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The Scottish Nation

PICKEN, ANDREW, a talented miscellaneous writer, was born in Paisley in 1788. His father, an eminent manufacturer in that town, educated him for the mercantile profession. At an early age he went to the West Indies, but, being disappointed in his prospects there, he returned to Europe, and obtained a confidential situation in the Bank of Ireland. He subsequently removed to Glasgow, and entered into business in that city. He first came before the world as an author in 1824, by publishing ‘Tales and Sketches of the West of Scotland,’ a work which had great local success. In this volume appeared his popular and pathetic story of ‘Mary Ogilvie;’ and among the Sketches was one ‘On the Changes in the West of Scotland during the last Half Century,’ which contained much playful satire, but some of the remarks unfortunately gave offence to the citizens of Glasgow; and this, with other circumstances, induced Mr. Picken to quit that place. He removed to Liverpool, where he established himself as a bookseller.

In 1826, when the mania for speculation raged like an epidemic in the world of business, Picken joined in some of the hazardous projects of the time, and lost his all. His creditors would readily have assisted him to commence business anew, but he preferred following the precarious profession of an author; he repaired to London with the manuscript of a novel, called ‘The Sectarian,’ which was published in 1828, and excited considerable interest on its first appearance. It showed great skill in what may be termed the morbid anatomy of the mind; but, owing in a great degree to the nature of the subject, it did not meet with the success which its merits deserved. It had the effect, however, of making the author known to the editors of the principal periodicals; and, from this time, Mr. Picken became a regular contributor to the leading Magazines and Reviews. The publication of ‘The Dominie’s Legacy’ in 1830 finally established his fame as the delineator of Scottish humble life. When Colburn’s ‘Juvenile Library’ was projected, Mr. Picken undertook to supply ‘The Lives of Eminent Missionaries;’ but before he had finished his part of the contents, the work was discontinued. The ‘Lives’ were, however, published in 1830 by Kidd, under the title of ‘Travels and Researches of Eminent English Missionaries,’ and two large impressions were sold.

His next publication was ‘The Club Book,’ to which several of the most popular living writers contributed. The tales written by the editor were in his happiest style. The story entitled ‘The Three Kearneys,’ founded on circumstances which he had witnessed during his residence in Ireland, showed that the author had thoroughly investigated the mixed character of the Irish peasantry. The ‘Deer-Stalkers,’ also a tale of great interest, was dramatized, and acted at the Queen’s Theatre with much success. Soon after, in the summer of 1832, he produced a work on the Canadas, professedly a compilation, the information it contained being condensed from original documents furnished by his friend Mr. Galt, to whom the volume is dedicated. To Leitch Ritchie’s ‘Library of Romance’ he contributed ‘Waltham, a Tale,’ which, though not very favourable received, displayed high powers of thought and sentiment.

In the course of 1833 he published ‘Traditionary Stories of Old Families,’ in two vols., intended as the first part of a series, which would embrace the legendary history of Scotland, England, and Ireland. The project excited considerable interest, and many members of the aristocracy offered to aid the author by giving him access to their family papers. But he was not destined to finish the work, or avail himself of the ample stores thus opened to him. On November 10, 1833, while conversing with his son, he was suddenly struck down with apoplexy. He was conveyed home insensible, but in the course of a few days seemed to be recovering, when a second stroke caused his death on the 23d of the same month. He left a widow and six children. A novel, which he had completed shortly before his last illness, and which he himself regarded as the best of his productions, was published after his death under the title of ‘The Black Watch;’ the original name of the gallant 42d regiment.

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