Douglas, Gawin

, bishop of Dunkeld, eminent for his poetical talents, was descended from a noble family, being the third son of Archibald, earl of Angus, and was born in Scotland at the close of the year 1474, or the Beginning of 1475. His father was very careful of his education, and caused him to be early instructed in literature and the sciences. He was intended by him for the church; and after having passed through a course of liberal education in Scotland, is supposed to have travelled into foreign countries, for his farther improvement in literature, particularly to Paris, where he finished his education. Alter his return to Scotland, he obtained the office of provost of the collegiate church of St. Giles in Edinburgh, a post of considerable dignity and revenue; and was also made rector of Heriot church. He was likewise appointed abbot of the opulent convent of Aberbrothick; and the queenmother, who was then regent of Scotland, and about this time married his nephew the earl of Angus, nominated him to the archbishopric of St. Andrew’s. But he was prevented from obtaining this dignity by a violent opposition made to him at home, and by the refusal of the pope to confirm his appointment. The queen-mother afterwards promoted him to the bishopric of Dunkeld; and for this preferment obtained a bull in his favour from pope Leo X. by the interest of her brother, Henry VIII. king of England. But so strong an opposition was again made to him, that he could not, for a considerable time, obtain peaceable possession of this new preferment; and was even imprisoned for more than a year, under pretence of having acted illegally, in procuring a bull from the pope. He was afterwards set at liberty, and consecrated bishop of Dunkeld, by James Beaton, chancellor of Scotland, and archbishop of Glasgow. After his consecration he went to St. Andrew’s, and thence to his own church at Dunkeld; where the first day, we are told, “he was most kindly received by his clergy and people, all of them blessing God for so worthy and learned a bishop.” He still, however, met with many obstructions; and, for some time, was forcibly kept out of the palace belonging to his diocese; but he at length obtained peaceable possession. He soon after accompanied the duke of Albany, regent of Scotland, to Paris, when that nobleman was sent to renew the ancient league between Scotland and France. After his return to Scotland, he made a short stay at Edinburgh, and then | repaired to his diocese, where he applied himself diligently to the duties of his episcopal office. He was also a promoter of public-spirited works, and particularly finished the stone bridge over the river Tay, opposite to his own palace, which had been begun by his predecessor. We meet with no farther particulars concerning him till some years after, when he was at Edinburgh, during the disputes between the earls of Arran and Angus. On that occasion bishop Douglas reproved archbishop Beaton for wearing armour, as inconsistent with the clerical character, but was afterwards instrumental in saving his life. During all these disorders in Scotland, it is said, that bishop Douglas behaved “with that moderation and peaceableness, which became a wise man and a religious prelate;” but the violence and animosity which then prevailed among the different parties in Scotland, induced him to retire to England. After his departure, a prosecution was commenced against him in Scotland; but he was well received in England, where he was treated with particular respect, on account of the excellency of his character, and his great abilities and learning. King Henry VII I. allowed him a liberal pension; and he became particularly intimate with Polydore Vergil. He died of the plague, at London, in 1521, or 1522, and was interred in the Savoy church, on the left side of the tomb-stone of Thomas Halsay, bishop of Laghlin, in Ireland; on whose tomb-stone a short epitaph for bishop Douglas is inscribed. Hume, of Godscroft, in his “History of the Douglases,” says, “Gawin Douglas, bishop of Dunkeld, left behind him great approbation of his virtues and love of his person in the hearts of all good men; for besides the nobility of his birth, the dignity and comeliness of his personage, he was learned, temperate, and of singular moderation of mind; and in these turbulent times had always carried himself among the factions of the nobility equally, and with a mind to make peace, and not to stir up parties; which qualities were very rare in a clergyman of those days.

Bishop Douglas is styled by Mr. Warton, one “of the distinguished luminaries that marked the restoration of letters in Scotland, at the commencement of the sixteenth century, not only by a general eminence in elegant erudition, but by a cultivation of the vernacular poetry of his country.” He translated the Æneid of Virgil into Scottish heroics, with the additional thirteenth book by Mapheus | Vegius, at the request of Henry, earl of Sinclair, to whom he was related. It was printed at London, in 1553, 4to, under the following title: “The XIII Bukes of Eneados of the fainose poete Virgill, translatet out of Latyne verses into Scottish metir, bi the reverend father in God, Mayster Gawin Douglas, bishop of Dunkel, and unkil to the erle of Angus every Buke having his perticular prologe.” “This translation,” says Mr. Warton, “is executed with equal spirit and fidelity and is a proof that the lowland Scotch and English languages were now nearly the same. I mean the style of composition; more especially in the glaring affectation of anglicising Latin words.” It certainly has great merit, though it was executed in the space of about sixteen months. It appears, that he had projected this translation so early as the year 1501, but did not complete it till about eleven years after. Besides this work, bishop Douglas also wrote an original poem, called *’ The Palice of Honour,“which was printed at London, 1553, 4to, and Edinburgh, 1579, 4to. Mr. Warton observes of this poem, that” it is a moral vision written in 1501, planned on the design of the Tablet of Cebes, and imitated in the elegant Latin dialogue * De Tranquillitate Anitni‘ of his countryman Florence Wilson, or Florentius Volusenus. The object of this allegory is to show the instability and insufficiency of worldly pomp; and to prove, that a constant and undeviating habit of virtue is the only way to true honour and happiness. The allegory is illustrated by a variety of examples of illustrious personages; not only of those who by a regular perseverance in honourable deeds gained admittance into this splendid habitation, but of those who were excluded from it, by debasing the dignity of their eminent stations with a vicious and unmanly behaviour. It is addressed, as an apologue for the conduct of a king, to James the Fourth, is adorned with many pleasing incidents and adventures, and abounds with genius and learning." Both the editions which have been printed of this poem are extremely scarce.

In his youth, he likewise translated OvidDe remedio Amoris,” which, says one of his biographers, “seems to have been the first of all his works, and done not without some view to himself; for, as Hume informs us, he had felt the effects of love. But this was in his younger years, and long before he was in holy orders. And he was very soon freed from the tyranny of this unreasonable passion, | as appears from the very translation, which he finished so early, and seems to have proposed as an antidote against its charms both to himself and others. He hath given also many excellent precepts and advices against the danger of immoderate love and unlawful pleasures, in his admirable prologue to Virgil’s fourth hook.

He also wrote an allegorical poem, called “King Hart,” which was first published from an original manuscript by Mr. Pinkerton, in 1786, in his “Ancient Scotish Poems.A new edition of bishop Douglas’s translation of Virgil was printed at Edinburgh, in 1710, in small folio, to which a large and valuable glossary was added by the celebrated printer Ruddiman, and a life of the author by the rev. John Sage, who acknowledges the assistance he had from bishop Nicolson, sir Robert Sibbald, Dr. Pitcairne, and Mr. Urry. 1


Biog. Brit. Life by Mr. Sage, and by Dr. Scot, in Morison’s Scotish Poets, No. III. 17SS —Warton’s Hist, of Poetry, vol. II. ’280, Sic. Mackenzie’s Scots Writers vol. II. Irvine’s Lives of the Scottish Poets. Fawkes’s Life of Douiilas, and Description of May, 1752, 4to. Chalmers’s Life of RucU diinan, p. 44. Censura Literaria, vol. III. Bibliographer, vol. II.