Lindsay, Sir David

, an ancient Scotch poet, descended from a noble family, was born in 1490, at Garmylton in Hadingtonshire, and received his early education probably at the neighbouring school of | Coupar. In 1505 he was sent to the university of St. Andrew’s, which he is supposed to have left in 1509. He then entered into the service of the court, where, in 1512, he was an attendant, or page of honour to James V. then an infant. In this situation he continued until 1524, when, by the intrigues of the queen mother, the young king was deprived of his servants, Bellenden, Lindsay, and others, for whom he seems always to have entertained a just regard, and whom he dismissed with a pension, the payment of which his majesty was studious to enforce, while his means were few, and his power was little. From 1524 to 1528, Lindsay was a witness of the confusions and oppressions arising from the domination of the Douglasses over both the prince and his people. From that thraldom the king, at the age of sixteen, made his escape, by his own address and vigour, in July of 1528, after every other exertion had failed. Lindsay had now liberty and spirits to support him in the cultivation of his muse, and about the end of the year just mentioned, produced his “Dreme.” In the following year he presented his “Complaynt” to the king, and in 1530 he was inaugurated lion king of arms, and incidentally became a knight. In December of this year he published his satire on the clergy, called “The Complaynt of the Papingo.

Sir David was soon employed in discharging the proper functions of lion herald. In April 1531, he was sent with Campbel and Panter, to Antwerp, to renew the ancient treaty of commerce with the Netherlands, and they were so well received by the emperor Charles V. as to insure the success of their mission. Lindsay returned to Scotland in the latter end of 1531, and not long after married. This marriage does not appear to have been either fruitful or happy. Sir David left no issue, and he every where speaks with a sort of Turkish contempt of women. He was now occupied upon a poem, which displays much of that sentiment, a drama of a very singular kind, which he called, what he intended it to be, “A Satyre of the three Estatis.” Some of his biographers have affected to consider him as the first dramatist of his country. But moralities existed in Scotland before he was born; and were very common in his time. In 1536, probably, he produced his “Answer to the King’s Flyting,” and his ' Complaynt of Basche," which shew the gloominess of his temperament.

In the mean time he was sent as lion king, with sir John | Campbel of Laudon, in 1535, to the emperor, to demand in marriage one of the princesses of his house. The king, however, not being satisfied with the portraits of the princesses presented to him, or perhaps, as Mr. Chalmers thinks, being attracted by a more useful connection with France, sent Lindsay, in 1536, to that country to demand in marriage a daughter of the house of Vendome; but the king himself, arriving the year following, made choice of Magdalene of France, who died in about two months after her marriage; and this lamentable event occasioned Lindsay’s next poem, the “Deploratioun of the Deith of quene Magdalene.” The king, however, married again in 1538, and Lindsay’s talents were called forth in the rejoicings and ceremonies consequent to that event, and afterwards on the birth of a prince. During the remainder of the reign of James V. he appears to have retained his majesty’s favour, and to have been frequently employed in his character of herald; but few of these incidents seem of sufficient importance to be detached from his biographer’s narrative. During the regency, he appears to have espoused the cause of the reformers, and after the assassination of cardinal Beaton, wrote his “Tragedie of the late Cardinal,” to strengthen the prejudices of the public against that ecclesiastic.

In 1548 he was sent, as lion herald, to Christian, king of Denmark, to solicit ships, for protecting the Scottish coasts against the English, and to negociate a free trade, particularly in grain: the latter purpose only was accomplished, but at Copenhagen, Lindsay had an opportunity of becoming acquainted with the literati of Denmark. He at length returned to his usual occupations, and was probably no more employed in such distant embassies. About this time he published the most pleasing of all his poems, “The Historic and Testament of Squire Meldrum.” In 1553 he finished his last and greatest work, “The Monarchic.” When he died, seems a matter of great uncertainty. His latest and best-informed biographer is inclined to place his death in or about 1557; but others say that he lived till 1567. It is rather singular that a man of so much celebrity, a great public officer, one of the reformers, or who at least contributed to the reformation, and the most popular poet of his time, should have died in such obscurity, without even a tradition as to when or where he was buried. Little of his personal character can now be | known, but what is to be gleaned from his writings. Hfc entered with great zeal into the religious disputes of his time, but is supposed to lean rather to the Lutheran than Calvinistic principles of reformation; his satires, however, were powerfully assisting in exposing the vices of the clergy, and produced a lasting etiect on the minds of the people. We shall not enter very minutely into his character as a poet. In his works, says Mr. Ellis, we do not often find either the splendid diction of Dunbar, or the prolific imagination of Gawin Douglas. Perhaps, indeed, the “Dream” is his only composition which can be cited as uniformly poetical; but his various learning, his good sense, his perfect knowledge of courts, and of the world, the facility of his versification, and above all, his peculiar talent of adapting himself to readers of all denominations, will continue to secure to him a considerable share of that popularity, for which he was originally indebted to the opinions he professed, no less than to his poetical merit. The most ample information respecting Lindsay, his personal history, and works, may be found in the very accurate edition of the latter published in 1806, by George Chalmers, esq. in 3 vols. 8vo. It has been justly remarked that if the learned editor had executed no more than the glossary prefixed to this edition, he would have been amply entitled to the gratitude both of English and Scotch scholars. A more elaborate, learned, and satisfactory production of the kind has certainly not appeared since that of Ruddiman. 1


Life prefixed to Mr. Chalmers’s edition. Ellis’s Specimens. Warton’s Hist, of Poetry. Brit Crit. vol. XXIX. Robert Lindsay of Pitscottie, who was a contemporary of sir David, is the reputed author or editor of what has been hitherto published as a “History of Scotland from 1456 10 1565, &c.” Of this a recent and very correct edition has been published by John Graham Dalyell, esq. F. S. A. E. in 2 Tols. 8vo, with iu proper title of “The Chronicles of Scotland.