Macdiarmid, John

, an ingenious young writer, was the son of the rev. Mr. Macdiarmid, minister of Weem in the northern part of Perthshire, and was bern in 1779. He studied at the universities of Edinburgh and St. Andrews, and was for some years tutor in a gentleman’s family. Such a situation is generally desired in Scotland with the view of provision in the church, but as this was not Mr. Macdiarmid’s object, he became desirous of visiting the metropolis, and trying his fortune in the career of literary competition. He accordingly came to London in 1801, and was soon in the receipt of a competent income from periodical writing. His principal occupations of this kind were, as editor of the St. James’s Chronicle (a paper in which some of the first scholars and wits of the last half century have employed their pens), and as a reviewer in a critical publication. On the commencement or rather the renewal of the late war in 1802-3, his attention was directed to our military establishment, and he relinquished | his periodical engagements to become the author of a very elaborate work, entitled “An Inquiry into the System of Military Defence of Great Britain,1803, 2 vols. 8vo. This exposed the defects of the volunteer systeui, as well as of all temporary expedients, and asserted the superiority of a regular army; and had he lived, he would have doubtless been highly gratified to contemplate the army formed by the illustrious Wellington. His next work was, an “Inquiry into the Nature of Civil and Military Subordination,1804, 8vo, perhaps the fullest disquisition which the subject has received. He now determined to suspend his theoretic labours, and to turn his attention to works of narrative. He accordingly wrote the “Lives of British Statesmen,” 4to, beginning with the life of sir Thomas More. This work has strong claims on public attention. The style is perspicuous and unaffected; authorities are quoted for every statement of consequence, and a variety of curious information is extracted from voluminous records, and brought for the first time before the public view. His political speculations were always temperate and liberal. He was indeed in all respects qualified for a work of this description, by great powers of research and equal impartiality. But unfortunately he was destined to enjoy, for a short time only, the approbation with which his work was received. His health, at all times delicate, received in November 1807, an irreparable blow by a paralytic stroke; and in February 1808 a second attack proved fatal, April 7. Mr. D’Israeli has paid a just and pathetic tribute to his memory and talents in the work referred to below. 1


Atheneum, vol. III. D’Israeli’s Calamities of Authors.