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John Stuart Blackie
By Anna M. Stoddart (1895)


THE writer wishes to acknowledge her great indebtedness to Mrs Blackie, who not only intrusted her with the letters, MSS., and papers from which the biography has been compiled, but has shown the most constant and helpful interest in the work; to Dr Stodart Walker, who supplied her with ntes on the Professor's relations with the students of Edinburgh University, and on the incidents of his last illness; to Professor Mackinnon, for his important contribution to the history of the Celtic Chair; to Professor Cowan, for his reminiscences of the Greek Class, and for information referring to the Travelling Greek Scholarship; to Dr Donaldson, Principal of the University of St Andrews, for information with regard to University Reform; to Dr Forbes White, Mr Burness, Dr Gardiner, Mr George Seton, Sir Arthur Mitchell, and other friends of Professor Blackie's, for reminiscences and anecdotes of importance to the presentation of his individuality; to Sir Theodore Martin, K.C.B., for greatly esteemed interest and suggestions; to the executors of the late Mr J. A. Froude, and to many others, for their kind permission to quote from letters written to Professor Blackie; to the executors of the late Sheriff Nicolson, for their kind permission to make quotations from his poems; to Mr David Douglas, for furnishing statistics of publications; and, finally, to Mr Blackwood, for his unwearied interest and encouragement during the progress of the biography. END.

Blackie was one of the best-known Scotsmen of his time. Born in Glasgow and educated in Aberdeen, he received his first degree from Marischal College, Aberdeen. This was followed by three 'Wanderjahre' spent at the Universities of Göttingen and Berlin and in Rome. These gave him a life-long love, first of the German language, German student life, songs and culture, and secondly of the Greek language and antiquity. The first were later to inform several of his own books, notably "Musa burschicosa" (1869), "War songs of the Germans" (1870) and "Scottish song" (1889) as well as the initial compilation of "The Scottish Students' Song Book" (1891), of which his nephew Archibald Stoddart-Walker was one of the first editors. Declining to enter the church he took a law degree at the University of Edinburgh and joined the Scottish bar.

Professor Blackie in his Study

In 1839 he was appointed Professor of Humanity at Marischal College, Aberdeen and in 1860 he achieved his ambition when he was appointed to the Chair of Greek at the University of Edinburgh. At Edinburgh he became a charismatic teacher and a popular lecturer on many subjects. He espoused the causes of educational reform and the Gaelic language, and almost single-handed raised the £12,000 needed to endow the new Chair of Celtic at Edinburgh. His death was the occasion for a national day of mourning, and his funeral stopped the City of Edinburgh in its tracks.


Volume I

  • Chapter I. Parentage and Childhood 1809 - 1819
    A Stuart race of doctors—An old Border family—A line of Naismiths—Childish sports—His first school—A wilful boy—His mother's death.
  • Chapter II. At School and College 1820 - 1829
    Early patriotic proclivities—At Marischal College—Apprenticeship to the Law—A solemn period—Decision for the ministry—At Edinburgh University—Amateur "slum" work—Record in Moral Philosophy class—A young neophyte--Moderates and Evangelicals—His renown as a Latinist—A leader of the Moderates—A turning-point - Studies in nature.
  • Chapter III. Student Life in Gottingen 1829
    Mental difficulties—Womanly misgivings—A stormy voyage —Jolly German students—Beer and tobacco—Professor Heeren--Professor Saalfeld—A German Sunday—German socialities—A walking tour—Visit to Luther's birthplace —Luther and Goethe.
  • Chapter IV. Student Life in Berlin 1829 - 1830
    Feelings of loneliness—Professor Neander—Professor Raumer —Studies in English pronunciation—Widening views of life—The mental transition—Growing distaste for the Church—A. proposed presentation at Court—Projected journey to Italy—Results of German residence.
  • Chapter V. Rome 1830 - 1831
    Leave-takings—Pickpockets in church—Interest in Italian art—Outburst against Roman Catholicism—Desires for classical study—A prisoner on parole—At Naples—Visit to Tivoli—More police difficulties—Satire on Catholicism —A. religious transition—Christmas Eve with the Bunsens —Study of modern Greek—Longings for Greek travel— Letter from Chevalier Bunsen—An archeological paper —Farewell to the Eternal City.
  • Chapter VI. End of Wanderjahare 1831 - 1832
    On tramp through Italy—Arrival at Bonn—In London—Out- come of German residence—Decides for the Bar—Scotland's greatest Greek scholar—Lord Brougham at Aberdeen.
  • Chapter VII. Years of Struggle 1832 - 1837
    Dislike for the Law—Merry supper-parties—Translation of 'Faust'—Carlyle's verdict on the translation—Reception of the translation—Estimate of Wordsworth—The Speculative Society—The Juridical Society—Literary contributions- Cultivating philosophic calm- "Sociality and activity"—Scottish walking tours.
  • Chapter VIII. The Test Acts 1837 - 1840
    A tender friendship—Greek metre and music—Doubts as to fitness for Law—Appointment to Aberdeen Latin Chair— The Westminster Confession—Making a declaration—A clerical hornet's nest—Letter in explanation and defence— Presbyterial reception of the letter—The case in Court— Again in Edinburgh—Correspondence with Miss Wyld - A fantastic dress.
  • Chapter IX. Installation and Marriage 1841 - 1842
    A love episode—Disillusionment—The two loves—Parental opposition—First lecture as professor—The new Humanity Chair - Brightening prospects -Discipline in the classroom—First popular lecture—A bridal song—The "Benedicite "—In summer quarters.
  • Chapter X. Aberdeen and University Reform 1842 - 1850
    Domestic administration—Fresh religious difficulties—Waiting for the truth—At the Free Church Assembly—Education in Scotland—Letter from Dr Chalmers—Marischal and King's Colleges—University teaching of classics—A stirring appeal - First Highland tour - An evening with Carlyle—At Oxford—Carlyle on 'schylus '—Plan for publishing 'AEschylus '—Rhymed choruses.
  • Chapter XI. 'Æschylus' and the Greek Chair 1850 - 1852
    Aim of the Greek translation—Irregular and regular rhyme —Students' reading-parties—The Hellenic Society—The British Association in Edinburgh—Methods of learning languages - An early educational reformer-Again in Germany—The Greek Chair at Edinburgh--Professor Blackie's candidature- Disappearance of prejudices- The Greek Chair won—Sectarian opposition— Notes of gratitude.
  • Chapter XII. Edinburgh 1852 - 1857
    Parting gifts and regrets—Edinburgh in 1852—The pronunciation of Greek—Departure for Greece—In Athens—Life in Athens—A drought of rhyme—The Greek assistant lecturer - Work of the Greek classes - Success of the Greek classes—Lectures at the Philosophical Institution —Summer quarters at Bonn-Dr Guthrie's discourses— The "Blackie Brotherhood".
  • Chapter XIII. Lays, Lectures and Lyrics 1857 - 1860
    The "Braemar Ballads "—Professor Gerhard—' On Beauty'- Visit to Cambridge - Miss Janet Chambers - Sydney Dobehl on Garibaldi—The British Association at Aberdeen —The 'Lyrical Poems'—First meeting with Mr Gladstone —Lord John Russell—The home in Hill Street—Social entertainments—Changes in family circle.

Volume II

Mrs Blackie

  • Chapter XIV. Homer 1861 - 1866
    Popular lectures—Beginning of interest in Gaelic—Inaugural class-lectures-London celebrities - A Highland home— Publication of 'homer '—Last visit to Professor Aytoun - The Oban house—Translation of Bunsen's poems—Plenishing of Aitnacraig—Aim of the translation of 'Homer'— Plan of the translation of 'Homer '—Specimen of the translation of 'Homer'.
  • Chapter XV. The Highlands and Islands 1866 - 1870
    A political encounter—Lectures on Plato—Visit to Browning —Summer days at Altnacraig—Threatened prosecution for trespass—Tour in Orkney and Shetland—The gospel of Utilitarianism—Reforms in classical teaching—Greek Travelling Scholarship—An Oxford reading-party—Royal Institution lectures—At Pembroke Lodge—Appreciation of 'Lothair '—Dun Ee.
  • Chapter XVI. Pilgrim Years 1870 - 1872
    The Franco-German war—En route for Berlin—At Gottingen —Bismark—At Moscow—The 'Four Phases of Morals'- ,New edition of 'Faust'—Love for the Highlands—Carivie on Spiritualism - A Highland itineracy-'Lays of the Highlands and Islands'—An address done into Greek— Decadence of Edinburgh society.
  • Chapter XVII. 'Self-Culture' 1873 - 1874
    Death of Dr Guthrie—Lecture oil tour in Westphalia—Inception of the Celtic Chair—Sitting for his portrait—An encounter with Bradlaugh—An evening with Carlyle—At Dublin—Reading Irish history—St John's Eve in Limerick—Excursion to Skye—At Inveraray Castle.
  • Chapter XVIII. The Celtic Chair 1875 - 1876
    Gaelic in danger of extinction—Contributions to the fund—A charming letter—At Oxford—Tour in the Hebrides— Flora Macdonald's birthplace—'Songs of Religion and of Life'—The Ossianic controversy—Hill Street hospitalities —Lectures on "Scottish Song"—Scottish music—Scottish Universities Commission—At Loch Baa—'Language and Literature of the Highlands'—Banquet to H. H. Wylldham —Sir Henry Irving on influence of the stage.
  • Chapter XIX. Egypt 1876 - 1879
    Froude on the Gaelic language—A morning budget of letters —The shrine of St Ninian—Heresy hunt of Dr William Robertson Smith - "Lay of the Little Lady" - Lady Breadalbane—Leave of absence—Arrival in Egypt—The Pyramid of Khufu—A visit to Tarsus—The Celtic Chair endowment - The "Nile Litany" - Banquet of the "Blackie Brotherhood"—In Rome—Death of Professor Kelland—The Splugen Pass - Home again - A Skye school inspection.
  • Chapter XX. Retirement from the Greek Chair 1880 - 1882
    Laleliam girls' school - A contemplated "flitting"-Excursion to Iona—Mr Herbert Spencer's visit—Lecture on "The Sabbath"—The 'Lay Sermons' - Exploration of Colonsay—Farewell to Altnacraig—A consecration banquet—Failing strength—Lecture at Oxford—Sonnet on Frederick Hallard—Preparing for the close—The retirement confirmed—The new Professor of Greek—History of the Celtic Chair.
  • Chapter XXI. Class-Room and Platform 1841 - 1882
    Mr Bob Melliss—The Professor and his "classes"—An Irish student—A true Grecian—Tributes from old students— Services rendered to education—Appearances in Oxford —A modern reformer - Embarrassing civilities - The Hellenic. Society - Widespread fame - An independent politician.
  • Chapter XXII. Recreations or an Emeritis Professor 1882 - 1887
    The 'Wisdom of Goethe'—The Crofters' Commission—A visit to Browning—A midnight banquet—A rectorial election —The 'Scottish Highlanders'—A Crofter inquiry cruise —The Crofter question—A visit to Knebworth—Church and State—Hospitality to Greek students—At Lansdowne House—A "talking tour "—At Selkirk.
  • Chapter XXIII. "Living Greek" 1888 - 1891
    'Life of Burns '—The Greek scholarship—Scottish Universities Reform—" Praise of Kingussie "-'Scottish Song '—A verdict on 'Romola '—At St Mary's Loch—" Tibbie Shiel's in Yarrow "- Modern Greek literature - Presentation from Hellenic Society—Lecturing at Oxford—The 'Greek Primer'—At Palermo—Sight-seeing in Constantinople— Greek newspapers.
  • Chapter XXIV. Closing Years 1892 - 1895
    The light of eventide - The Travelling Scholarship - The golden wedding—Portrait by Sir George Reid—A birthday celebration—Looking forward—A Hellenic meeting— Visits in England—At Pitlochry—Leeturing at Aberdeen -'Self-Culture' in Italian—Two invalids—"The Happy Warrior"—At Tom-na-monachan--Visit from Sir Henry Irving—A last Christmas-party—The Blackie Scholarship —Nearing the end—His death and funeral—At the grave.

On Self-Culture
Intellectual, Physical, and Moral by John Stuart Blackie, 6th Edition, 1875


The Culture of the Intellect
On Physical Culture
On Moral Culture

See also in pdf format some of his other publications...

The Life of Robert Burns
Lays of the Highlands and Islands

Scottish Song
What Does History Teach?
An Interview with him by the Strand Magazine in the January to June 1892 edition
A Song of Heroes

Donald Carswell was born in Glasgow in 1882 to John and Flora Carswell. His father John was an eminent physician in the city. Donald took an Arts degree at Glasgow University and by 1911 was based in London where he became a barrister, journalist and author. He authored some 37 books before his death in 1940, including ’Brother Scots' in 1927.
Professor John Stuart Blackie features as a subject in 'Brother Scots' (pdf)

The subject shall be


and in doing so, I shall first endeavour to set before you the ideal of what the education of a genuine Caledonian Celt ought to have been, and, if possible, ought yet to be; and, in the second place, take note of how far you have fallen short of this ideal, and what means there may yet be found in order to enable you to approximate in some measure to the perfect stature, which it was in your destiny to have achieved. Now, the fundamental postulate of all healthy education is that it be native and national, that is, growing naturally out of a firm local root, and under the influences of a healthy local environment. Cosmopolitan views on educational subjects belong to speculation, and are valuable only in so far as they tend to correct, modify, or elevate some specially local culture. Cosmopolitan thinkers, such as Plato and Aristotle, if rare, are perfectly possible, and perfectly legitimate to the world of thinking but in the world of action, and as a member of any existing society, a cosmopolitan man, a man in the abstract or a man in general, or however you may choose to phrase it, cannot exist; a man exists either in Greece as a Greek, in Palestine as a Hebrew, in Rome as a Roman, in England as an Englishman, in the Highlands as a Highlander. And the peculiar type of character thus impressed upon a man by the locality to 'which he belongs, and the social influences under which he grows up is so natural and necessary, that not even men of the highest reach of speculation, or the widest range of universal human sympathies, can escape it. Hence even in Aristotle and Plato—whose treatises on education are still equal in general human value to the best that modern literature supplies —we distinctly recognise the general Greek type, the Greek complexion, the Greek atmosphere, and the Greek tendencies; and nothing could have been further from the ideas of those great thinkers than to write treatises to educate their countrymen not out of, but away from their peculiar Greek nationality. In fact, nativeness to the soil, if I may be allowed to coin the word, or nationality, as it is more loosely expressed, is a condition of health, strength, and beauty, through the whole living world.

You can download the rest of this talk here

The Life of John Stuart Blackie
Edited by the Rev. John G. Duncan

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