Bellenden, Sir

, an elegant Scottish writer of the sixteenth century, was descended from an ancient and very honourable family in that kingdom, where his father, Mr. Thomas Bellenden of Auchiiioul, was director to the chancery in 1540, and clerk of accounts in 1541. It does not appear when our author was born, or where educated but from his writings (frequently intermixed with words of Gallic derivation) it was probably in France. In his youth he served in the court, | and was in great favour with king James V. as himself informs us, which he might very probahly owe to his fine vein in poetry, that prince being a great admirer, and a proficient in poetical studies. Having this interest with his prince, he attained extraordinary preferment in the church, being made canon of Ross, and archdeacon of Murray, to which last dignity perhaps he opened his passage, by taking the degree of doctor of divinity at the Sorbonne. He likewise obtained his father’s employment of clerk of accounts, which was very considerable, in the minority of the king before mentioned; but he was afterwards turned out by the struggle of factions, in the same reign. We have no direct authority to prove that he had any share in the education of king James V. but from some passages in his poems, and from his addressing many of them to that king, he appears to have been in some measure particularly attached to his person; and from one of them, we may infer that he had an interest beyond that of bare duty, in forming a right disposition, and giving wholesome instructions to that prince. But the work which has transmitted his name to posterity, is his translation of Hector Boethius, or, as his countrymen call him, Hector Boeis’s History, from the Latin into the Scottish tongue, which he performedat the command of his royal master admirably, but with a good deal of freedom, departing often from his author, although generally for the sake of truth, and sometimes also adding circumstances, which perhaps might not be known to Hector Boece. This version, as he called it, was very well received both in Scotland and England. It does not appear either from his own writings or otherwise, how he came to lose his office of clerk of accounts; but he certainly recovered it in the succeeding reign, was likewise made one of the lords of session; and had credit then at court, perhaps from his zeal in respect to his religion, for he was a very warm and inflexible Romanist, and laboured assiduously, in conjunction with Dr. Laing, to impede the progress of the reformation. It may with great probability be conjectured, that the disputes into which he plunged himself on this subject, made him so uneasy, that he chose to quit his native country, that he might reside in a place, where that disposition, instead of being an hindrance, would infallibly recommend him. This (as it is supposed) carried him to Rome, where, as Dempster tells us, he died in 1550. He was unquestionably a man of | great parts, and one of the finest poets his country had to boast, and notwithstanding the obsolete language of his works, they are not slightly imbued with that enthusiasm which is the very soul of poesy. His great work appeared in folio at Edinburgh, in 1536, entitled “The History and Chronicles of Scotland, compilit and newly correctit and amendit be the reverend and noble clerk Mr. Hector Boeis, chanon of Aberdene, translated lately be Mr. John Bellenden, archdene of Murray, and chanon of Rosse, at command of James the Fyfte, king of Scottis, imprintet in Edinburgh be Thomas Davidson, dwelling fornens the Fryere-Wynde.” This translation, as has been observed, was very far from being close, our author taking to himself the liberty of augmenting and amending the history he published as he thought proper. He, likewise, distinguished it into chapters as well as books, which was the only distinction employed by Boethius; which plainly proves, that it was this translation, and not the original, that Richard Grafton made use of in penning his chronicle, which Buchanan could scarcely avoid knowing, though he never misses any opportunity of accusing Grafton, as if he had corrupted and falsified this author, in order to serve his own purposes and abuse the people of Scotland; 1 which, however, is a groundless charge. Our author’s work was afterwards taken into the largest of our British histories, of which the bishop of Carlisle has given us the following account: “R. Holinshed published it in English, but was not the translator of it himself: his friend began the work and had gone a good way in it, but did not, it seems, live to finish it. In this there are several large interpolations and additions out of Major, Lesley, and Buchanan, by Fr. Thinne, who is also the chief author of the whole story after the death of king James the First, and the only penman of it from 1571 to 1586. Towards the latter end, this learned antiquary occasionally intermixes catalogues of the chancellors, archbishops, and writers of that kingdom.1

1 Biog. Brit. Irvine’s Lives of the Scottish Poets, where there is a more accurate inquiry into Bellenden’s family, and some extracts from his poems. Wai-ton’s Hist, of Poetry, vol. II. p. 321.