THEmany friends and correspondents of the gifted author of the present volume will be grieved to hear that he died on 9th September 1906, having nearly completed his sixty-second year. Born at Lübeck in 1844, he afterwards studied law, theology, and literature at the Universities of Leipzig, Tübingen, Göttingen, and Basel, after which he resolved to devote himself entirely to literature and historical research. At a later period he settled in Edinburgh, assiduously carrying on his literary work and partly supporting himself by teaching. He also travelled a good deal in Scotland, England, and Ireland, winning the hearts of many friends by his gentle, amiable, and studious disposition, as well as by his outstanding musical talents. His historical researches also took him repeatedly to the Continent, and particularly to Northern Germany and to Sweden. To the latter country he was enabled to go, with the aid of a number of generous patrons and friends, in the autumn of 1905; and it is a pathetic and interesting fact that, at the age of sixty, he studied Swedish for the express purpose of making the needful historical researches for the present volume, and that he lived and travelled for several months in Sweden on the meagre pittance of about £60. His earlier historical works had earned him a high reputation for zeal and accuracy, but no pecuniary reward, in spite of which he entered enthusiastically upon his still more arduous task of breaking fresh ground in an entirely new field. Readers will judge as to the measure of success the late author has attained, but the present writer, who has edited the volume with much care, has no hesitation in pronouncing it to be highly interesting.
The author’s baptismal name was Ernst Ludwig Fischer, but his admiration for Carlyle and Tennyson led him to adopt the nom de guerre of Thomas Alfred Fischer.
Besides his translations into German of the Life and some of the works of Carlyle and Tennyson, and of Lord Goschen’s Life of his grandfather, G.J. Göschen, the Leipzig bookseller, and various other literary and historical volumes, he was the author of two interesting and original works, "The Scots in Germany" and "The Scots in Eastern and Western Prussia," published in 1902 and 1903 respectively, by Messrs Otto Schuize & Co., Edinburgh. To these valuable works, which throw much new light on the history of Scottish settlers in Germany, the present volume forms a fitting and crowning sequel. It is only fair to the late author to state that he left his MS. in such excellent condition as to be almost ready to go direct to the printer. The editor’s labour of love has therefore consisted merely in removing a few slight Germanisms, clearing up a few trifling obscurities, and verifying and correcting some of the Swedish words and names.
From the above slight sketch it is manifest that Mr Fischer was admirably fitted to undertake to write a new volume on "The Scots in Sweden." To his great learning and ability he added the most untiring and unselfish zeal for historical research, with the result that he has now contributed to Scottish history three volumes which few if any Scots could have produced. Some three years ago the gifted author requested his friend, the present editor, to write an Introduction to this historical work, on the ground probably that his friend had travelled several times in Sweden and had learned something of its language and history. In consequence of the author’s lamented death, the author’s sponsor has also become the editor of the work; but he ventures to hope that its readers will not be greatly prejudiced thereby.
It only remains to point out that, while "The Scots in Sweden" is primarily a contribution to Scottish genealogy, it also has an important bearing on Swedish history. It is interesting to recall the fact that, with the exception of England and Hungary, Sweden was the first European country to adopt the principle of a limited or constitutional form of government. The Landslag (or "law of the land"), dating from the Middle Ages and revised in 1442, prescribed a form of oath to be taken by the kings on their election, while the royal power was further limited by the control of a Council of Magnates. At length, in 1544, under the famous Gustavus Vasa, the kingship was declared hereditary, and the Estates, hitherto provincial councils only, became a permanent parliament under the name of Riksdag, or "diet of the realm." A more definite and complete constitution was afterwards drawn up by order of Gustavus Adolphus, and, soon after his death in 1632, was elaborated and promulgated by his able and enlightened chancellor Oxenstjerna. During the greater part of that stirring period, in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and also later, during the reign of Charles XII. at the beginning of the eighteenth, and at a still later period too, many a sturdy and enterprising Scot, in speaking of the wonderfully dramatic and picturesque, though too often tragic and blood-stained events of Swedish history, could proudly and truly say: Quorum magna pars fui! Comment on Mr Fischer’s interesting pages is needless, as they clearly and briefly tell their own story. Suffice it to say that Scotland is deeply indebted to him for showing her what an honourable and important part many of her sons have played in one of the most picturesque of all national histories.
1st August 1907.