Bruce, John Hope (DNB00)

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search

BRUCE, Sir JOHN HOPE (1684?–1766), of Kinross, soldier and statesman, and reputed author of the ballad ‘Hardyknute,’ was the third son of Sir Thomas Hope, bart., of Craighall, Fife. His mother was the sole heir of Sir William Bruce, bart., of Kinross, and hence comes the name of the son, which in the family records stands as Sir John Bruce Hope. On the death of his elder brothers without heirs he suceeded to the estates, and came to be popularly known as Sir John Bruce of Kinross. Besides serving in the Swedish army, Bruce gained distinction as a soldier at home, rising to the rank of lieutenant-general. His public career likewise includes the governorship of the Bermudas and the representation of Kinross-shire in Parliament. He died at the age of eighty-two, and was buried at Kinross. His first wife was Catherine Halket of Pitferrun, near Dunfermline, and it is her sister, Lady Wardlaw, who divides with Bruce the honour of having written ‘Hardyknute.’ It is extremely difficult with the existing evidence to decide which of the two wrote the poem-if indeed it was not their joint composition-but the best critics incline to give the credit to Bruce. Pinkerton, who wrote a sequel to the vigorous fragment, is quite decided in that view, resting his conclusion on a letter to Lord Binning, in which Bruce suys he found the manuscript in a vault at Dumfermline. Percy accepts Pinkerton's argument and inference, and Irving, the most competent judge since their day, while acknowledging the difficulties of the case, is clearly inclined to agree with them. Unfortunately neither Lady Wardlaw nor Bruce left any authentic poetical composition, though Pinkerton would have little hesitation in attributing to Bruce not only ‘Hardyknute’ but other members of Ramsay's ‘Evergreen’ as well. There exists, however, testimony of various friends as to the exceptional accomplishments of Lady Wardlaw, and as to the probability, amounting almost to a certainty, that she was the sole and unaided author of the ballad [see Wardlaw, Lady Elizabeth].

[Burke’s Peerage; Pinkerton's Ancient Scottish Poems; Percy's Reliques; Chalmers's Life of Allan Ramsay; Chalmers's History of Dunfermline; Irving's Scottish Poets.]

T. B.