Stuart, Gilbert

, a Scottish historian, was born at Edinburgh, in 1742. His father, Mr. George Stuart, who died in 17>3, was professor of humanity in that university, and a man of considerable eminence for classical taste and literature. Gilbert Stuart, having made the usual prepa‘ rations in the grammar-school and the university, applied himself to the study of jurisprudence. For thr-.t profession, however, he is said to have been disqualified by indolence: and he early began to indulge his passion for general literature, and boundless dissipation. Yt t his youth was not wasted altogether in idleness, for before he had completed | his twenty-second year, he published “An Historical Dissertation concerning the Antiquity of the British Constitution,” which had so much merit as to obtain for him the degree of doctor of laws, from the university of Edinburgh. After an interval of some years, in which he could not have neglected his studies, he produced, 2. “A View of Society in Europe, in its progress from rudeness to refinement; or inquiries concerning the history of laws, government, and manners.” This is a valuable work, and proves that he had meditated with much attention on the most important monuments of the middle ages. About the time when the first edition of this book appeared, Dr. Stuart applied for the professorship of public law in the university of Edinburgh; but being disappointed, removed soon after to London. He there became from 1768 to 1773, one of the writers of the Monthly Review. He then returned to Edinburgh, where he began a magazine and review, called from the name of that city, the first number of which appeared in October 1773. In this he was assisted by William Smellie (See Smellie); but owing to the virulent spirit displayed by the writers, it was obliged to be discontinued in 1776. In 1778 his View of Society’ was republished. In 1782 he again visited London, and engaged in the Political Herald, and the English Review; but being attacked by two formidable disorders, the jaundice and the dropsy, he returned by sea to his native country, where he died, in his father’s house, August 13, 1786.

The other works of Dr. Gilbert Stuart were, 3. An anonymous pamphlet against Dr. Adam, who had published a Latin grammar, 1772. 4. “Observations concerning the public Law and Constitutional History of Scotland,Edinburgh, 1779, 8vo. In this work he critically examined the preliminary book to Dr. Robertson’s History of Scotland. 5. “The History of the Establishment of the Reformation of Religion in Scotland,London, 1780, 4to, a work commended for the easy dignity of the narrative, and for the more extraordinary virtue of strict impartiality. 6. “The History of Scotland,” from the establishment of the reformation to the death of queen Mary, London, 1782, 2 vols. His chief purpose in this book was to vindicate the character of that queen; but the whole is well written, and has been very generally read and admired. 7. He also revised and published “Sullivan’s Lectures on the Constitution of England,” This was about 1774. Dr. Stuart was about the | iRnicldle size and justly proportioned. His countenance was modest and expressive, sometimes announcing sentiments of glowing friendship, of which he is said to have been truly susceptible; at others, displaying strong indignation, against folly and vice, which he had also shewn in his writings. With all his ardour for study, he yielded to the love of intemperance, to which, notwithstanding a strong constitution, he fell an early sacrifice. His talents were great, and his writings useful; yet in his character altogether there appears to have been little that is worthy of imitation. He is painted in the most unfavourable colours by Mr. Chalmers, in his Life of Ruddiman, who says, “Such was Gilbert Stuart’s laxity of principle as a man, that he considered ingratitude as one of the most venial of sins. Such was his conceit as a writer, that he regarded no one’s merits but his own. Such were his disappointments, both as a writer and a man, that he allowed his peevishness to sour into malice; and indulged his malevolence till it settled in corruption.” If this character be not too harshly drawn, it is impossible that much should be alleged in its defence. 1


Chalmers’s Life of Ruddiman, p. 239 Kerr‘a Life of Smellie, vol. I. p. 393, and 4S9. D’Israeli’s Calamities of Authors.