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Significant Scots
Andrew Dalzell


DALZELL, ANDREW, A. M. and F. R. S., was born in the year 1750, at a farm house in the parish of Ratho near Edinburgh, the son of an industrious husbandman. He acquired the principles of his classical education at the parochial school of the parish; from thence he went to the university of Edinburgh. There by his assiduity and the gentleness and purity of his manners and conduct, he acquired the esteem of the professors, and, in consequence of their high recommendation, was appointed tutor to lord Maitland, now earl of Lauderdale. He attended lord Maitland to the university of Glasgow, where he assisted him in his studies, and with him heard the celebrated professor Millar deliver a course of his juridical lectures. Having accompanied his pupil to Paris, he was on his return home recommended, and through the interest of the Lauderdale family appointed, to succeed Mr Hunter as professor of Greek in the university of Edinburgh. Classical learning had fallen into great neglect in Edinburgh when Mr Dalzell assumed his chair, for while professor Moore, one of the most profound and accurate scholars of the age, was raising the celebrity of the Glasgow university, by his teaching of the Greek language, and while the Foulises were printing in their press at that city, their beautiful editions of the Greek classics, the literati of the Scottish capital were dedicating their whole attention to the cultivation of English and French literature. It became therefore the anxious desire of professor Dalzell to revive the taste for ancient learning. To promote this object he delivered a course of lectures on the language, history, eloquence, philosophy, poetry, literature, antiquities, and fine arts of the Greeks. Possessed of a perfect knowledge of the subject, these lectures were admirable for their systematic arrangement and the elegance of the language in which they were clothed, and being delivered in a distinct tone, with much suavity of manner, they caused a general and enthusiastic study of the language. Indeed it became a sort of fashion of the students of the university to attend his lectures, and the celebrity he acquired had the effect of drawing many students to Edinburgh from England, and from distant parts of the kingdom. In order still farther to increase that enthusiastic love of Grecian literature which he wished to instil into the minds of his pupils, he published severa1 volumes of collections of select passages from the Greek writers. These he accompanied with short Latin notes, which are remarkable for their perspicuity and judgment, and for the classical purity of their language. The unremitting care which he bestowed on the improvement of his students, was repaid by them with the most affectionate respect, nor did the interest he felt in them, terminate with the discharge of his academical duties, for he exerted himself to the utmost in promoting their future welfare, and to him, hundreds owed their establishment in life. But although he was thus eminently successful in reviving the love of ancient literature in Edinburgh, it was often a subject of deep regret to him, that his influence over the minds of his pupils was only transitory, and that when he happened to meet them in after life, he almost invariably found that they had neglected their classical studies. Such, it is much to be feared, must ever be the case, the prosecution of ancient learning being, generally speaking, incompatible with the struggle and bustle of the world. The only satisfaction which remains, is that the deficiency is daily becoming less important in the increasing beauty and copiousness of modern, more especially of English literature.

On the death of Dr James Robertson professor of oriental languages, Mr Dalzell was appointed to succeed him as keeper of the library of the university. He was afterwards chosen to succeed the Rev. Dr John Drysdale, as principal clerk to the General Assembly of the church of Scotland, being the first layman who had ever held that honourable appointment. For some time before his death, the delicate state of his health prevented him from performing his public duties, when his place was ably supplied by Dr Thomas Macknight, one of the city clergymen of Edinburgh. He died on the 8th December, 1806, having for upwards of thirty years shed a luster on the university by his many virtues, his high talents, and great classical attainments. Remarkable for many amiable qualities, and endowed with high talents, it may easily be supposed that his society was the delight of his friends; and as he had the good fortune to live during one of the brightest periods of Scottish literary history, when a galaxy of great men adorned the society of Edinburgh, he included in the circle of his acquaintance many of the greatest men this country ever produced. Of the number of his intimate friends were Dr Gilbert Stewart, Dr Russel the historian, Sir Robert Liston, Dr Robertson the historian, Lord Monboddo, Dugald Stewart, and professor Christison. Mr Dalzell, in his stature was about the middle height; his features were full but not heavy, with a fair complexion and a mild and serene expression of countenance. His address was pleasing and unpretending, and his conversation and manner singularly graceful. He was frequently to be met in his solitary walks in the king’s park, which was one of his favourite lounges. He was married to the daughter to the well known Dr John Drysdale of the Tron church, and left several children. His works consist of the collections from Greek authors, which he published in several volumes, under the title of "Collectanea Minora," and "Collectanea Majora," a translation of Chevalier’s Description of the Plain of Troy, and many valuable papers of biography, and on other subjects, which he contributed to the Edinburgh Royal Society’s Transactions. He also edited Dr Drysdale’s Sermons.


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