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The Scottish Nation

WATSON, DAVID, chiefly known as the translator of Horace, born at Brechin in 1710, was educated at St. Leonard’s college, St. Andrews, and was afterwards appointed professor of philosophy there. In 1747, when the colleges of St. Leonard and St. Salvador were united, he was deprived of his chair, on which he went to London. His well-known translation of Horace was published in two volumes 8vo, with notes. He died in destitute circumstances near London, in 1756, and was buried at the expense of the parish. Besides his translation of Horace, he wrote ‘A Clear and Compendious History of the Heathen Gods and goddesses, and their Contemporaries,’ for the use of Schools. London, 1752, 8vo.

WATSON, ROBERT. LL.D., an elegant historian, was born at St. Andrews about 1730. He was the son of an apothecary of that town, who was also a brewer. He received his education at the school and university of his native place, and to improve himself he removed first to the university of Glasgow, and afterwards to that of Edinburgh.

Having acquired a knowledge of the principles of universal grammar, he prepared a course of lectures on style and language, and also one on rhetoric, both of which he delivered at Edinburgh, by which he secured the friendship of Lord Kames, Mr. Hume, and other eminent men of that day. About this time he was licensed to preach; and a vacancy having occurred in one of the churches of St. Andrews, he offered himself a candidate for it, but was disappointed. Soon after, however, on the retirement of Mr. Rymer, he obtained the professorship of logic in St. Salvador’s college, to which was added, by patent from the crown, that of rhetoric and belies letters. On the death of Principal Tullidelph, in November 1777, he was appointed, through the influence of the earl of Kinnoul, principal of the college, and at the same time presented to the church and parish of St. Leonard. He had previously received the degree of doctor of laws. Dr. Watson wrote the ‘History of Philip II. of Spain,’ published in 1777, which obtained for him a considerable degree of literary reputation. He had finished the first four books of a ‘History of the reign of Philip III.,’ when he died, March 31, 1781. The work was completed, by the addition of two more books, by Dr. William Thomson, and published in 1783. Dr. Watson married a lady of singular beauty and virtue, the daughter of Dr. Shaw, professor of divinity in St. Mary’s college, by whom he had five daughters, who survived him.

WATSON, GEORGE, an eminent portrait painter, and first president of the Scottish Academy of Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture, was the son of John Watson of Overmains, Berwickshire, by his wife, Frances Veitch of Elliott. He was born at Overmains in 1767; and received his early education in Edinburgh. His taste for art was first shown by his employing himself during an illness, while a boy, in copying a print with pen and ink; and, on being sent to Edinburgh for his general education, he assiduously set about improving himself in drawing and acquiring knowledge in the study of nature. When eighteen years of age, he went to London, carrying with him an introduction to Sir Joshua Reynolds. For about two years he was a pupil of that great artist.

On his return to Edinburgh he commenced portrait painter, and about the same time married Rebecca Smellie, eldest daughter of Mr. William Smellie, printer, one of the founders of the Scottish Antiquarian Society. At that time there were few portrait painters in Edinburgh, the two principal being Raeburn and Martin.

In 1808, with some of his brother artists, he commenced an exhibition of modern art, in Corri’s Lyceum, Nicholson Street, under the name of the Society of Scottish Artists, of which he was elected president. It was attended with so much success that the members opened another, in the following year, in Mr. afterwards Sir Henry Raeburn’s rooms, York Place, where it continued to be held for four successive years, with increasing encouragement. Mr. Watson also established a life academy in connexion with the society. A resolution having been carried at a meeting of the members for the division of the surplus funds, after payment of the expenses of the exhibition and life academy, the society was dissolved, in spite of the strenuous efforts of Mr. Watson and eight other artists, to prevent such a result. On the dissolution of the society, the members presented Mr. Watson, as their president, with a handsome piece of plate as a token of their esteem.

After the dissolution of the former society, a considerable number of the Edinburgh artists continued to exhibit in the Institution Rooms, till 1826, when the Scottish Academy was founded, on the model of the Royal Academy of London, and Mr. Watson was unanimously elected its first president. While his health permitted he yearly contributed largely to its exhibitions, which were held in the Waterloo Rooms, and by his zeal and firmness of purpose, during its early difficulties, he contributed materially to placing it on a successful and permanent footing. In 1838 the Scottish Academy was incorporated by royal charter. It consists of thirty academicians, and twenty associates. Mr. Watson died before the charter was obtained, September 6, 1837, aged 70, after a long illness of 15 years. He was survived by a widow, two sons, and three daughters, out of a family of nine children.

Upon exhibiting some of his portraits at the Royal Academy of London about 1815, Mr. Watson received numerous invitations to that city, and while there he painted, among many others, the portraits of the Dean of Canterbury, Lord and Lady Combermere, and a characteristic one of Benjamin West, president of the Royal Academy. The latter is now in the National Gallery of Scotland at Edinburgh, having been presented to the Royal Scottish Academy by his son, Mr. William Smellie Watson, R.S.A. A duplicate of this portrait having been sent to the Academy of Art at South Carolina, Mr. Watson was elected an honorary member thereof. It was afterwards exhibited through the whole of the United States of America, with great éclat.

Sir John Watson Gordon, the distinguished portrait painter, who was elected president of the Royal Scottish Academy, on the death of Sir William Allan, in 1850, is the nephew of the subject of this memoir, who was a third cousin of Sir Walter Scott.

Among the paintings of Mr. Watson while president of the Scottish Academy were: -- Portrait of Sir Charles Kerr; The Hermit; James Hogarth; Colonel M’Donald, 91st regiment, and his Lady; Forrest Alexander, painted for the commercial Bank of Scotland; Jewish Doctor; Rev. Bishop Patterson; Old Soldier; Female Ornithologist; Sir Peter Murray, Threiplaud; Narrative interrupted, with Portraits of Gentlemen.

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