Adam, Alexander

, LL.D. an eminent schoolmaster and useful writer in Scotland, was born June 1741, at Coats of Burgle, in the parish of Rafford, in the county of Moray, His parents were poor, but gave him such education as a parish school afforded; and after having unsuccessfully endeavoured to procure an exhibition at King’s college, Aberdeen, he was encouraged, in 1753, to go to the university of Edinburgh, where he surmounted pecuniary difficulties with a virtuous and honourable perseverance, such as are rarely to be found; and improved his opportunities of knowledge with great assiduity and success. In 1761 he was elected schoolmaster to Watson’s hospital, an establishment for the education of the poor, and continued to improve himself in classical knowledge by a careful perusal of some of the best and most difficult authors. In 1767, he was appointed assistant to the rector of the high school of Edinburgh, and in 1771 successor to the same gentleman, and filled this honourable statiou during the remainder of his life, raising the reputation of the school much higher than it had been known for many years. He would have perhaps raised it yet higher, had he not involved himself, not only with his ushers, but witk the patrons and trustees of the school, in a dispute respecting the proper grammar to be taught; Dr. Adam preferring one of his own compiling to that of Ruddiman, which had long been used in all the schools in Scotland, and was esteemed as near perfection as any work of the kind that had ever been published. The ushers, or undermasters, were unanimous in retaining Ruddtmaw’s grammar, for which they assigned their reasons; and Dr. Adam was as resolute in teaching from his own. The consequence was, that Dr. Adam taught his class by one grammar, and the four uncler-masters theirs by another. The inconvenience of this mode was soon felt; and the patrons of the school, who were the Magistrates of Edinburgh, after referring the question at issue to the principal of the university, the celebrated Dr. Robertson, together with the professors of the Greek and Latin languages, issued an | order in 1786, directing the rector and other masters of the High School, to instruct their scholars by Ruddi man’s Rudiments and Grammar, and prohibiting any other grammar of the Latin language from being made use of. Dr. Adam, however, disregarded this and a subsequent 'order to the same purpose, and continued to use his own rules, in his daily practice with the pupils of his own class, and without being any further interrupted .*


His biographer informs us that he took the following curious method of recommending his grammar. When he wished his pupils to use it, he used to say, “This is a prohibited book, and I do not wish, nor have I ever been under the necessity, to force it into use. There are a few questions which I wish to propose, and if you can answer them, I am content; but if you cannot, I must refer you to my grammar, for the means of enabling you to give me a reply.

The work which gave rise to this dispute was published in 1772, under the title of “The Principles of Latin and English Grammar,” and is undoubtedly a work of very considerable merit, and highly useful to those who are of opinion that Latin and English grammar should be taught at the same time.

Soon after this dispute was apparently terminated, Dr. Adam compiled “A Summary of Geography and History” for the use of his pupils, which he afterwards enlarged and published in 1794. In 1791, he published “Roman Antiquities, or, an account of the manners and customs of the Romans,” 8vo. This useful work has been translated into German, French, and Italian, and has been very generally recommended in preference to Dr. Kennet’s work on the same subject. In 1800 he published his “Classical Biography,” which was originally intended as the appendix to a Latin dictionary on which he had been employed for some years; but the high price of paper, and the great expence of printing such works, discouraged him from carrying into effect his original design. He printed, however, in 1805, an abridgement of his dictionary, under the title of “Lexicon Lingua? Latinx compendiarium,” 8vo. All these works have attained a high degree of popularity, and are used in the principal schools of this kingdom. Dr. Adam died Dec. 18, 1809, of an apoplexy, in the 69th year of his age, universally regretted as an able and successful teacher, a man of high rank in classical literature, and in private life benevolent and amiable. At one period of his life, when the French revolution distracted the political opinions of his country, he incurred some degree of censure for having introduced matters of a political kind into | his school. For this no apology can be valid; but it appears that he became afterwards more cautious: and at the period of his death, his character was so universally esteemed, that his remains were honoured with a public funeral. 1


Account of the Life of Dr. Adam, 8vo, 1810.—Chalmers’s Life of Ruddiman, p. 91.—British Critic, vol. 56, p. 542; 37, p. 93.