Dempster, Thomas

, a man of considerable learning and singular character, was born in Scotland in 1579. He is said to have been descended from a noble family, and was instructed in grammar learning at Aberdeen; but being obliged at an early age to leave Scotland, on account of the commotions that then prevailed in that country, he went into England, where he studied for some time at Pembroke-hall in Cambridge. From thence he went to France, where he gave out, that he had left givat estates in his own country, on account of his attachment to the Roman catholic religion. He also assumed the title of Baron of Muresk, which is said to have been one of the titles of his father; but the low state of his finances obliged him to undertake to teach classical literature at Paris. In that city he also published, in 1613, in one volume, fol. “Antiquitatum Romanarum corpus absolutiss mum, in quo praeter ea quse Joannes Rosinus delineaverat, inlimta supplentur, mutantur, adduntur, ex criticis, et omnibus utriusque linguae auctoribus collectum: poetis, oratoribus, historicis, jurisconsultis, qui laudati, explicati, correctique.

But during his stay at Paris, Dempster did not wholly spend his time in his studies, or in the business of education. “He was as quick,” we are told, “at drawing his sword, and as quarrelsome, as a professed duellist. He either fought with a sword, or boxed almost every day; so that he was the terror of all schoolmasters.” As a teacher, he appears to have been a rigid disciplinarian; and one spirited exertion of his authority in that capacity, in the college of Beauvais,*


Of this we have the following account: “Crankier, principal of that college, being obliged to go a journey, appointed Dempster his substitute, The latter exercised justice on a scholar who had challenged one of his schoolfellows to fight a duel, by whipping him in a full school. The scholar, to revenge his affront, brought three gentlemen of his relations, who were of the king’s life-guards, into the college. Dempster made the whole college take up arms, ham-strung the three lifc-guardmen’s horses before the college-gate, and put himself into such a pcsture of dtfence, that the three military men were forced to ask for quarter. He granted them their lives, but imprisoned them in the belfry, and did not release them till some days after. They went another way to revenge themselves: they caused an information to be laid against Dempster, concerning his life and manners, and got some witnesses to be heard against him; which obliged him to go over into England.

produced such consequences, as obliged him for a time to quit Paris. He then went to England, where he found not only a place of refuge, but also a very handsome wife, whom he afterwards carried back with him to Paris. Besides teaching in that city, it | appears that he also disputed for a professor’s chair at the academy of Nismes, and carried it with great applause against many competitors. From France he went into Italy, and taught philological learning in the university of Pisa, where he had good appointments. Returning one day from the college, he found that his wife had been stolen away, his own scholars having assisted in the elopement. “He bore his loss,” says Bayle, “like a stoic; and, perhaps, was not sorry to be delivered from a treasure that he had found so difficult to keep.” From Pisa he removed to Bologna, and was appointed professor in the university of that city, in which situation he continued till his death. He was also admitted into the academy Delia notte.

In 1622, he published at Bologna, in 8vo, “K^auvof xat ctM$ in Glossas Lib. IV. Institut. Justiniani,” &,c. and the following year he published, in 8vo, “De Juramento, Lib. III. Locus et Antiq. Rom. retractatus,” &c. He died at Bologna in 1625.

Dempster was in his person a very tall, stout, and wellInade man, and possessed great personal courage. He appears to have been a man of warm passions, a zealous friend, and a violent enemy. His literary acquisitions were very considerable, as is manifest from his works; and it is said, that he was accustomed to study fourteen hours a day without intermission. His memory was uncommonly tenacious, so that he said of himself, that he knew not what it was to forget; and he was sometimes styled a speaking library; but his judgment was by no means equal to his erudition. Archbishop Usher says of him, that he was “homo multa? lectionis, sed nullius plane judicii,” but Vossius styles him, “eruditus Scotus, beneque de literis meritus.

Two years after Dempster’s death, was published at Bologna, in 1627, in one volume 4to, from his manuscript, te Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Scotorum, Lib. XIX.“This work contains a very long list of Scottish saints, and accounts of some literary men; and, at the end of the book, a few particulars concerning Dempster himself were added by Matthaeus Peregrinus. But the disregard to truth which Dempster has displayed in this work, has justly exposed him to the censure of many writers, particularly Baillet, who says,Thomas Dempster has given us an Ecclesiastical History of Scotland, in nineteen books, in | which he speaks very much of the learned men of that country. But though he was in some respects an able man, he did not possess sound sense, or a solid judgment, nor was he very conscientious. He would have wished that all learned men had been Scotchmen. He forged the titles of books that never appeared in the world, in order to raise the glory of his country; and he committed several literary frauds, which have discredited him among men of learning.“Bishop Nicolson says that” Dempster reckons a great many writers of Scottish history, who are allowed to be counterfeits.“And sir James Ware remarks, that” Dempster, in his Catalogue of Scotch Authors, has not only inserted those of England and Wales, at his own pleasure; but, to prove his assertions, has also frequently quoted imaginary authors, and fictitious treatises, times, and places." Archbishop Usher repeatedly censures Dempster for his inventions and his falsehoods; and in one place speaks of it as being a practice of Dempster’s, to enumerate books which were never written, and that had no existence but in his own idle brain. Cave also speaks of Dempster with great contempt, on account of his fictions with respect to Scottish authors. Indeed, Dempster seems to have thought it highly meritorious to advance the grossest falsehoods, if those falsehoods would, in any degree, contribute to the honour of his country.

He also published in his own life-time the following pieces: “Strena Kal. Januar. 1616. ad iilustriss. virum Jacobum Hayum, Dominum ac Baronem de Saley,” &c. Lond. 1616, 4to. “Menologium Scotorum, in quo nullus nisi Scotus gente aut conversatione, quod ex omnium gentium monimentis, pio studio Dei gloriae. Sanctorum honori. Patrias ornamento,” &c. Bonon. 1622, 4to. “Scotia illustrior, seu, Mendicabula repressa,” Lugd. 1620, 8vo. He is likewise said to have been the author of four books of epistles, of some tragedies and tragi-comedies, of fourteen books of different kinds of poetry, and of various pieces. Notwithstanding his attachment to the Romish religion, some of his books were condemned by the inquisition. A very elaborate and learned work of Dempster was elegantly printed at Florence, with many copperplates, in two volumes, folio, in 1723 and 1724, under the care of Thomas Coke, esq. (afterwards earl of Leicester,) at the expence of Cosmo III. and John Gasto, dukes of Tuscany, to which the following title was prefixed: “| Thomae Dempster! a Muresk Scoti Pandectarum in Pisano Lyceo professoris ordinarii de Etruria regali libri Septem, opus postumum, in duas partes divisum.” We are told in the preface, that when Dempster, in 1619, was about to remove to Bologna, he left this work in the hands of the grand duke, by whose order it had been composed, although he had not quite finished it. It is divided into seven books, treating of the ancient inhabitants of Etruria, their kings, their inventions, geography, ancient and modern, &c. with a short history of the house of Medici. The ancient monuments which are given on ninety-three engravings, are illustrated by some explanations and conjectures by M. Bonarota. Upon the whole, this splendid publication appears to be the best of Dempster’s productions, and affords a very high idea of his abilities as a classical antiquary. One of his dissertations on the Roman Kalendar is inserted in Groevius’s Roman Antiquities, vol. VIII. Passeri published a Supplement to his History of Etruria, in 1767, fol. and an edition of his Roman Antitiquities, much enlarged. 1


Biog. Brit Gen. Dict. —Niceron, vol. XXXVIII. where there is a very correct list of liis works. Tt.ounl’s Censura. Baillet Jugenaens de Savans. Erythiaei Pinacotheca.