MAITLAND, WILLIAM, an antiquarian writer of some note, is
generally represented as having been born at Brechin in the year 1693,
though there is reason to suppose the date of his birth to have been
somewhat earlier. He does not appear in his writings to have been a man of
liberal education. His first employment was that of a hair merchant; in the
prosecution of which business, he travelled into Sweden and Denmark, to
Hamburg, and other places, and appears to have realized considerable wealth.
At length he settled in London, and applied himself to the study of English
and Scottish antiquities. In 1733, he was elected a member of the Royal, and
in 1735, a fellow of the Antiquarian Society, which latter honour he
resigned in 1740, on going to reside in the country. His first publication
was his History of London, which appeared in 1739, and was chiefly valuable
for a reason little creditable to the author,—namely, its being in a great
measure a reduction of the ancient and scarce work of Stow. In 1740, he
retired to Scotland; and in 1753, published his "History of Edinburgh,"
which is by far the most useful and creditable of all his works. He was not
here assisted to any considerable degree by preceding authorities: the
volume is chiefly compiled from original documents, and must have been
accordingly a work of very great labour. In point of composition, it is very
deficient. The style is mean, and the whole tone of the work that of a
plain, dull old man. It also bears in some parts the traces of credulity and
narrowness of understanding on the part of the author. As a compilation of
facts, it is, nevertheless, very valuable. In 1757, Maitland published a
"History of Scotland," in two volumes folio, a work absolutely destitute of
reputation. He died at Montrose, July 16, 1757, "at an advanced age," say
the obituary notices, and possessed of above £10,000.
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