Home, John

, a clergyman of the church of Scotland, but known only as a dramatic writer, was born in the vicinity of Ancrum in Roxburghshire, Scotland, in 1724, and was educated at the parish school, whence he went to the university of Edinburgh, and went through the usual academical course, as preparatory for his entering the church. Here his studies were for some time suspended by the rebellion in 1745. On the approach of the rebels, the citizens of Edinburgh assembled, and formed themselves into an association for the support of their sovereign, and the defence of their city. Mr. Home, having once taken up arms in this cause, was not to be deterred by danger, and inarched with a detachment of the royal army to Falkirk, where he was taken prisoner in the battle fought in that neighbourhood, and confined for some time in the castle of Donne. He contrived, however, to make his escape about the time that tranquillity was restored to the country by the battle of Culloclen; and having resumed his studies, was licensed to preach the gospel in 1747.

Not long after, while on a visit in England, he was introduced to Collins, the poet, at Winchester, and Collins addressed to him his “Ode on the Superstition of the Highlanders.” In 1750 Home was settled as minister of the parish of Athelstaneford in East Lothian, on the demise of the rev. Robert Blair, author of the “Grave;” but | such a situation could not be very agreeable to one who had tasted the sweets of literary society, and who, in particular, had a paramount ambition to shine as a dramatic writer. His first tragedy was “Agis,”“with which it is said he went to London, where the managers refused it, and immediately returning home he wrote hisDouglas,“which Garrick peremptorily refused. By such discouragement, however, the ardour of the author was not to be suppressed. Being acquainted with the leading characters in Scotland, a ready reception of his play was secured; and accordinglyDouglas" was performed at the theatre in the Canongate, Edinburgh, in December 1756, Mr. Home and several of his clerical brethren being present. Such a departure from the decorum enjoined by the church of Scotland could not be overlooked, and the author was so threatened with ecclesiastical censures, and in reality became so obnoxious in the eyes of the people, that in the following year he resigned his living, and with it all connexion with the church, wearing ever afterwards a lay habit. In the mean time the presbytery of Edinburgh published an admonition and exhortation against stage-plays, which was ordered to be read in all the pulpits within their bounds on a Sunday appointed, immediately after divine service. In it there is no mention of Home or his play, although the latter was probably the cause. It merely contains a recapitulation of what had formerly been done by the church and the laws to discourage the theatres.

This opposition, which has been too hastily branded with the epithets of “bigotry and malice,” turned out much to Mr. Home’s advantage, whose friends contrived now to add to his other merits that of being a persecuted man; and David Hume, whose taste for the drama was the least of his qualifications, addressed his “Four Dissertations” to the author, and complimented him with possessing “the true theatric genius of Shakspeare and Otway, refined from the unhappy barbarism of the one, and licentiousness of the other.” With such recommendation, “Douglas” was presented at Covent-garden in March 14, 1757, but received at first with moderate applause. Its worth, however, was gradually acknowledged, and it is now fully established as a stock-piece. It would hare been happy for the author had he stopt here; but the success of “Douglas” had intoxicated him, and he went on from this time to 1778, producing “Agis,” “The Siege of Aquileia,| The Fatal Discovery,” “Alonzo,” and Alfred,“none of which had even a temporary success. In the mean time lord Bute took him under his patronage, and procured him a pension. In March 1763 he was also appointed a commissioner for sick and wounded seamen, and for the exchange of prisoners; and in April of the same year was appointed conservator of the Scotch privileges at Campvere in Zealand. With hisAlfred,“which lived only three nights, he took his leave of the stage, and retired to Scotland, where he resided the greater part of his life. In. 1778, when the late duke of Buccleugh raised a regiment of militia, under the name of fencibles, Mr. Home received a captain’s commission, which he held until the peace. A few years ago, he published” The History of the Rebellion in Scotland in 1745-6," 4to, a work of which great expectations were formed, but whether he delayed it until too late, for he was now seventy-eight years old, or whether he did not feel himself at liberty to make use of all his materials, the public was not satisfied. For a considerable time prior to his death, his mental faculties were impaired, and in this distressful state he died at Merchiston-house, Sept. 4, 1808, at the advanced age of eightyfive. 1


Biog. Dram. Athenxum, vol. V. Davies’s Life of Garrick, vol. I. p. 212, vol. II. p. 280. —Gent. Mag. LXXVIII.