his connection with the government, joined cordially with his countrymen, and wrote an account of the tumult of the 23rd of July, under the burlesque title of "Stoneyfield Day." [In a letter written on the 27th of July, to his friend Lord Elcho, he thus expresses himself regarding that extraordinary exertion of popular force: - My Lord, - I know your suddain departure from this citey on Saturday was to see how they brought your light from darkness. Neither will I accuse you as privy to that OSANNA our grate-heided bishope had this bypast, Saboth, from the tumultuous concors in welcoming home their new devised liturgie to old Sr. Geilles: Bot our day here begane to darken ere twelffe o’clocke, (a verey short day in Julay indeed) and if we live to tell you, my lorde likely to become a foule day, ver not our pryme churchmen had large breiches (happily) and nimble helles to save them from a stoney tempest, which at two several tymes menacd, destructione to all, yet nibbled the noddells of bot two or three. Nather could that lubardly monster with the satin goune defend himselve by hes swollwen hands and gressy belley, bot he had half a dissone neck fishes to a reckoninge, and Maxwell becam so affrighted that to have been safely gone I verily think that he wold have left Arminius house, and run under the keyes of the baticane – nay, he that first vented here Christ’s locall discension to hell, if he might have been liberant of feare, wold have (before his tyme) gone thither himselve. Bot this day is fair wether, and ane indictione set on Edinburghe, for since the preceisse peopell will not sing ther prayers, our famous clergy will not suffer them to have aney in prosse. Our weyffes heir inveighss (envy) your lordships happiness, quho may pray publickly as the primitive fathers did, and say so be it, quheras ther gressey bellied fathers wold have them to sing Amen, and to use maney vantone curtisies, bobbings, nodings, and knellings, which this roughe and uncivill multitude have not been accustomed nor acquainted with – a world of such trash and trumperies as your lordship may behold landeit in ther New Alcoran. God bless our prince and all thouse that gives him healthful counsaill, and as to thesse men quho only ambitiously hunts ther commodity and honor, God gif them the reward of that honorees persone, quho after he had betrayed his maker and master, hanged himselve, and gif your lordship many happey dayes to be assured of the treuth, by which I own myselve to be, Your lordships faithful friend and servant.]

But though indignant, in common with all people of his own persuasion, at the religious innovations attempted by the government, Sir James appears to have very soon adopted different feelings. Like many moderate persons who had equally condemned the ill advised conduct of the king he afterwards began to fear that the opposition would produce greater mischiefs than the evil which was opposed. He conceived that the people in their indignation at the royal measures had put themselves under a more slavish subjection to a band of ambitious nobles, who appeared determined to press upon the royal prerogative till they should leave no trace of the ancient government in the land. Thus, so early as May 1639, less than two years after the publication of "Stoneyfield Day," and while the popular leaders enjoyed an unlimited power, he is found addressing the following letter "to a noble friend."

Altho, my lord, you think perhaps I might gaine muche by silence, for my part I will never make question in speaking, quhen I have aney thing in my head better than silence, and admonishe your lordship once again to bewarr of thosse men quho, furiously seeking to cry downe the present government, and to shake the fundamental lawes of the kingdom, doe bot rather aim at ther owen particular advantages than redress of disorders, and since I have admonished your lordship quhat to eshew, I wold also gladly advysse you quhat were most fitting for your awen housse and the preservation of your awen family to follow. And to causse, if I could, good lawes to arysse out of evill maneris were not I think it more fitt to take tyme to deliberate upone a matter of such importance, and trewly, my lord, to speake heirin to purposse all the witt I have, joined to that of others, were no more than sufficient. In confidence of your lordship’s pardon, and in assurance that ye will remaine constant to be my werrey good lord, I will heir subscribe myself,

Your lordship’s most obliged servant.
Falkland, 9 May, 1639.

At a somewhat earlier date, he writes in the following terms to his friend Drummond, who, it will be recollected, was also a devoted loyalist: -

Sir,—By your letters, you aske how I live heir in winter, out of the capitall citey. I assure you, mured up within the royall walles, expecting the sessone of primrosses and anemonies. I am heir in a place of no curiosites. The sunne bath yet heat eneuche to dissolve our medow snowes, which all the winter fall upon the neighbouring mountains. If ye wold have me to conceil nothing from you, I must freely tell you that there is no place quhar verteu is so neir to vice as heir. Idleness in this place being our honest mens ordinarey creatione, and debauches of all sortes the exercisses quherein they disscipline themselves. Notwithstanding if ye be yet yourselve, and by solemne vow have forsaken the world and the vanities thereof, assure yourselve that it is in this place quher felicitie doth attend you, and being once in this place, you will esteeme all thosse as banished persons quhom you have left in Edinburghe behind. Faire weill, and confidently love him quho sail ever bie,

Your treu friend and servant.
Falkland, January 8, 1639.

It thus appears that, in some disgust at the bold measures taken against the government, he had now retired to the royal hunting-palace of Falkland, where, and at his seat of Kinnaird, he devoted himself to those studies by which the present may be forgotten in the past. His annals, however, show that he still occasionally appeared in public affairs in his capacity of Lord Lion. It is also clear that his political sentiments must have been of no obtrusive character, as he continued in his office during the whole term of the civil war, and was only at last deprived of it by Cromwell. During his rural retirement at Falkland and Kinnaird, he collected many manuscripts relative to heraldry, and wrote many others in his own language, of which some are preserved in the Advocates’ Library, while others were either lost at the capture of Perth (1651), to which town he had conveyed them for safety, or have since been dispersed. Persevering with particular diligence in illustrating the History of Scotland, he had recourse to the ancient charters and diplomas of the kingdom, the archives of monasteries, and registers of cathedral churches, and in his library was a great number of chronicles of monasteries, both originals and the abridgments; but it is to be deeply regretted that many of these valuable manuscripts fell a prey to the sacrilegious and illiterate, and were shamefully destroyed by the hands of children, or perished in the flames during the civil wars. A few only were opportunely rescued from destruction by those who were acquainted with their value. The style of these monastic chronicles was, indeed, rude and barbarous but they were remarkable for the industry, judgment, and fidelity to truth, with which they were compiled. For some time after the erection of monasteries in this kingdom, these writers were almost the only, and certainly the most respectable observers in literature, as scarcely any other persons preserved in writing the memory of the important occurrences of the times. In these registers and chronicles were to be found, an accurate record of transactions with foreign powers, whether in forming alliances, contracting marriages of state or regulating commerce; letters and bulls of the holy see; answers, edicts, and statutes of kings; church rescripts; provincial constitutions; acts of parliament; battles; deaths of eminent persons; epitaphs and inscriptions; and sometimes the natural appearances of the seasons; the prevalent diseases; miracles and prodigies; the heresies that sprung up; with an account of the authors, and their punishments. In short, they committed to writing every important occurrence in church and state, that any question arising in after ages might be settled by their authority, and the unanimous confirmation of their faithful and accurate chronicles. In collecting and preserving these manuscripts, Balfour therefore raised a monument to his memory which the latest posterity must revere. For he did so from a conviction that these old and approved authors were the only guides to the knowledge of facts, as well as to correct evidence, and reasoning on the remote history of Scotland; and he considered them, not only of signal use to himself but a valuable treasure to the literature of the country. He therefore persevered throughout life in collecting such manuscripts, without regard to either trouble or expense. The catalogue which he left is still extant, [Memoria Balfouriana, p. 19-33.] although many, as already mentioned, were lost by the depredations of the English and other causes. He formed with great industry, and at a considerable expense, a library of the most valuable books on every subject, particularly in the branches of Scottish history, antiquities, and heraldry. From these he extracted every assistance they could afford in the pursuit of his inquiries, and for further aid he established a correspondence with the most respectable living historians, such as Robert Maule, Henry Maule, David Buchanan, Gordon of Straloch, and, as has already been shown, Drummond of Hawthornden, all of whom he regarded through life with the warmest esteem, and with the greatest respect for their talents and accomplishments.

He endeavoured to elucidate our history (which was then involved in confusion) from the examination of ancient medals, coins, rings, bracelets, and other relics of antiquity, of which he formed a separate collection, as an appendage to his library. Observing also from historians, that the Romans had long been settled in Scotland, and had made desperate attempts to expel our ancestors, both Scots and Picts, he collected the inscriptions which they had left on certain stone buildings, and transcribed them among his notes. In compiling the work to which he gave the title of Annals, our author was more anxious to supply the deficiencies of other historians, and to bring to light obscure records, than to exhibit a continued and regular history of Scotland. He therefore carefully extracted, from old manuscripts, the names, dignities, and offices of distinguished public characters, the dates of remarkable transactions, and every other circumstance of importance, and arranged them in separate paragraphs. He was actuated by a generous disposition, to rescue from oblivion and the grave, the memory of illustrious men; for which purpose he visited all the cathedral, and the principal parish churches of the kingdom, and examined their sepulchres and other monuments, from which he copied the epitaphs and inscriptions, carefully preserving them in a volume. He deeply interested himself in some laudable attempts to improve the geography of Scotland. The ingenious Timothy Pont traversed the whole kingdom, (an attempt which had not been made before) and from personal surveys made plans and descriptions of the different counties and islands, which he was intending to publish, when carried off by a premature death. Sir John Scott of Scotstarvet put these papers into the hands of Straloch, by whom they were published, with corrections and additions, in the descriptions accompanying Bleau’s maps. Sir James made also a survey of Fife, his native county, examining particularly ancient monuments, and the genealogies of the principal families. He afterwards compiled a description of the whole kingdom, of which the manuscript was so useful to Bleau, that he dedicated to our author the map of Lorne in his Theatrum Scotiae, and embellished it with the arms of Balfour.

Zealous in the improvement and knowledge of heraldry, he carefully reviewed, not only the public acts and diplomas of nobility, but the contents of ancient edifices, temples, and palaces, shields and sepulchral monuments. When it had become proper, from his years, to allow the Prince of Wales a separate establishment, an inquiry was ordered concerning the revenues of the hereditary princes, as steward or lords marshall of Scotland, in which Balfour appears to have taken part, as we find among his manuscripts the following; "The true present state of the principality of Scotland, with the means how the same may be most conveniently increased and augmented; with which is joined ane survey, and brief notes from the public registers of the kingdoms, of certain infeftments and confirmations given to princes of Scotland; and by them to their vassals of diverse baronies and lands of the principalitie, since the fifteenth year of the reign of Robert III."

In the history of this country, he displayed his uncommon industry in his numerous collection of manuscripts, in the great assemblage of historical works in his own library, and in his careful inspection of the various manuscripts dispersed over the kingdom, from which he generally extracted the substance, if he did not wholly transcribe them, forming a general index to such as were useful in Scottish history. He made several abridgments of the Registers of Scone, Cambuskenneth, and others, and from the works of Major, Boece, Leslie, and Buchanan, which, in proper order, formed parts of his chronological works, along with relations of important transactions throughout the world. Besides this, he wrote a remarkably concise yet comprehensive history of the kings of Scotland, from Fergus I. to Charles I. He also intended to have enlarged the annals of the Scottish kings from James I. to the beginning of Charles II., of which he had finished the two first James’s, on a more diffuse and extensive scale. In other works, he wrote memoirs of James III., IV., V., of Queen Mary, and of James VI., and the transactions of Charles I., brought down to his death. In natural history, he wrote an alphabetical list of gems, with descriptions, their names and qualities, and the places where they are produced. Another work upon the same subject, written in Latin, exhibited from various authors, an account of ingenious inventions or frauds, practised in counterfeiting and imitating precious stones.

Sir James concluded an industrious, and, it would appear, a most blameless life, in February, 1657, when he must have been about sixty years of age. He had been four times married; 1st, to Anna Aiton, by whom he had three sons and six daughters, and who died August 26th, 1644; 2nd, to Jean Durham, daughter of the laird of Pitarrow, his own cousin, who died without issue only eleven months subsequent to the date of his first wife’s death; 3d, to Margaret Arnot, only daughter of Sir James Arnot of Fernie, by whom he had three sons and three daughters; 4th, to Janet Auchinleck, daughter of Sir William Auchinleck of Balmanno, by whom he had two daughters. Yet his family is now extinct in the male line. The Annals and Short Passages of State, above alluded to, were, after nearly two centuries of manuscript obscurity, published, in 1824, in 4 volumes 8vo. by Mr James Haig of the Advocates’ Library, in which receptacle nearly the whole of the collections of this great antiquary have found a secure resting-place.


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