Tytler, William

, an ingenious writer on historical and miscellaneous subjects, was born at Edinburgh, Oct. 12, 1711. He was the son of Mr. Alexander Tytler, writer (or attorney) in Edinburgh, by Jane, daughter of Mr, William Leslie, merchant in Aberdeen, and grand-daughter of sir Patrick Leslie of Iden, provost of that city. He was educated at the high school, and at the university of Edinburgh, and distinguished himself by an early proficiency in those classical studies, which, to the latest period of his life, were the occupation of his leisure hours, and a principal source of his mental enjoyments. At the age of thirty-one, Mr. Tytler was admitted into the society of writers to his majesty’s signet, and continued the practice of that profession with very good success, and with equal | respect from his clients and the public, till his death, which happened Sept 12, 1792.

With the duties of his profession he combined a more than common share of classical learning, historical knowledge, and a singularly correct taste in the sister arts of poetry, painting, and music; all of which he continued to cultivate and enjoy to the close of his long life. To his other studies, he added those of metaphysics and moral philosophy; by means of which he had early become acquainted with Dr. Beattie, whom, as the biographer of the latter informs us, he loved and respected as an able champion of truth, and with whom he ever after continued to Jive on the footing of the most intimate friendship. He also possessed the esteem and regard of many of the most distinguished literary characters of the age, as lord Monbodclo, lord Kaimes, Dr. John Gregory, Dr. Reid, Principal Campbell, Dr. Gerard, and others. As an author, Mr. Tytler was first and principally distinguished for his “Inquiry, historical and critical, into the evidence against Mary queen of Scots, and an examination of the Histories of Dr. Robertson and Mr. Hume, with respect to that evidence,1759, 8vo, frequently reprinted, and in 1790 extended to 2 vols. 8vo, with large additions. In this work, he displayed an uncommon degree of acuteness in the examination of a question, which has been maintained on both sides with great ability, but not always with the temper and manners which guided Mr. Tytler’s pen. As a supplement to this work, he read in the Society of Antiquaries in Scotland, of which society he was a warm friend and protector, and for many years vice-president, “A dissertation on the marriage of queen Mary to the earl of Bothwell,” which forms a distinguished article in the first volume of the transactions of that society published in 1751, in 4to.

His other publications were, 1. “The Poetical remains of James I. of Scotland, consisting of the King’s Q.uair in six cantos, and * Christ’s kirk of the green,‘ to which is prefixed a dissertation on the life and writings of king James,Edinburgh, 1783. This dissertation forms a valuable morsel of the literary history of Europe: for James ’ranked still higher in the literary world as a poet, than in the political world as a prince. Great justice is done to his memory in both respects in this dissertation: and the two morsels of poetry here rescued from oblivion, will be | esteemed by men of taste, as long as the language in which they are written can be understood. 2. “A Dissertation on Scottish music,” first subjoined to Arnot’s “History of Edinburgh.” 3. “Observations on the Vision, a poem,” first published in Ramsay’s Evergreen, now also printed in the Transactions of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland. This may be considered as a part of the literary history of Scotland. 4. “On the fashionable amusements in Edinburgh during the last century,” ibid. He also contributed No. 16 to the periodical paper called “The Lounger.

Mr. Tytler was father to the hon. Alexander Frazer Tytler, lord Woodhouselee, one of the judges of the supreme civil court of law in Scotland, to whom the public is indebted for a valuable and truly original “Essay on the Principles of Translation;” “Elements of General History,” the “Life of Lord Kaimes,” and other ingenious works. This very excellent scholar and upright judge died very lately, but we have not seen any tribute to his memory of which we could avail ourselves, although something of the kind may very naturally be expected from the same pen which has recorded the talents and virtues of his father. 1


Memoir of Mr. Tytler, by Mr. Mackenzie, in the Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, vol. IV. Forbe' Life of Beattie.