Cranstoun, George (DNB00)

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CRANSTOUN, GEORGE, Lord Corehouse (d. 1850), Scottish judge, was the second son of the Hon. George Cranstoun of Longwarton, seventh son of the fifth Lord Cranstoun, and Maria, daughter of Thomas Brisbane of Brisbane, Ayrshire. He was originally intended for the military profession, but, preferring that of law, passed advocate at the Scottish bar 2 Feb. 1793, was appointed a depute-advocate in 1805, and sheriff-depute of the county of Sutherland 1806. He was chosen dean of the Faculty of Advocates 15 Nov. 1823, and was raised to the bench on the death of Lord Hermand in 1826, under the title of Lord Corehouse, from his beautiful residence near the fall of Corra Linn on the Clyde. In January 1839, while apparently in perfect health, he was suddenly struck with paralysis, which compelled him to retire for the remainder of his life from his official duties. Lord Cockburn, while taking exception to the narrow and old-fashioned legal prejudices of Corehouse and his somewhat pompous method of legal exposition, characterises him as ‘more of a legal oracle’ than any man of his time. ‘His abstinence,’ he states, ‘from all vulgar contention, all political discussion, and all public turmoils, in the midst of which he sat like a pale image, silent and still, trembling in ambitious fastidiousness, kept up the popular delusion of his mysteriousness and abstraction to the very last’ (Memorials, i. 221). He possessed strong literary tastes, the gratification of which was the chief enjoyment of his leisure, both during the period of his engrossment with legal duties, and after his enforced retirement from the bench. His accomplishments as a Greek scholar secured him the warm friendship of Lord Monboddo, who used to declare that he was the ‘only scholar in all Scotland.’ While attending the civil law class in 1788 Cranstoun made the acquaintance of Sir Walter Scott, and the intimacy continued through life (Lockhart, Life of Scott, ed. 1842, p. 40). Scott read the opening stanzas of the ‘Lay of the Last Minstrel’ to Erskine and Cranstoun, whose apparently cold reception of it greatly discouraged him, until, finding a few days afterwards that some of the stanzas had ‘haunted their memory, he was encouraged to resume the undertaking’ (ib. 100). While practising at the bar Cranstoun wrote a clever jeu d'esprit, entitled ‘The Diamond Beetle Case,’ in which he caricatured the manner and style of several of the judges in delivering their opinions. He died 26 June 1850. His second sister, Jane Anne, afterwards Countess of Purgstall, was a correspondent of Sir Walter Scott, and his youngest, Helen D'Arcy, authoress of ‘The Tears I shed must ever fall,’ and wife of Professor Dugald Stewart.

[Kay's Original Portraits, ii. 438; Gent. Mag. new ser. xxxiv. 328; Cockburn's Life of Lord Jeffrey; ib. Memorials.]

T. F. H.