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Significant Scots
Alexander Cruden


Alexander CrudenCRUDEN, ALEXANDER, styled by himself, Alexander the Corrector, was born at Aberdeen on the 31st of May, 1700; the son of a respectable merchant and baillie of that city. Having received a good elementary education, he entered Marischal college, with the intention of studying for the church. He there made considerable progress in his studies, and had the degree of Master of Arts conferred upon him, when decided symptoms of insanity appeared. His malady has been absurdly ascribed to the bite of a mad dog, and, with more probability, to a disappointment in love. At all events it is certain, that he became so unreasonably importunate in his addresses to the daughter of one of the clergymen of Aberdeen, that it was found necessary to put him under restraint. This lady, however, it afterwards appeared was unworthy of the devotion he paid her, and there is a very interesting anecdote of his meeting her many years afterwards in London, where she had hid herself after flying from Aberdeen. On his release from confinement, in 1722, he left the scene of his disappointments, and repairing to England, found employment as tutor for many years in a family in Hertfordshire, and afterwards in the Isle of Man. In the year 1732, he settled in London, where he was employed by Mr Watts the printer as corrector of the press; he also engaged in trade as a bookseller, which he carried on in a shop under the Royal Exchange. Having gained the esteem of many of the principal citizens of London, he was, on the recommendation of the lord mayor and aldermen, appointed bookseller to the queen.

Soon after Cruden’s arrival in London, he had commenced his elaborate work called the Concordance of the Bible; and having, after inconceivable labour, finished it, he had the honour of dedicating the presenting it to queen Caroline, the consort of George II., who graciously promised to "remember him;" but, unfortunately for him, she died suddenly a few days after. Involved in embarrassments by the expense of publishing his Concordance, and by his neglect of business while he was compiling it, he abandoned his trade, and sank into a state of melancholy despondency. His former mental illness now returned upon him with increased violence, and he was guilty of so many extravagances, that his friends were obliged to place him in a private lunatic asylum. On his recovery he published a lengthened account of his sufferings, under the title of "The London Citizen exceedingly injured; giving an account of his severe and long campaign at Bethnal’s Green, for nine weeks and six days; the Citizen being sent there in March, 1738, by Robert Wightman, a notoriously conceited whimsical man; where he was chained and handcuffed, strait-waist-coated and imprisoned; with a history of Wightman’s blind bench, a sort of court that met at Wightman’s room, and unaccountably proceeded to pass decrees in relation to the London Citizen," &c. &c. He also instituted legal proceedings against his physician and this Mr Wightman, the proprietor of the asylum, for cruelty. He was not able, however, to substantiate his charge, although there is much reason to fear, that, in pursuance of the treatment to which lunatics were at that time subjected, Cruden was harshly dealt with; which seems to have been the less excusable as he appears to have been at all times harmless.

Thanks to Helen Glover for sending in pictures of the Cruden Bible

Bible Cover

Ten Commandments Thieves on Cross Red Page - Silver Bible

Bible Cover

Ten Commandments Thieves on Cross Red Page - Silver Bible
Entering Jerusalem Faith, Hope, Charity Jesus Risen Splitting the Rock
Entering Jerusalem Faith, Hope, Charity Jesus Risen Splitting the Rock

The next fifteen years of his life were passed by him apparently in a state of inoffensive imbecility, although his former employers did not consider him incapable of continuing corrector of the press. In the year 1753, his relations conceived themselves justified in again putting him under restraint; but as he was perfectly inoffensive he was only confined for a few days. On his liberation he insisted that his sister, Mrs Wild who sanctioned these proceedings, should consent to a species of retributory reconciliation with him, and submit to a confinement of forty-eight hours in Newgate, and pay him a fine of ten pounds. Her rejection of this proposal was a matter of great surprise to him, and he therefore brought an action of damages against her and others, laying his claim at ten thousand pounds. On the verdict being returned for the defendants, he was quite resigned; but published an account of his ill usage, under the title of "The Adventures of Alexander the Corrector," which, like all his other publications of a similar description, has that air of mingled insanity and reason which its title indicates, and which pervades other works by him on similar topics. His insanity now displayed itself in many ways sufficiently whimsical. Fully persuaded that he was commissioned by heaven to reform the manners of the age, he assumed the title of Alexander the Corrector. To impress the public with the validity of his pretensions he printed and circulated on small pieces of paper, sentences confirmatory of his high calling, such as that "Cruden was to be a second Joseph, to be a great man at court, and to perform great things for the spiritual Israel of Egypt." He went about the country exhorting the people to reform their manners and to keep holy the Sabbath day. In order that his exhortations might have greater weight with his hearers, he wished his authority to be recognised by the king and council, and that parliament should constitute him by act, "the Corrector of the People." Still further, to assist him in his mission, he made a formal application to his majesty, to confer on him the honour of knighthood; "for," said he, "I think men ought to seek after titles rather to please others than themselves." He gives an amusing account of his attendance at court while soliciting this honour, and of his frequent interviews with the lords in waiting, the secretaries of state, and other persons of rank; and complains grievously that his applications were not attended to. From his censure, however, he exempts the earl of Paulet, who, he says, "spoke civilly to him; for, being goutish in his feet, he could not run away from the Corrector as others were apt to do." Wearied, at length, by his unavailing attendance at court, he next aspired to the honour of representing the city of London in parliament, and was a candidate at the general election of 1754. His addresses to the livery were singularly ridiculous, but he was withheld by no discouragement; for, when one of the bishops, with whom he had obtained an interview, intimated to him that he had no chance of the election, unless Providence especially appeared for him. "This," he said in his account of the interview, "the Corrector readily acknowledged:" and indeed in his addresses he mentioned that he expected a Divine interposition in his favour. After his failure in this pursuit, he consoled himself with the reflection, "that he had their hearts, although their hands had been promised away." "The Corrector," he adds, "was very cheerful and contented, and not at all afflicted at the loss of his election."

Cruden, as a lover, was remarkably susceptible, and no less zealous in the pursuit of the objects of his admiration, than in his attempts to attain political distinction. Amongst others, Miss Abney, the daughter of Sir Thomas Abney, the late lord mayor of London, was persecuted by his addresses. She, of course, discountenanced this folly, and the result was, what her admirer styled, "his declaration of war," being a lengthened memorial, wherein he rehearses his manifold grievances, and declares, that, since she had refused all his more reasonable overtures, he was now determined to carry on the war after an extraordinary manner, "by shooting of great numbers of bullets from his camp; namely, by earnest prayers to heaven, day and night, that her mind may be enlightened and her heart softened.". This, and all his other absurdities, had their rise in the desire to increase his own importance and wealth, by which he expected to render himself more powerful and effective in the execution of his imaginary mission for the reformation of the manners of the age. In 1754, he was employed as corrector of the press, by Mr Woodfall, the well-known publisher of Junius’ Letters; and, although his labours seldom terminated before one in the morning, yet he would be found again out of bed by six o’clock, busily employed turning over the leaves of his Bible, and with the most scrupulous care amending and improving his Concordance, preparatory to a new edition. In this drudgery he would patiently work until the evening, when he repaired to the printing office.

The benevolence which animated Cruden’s exertions for the benefit of his fellow-creatures was most disinterested and unwearied; and as far as his advice or money went, he aided all who were miserable or in distress. In the year 1762, he was the means of saving the life of a poor sailor condemned for forgery: having been present at the trial, he became persuaded that the accused had been the dupe of one more designing than himself, and, as he afterwards found him to be simple, and even ignorant of the nature of the crime for which he was condemned to suffer; he importuned government so unceasingly, that at last he succeeded in getting the punishment commuted into banishment. On another occasion he rescued a wretched female from the streets, and received her into his house; and, having instructed her in her duties, she remained in his service until his death. Next to the desire of doing good, loyalty seems to have been the most, prominent feature in Cruden’s character. In the political struggle between Mr Wilkes and the administration he wrote a pamphlet against the Rabble’s Patriot, and went about with a spunge and rubbed from the doors and walls of the metropolis the popular "No. 45."

In the year 1769, Cruden once more visited the scenes of his youth, where he was received with considerable respect, and was allowed the use of one of the public halls to deliver a lecture on the necessity of a reformation of manners, and of keeping holy the Sabbath day. Having remained about a year in Aberdeen, he returned to London, and soon after, having complained for a few days previous, he was found dead in his closet, in the pious attitude of prayer. He died at his lodgings in Camden Street, Islington, 1st of November, 1770, in the 71st year of his age. Never having been married, he left his moderate savings among his relations, with the exception of 100, which he bequeathed to endow a bursary in Marischal college, Aberdeen, and some other trifling legacies for charitable purposes in the metropolis. Cruden was remarkable for the courteous affability of his manners, his active benevolence, and his pious devotion. His published works are "The history of Richard Potter," 8vo, being that of the poor Sailor whose life he saved. "The history and excellency of the Scriptures prefixed to the compendium of the Holy Bible, Aberdeen, 2 vols. 24mo. "An index to bishop Newton’s edition of Milton’s Works;" an elaborate work only inferior to the Concordance. "A Scripture-Dictionary," which was published in Aberdeen soon after his death. Various pamphlets, particularly those wherein he gives a detailed account of "His adventures." These display some humour and much single-hearted insanity. But his great work was his "Concordance of the Old and New Testaments." This is a work of the most extraordinary labour, and although it was not the first Concordance of the Bible, yet it affords a wonderful instance of what individual industry may accomplish. The first Concordance which was compiled, is said to have given employment to five hundred monks, yet did Cruden by his own unassisted exertions produce one infinitely more complete, elaborate, and accurate than had ever appeared, and this not by copying from others, but by the most careful examination and study of the Bible. It is satisfactory to know that the labour bestowed on this work did not go unrewarded. Although the first edition was for a long time unsuccessful, it was ultimately sold off, and in 1761, thirty years after its publication, a second edition was called for, which he dedicated to George III. who was graciously pleased to order him a hundred pounds, and a third edition was published in 1769. For the second edition the publishers gave Cruden five hundred pounds, and when the third was called for, an additional present of three hundred pounds, besides twenty copies on fine paper. An edition was published in 1810, under the careful superintendence and correction of Mr David Bye, and in 1825, the work had reached the 10th edition. Indeed so valuable and useful is this work that it is now reckoned an indispensable part of every clerical library.

You can view the Concordance (93Mb) in a pdf file which also includes an account of his life


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