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The Scottish Nation

ELLIOT, ELIOT, or ELLIOTT, a surname of considerable antiquity both in Scotland and England, possessed by a border clan which resided chiefly in the eastern districts of the border. Willis, the antiquary, mentions persons of this name having been seated in Devonshire about the reign of King John, and having branched out into several families, chiefly in the west of England, some of them being of importance in the reign of Edward the First. Of the same stock is descended the family of Eliot of Port Eliot in Cornwall, settled there about 1540. There were also families of this name in Suffolk and Surrey.

      The Scottish Elliots appear to have been originally settled on the river and village of Eliot of Elot, in Forfarshire, hence the word Arbirlot, a contraction of Aber-Eliot, the river entering the sea at the parish of that name. As most of the surnames in Scotland were local, it is probable, and this has ever been the opinion of the Elliots themselves, that they had their name from this river. During the reign of Robert the Third, about the year 1395, they were induced to remove, in a body, into Liddesdale, by means of the family of Douglas, to strengthen their interest on the borders, towards England.

      Eliott of Lariston, in Liddesdale, was unquestionably the original stock from which all of the name in Scotland, at least, are descended. The direct male line failed about the beginning of the eighteenth century, and the heir female was married to James Elliot of Redheugh, youngest son of the family of Stobs or Stobhouse, in Roxburghshire, who continued the line, and appears to have been the parent stock of those branches which have in modern times rendered themselves eminent.

      His son, or grandson, was Gilbert Elliot of Stobs, commonly called “Gibby wi’ the gouden gartins.” He married Margaret, daughter of Walter Scott of Harden, known by the name of ‘Maggy Fendy,” and had by her six sons, namely, William, his heir; Gilbert, of Craigend; Archibald, of Middlestead; Gavin, of Grange, ancestor of the family of Midlem or Middlemill and Lord Minto (see below); John, of Godistree; and James, of Redheugh, who married the heiress of Lariston, as above stated.

      The eldest son, William Elliot of Stobs, by his wife, Elizabeth, daughter of Sir James Douglas of Conons, had three sons, and of the youngest, William, Sir John Elliot of Peebles, baronet, an eminent physician of London, of whom a memoir is afterwards given, was heir male.

      The eldest son, Sir Gilbert Elliot of Stobs, was for his distinguished bravery made a knight banneret in 1643, by King Charles the First in person. He was afterwards, on 3d September 1666, created a baronet of Nova Scotia. He was twice married. By his first wife, Isabella, second daughter of James, master of Cranstoun, he had an only son, William; and by his second wife, Magdaline, daughter of Sir Thomas Nicholson of Lasswade, baronet, he had two sons and a daughter.

      His eldest son, Sir William, second baronet, died in 1694. Sir William’s son, Sir Gilbert, third baronet, married Eleanor, daughter of William Elliot of Wells, in Roxburghshire, by whom he had eight sons, the youngest of whom, George Augustus, the celebrated General Elliot, was created Lord Heathfield for his gallant defence of Gibraltar in 1787, a memoir of whom is given below. Sir Gilbert died in 1764. His son, grandson, and great-grandson, all succeeded to the title and estates. The latter, Sir William, sixth baronet, by his wife, daughter of John Russell, Esq. of Roseburn, had eight sons and two daughters, and died 14th May 1812. His eldest son, Sir William Francis Elliot of Stobs and Wells, seventh baronet, F.R.S., and deputy-lieutenant of Roxburghshire, married, 22d March, 1826, the only daughter of Sir Alexander Roswell of Auchinleck, baronet, and by her (who died in 1836) has issue. In 1818 he succeeded his cousin, the late Right Hon. William Elliot, M.P. for Peterborough, in the estate of Wells and othee3r lands in Roxburghshire, the second Lord Heathfield, on whom the estates were entailed, having previously died without issue.


GILBERT ELLIOT, popularly called ‘Gibbie Elliot,’ an eminent lawyer and judge, the founder of the Minto family, was a younger son of Gawin Elliot of Midlem Mill, above mentioned. He was born in 1651, and being educated for the profession of the law, he at first acted only as a writer in Edinburgh, in which capacity he was agent for the celebrated preacher, Mr. William Veitch, and was successful in getting the sentence of death passed against the latter commuted to banishment, in the year 1679. His own zeal for the presbyterian cause and religious liberty caused him to be denounced by the Scottish privy council, and 16th July, 1685, he was condemned for treason, and forfeited for being in arms with the earl of Argyle. He was soon, however, pardoned by the king, and in 1687 he applied to be admitted advocate. He was one of the Scottish deputation to the prince of Orange in Holland, to concert measures for bestowing on him the British crown. At the Revolution the act of forfeiture against him was rescinded, and he was appointed clerk to the privy council, which office he held till 1692. He was created a baronet in 1700, and was constituted a lord of session, and took his seat as Lord Minto, in 1705. At the same time he became a lord of justiciary. He died in 1718, at the age of 67.

      The estate of Minto in Roxburghshire, which originally belonged to the Turnbulls, he had purchased some time before his elevation to the bench, from the daughters, who were co-heiresses, of the last possessor, Walter Riddell, Esq., second son of Walter Riddell of Newhouse. From King William he had a charter of the lands and barony of Headshaw and Dryden.

      Dr. M’Crie, in his ‘Life of Veitch,’ relates the following amusing anecdote regarding this eminent personage and his former client. “When Lord Minto visited Dumfries, of which Mr. Veitch was minister after the Revolution, he always spent some time with his old friend, when their conversation often turned on the perils of their former life. On these occasions his lordship was accustomed facetiously to say, ‘Ah! Willie, Willie had it no been for me, the pyets had been pyking your pate on the Nether-Bow port!’ to which Veitch would reply, ‘Ah! Gibbie, Gibbie, had it no been for me, ye would hae been yet writing papers for a plack the page.’”

      His son, Sir Gilbert Elliot, the second baronet, was born in 1693 or 1694. He became a lord of session 4th June 1726, when he also assumed the judicial title of Lord Minto, a lord of justiciary 13th September 1733, and was afterwards appointed lord justice clerk. He likewise sat in parliament in 1725. Concurring in politics with the celebrated John duke of Argyle and Greenwich, he was much in that nobleman’s confidence, and assisted him in the management of Scots affairs. Besides other improvements, he formed a large library at Minto-house, such as at that period was rarely to be met with in Scotland. He died suddenly at Minto in 1766. He is said to have been the first to introduce the German flute into Scotland about 1725. He married Helen, daughter of Sir Robert Stuart, baronet of Allanbank, by whom, besides other children, he had Gilbert, the third baronet, and his sister, Miss Jane Elliot, authoress of the ‘Flowers of the Forest,’ a memoir of whom is given below.

      Sir Gilbert, third baronet, author of the beautiful pastoral, beginning, “My sheep I’ve forsaken and broke my sheep-hook,” was born in September 1722. Like his father and grandfather, he was educated for the bar, and passed advocate 10th December, 1743. He married, 15th December, 1746, Agnes Murray Kynnynmound, heiress of Melgund in Forfarshire and of Kynnynmound in Fifeshire, by whom he had a son, the first earl of Minto, of whom a notice follows. The father of this lady was Hugh Dalrymple, second son of the first baronet of Hailes, who inherited the estates of Melgund and Kynnynmound in 1736, in right of his mother, Janet, daughter of Sir James Rocheid of Inverleith and widow of Alexander Murray of Melgund, and he in consequence assumed the designation of Hugh Dalrymple-Murray-Kynnynmound. He died in 1741. Sir Gilbert was a man of considerable political and literary abilities, and filled several high official situation. In 1754 he was elected member of parliament for Selkirkshire, and was again returned in 1761. In 1765, on a vacancy occurring in the representation of Roxburghshire, he resigned his seat for Selkirkshire, and was returned member for his native county; and also during the successive parliaments in 1768 and 1774. In 1763 he was appointed treasurer of the navy. In April 1766 he succeeded his father in his title and estates, and subsequently obtained the reversion of the office of keeper of the signet in Scotland. He was also one of the lords of the admiralty. He died at Marseilles, whither he had gone for the recovery of his health, in January 1777. His Philosophical Correspondence with David Hume is quoted with commendation by Dugald Stewart, in his ‘Philosophy of the Human Mind,’ and in his ‘Dissertation’ prefixed to the seventh edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica. Sir Gilbert was the writer of some pathetic elegiac verses on Colonel Gardiner, who fell at Preston, beginning, “Twas at the hour of dark midnight.” He is also supposed to have been the author of some beautiful lines in blank verse, entitled ‘Thoughts occasioned by the Funeral of the Earl and Countess of Sutherland, at the Abbey of Holyrood House,’ 9th July, 1766, inserted in the Scots Magazine for October of that year, where they are attributed to a person of distinction.

      His eldest son, Gilbert Elliot Murray Kynnynmond, fourth baronet, and first earl of Minto, a distinguished statesman, was born April 23, 1751. After receiving part of his education at a school in England, in 1768 he was sent to Christ Church, Oxford. He subsequently entered at Lincoln’s Inn, and was in due time called to the bar. He afterwards visited the Continent, and on his return was, in 1774, elected M.P. for Morpeth. At first he supported the Administration, but towards the close of the American war he joined himself to the opposition, and was twice proposed by his party as Speaker, but was both times defeated by the ministerial candidate. In January 1777, he had married Anna Maria, eldest daughter of Sir George Amyand, Bart., and soon after he succeeded his father as baronet. At the breaking out of the French Revolution, he and many of his friends became the supporters of the government. In July 1793 he was created by the university of Oxford doctor of civil laws. The same year he acted as a commissioner for the protection of the royalists of Toulon, in France. The people of Corsica having sought the protection of Great Britain, Sir Gilbert Elliot was appointed governor of that island, and in the end of September 1793 was sworn in a member of the privy council. Early in 1794 the principal strongholds of Corsica were surrendered by the French to the British arms; the king accepted the sovereignty of the island; and on June 19, 1794, Sir Gilbert, as viceroy, presided in a general convention of Corsican deputies, at which a code of laws, modelled on the constitution of Great Britain, was adopted. The French had still a strong party in the island, who, encouraged by the successes of the French armies in Italy, at last rose in arms against the British authority. The insurrection at Bastia, the capital of the island, was suppressed in June 1796; but the French party gradually acquiring strength, while sickness and diversity of opinion rendered the situation of the British very precarious, it was resolved, in September following, to abandon the island. Sir Gilbert returned to England early in 1797, and in the subsequent October was raised to the peerage of the United Kingdom as Baron Minto, with the special distinction accorded him of bearing with his family arms in chief the arms of Corsica. In July 1799 his lordship was appointed envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary to Vienna, where he remained till the end of 1801. On the brief occupation of office by the Whigs in 1806, he was appointed president of the Board of Control. He was soon after nominated governor general of India, and embarked for Bengal in February 1807. “When Sir Gilbert Elliot,” says Mr. MacFarlane, in his History of British India, “Lord Minto had been one of the bitterest enemies of Warren Hastings, and had taken a most active part on the impeachment and trial of that great man. Like some of his predecessors, he had gone out to India impressed with the notions that the true policy of Britain was non-interference, that no attempt ought to be mad to extend the limits of our possessions or to increase the number of our connections with the native princes. No man had inveighed more bitterly than he against the ambitious, encroaching, aggrandizing spirit of Mr. Hastings, or had dwelt more pathetically on the wrongs done to the native princes. Yet his lordship had not been many days on the banks of the Hooghly ere he confessed that the security of our empire depended upon the actual superiority of our power, upon the sense which the natives entertained of that power, and upon the submissiveness of our neighbours.” Under his administration many important acquisitions were made by the British arms. “If conquests and annexations,” says Mr. MacFarlane, “were not made in Hindostan, there was no lack of them in other directions. In fact, during the peaceful administration of Lord Minto, our conquests and operations in the Eastern Archipelago, or Insular India, were widely extended – so widely, indeed, that the forces and resources employed in this direction, would have made it difficult to prosecute any important war on the Indian continent.” He accompanied in person the successful expedition against Java in 1811. For his services in India he received the thanks of parliament, and in February 1813 was created earl of Minto, and Viscount Melgund. Towards the close of the same year he resigned his office, and returned to England. His lordship died, June 21st, 1814, at Stevenage, while on his way to Scotland. He had three sons and three daughters.

      His eldest son, Gilbert, fifth baronet, and second earl of Minto, born in 1782, married in 1806, the eldest daughter of Patrick Brydone, Esq., of Lennel, near Coldstream, once well-known for his ‘Tour through Sicily,’ by whom he had issue. He assumed the names of Murray and Kynnynmond by royal license, was M.P. for Ashburton in 1806-7, and ambassador at Berlin from 1832 to 1834; privy councillor, 1832; G.C.B., 1834; first lord of the admiralty from September 1835 to September 1841, and lord privy seal from July 1846 to Feb. 1852, and was sent on a mission to Italy and Switzerland in Sept. 1847. The countess died at Nerve, a short distance from Genoa, 21st July 1853. The earl died in 1859. His eldest son, William Hugh, third earl, born at Minto castle, Roxburghshire, in 1814, was, while Viscount Melgund, M.P. for Hythe from 1837 to 1841, for Greenock from 1847 to 1852, and for Clackmannan from April 1857 to May 1859; chairman of the General Board of Lunacy for Scotland from 1857 to 1859. He married in 1844, Emma-Eleanor Elizabeth, born in 1824, daughter of General Sir Thomas Hislop, Baronet; issue, Gilbert John, Viscount Melgund, and three other sons.

ELLIOT, GEORGE AUGUSTUS, LORD HEATHFIELD, the gallant defender of Gibraltar, ninth and youngest son of Sir Gilbert Elliot, the third baronet of Stobs, in Roxburghshire, by Eleanor, daughter of William Elliot, Esq. of Wells, was born at Stobs in 1718. He was educated at home by a private tutor, and afterwards sent to the university of Leyden, where he made great progress in classical learning. After attending the French military school of La Fere, in Picardy, he served for some time as a volunteer in the Prussian army. He returned home in 1735, and became a volunteer in the 23d regiment of foot, or Royal Welsh fusileers, then lying in Edinburgh castle, but in 1736 he joined the engineer corps at Woolwich, where he continued till he was made adjutant of the second troop of horse grenadiers. In May 1743 he went with his regiment to Germany, and was wounded at the battle of Dettingen. In this regiment he successively purchased the commissions of captain, major, and lieutenant-colonel, when he resigned his commission as an engineer, and was soon after appointed aide-de-camp to George the Second. In 1759 he quitted the second regiment of horse guards, being selected to raise, form, and discipline, the first regiment of light horse, called after him Elliot’s. He subsequently served, with the rank of brigadier-general, in France and Germany, from whence he was recalled, and was employed as second in command in the memorable expedition against the Havannah. At the peace the king conferred on his regiment the title of royals, when it became the 15th, or king’s royal regiment of light dragoons. In 1775 General Elliot was appointed commander-in-chief of the forces in Ireland, from whence, at his own request, he was soon recalled, and sent to Gibraltar as governor of that important fortress.

      In 1779, Spain, in connection with France, took part in the struggle between Great Britain and her revolted American colonies, and, even before a declaration of war, laid siege to Gibraltar by sea and land. That fortress was defended by General Elliot with consummate skill, during three years of constant investment by the combined French and Spanish forces. In June 1782, the duke de Crillon, commander-in-chief of the Spanish army, who had recently taken the island of Minorca frm the British, arrived at Gibraltar, with a reinforcement. All the french princes royal were in the camp. An army of 40,000 French and Spaniards were at the foot of the hill. Floating batteries, with hanging roofs, were constructed to attack the fortifications, so carefully and strongly built, that neither balls nor bombs could injure them. Twelve hundred pieces of heavy ordnance were collected, and the quantity of gunpowder was said to exceed eighty-three thousand barrels. In Miller’s History of the Reign of George the Third is the following account of their final discomfiture: “The Thirteenth of September was fixed upon by the besiegers for making a grand attack, when the new invented machines, with all the united powers of gunpowder and artillery in the highest state of improvement, were to be called into action. The combined fleets of France and Spain in the bay of Gibraltar amounted to forty-eight sail of the line. Their batteries were covered with one hundred and fifty-four pieces of heavy brass cannon. The numbers employed by land and sea against the fortress were estimated at one hundred thousand men. With this force, and by the fire of three hundred cannon, mortars, and howitzers, from the adjacent isthmus, it was intended to attack every part of the British works at one and the same instant. The surrounding hills were covered with people assembled to behold the spectacle. The cannonade and bombardment were tremendous. The showers of shot and shells from the land batteries and the ships of the besiegers, and from the various works of the garrison, exhibited a most dreadful scene. Four hundred pieces of the heaviest artillery were playing at the same moment. The whole peninsula seemed to be overwhelmed in the torrents of fire which were incessantly poured upon it. The Spanish floating batteries for some time answered the expectations of their framers. The heaviest shells often rebounded from their tops, while thirty-two pound shot made no visible impression upon their hulls. For some hours the attack and defence were so equally supported, as scarcely to admit of any appearance of superiority on e3ither side. The construction of the battering ships was so well-calculated for withstanding the combined force of fire and artillery, that they seemed for some time to bid defiance to the powers of the heaviest ordnance. In the afternoon the effects of hot shot became visible. At first there was only an appearance of smoke, but in the course of the night, after the fire of the garrison had continued about fifteen hours, two of the floating batteries were in flames, and several more were visibly beginning to kindle. The endeavours of the besiegers were now exclusively directed to bring off the men from the burning vessels; but in this they were interrupted. Captain Curtis, who lay ready with twelve gun-boars, advanced and fired upon them with such order and expedition, as to throw them into confusion before they had finished their business. They fled with their boats, and abandoned to their fate great numbers of their people. The opening of daylight disclosed a most dreadful spectacle. Many were seen in the midst of the flames crying out for help, while others were floating upon pieces of timer, exposed to equal danger from the opposite element. The generous humanity of the victors equalled their valour, and was the more honourable, as the exertion of it exposed them to no less danger than those of active hostility. In endeavouring to save th lives of his enemies, Captain Curtis nearly lost his own. While for the most benevolent purpose he was alongside of the floating batteries, one of them blew up, and some heavy pieces of timber fell into his boat and pierced through its bottom. By similar perilous exertions nearly four hundred men were saved from inevitable destruction. The exercise of humanity to an enemy under such circumstances of immediate action and impending danger, conferred more true honour than could be acquired by the most splendid series of victories. It is some measure obscured the impression made to the disadvantage of human nature, by the madness of mankind in destroying each other by wasteful wars. The floating batteries were all consumed. The violence of their explosion was such as to burst open doors and windows at a great distance. Soon after the destruction of the floating batteries, Lord Howe, with thirty-five ships of the line, brought to the brave garrison an ample supply of every thing wanted, either for their support of their defence.” He succeeded in landing two regiments of troops, and in sending in a supply of fifteen hundred barrels of gunpowder.

      So admirable and complete had been the measures taken by the governor for the protection and security of the garrison, while the latter was employed in defending the fortress and annoying the enemy, that its loss was comparatively light, and it was chiefly confined to the artillery corps. The marine brigade, of course, being much more exposed, suffered more severely. In the course of about nine weeks, the whole number slain amounted to only sixty-five, and the wounded to three hundred and eighty-eight, and it is a remarkable fact that the works of the fortress were scarcely damaged.

      George the Third sent General Elliot the order of the Bath, which was presented to him on the spot where he had most exposed himself to the fire of the enemy. He also received the thanks of both houses of parliament for his eminent services, with a pension of fifteen hundred pounds per annum. Elliot himself, with the consent of the king, ordered medals to be struck, one of which was presented to every soldier engaged in the defence.

      After the conclusion of peace General Elliot returned to England, and, June 14, 1787, was created Lord Heathfield, Baron Gibraltar. In 1790 he was obliged to visit the baths of Aix-la-Chapelle for his health, and, when preparing to proceed to Gibraltar, died at Kalkofen, his favourite residence near the former place, of a second stroke of palsy, on the 6th of July of that year. His remains were brought to England, and interred at Heathfield in Sussex. A monument was erected to his memory in Westminster abbey at the public expense, and the king himself prepared the plan of a monument erected in honour of him at Gibraltar. In the council chamber of Guildhall, London, is one of the most celebrated picturers by Mr. John Singleton Copley, father of Lord Lyndhurst, representing the siege and relief of Gibraltar, and full of portraits, in which the figure of its heroic defender occupies the most conspicuous place, painted at the expense of the corporation.

[picture of George Augustus Eliott, Lord Heathfield]

      Lord Heathfield was one of the most abstemious men of his age. His diet consisted always of vegetables and water, and he allowed himself only four hours’ sleep at a time. He married Anne, daughter of Sir Francis Drake, of Devonshire, by whom he had a son, Francis Augustus, who succeeded to the title, which became extinct on his death in 1803.

ELLIOT, JANE, authoress of one of the three exquisite lyrics known in Scottish song by the name of ‘The Flowers of the Forest,’ was the second daughter of Sir Gilbert Elliot, the second baronet of Minto, and the sister of the third Sir Gilbert, author of the fine pastoral song of “My sheep I neglected,” and was born about 1727. Her beautiful song of ‘The Flowers of the Forest’ is the one beginning, with the fragment of the old words,

                        “I’ve heard them lilting, at the ewe-milking.”

And she thus proceeds,

                        “Lasses a’lilting before dawn of day;
                        But now they are moaning on ilka green loaning;
                        The Flowers of the Forest are a’ wede awae.”

It is the only thing she ever produced, and is said to have been written about the year 1755. When first published, it passed as an old ballad, and long remained anonymous. Burns was among the first to consider it modern. “This fine ballad,” he said, “is even a more palpable imitation than Hardy-knute. The manners are indeed old, but the language is of yesterday.” Sir Walter Scott inserted it in the Border Minstrelsy in 1803, “as by a lady of family in Roxburghshire.” It is stated that she composed it in a carriage with her brother, Sir Gilbert, after a conversation about the battle of Flodden, and a bet that she could not make a ballad on the subject. She had high aristocratic notions, and as a proof of her presence of mind, it is recorded that during the rebellion of 1745, when her father was forced to conceal himself among Minto Crags, from an enraged party of Jacobites, she received and entertained the officers at Minto House, and by her extreme composure, averted the danger to which he was exposed. This accomplished lady was never married. From 1782 to 1804, she resided in Brown’s Square, Edinburgh, in a house which, in the progress of local improvement, is now taken down. She died at Mount Teviot, in Roxburghshire, the seat of her brother, Admiral Elliot, March 29, 1805.

ELLIOT, SIR JOHN, baronet, an eminent physician, was born at Peebles, some time in the first half of the eighteenth century. He was of obscure parentage, but descended of a junior branch of the Stobs family, and received a good education, having become well acquainted with Latin and Greek. He was first employed in the shop of an apothecary in the Haymarket, London, which he quitted to go to sea as surgeon of a privateer. Being fortunate in obtaining prize-money, he procured a diploma, and settled in the metropolis as a physician. Aided by the friendship and patronage of Sir William Duncan, uncle of the celebrated admiral, Adam, Viscount Duncan, he soon became one of the most popular medical practitioners in London; his fees amounted to little less than five thousand pounds a-year; and by the influence of Lord Sackville and Madame Schwellenberg, he was, in July 1778, created a baronet. He was appointed physician to the prince of Wales, became intimate with persons of rank, and was the associate of the first literary characters of the metropolis, among whom he was celebrated for his hospitality. He died November 7th, 1786, at Brocket Hall, Hertfordshire, from the rupture of one of the larger vessels, and was buried at Hatfield. Dying unmarried, the baronetcy became extinct at his death. He was the author of various popular works relative to medical science, of which a list follows:

      Philosophical Observations on the Senses of Vision and Hearing. To which is added, A Treatise on Harmonic Sounds, and an Essay on Combustion and Animal Heat. Lond. 1780, 8vo.

      Essays on Physiological subjects. Lond. 1780, 8vo.

      Address to the Public on a subject of the utmost importance to Health. Lond. 1780, 8vo. Against Empirics.

      An Account of the Nature and Medicinal Virtues of the principal Mineral Waters in Great Britain and Ireland, and those in most repute on the Continent, &c. Lond. 1781, 8vo.

      The Medical Picket Book. Lond. 1781, 12mo.

      A Complete Collection of the Medical and Philosophical Works of John Fothergill, M.D.; with an Account of his Life, and occasional Notes. Lond. 1781, 8vo.

      Elements of the Branches of Natural Philosophy connected with Medicine; including the doctrine of the Atmosphere, Fire, Phlogiston, Water, &c. Lond. 1782, 8vo, 2d edition, with an Appendix.

      Experiments and observations on Light and Colours. To which is prefixed, the Analogy between Heat and Motion. Lond. 1787, 8vo.

      Observations on the Affinities of Substances in Spirit of Wine. Phil. Trans. Abr. xvi. 79. 1786.

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