BALFOUR, ROBERT, a distinguished philosopher
of the seventeenth century, was principal of Guyenne college, Bourdeaux,
and is mentioned by Morhof as a celebrated commentator of Aristotle.
According to Dempster, he was "the Phoenix of his age; a philosopher
profoundly skilled in the Greek and Latin languages; a mathematician
worthy of being compared with the ancients: and to those qualifications he
joined a wonderful suavity of manners, and the utmost warmth of affection
towards his countrymen. This eminent personage appears to have been one of
that numerous class of Scotsmen, who, having gained all their honours in
climes more genial to science than Scotland was a few centuries ago, are
to this day better known abroad than among their own countrymen.
According to the fantastic Urquhart, who
wrote in the reign of Charles I., "Most of the Scottish nation, never
having astricted themselves so much to the proprieties of works as to the
knowledge of things, where there was one preceptor of languages amongst
them, there were above forty professors of philosophy; nay, to so high a
pitch did the glory of the Scottish nation attain over all the parts of
France, and for so long a time continue in that obtained height, by virtue
of an ascendant the French conceived the Scots to have above all nations,
in matter of their subtlety in philosophical disceptations, that there
hath not been, till of late, for these several ages together, any lord,
gentleman, or other, in all that country, who being desirous to have his
son instructed in the principles of philosophy, would intrust him to the
discipline of any other than a Scottish master; of whom they were no less
proud than Philip was of Aristotle, or Tullius of Cratippus. And if it
occurred (as very often it did,) that a pretender to a place in any French
university, having, in his tenderer years, been subferulary to some other
kind of schooling, should enter in competition with another aiming at the
same charge and dignity, whose learning flowed from a Caledonian source,
commonly the first was rejected and the other preferred."
It nevertheless appears that Robert Balfour
prosecuted the study of philology, as well as that of philosophy, with
considerable success. His edition of Cleomedes, published at Bourdeaux, in
1605, "Latine versa, et perpetuo commentario illustrata,"
is spoken of in the highest terms of praise by the crudite Barthius. Other
works by Balfour are, "Gelasii Cyziceni Commentarius Actorum Nicaeni
Concilii, Roberto Balforeo interprete, 1604, folio," - "Commentarius
R. Balforei in Organum Logicum Aristotelis, 1616, 4to," – and,
"R. Balforei Scoti Commentariorum in lib. Arist. de Philosophia,
tomus secundus, 1620, 4 to."