Watson, Robert

, an elegant historian, was born at St. Andrew’s in Scotland, about 1730. He was the son of an apothecary of that place, who was also a brewer. Having gone through the usual course of languages and philosophy at the school and university of St. Andrew’s, and also entered on the study of divinity, a desire of being acquainted with a larger circle of literati, and of improving himself in every branch of knowledge, carried him, first, to the university of Glasgow, and afterwards to that of Edinburgh. The period of theological studies at the universities of Scotland is four years; but during that time young men of ingenious minds raid sufficient leisure to earry on and advance the pursuits of general knowledge. Few men studied more ‘constantly than Mr. Watson. It | was a rule with him to study eight hours every day; and this law he observed during the whole course of his life*. An acquaintance with the polite writers of England, after the union of the two kingdoms, became general in Scotland; and in Watson’s younger years, an emulation began to prevail of writing pure and elegant English. Mr. Watson applied himself with great industry to the principles of philosophical or universal grammar; and by a combination of these, with the authority of the best English writers, formed a course of lectures on style or language. He proceeded to the study of rhetoric or eloquence; the principles of which he endeavoured to trace to the nature of the human mind. On these subjects he delivered a course of lectures at Edinburgh, similar to what Dr. Adam Smith had delifered in the same city previous to his removal to Glasgow in 1751. To this he was encouraged by lord Kames, who judged very favourably of his literary taste and acquirements; and the scheme was equally successful in Watson’s as in Smith’s hands.

At this time he had become a preacher; and a vacancy having happened in one of the churches of St. Andrew’s, he offered himself a candidate for that living, but was dis^­appointed, yet he succeeded in what proved more advantageous. Mr. Henry Rymer, who then taught logic at St. Salvador’s college, was in a very infirm state of health, and entertaining thoughts of retiring. Mr. Watson purchased, for no great sum of money, what, in familiar phraseology, may be termed the good-will of Mr. Rymer’s place; and with the consent of the other masters of St. Salvador’s, was appointed professor of logic. He obtained also a patent from the crown, constituting him professor of rhetoric and belles-lettres. The study of logic in St. Andrew’s, as in most other places, was at this time confined to syllogisms, modes, and figures. Mr. Watson, whose mind had been opened by conversation, and by reading the writings of the literati who had begun to flourish in the Scotch capital, prepared, and read to his students, a course of metaphysics and logic on the most enlightened plan; in which he analyzed the powers of the mind, aod entered deeply into the nature of truth or knowledge. Oil the death of principal Tullidelph, Dr. Watson, through the interest of the earl of Kinnoul, was appointed his successor, in which station he lived only a few years, dying in 1780. He is chiefly known in the literary world by his | History of Philip II.” a very interesting portion of history, and in which the English, under queen Elizabeth, had a considerable share. He wrote also the history of Philip III. but lived only to complete four books; the last two were written, and the whole published in 4to, 1783 (afterwards reprinted in 2 vols. 8vo), by Dr. William Thomson, at the desire of the guardians of Dr. Watson’s children, whom he had by his wife, who was daughter to Mr. Shaw, professor of divinity in St. Mary’s-college, St. Andrew’s. 1


Encyclopedia Britauaica, Woodhouselee’s. Life of Lord Kaimes.