Dennistoun, James (DNB00)

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DENNISTOUN, JAMES (1803–1855), Scotch antiquary, eldest son of James Dennistoun, who died 1 June 1834, by Mary Ramsay, daughter of George Oswald of Auchencruive, was born in Dumbartonshire in 1803, and after receiving his education at the universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow, became a member of the Faculty of Advocates in 1824. He early, however, evinced a taste for legal and historical antiquities, and made some progress in the collection of materials for a history of his native county. During a continental tour in 1825 and 1826, in which his companions were Mr. Mark Napier, Mr. Hamilton Gray, and Sir Charles Fergusson, the art and literature of Italy first engaged his attention. After his father's death he was obliged to part with the estate on the shores of the Clyde which for six centuries had been the seat of his family, but with some portion of his remaining fortune he was enabled to purchase the farm of Dennistoun in Renfrewshire, the centre of the original possessions of his family in that county. In 1836 he again went abroad, and spent twelve years away from home, chiefly devoting himself to literary research and to the examination of the monuments of art. The winter generally found him at Rome, while the summers were given to journeys in Italy and Germany. He formed a small but choice collection of early Italian pictures, drawings, and mediæval antiquities, with which he adorned his house in George Street, Edinburgh, his permanent abode from 1847. He was a magistrate and deputy-lieutenant for the county of Renfrew, and became a member of most of the societies formed for collecting materials for illustrating the history of Scotland. For the Bannatyne Club he edited ‘Memoirs of the Affairs of Scotland from 1577 to 1603, by David Moysie,’ 1830. For the Maitland Club, ‘Cartularium comitatus de Levenax, ab initio seculi decimi tertii usque ad annum mcccxcviii.,’ 1833; the ‘Cochrane Correspondence regarding the Affairs of Glasgow 1745–6,’ 1836; the ‘Coltness Collections 1608–1840,’ 1842, and, as co-editor with Alexander Macdonald, ‘Miscellany, consisting of Original Papers illustrative of the History and Literature of Scotland,’ vols. i. ii. and iii., 1834, &c. He also wrote a ‘Letter on the Scotish [sic] Reform Bill by a Conservative,’ 1832; ‘Memoirs of Sir Robert Strange, engraver, and of his brother-in-law, Andrew Lumisden, private secretary to the Stuart Princes,’ 1855, 2 vols.; and ‘Memoirs of the Dukes of Urbino, illustrating the Arms, Arts, and Literature of Italy from 1440 to 1630,’ 3 vols. 1851; the latter a learned contribution to the knowledge of an obscure yet very interesting period of the annals of Italy. To the ‘Quarterly Review,’ December 1846, pp. 141–67, he furnished an article on ‘The Stuarts in Italy,’ and to the ‘Edinburgh Review,’ October 1854, pp. 461–490, a review of Mr. Burton's ‘History of Scotland.’ He gave valuable evidence before the committee of the House of Commons on the National Gallery in 1853, and furnished an analysis of the report of the committee to the ‘Edinburgh Review,’ April 1854, pp. 526–56.

He died at 119 George Street, Edinburgh, 13 Feb. 1855, aged fifty-two. He married in 1835 Isabella Katharina, eldest daughter of the Hon. James Wolfe Murray, lord Cringletie. The greater portion of Dennistoun's collection of pictures, drawings, and antiquities was sold at Christie & Manson's on 14 June 1855.

[Gent. Mag. June 1855, pp. 647–8; Fraser's Mag. June 1855, pp. 643–4; Anderson's Scottish Nation, iii. 703; Waagen's Treasures of Art, iii. 281–2.]

G. C. B.