Guthrie, William

, a miscellaneous writer and compiler, whose name is now chiefly preserved by a geographical grammar, which it is said he did not write, was a gentleman descended from an ancient family, being the representative of the Guthries of Haukerton, in the county of Angus, Scotland. He was born at Brichen in that county in 1708, and educated at King’s college, Aberdeen, where he took his degrees, and followed the profession of a schoolmaster. He is said to have removed to London, in consequence of a love-affair, which created some disturbance in his family; others report that having but a small patrimony, and being an adherent of the unfortunate house of Stuart, he could not accept of any office in the state; he came therefore to London, and employed his talents and learning as, what he himself calls, “an author by profession.” His talents and learning were not of the inferior kind, when he chose to employ them leisurely; but he wrote hastily, and often in need, and seems to have cared little for his reputation, by lending his name frequently where he did not contribute with his pen. Among his first employments was that of compiling the parliamentary debates for the Gentleman’s Magazine, before Dr, Johnson had | undertook that business; for this purpose Guthrie sometimes attended the house, but more frequently had to depend on very slight information. Connecting himself terwards with the booksellers, he compiled a variety of work among which are “A History of the English Peerage,” “History of the World,” 12 vols. 8vo, “A History of England,” “History of Scotland,” 10 vols. 8vo, and the well-known “Geographical Grammar,” said to have been really compiled by Knox the bookseller. Besides these, he translated “Quintilian,” 3 vols. 8vo, “Cicero’s Offices,” 8vo, and “Cicero’s Epistles to Atticus,” 2 vols. 12mo. Of his original compositions we have heard only of a beautiful poem, “The Eagle and Robin Red-breast,” in the collection of poems called the “Union,” where, however, it is said to be written by Archibald Scott, before 1600; “The Friends, a sentimental history,1754, 2 vols. 12mo; and “Remarks on English Tragedy,” a pamphlet. He was engaged, however, in many political papers and pamphlets, to which his name did not appear; and in 1745-6, received a pension of 200l. from government, for the services of his pen, which was continued during his life. In 1762 he renewed the offer of his services to the minister of the day, and they probably were accepted. He had the pen of a ready writer, and his periodical essays were perhaps his best. Much was expected from his “Peerage,” in which he was assisted by Mr. Ralph Bigland, each individual article being submitted to the inspection of the representative of the noble family treated of; yet, notwithstanding all this care, the work abounds with errors, contradictions, and absurdities His “History of England” merits greater praise, and had at least the honour of irritating Horace Wai pole to a gross abuse of Guthrie, because he had anticipated some of Walpole’s opinions concerning Richard III. Guthrie wrote at that time in the Critical Review, and pointed out his own discoveries. Boswell informs us, that Dr. Johnson esteemed Guthrie enough to wish that his life should be written. This, however, was neglected when the means of information were attainable. He died March I', 177O, and was interred in Marybone burial-ground, with a monument and inscription against the east wall. 1


Lysons’s Environs, vol. III. Nichols’s Bowyer. —Boswell’s Life of Johnson. D’Israeli’s Calamities of Authors. &c.