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The Scottish Nation

BALLANTYNE, a name variously written Ballenden, Bellenden, and Ballentyn, and the same as Bannatyne, (see BANNATYNE, surname of). originally derived from the lands of Bellenden in Selkirkshire. Of this surname the family of Ballenden or Bellenden of Auchinoul, in the county of Edinburgh, was at one period the most distinguished, a descendant of which became in 1661 Lord Bellenden of Broughton, a title afterwards merged in that of the Duke of Roxburgh. (See BELLENDEN, Lord.)

BALLANTYNE, JAMES, an eminent printer, was the son of a respectable shopkeeper in Kelso, where he was born in the year 1772. He was educated at the grammar school of his native town, and in 1783 he first became acquainted with Sir Walter Scott, who then attended the public school of Kelso, for a few weeks, while on a visit to his aunt, during the vacation of the Edinburgh High school. He was early bound apprentice to a solicitor at Kelso, and in 1795 commenced practice there, but not meeting with clients, in the following summer, though not brought up to the printing business, he commenced as printer in his native town, and started the Kelso Mail newspaper with success. He had the merit of being the first to introduce an improved style of printing into Scotland; and the works which issued from his press in a provincial town, for elegance and accuracy, were unequalled at the time in this country. Among the earliest of these was the first great work of his friend Sir Walter Scott, ‘ The Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border,’ which was printed at the Ballantyne press, Kelso. About the end of 1802, chiefly by the advice of Scott, he was induced to remove to Edinburgh, where the distinction he had already acquired in the trade procured for him ample employment. In 1805, shortly after the publication of the ‘Lay of the Last Minstrel,’ needing a supply of money to enable him to carry on his increasing business, he applied to Sir Walter Scott, from whom he had previously received a loan, for another advance, when, on consideration of being admitted a partner, to the extent of a third sharer in the business, Scott embarked a considerable sum of money in the concern. His increasing business as a printer did not preclude his editing the Edinburgh Weekly Journal, of which he and his brother became the proprietors in 1817, and which was conducted by him with spirit, intelligence, and good taste. In this paper first appeared the celebrated letters of Sir Malachi Malagrowther on the currency. In dramatic literature, especially, Mr. Ballantyne’s taste was excellent, and his graceful and discriminating criticisms in the Weekly Journal were much esteemed at the time. His friendship with Sir Walter Scott, which began when they were boys at school, lasted undiminished during their lives. He was the printer of all the productions of the author of Waverley, and often judiciously suggested corrections on the manuscripts, or the proofs of his works, which that great writer did not disdain to adopt. In 1816, he married a Miss Hogarth, the daughter of a wealthy farmer in Berwickshire, the sister of George Hogarth, Esq., author of a ‘History of Music.’ He then lived in St. John Street, Canongate, at no great distance from his printing establishment, at St. Paul’s Work. Mrs. Ballantyne died in 1829, leaving him a large family of children. In January 1826, the company of which he was the head were unfortunately involved in the bankruptcy of Messrs. Constable & Co., publishers, when their liabilities amounted to one hundred and two thousand pounds. Mr. Ballantyne died January 17, 1833, having survived his illustrious friend the author of Waverley only about four months. Shortly before his death he published an affecting statement, in which he expressed his wish to be restored to that degree of health which would enable him to do some justice to the character of the great man who had gone before him. In private life Mr. Ballantyne was distinguished for the urbanity of his manners, the kindness of his disposition, and for his social qualities. He possessed in a high degree an acute observation of men and manners, with great literary knowledge, and ample stores of anecdote, which rendered him a pleasing and instructive companion. He is described, however, as having been a man of indolent habits, and not a little addicted to the pleasures of the table.—Lockhart’s Life of Scott.

BALLANTYNE, JOHN, bookseller and publisher, a younger brother of the preceding, was born at Kelso, in the year 1774, and like his brother, was also a schoolfellow of Sir Walter Scott. When the Kelso Mail was started by his brother, he assisted in writing for it. He was originally intended for his father’s business, namely, that of a small merchant, or shopkeeper, in Kelso, and was sent, while very young, to London, where he spent some time in the banking house of Messrs. Currie. On his return to Kelso, the department in his father’s business which more immediately devolved upon him was the tailoring one. In 1805, the business having fallen off, he disposed of his goods to pay his debts, and followed his brother, Mr. James Ballantyne, to Edinburgh. He was taken into his counting-house as clerk, at a salary of two hundred pounds per annum, while his father, who had accompanied him, was also employed about the printing-office. In 1808, on some temporary disagreement between Sir Walter Scott and his publishers, Constable and Co., John Ballantyne became a partner with Scott in the firm of Ballantyne and Co., booksellers and publishers, Hanover Street. Among the first of the works published by the new firm was ‘The Lady of the Lake.’ In 1813 he engaged also in the profession of an auctioneer of works of art, libraries, &c., having taken premises in Princes Street for the purpose. He held till his death the office of bookseller to the king for Scotland. When the earlier Waverley novels were in course of printing Mr. John Ballantyne was intrusted with the management of their publication. Some of these celebrated works he published himself. He also brought out two periodical publications, ‘The Visionary,’ and ‘The Saleroorm’ written chiefly by Sir Walter Scott, who edited for him the works of Beaumont and Fletcher, which were published at John Ballantyne’s risk. He was himself the author of two thin volumes, entitled ‘The Widow’s Lodgings,’ which, though described as "wretched trash," reached a second edition. Possessing good natural talents, with great powers of wit and humour, he was in company one of the most amusing of story-tellers, and could relate an anecdote with a gusto and effect peculiar to himself. He is described as having been of a quick, active, and in trepid disposition, very fond of field sports, and a capital mimic. From his volatility and lightheartedness, Sir Walter Scott bestowed on him the soubriquet of Rigdumfunnidos. The following instance of his benevolence of disposition is related in Lockhart’s Life of Scott. He remarked one day to a poor student of divinity who was attending his auction, that he looked as if he were in bad health. The young man assented, with a sigh. "Come," said Ballantyne, "I think I ken the secret of a sort of draft that would relieve you—-particularly," he added, handing him a check for £5 or £10, "particularly, my dear, if taken on an empty stomach." His health having been seriously affected, with the view of amendment he travelled for some time on the continent. On his return he retired to a seat in the neighbourhood of Kelso, and when there he commenced the publication of a beautiful edition of the British novelists, entitled ‘Ballantyne’s Novelist’s Library,’ edited by Sir Walter Scott, who furnished biographical prefaces to the different authors. This work was printed and published for Mr. Ballantyne’s sole benefit. A severe attack of asthma confined him to the house for some weeks. He died in his brother’s house, St. John Street, Edinburgh, on the 16th of June, 1821, aged 47, and was buried in the Canongate churchyard. He had been married at an early age to Miss Parker, a relative of Dr. Rutherford, but had no family.

BALLANTYNE, JOHN, the Rev., author of ‘An Examination of the Human Mind,’ was born at South Piteddie, in the parish of Kinghorn, Fife, on the 8th May 1778. He received his early education at a school in the village of Lochgelly, and in 1795 became a student in the university of Edinburgh. Although his parents belonged to the Established church, he himself became a member of the Secession, and attended the divinity hall under the superintendence of Professor Lawson of Selkirk. During the prosecution of his studies, he was engaged in teaching a school, first at Lochgelly, and afterwards in Edinburgh. After being licensed, he received a call from Stonehaven in Kincardineshire, and from another congregation, but accepted that of the former. He was ordained in 1805. His congregation being small, he had ample leisure to attend to his literary pursuits. He had early made choice of metaphysical science as a subject of study, and in 1828 he published his metaphysical speculations in a thick octavo volume, entitled ‘An Examination of the Human Mind,’ a work of great labour and of considerable merit. He had previously contributed a paper on the subject of church extension to the Christian Recorder, Glasgow, a religious periodical, and in 1824 he published anonymously a pamphlet entitled ‘A Comparison of Established and Dissenting Churches, by a Dissenter,’ remarkable as being the first of that long series of publications on the voluntary question with which the press afterwards teemed from the pens of the Scotch dissenting clergy; After the controversy had fairly been entered upon, he was induced to remould and greatly to enlarge this work, which, in its new and improved form, was published, in 1830, with his name. Mr. Ballantyne died 5th November 1830, in the 52d year of his age and the 25th of his ministry. He left sufficient materials to make another volume of his great metaphysical work, but the sale of the first volume was so much injured by the connexion of his name with the voluntary church controversy, that no encouragement was given to proceed with the farther publication of the work. The first volume, however, is complete in itself.—M’Kerrow’s Hist. of the Secession Church.

Entries for this name from the Dictionary of National Biography

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