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The Scottish Nation

ADAMSON, HENRY, a poet of the seventeenth century, was the son of James Adamson, dean of guild in Perth in 1600, the year of the Gowrie conspiracy, and provost of that city in 1610 and 1611. He was educated for the church, and is stated to have been a good classical scholar. He wrote some Latin poems which are described as being far above mediocrity. In 1638 he published a poem, in 4to, entitled ‘Muses Threnodie, or Mirthful Mournings on the Death of Mr.Gall, with a description of Perth, and an account of the Gowry conspiracy,’ &c. He was honoured with the approbation of Drummond of Hawthornden, and appears, from the complimentary verses prefixed to his poems, to have been much respected for his talents and worth. It was at the request of Drummond that Adamson published his ‘Muses Threnodie,’ after having resisted the solicitations of his friends to print it.

      The letter which the poet of Hawthorn-den wrote to him on the occasion, is dated Edinburgh, 12th July 1637. It was inserted in the introductory address to the reader, prefixed to the first edition, and contains the following passage: "Happie hath Perth been in such a citizen, not so other townes of this kingdorne, by want of so diligent a searcher and preserver of their fame from oblivion. Some Muses, neither to themselves nor to others, do good, nor delighting nor instructing. Yours inform both, and longer to conceal them, will be, to wrong your Perth of her due honours, who deserveth no less of you than that she should be thus blazoned and registrate to posterity, and to defraud yourself of a monument which, after you have left this transitory world, shall keep your name aud memory to after times. This shall be preserved by the towne of Perth, for her own sake first, and after for yours; for to her it hath been no little glory that she hath brought forth such a citizen, so eminent in love to her, so dear to the Muses." Adamson died unmarried in 1639. A new edition of his poem was published in 1774, with illustrative notes, by James Cant, in 2 vols. l2mo. The book is now scarce.—Campbell’s Introduction to the History of Poetry in Scotland.

ADAMSON, PATRICK, an eminent prelate and Latin poet, was born at Perth, March 15,1537. His parents are said to have been poor, but he received a sufficiently liberal education, first at the grammar school of his native town, and afterwards at the university of St. Andrews, where he studied philosophy, and took his degree of master of arts. His name first appears in the diaries and church records of the period, not as Adamson, but under the varieties of Coustaine, Cousting, Constan, Constant, and Constantine. (See Bannatyne’s Journal, p. 323; James Melville’s Diary, pp. 25 and 42; Calderwood, vol. ii. p. 46; and The Booke of the Universall Kirk of Scotland, pp. 2 and 23.) His biographers state that on quitting the university he became a schoolmaster at a village in Fife, but on the meeting of the first General Assembly, in December 1560, he was, under the name of Patrick Constan, among those who were appointed in St. Audrews, "for ministering and teaching."

      At the tenth General Assembly, held at Edinburgh in June 1564, he preferred a request to be allowed to pass to France and other countries, "for augmenting of his knowledge for a time;" but the Assembly unanimously refused his application, and ordained that he should not leave his congregation, "without speciall licence of the haul kirk." [Booke of the Universall Kirk of Scotland, p. 23.] Early in 1566, on the invitation of Sir James Nakgill of Rankeillor, clerk-register, he accompanied his eldest son, as tutor, to France, where the latter was going to study the civil law, on which occasion he appears to have demitted himself of the office of the ministry. On the 19th of June of that year, Mary Queen of Scots was delivered of a prince, afterwards James the Sixth, on which occasion Constant or Adamson, then at Paris, wrote a Latin poem, styling the royal infant "Prince of Scotland, England, France, and Ireland," which so offended the French government that he was imprisoned for six months.

      Queen Mary herself, and several of the nobility, interceded for his liberation. On regaining his freedom he proceeded with his pupil to the universities of Poitiers and Padua, where he applied himself to the study of the civil and canon laws. On their return from Italy, they visited Geneva; and here, from his intercourse with Beza, he imbibed the Calvinistic doctrines of theology. Some time before their return to Scotland they revisited Paris. As well-known Protestants, however, they found it dangerous to remain in the capital, and retired to Bourges, where Constant concealed himself for seven months in an inn, the master of which, an old man 70 years of age, was, for harbouring heretics, thrown from the roof of his own house and killed on the spot. In this sepulchre, as he called it, he employed his time in composing a Latin poetical version of time Book of Job, and in writing in the same language a piece called the Tragedy of Herod—the latter of which has never been published. Before leaving France he was bold enough to publish a Latin translation of the Confession of Faith, for which lie obtained great credit.   

      At what period Constant returned to Scotland does not appear, but it must have been previous to 5th March 1571, for the Assembly which met at Edinburgh at that time earnestly desired him, in consideration of the lack of ministers, th reenter the ministry. He craved time till next Assembly, which met on 6th August thereafter, to which he sent a written answer, complying with their request. He had previously married the daughter of a lawyer.

      On the election of Mr. John Douglas, rector of the university of St. Andrews, to the archbishopric of that diocese, on the 8th of February 1572, Constant is mentioned as having preached a sermon, and John Knox the discourse before the installation. On this occasion he was not, as afterwards alleged by his enemies, a candidate for that see. Most of his biographers represent him to have been in France at the period of the massacre of St. Bartholomew, which occurred on the 24th August of this year (1572), but he had certainly returned to Scotland more than a year before that event, and no mention is made of a second visit to that country. Constant appears at this time to have enjoyed the friendship of Andrew Melville and of many of the ministers of Edinburgh. He had been appointed minister of Paisley, and through his influence with time regent Morton the valuable living of Govan, near Glasgow, was in the year 1575 annexed to the university of that city, "the only good thing," says the spiteful James Melville, "he or Morton were ever known to have done."

      Adamson generally acceded to the new views which Melville introduced from Geneva as to the Presbyterian form of government for the church, sought to impose limitations on his powers, which were contrary to the previous usage of the church and to the laws of the kingdom; to which restrictions, however, Adamson from the outset and even before his installation declared, when questioned by that court, that he would not submit. From the period of his instalment, therefore, he was engaged, for several years, in almost perpetual altercation with the General Assembly. "Adamson," says Bishop Keith, "did not receive, for what we know, any ecclesiastical consecration." This, however, is incorrect. From the acts of the General Assembly threatening proceedings against his inaugurators, the chapter of St. Andrews, we infer that he was installed by a form of consecration similar to that of his predecessor; which, as formally settled by the General Assembly with reference to that ceremony, was the same as that of the superintendents, and of which Bannatyne details the formula, (p. 321).

      In the General Assembly, which met at Edinburgh in April, 1577, Adamson was cited to answer before some commissioners who had been appointed to examine him ; and, in the interim, it was ordered that he should be discharged from exercising his episcopal functions "till he should be admitted by the Assembly." (Calderwood’s History, vol. iii. p. 379.) The same year he published a translation of the Catechism of Calvin in Latin verse, for the use of the young prince (James VI.), which was much commended in England, France and the Netherlands, where he was already well known by his translation of the Confession of Faith. In 1578 he was induced to submit himself to the General Assembly, but this did not long secure his tranquillity ; for in the year following he was exposed to fresh troubles. In the record of the 38th General Assembly, which met at Stirling, 11 June 1578, as printed in ‘The Booke of the Universall Kirk of Scotland,’ there are five pages blank, supposed, as marked in. an old hand on the copy transcribed, " to be pairt of that which was torn out by Adamson B. of St. Andrews." Some after blanks are also pointed out. (B. of Universall K&k, pp. 180, 183, 203, 207, 338, footnotes.) This, however, is as likely to have been done by another.

      The General Assembly which met at Edinburgh 7th July 1579, summoned him to answer to five several charges, three of which were for voting in parliament without a commission from the Assembly, for giving collation of the vicarage of Bolton, and for opposing the policy of the church in his place in parliament. Finding it expedient to retire for a time to the castle of St. Andrews, where he lived, as James Melville expresses it, " like a tod in his hole," he was, in the year 1582, attacked with a grievous chronic distemper, from which, as he could get no relief from his physicians, he had recourse to a simple remedy, administered by an old woman named Alison Pearson, which completely cured him. His enemies now accused him of dealing with a witch, and applying to an emissary of the devil for means whereby to save his life. The old woman herself was committed to the castle of St. Andrews for execution, but by the connivance of the archbishop she contrived to make her escape. Four years thereafter, however, she was again apprehended, and burnt for witchcraft.

      In the year 1583, King James visited St. Andrews, when Archbishop Adamson preached before him with great approbation. In his sermon, he inveighed, as Calderwood expresses it, against the Presbyterian clergy, the lords reformers, and all their proceedings. (Calderwood’s History, vol. iii. p. 716.) The doctrines which the archbishop avowed on this occasion recommended him to the favour of the king, who sent him as his ambassador to the court of Queen Elizabeth, where his object was twofold, namely, to recommend the king his master to the nobility and gentry of England, and to obtain support to the tottering cause of episcopacy in Scotland. His eloquent sermons and address attracted such numerous auditories, and excited such a high idea of the young king, that Queen Elizabeth’s jealousy was kindled, and she prohibited him from preaching while he remained in England. In 1584 he was recalled, and on his return to Edinburgh, he exerted hum— self strenuously in support of King James’ views in favour of episcopacy. He sat in the parliament held at Edinburgh in the month of August of that year, and concurred in several laws which were enacted for establishing the king’s supremacy in ecclesiastical matters. In the following year he was appointed to vindicate these acts of parliament, and his apology is inserted in Holinshed’s English Chronicle. Mr. James Melville gives a full copy of what he styles "a Bull which the archbishop of St. Andrews got of the king as supreme governor of the kirk, whereby he has power and authority to use his archiepiscopal office within the kirk and his diocese." (Diary, p. 132.)

      In April 1586, the provincial synod of Fife met at St. Andrews, when Mr. James Melville, as moderator of the previous meeting, preached the opening sermon, in the course of which he denounced the archbishop to his face, and demanded that he should be cut off, for having devised and procured the passing of the late acts of parliament in 1584, which were subversive of the Presbyterian discipline. In his defence Adamson said that the acts were none of his devising, although they had his support as good and lawful statutes. He then declined the jurisdiction of the court, and appealed from it to the king and parliament, but nevertheless was formally excommunicated by the synod. In return, he next day ordered Mr. Samuel Cunningham, one of his servants, to pronounce the archiepiscopal excommunication against Andrew Melville, James Melville, and others, with Andrew Hunter, minister of Carnbee, who had denounced the anathema of the synod against the archbishop. The proceedings of the synod being manifestly informal, the General Assembly, which met at Edinburgh in the following month, annulled the sentence of excommunication against him, and reponed him to the same position which he had held before the meeting of the provincial synod of Fife. The Melvilles being summoned before the king for their conduct in this harsh and vindictive transaction, were ordered to confine themselves, Andrew to his native place during the king’s will, and James to his college. (Melville’s Diary, p. 165.) The archbishop, besides his usual clerical duties, was required to teach public lessons in Latin within the Old college, and the whole university commanded to attend the same. (Ibid. p. 166.) As archbishop of St. Audrews he was ex officio chancellor of the university.

      About the end of June 1587, M. Du Bartas, the famous French poet, being in Scotland as ambassador from the king of Navarre, afterwards Henry IV. of France, accompanied King James to St. Andrews. His majesty, desirous of hearing a lecture from Mr. Andrew Melville, principal of St. Mary’s college, gave him an hour’s notice of his wish. Melville endeavoured to excuse himself, but his majesty insisting, he delivered an extem— pore discourse, upon the government of the church of Christ, when he refuted the whole acts of parliament which had been passed against the presbyterian discipline. On the following day an entertainment was given by the archbishop to the king and the French envoy, when Adamson took occasion to pronounce a lecture, to counteract that of Melville, his principal topics being the pre eminence of bishops and the supremacy of kings. Melville was present and took notes, and had no sooner returned to his college than he caused the bell to be rung, and an intimation to be conveyed to the king that he intended to deliver another lecture after an interval of two hours. On this occasion, besides the king, Du Bartas and Adam-son were present. Avoiding all formal reference to the previous speech of the archbishop, Melville dexterously quoted from popish books, which he had brought with him, all his leading positions and arguments in favour of episcopacy. When he had shown them to be plain popery, he proceeded to refute them with such force of reason that Adamson remained silent, although he had previously requested permission from the king to defend his own doctrines. The king, however, spoke for him, and after making some learned and scholastic distinctions, he concluded with commanding them all, to respect and obey the archbishop. The whole of this narrative, however, rests upon the authority of James Melville, which, besides being that of a prejudiced opponent, is unfortunately in other matters relative to Adamson found to be opposed to facts recorded in the proceedings of the Church.

      By the act of annexation passed in 1587 the see of St. Andrews, with all the other church benefices in the kingdom, was annexed to the crown. The revenues of the archbishopric were thereafter bestowed on the duke of Lennox, by James VI., excepting only a small pittance, reserved for the subsistence of Archbishop Adamson. In the following year he was exposed to a fresh prosecution by the church, having been summoned for having, contrary to an inhibition of the presbytery of Edinburgh, married the Catholic earl of Huntly to the king’s cousin, the sister of the duke of Lennox, without requiring the earl to subscribe the Confession of Faith, although he had already subscribed certain articles which were required of him previous to the proclamation of the bans. Adam-son on this occasion appeared by his procurator, Mr. Thomas Wilson, (very likely his son-in-law,) who produced a testimonial of his sickness, subscribed by the doctor who attended him and two bailies, but the memorial was not admitted as sufficient. The presbytery of St. Andrews proceeded against him in absence, deprived him of all office in the church, and threatened him with excommunication. The Assembly ratified the sentence of the presbytery, and for this and other alleged crimes he was deposed and again excommunicated.        

      In the beginning of 1589 he published the Lamentations of Jeremiah, in Latin verse, which he dedicated to the king in an address, complaining of the harsh treatment he had received. The same year he also published a Latin poetical translation of the Apocalypse, and addressed a copy of Latin verses to his majesty, deploring his distress. The unfortunate prelate had at one period stood so high in the royal favour that James had condescended to compose a sonnet in commendation of his paraphrase of the Book of Job; but times were altered, and the king paid no attention to his appeals. In his need Adamson is said to have addressed a letter to his former opponent, Mr. Andrew Melville, with whom he at one period lived on terms of good neighbourhood, but opposite views in church government had long not only driven them asunder, but rendered them bitter antagonists. On receipt of his letter containing the sad disclosure of his destitute situation, Melville hastened to pay the archbishop a visit, and besides procuring contributions on his behalf from his brethren of the presbytery of St. Andrews, continued for several months to support him from his own private purse. Reduced by poverty and disease, the unfortunate prelate, in the year 1591, sent to the Presbytery of St. Andrews a paper expressive of his regret at the course he had pursued, and desiring to be restored into the church. This is not the same paper which afterwards appeared under the title of ‘The Recantation of Maister Patrick Adamsone,’ and which was published as a pamphlet in 1598. Some of the Episcopal writers are disposed to deny the genuineness of the latter, and it is to be regretted that the proofs of its genuineness are not more complete.

      Adamson died on the 19th February 1592, and his death was speedily followed by the restoration of the presbyterian form of church government in Scotland. A collection of his Latin poetical translations from the Scriptures was published in a quarto volume in London in 1619, with his Life by his son-in-law, Thomas Wilson, an advocate, under the title of Poemata Sacra. Several of his other poems are to be found in the Delitiae Poetarum Scotorum, tome i., and in the Poetarum Scotorum Musae Sacrae, tome ii.

      Adamson’s character has been much traduced by contemporary writers, but by none more so than by Robert Semple, a minor poet of that day, who wrote a gross and scurrilous work professing .to be his life, which he styled ‘A Legend of the Bischop of St. Androis’ Life.’ It is thought that this ‘legend’ had an effect on the king’s mind unfavourable to Adamson, but he fell more into disgrace with his majesty after having been "put to the horn," in 1587, amid "denounced rebel," for withholding their stipends from several ministers in his diocese, and "for not furnishing of two gal-lons of wine to the communion."

      The following address to his departing soul, written by Adamson in Latin poetry, in which he so much excelled, is, says Dr. Irving, "as much superior to that of Adrian as Christianity is superior to Paganism :"

O animal assiduis vitae jactata procellis,
Exilii, pertaesa gravis, nunc lubrica, tempus
Regna tibi, et mundi invisas contemnere sordes:
Quippe parens rerum caeco te corpore clemens
Evocat, et verbi crucifixi gratia, coeli
Pandit iter, patrioque beatam limine sistet.
Progenies Jovis, quo te coelestis origo
Invitat, felix perge, aeternumque quiesce.
Exuviae carnis, coguato in pulvere vocem
Angelicam expectent, sonitu quo putro cadaver
Exiliet redivivum, et totum me tibi reddet.

Ecce beata dies! nos agni dextera ligno
Fulgentes crucis, et radiantes sanguine vivo
Excipiet: quam firma illic, quam certa capesses
Gaudia, felices inter novus incola cives!
Alme Dens! Deus alme! et non effabile numen
Ad te unum et trinum, moribundo pectore anbelo.

      Besides the poems and translations already mentioned, Archbishop Adamson wrote many things which were never published, among which may be mentioned Six books on the Hebrew Republic, various translations of the Prophets into Latin verse, Prelections on St. Paul's Epistles to Timothy, various apologetical and funeral orations, and a very candid history of his own times.  The following is a list of his published works:

Catechismus Latino Carmine Redditus, et in libros quatnor digestus. Edin. 1581, 12mo.
Poemata Sacra, cum aliis Opusculis, et cum Vita ejus; a T. Voluseno. Lond. 1619, 4to.
Do Sacro Pastoris Munere Tractatus: cum Vita Auctoris, per Tb. Volusenum. Lond. 1619, 4to. 8vo.Refutatio Libelli le Regimine Ecclesiae Scoticanae. Lond. 1620, 8vo.
Adamsoni Vita et Palinodia. 1620, 4to.
Genethliacon Jacobi VI. Regis Scotiae, Angliae I. Carmine. Amst. 1637, 8vo. Inter Poet. Scot. vol. i. p. 13.
Recantation of Mr. Patrick Adamson, sometime Archbishop of St. Andrews in Scotlande. To which is added, his Life in Latin. 1598, 8vo.
Sermons. 1623, 8vo.

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