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Select Biographies
Edited for the Woodrow Society, chiefly from Manuscripts of the Faculty of Advocates by the Rev. W. K. Tweedie in two volumes (1845)


IN preparing this volume of Select Biographies for the Members of the Wodrow Society, the principle of selection adopted was that of singling out individuals who acted a prominent part in their eventful times, but whose histories were not so generally known as it appeared they ought to be. Acting on this principle, chronological order has in general been followed, and the Life of John Welsh readily occurred as the most appropriate for commencing the Series. The present Memoir is a reprint of the Life first published at Edinburgh, by George Mosman, in 1703; and universally ascribed to the Rev.* James Kirkton, himself a sufferer in those troublous times, and related by marriage to Welsh. But it must be confessed that the Life is neither so full of incident, nor so satisfactory in its details, as the character of him who forms its subject demands. Indeed, it may be regarded rather as sketching some passages of Welsh’s history, than as presenting a full delineation of his character, and the Life of John Welsh has yet to be written.

To compensate, in some degree, for the meagreness or defects of the work here reprinted, an attempt has been made to collect, from various other sources, facts which were unknown to Kirkton, or unnoticed by him, and to introduce them as notes to the work. The Members of the Wodrow Society are thus presented with all that is easily accessible, or accurately known, of one who certainly ranked among the most remarkable men of his time, at once for learning, piety, and zeal. It has not been deemed necessary to offer any remarks on the claims to prophetic power put forth on this Reformer’s behalf. The Editor, in accordance with the constitution of the Society, reckoned it his province merely to embody the statements of others—not to speculate concerning them.

Regarding the Life of Welsh, we would only farther add, that the most common mode of spelling his name is that which is here adopted. He wrote it differently himself at different periods, and it has passed through various changes, from Welsche to Welshe, Welche, Welch, and Welsh.

The Life of Patrick Simson, the second in the Series, is printed from one of the Wodrow MSS., in the Library of the Faculty of Advocates. Though less known than Welsh, the character of Simson is scarcely less admirable than his; and whether for his learning, his judiciousness in counsel, or his boldness in opposing what he reckoned error, few of his contemporaries surpassed Patrick Simson.

Concerning the Life here published, it may be remarked, that the MS. from which it is printed differs in some places from other sources of information regarding him : for example, from Row’s Coronis. In some instances also, the MS. could not be easily pointed,—or the meaning accurately discovered,—but the perusal of the Life, in the form in which it now appears, will perhaps suggest the desire that we knew more of the personal history and habits of such a master in Israel as this sketch exhibits Simson to have been. It is not improbable that some additional information concerning him might be gleaned from the Records of the Presby-tery of Stirling, from those of his parish, or of the burgh where he laboured for so many years as a minister of Christ.

The third Life in the Series—that of John Livingstone—an interesting autobiography, is also printed from a MS. in the Advocates’ Library, carefully collated with other MSS. by Rev. James Anderson, especially with one now in the possession of Rev. Thomas M‘Crie. The latter, at one period, belonged to Anna Elizabeth Lundin, and was bequeathed to her by her mother, Anna Livingstone, daughter of William Livingstone, the eldest son of John. This MS. is said to be taken “from the principall writ by himself, [John Livingstone,] and compaired.” It seems, however, to be verbally less correct than Wodrow’s, and the latter was, therefore, adopted as the basis of the present edition. It will be seen that it differs considerably from editions formerly printed.

Besides The Autobiography and Characteristics of Livingstone, this volume contains various othei’ productions of that distinguished man, some of which, we believe, are printed for the first time. The object was to bring together all that could throw light on the life and character of one who occupied so conspicuous a sphere in the times in which he lived; and it is scarcely too much to say, that the documents here laid before the Members of the Wodrow Society perhaps embody all that can now be known regarding him.

But in order to exhibit as fully as possible the character of Livingstone himself, of his times, and his friends, there are appended to his own productions some Letters from one of his correspondents,—a lady who stood very high in his estimation, Elizabeth Melville, Lady Colville of Culross. They indicate not merely the estimate in which Livingstone was held, but present us indirectly with instructive glimpses of the manners and spirit of his times. The views expressed by Lady Colville in these letters, as well as the sentiments recorded by another lady in the “ Soliloquies” which close this volume, exhibit to us how perfect was the sympathy, and how vigorous the co-operation, of the female mind in the sufferings and events of the times when Israel was troubled.

As a Prefatory Note introduces, and in some degree explains, nearly all the other portions of the volume, it is needless to refer to them here in detail; and we only remark, in reference to the spelling, which varies so much in different MSS., or even in the same at different places, that we have generally followed the original words when editing from MSS., and been less particular in reference to what had formerly been printed, and in a great measure modernized.

The Members of the Wodrow Society are indebted to the Rev. Thomas M‘Crie for the use of several MSS., which will be found frequently referred to in this volume; to the Rev. J. Stevenson of Newton-on-Ayr, for his kindness in procuring extracts illustrative of the Life of Welsh, from the Records of the Kirk-Session of Ayr; to James Paterson, Esq., of that town, for his kindness and pains in decyphcring and transcribing them; to William Brown, Esq., surgeon, Edinburgh, for the use of a valuable MS. of Livingstone’s Life and two MSS. of his Characteristics, and to other friends for the use of works, which tended to throw light on various passages of the different Biographies, especially those of Welsh and Simson.

The Second Volume of Select Biographies will form part of the issue to the Members for the year 1846.

W. K. T.

Edinburgh, 15, George Square,
4th December 1845.

Volume 1  |  Volume 2

The Miscellany of the Woodrow Society
Containing Tracts and Original Letters, chiefly relating to the Ecclesiastical Affairs of Scotland during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, selected and edited by David Lang, Esq. (1844) (pdf)

Volume 1

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