Ruddiman, Thomas

, a very eminent grammarian and critic, was born in October 1674, at Raggel, in the parish of Boyndie and county of Banff, Scotland. His father, James Ruddiman, was a farmer, and so strongly attached to the house of Stuart, as to shed tears on the death of Charles If. His son was educated in Latin grammar at the parish-school of Boyndie, and quickly surpassed his class-fellows in vigour of application. At the age of sixteen he was desirous of going to the university, and when his father opposed this inclination, because he thought him too young, he set out, without his knowledge, to King’s college, Aberdeen, and obtained by his skill in Latin, the first exhibition, or bursary, as it is there called, of that year. After studying at this college for four years, he obtained the degree of master of arts. Though he was only twenty years of age when he left Aberdeen, it appears from a book entitled, “Rhetoricorum Libri tres,” composed before this period, but never published, that he had then read the Roman classics with uncommon attention and advantage.

He was soon after engaged as a tutor in a gentleman’s family, which situation he quitted in about a year for that of schoolmaster in the parish of Lawrence-Kirk. After passing three years and a half in this employment, he had a favourable opportunity of removing to advantage, owing to an accidental introduction to the celebrated Dr. Pitcairne. This gentleman happening to pass through Lawrence-Kirk, was detained by a vidlent storm, and wanting | amusement, inquired of his hostess whether she could procure him any agreeable companion at dinner. She replied, that the parish schoolmaster, though young, was said to be learned, and, though modest, she was sure could talk. Pitcairne was delighted with the conversation and learning of his new companion, and invited him to Edinburgh, with a promise of his patronage. Ruddiman accordingly quitted Lawrence-Kirk, and soon after his arrival at Edinburgh was appointed assistant- keeper of the advocates’ library. The emoluments of this place were trifling, but it made him known and made him learned; and after the regular hours of attendance at the library (from 10 to 3) he occupied his leisure hours as a private tutor in the Latin language to various young gentlemen. As his merits became better known, his assistance was anxiously solicited by those who were engaged in literary publications. His first employment of this kind was as editor to sir Robert Sibbald’s “Introductio ad historiam rerum a Romanis gestarum in ea Borealis Britannise parte quse ultra murum Picticum est,” and he likewise contributed his aid to Sir Robert Spottiswood’s “Practiques of the Laws of Scotland.” So little was literary labour rewarded at that time, that for the former of these works he received only 3l. and for the latter 5l. Such poor encouragement obliged him, in 1707, to commence auctioneer. The same year he published an edition of “Voluseni de Animi Tranquillitate Dialogus,” to which he prefixed a life of Volusenus, or Wilson, a learned countryman, who had been patronized by cardinal Wolsey. In 1709, h published “Johnstoni Cantici Solomonis Paraphrasis Poetica,” and “Johnstoni Cantica,” with notes, which he dedicated to his i’riend and patron Dr. Pitcairne. The edition consisted of two hundred copies, which he sold at one shilling each. The expence of printing amounted to 51. 10s. He was next employed by Freebairne, the bookseller, on a new edition of Gawin Douglas’s “Virgil’s yneid,” which -he corrected throughout, added the glossary, and probably the forty-two general rules for understanding the language, for all which he received the sum of Sl 6s. Sd.

His reputation having now reached distant parts, he was invited by the magistrates of Dundee to be rector of the grammar-school there, but his salary as librarian having been increased to 30l. 6s. ScL he was induced to decline the offer. In 1711 he assisted bishop Sage in publishing the folio edition of “Drummond of Hawthornden’s Works:| and Dr. Abercrombie, in preparing for the press his “Martial Atchievements.” In 1713 he lost his friend Dr. Pitcairne, for whom he composed an epitaph, and conducted the sale of his library, which was disposed of to the Czar Peter the Great. In 1714, he published his “Rudiments of the Latin tongue,” which soon superseded all other books of the kind, and is still taught in all the grammarschools in Scotland. He lived to see fifteen editions of it sold.

His next publication was the Works of Buchanan, in two volumes 1715, fol. His account of his life, and opinion of that history, so different from that (till then) entertained by his countrymen, drew on him many enemies. A counter edition of Buchanan’s works was set about by a society who formed themselves for that purpose, and, after promising their aid to Burman as their editor, disappointed him, and left him to publish it in 1725, with Ruddiman’s preface and notes, and a few of his own. Ruddiman’s edition opens with a preface pretendedly of Freebairn, which had plainly been written by Ruddiman. He gave also an elaborate statement of the various editions of Buchanan’s separate works, exposed the chronological errors and spirit of the History, and laid open the sources whence he drew the documents which enabled him to rectify both. He acknowledged, with the warmest thankfulness, the obligations he owed to several men of learning for their able assistance in this difficult task. Sir David Dalrymple, the lord- advocate of Scotland, contributed his intelligent help with the kindness of a friend. Fletcher of Saltoun, the “Cato of the age,” promoted the design with the usual ardour of his spirit and Pitcairne gave his continual aid while he lived. He mentions also John Drummond, M. D. Laurence Dundas, professor of languages in the college at Edinburgh, John Macdonald, James Anderson, a whig, and John Gillan, a Jacobite, as two antiquaries who were forward to assist his labours. This preface naturally led on to the life of Buchanan, said to have been written by himself two years before his death; of which assertion Ruddiman expressed his doubts in a note, without perceiving, what appears to have been the fact, that sir Peter Young was the real author of it.

After having been so long accustomed to superintend the press, Ruddiman was led to form the plan of erecting a printing-office himself. Accordingly, in 1715, be | commenced printer, in partnership with his brother Walter, who had been regularly bred to the business; and some years after he was appointed printer to the university along with James Davidson, a bookseller. In 1718, he became one of the founders of the first literary society in Scotland. In 1725, he published the first part of his “Grammatical Latinae Institutiones,” which treats of etymology; and the second part, which explains the nature and principles of syntax, appeared in 1732. He also wrote a third part on prosody, which is said to be more copious and correct than any other publication on the subject, but, for want of encouragement, he published only an abridgment of it. He next engaged in the management of a newspaper, “The Caledonian Mercury,” from which he derived more profit than fame, it being a mere dry record of occurrences. This paper continued in his family until 1772, when it was sold to Mr. Robertson, and still exists.

After the death of the principal keeper of the advocates’ library, Mr. Ruddiman was appointed his successor, but without any increase of salary. He was, however, now acquiring by his other employments a competence according to his moderate desires, and independent spirit. In 173^, he published what is known by the name of Anderson’s “Diplomata Scotiae,” from having been begun by Anderson, but was finished by Ruddiman, who wrote the admirable preface, which displays a greater extent of knowledge than any of his other productions. During the rebellion in 1745, although Ruddiman was firmly attached to the house of Stuart, he took no active part, but employed himself in writing critical observations on Burman’s commentary on Lucan.

During the last fourteen years of his life, he was almost incessantly engaged in controversy, first, with auditor Benson, on the comparative merit of Buchanan and Johnston as poets. His next antagonist was Logan, one of the ministers of Edinburgh. Of Benson we have already taken some notice. The subject of Ruddiman‘ s controversy with Logan was, whether the crown of Scotland was strictly hereditary, and whether the birth of Robert III. was legitim.iiL’? Ruddiman maintained the affirmative in both points. He was soon after called upon to repel the attacks of Mr. Love, a schoolmaster at Dalkeith, who wrote in defence of Buchanan’s character.

About this time he gave his assistance to Mr. Ames, in | his typographical researches. In October 1751, at the age of 77, he was obliged to ask the aid of physicians for preserving his eye-sight, which, however, they did not effect. Yet this misfortune, that to a scholar cannot easily be supplied, did not prevent him from doing kind acts to his relations, and continuing his correspondence with his friends, nor from pursuing his studies, and producing his edition of Livy, in four volumes 12mo, which Harwood declares to be one of the most accurate that ever was published. Glasgow had to boast of the spotless perfection of her Horace, in 1744; Edinburgh had reason, said that critic, to triumph in the immaculate purity of Ruddiman’s Livy, in 1751. Ruddiman resigned his place of keeper to the advocates’ library in a very handsome English letter; and the celebrated David Hume was appointed to succeed him. Mr. Ruddiman soon gave a fine specimen of his knowledge of the Latin language, in a letter on the subject to Mr. John Garden, of Brechin, 1712, still in ms.; but, with his usual judgment, he concluded his elaborate dissertation by remarking, that, if the Latin tongue be written with Roman accuracy, Roman pronunciation may be left, without much inconvenience, to find its own fashion in the learned world. He had scarcely closed this friendly correspondence when he was called from his favourite studies into an acrimonious contest, by James Man, master of the poor-hospital in Aberdeen, concerning his edition of Buchanan’s Works, which had been published 38 years before. Of this we have already taken notice in our account of Mr. Man. Mr. Ruddiman died at Edinburgh, Jan. 19, 1757, when he had advanced into the eighty-third year of his age, and was buried in the cemetery of the Grey Friers. His brother and partner, Walter, died in 1770, aged 83.

Of Ruddiman’s talents and learning his works afr’ird the most satisfactory proofs. His memory was tenacious and exact, and he was so great a master of the Latin language, that perhaps he has not been equalled since the days of Buchanan. His personal character was recommended by many virtues, and upon the whole he may justly be considered as an honour to his native country, and a benefactor to classical literature. Many very interesting memorials of him, and of the state of learning and opinions in his time, may be found in the work to which we are chiefly indebted for the materials of this account. 1

1The L^fe of Thomas Ruddiman,” by George Chalmers, Esq. F. R. S. &c. 1794, 8vo. Encyci. Britannica.