Irvine, Christopher (DNB00)

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IRVINE, CHRISTOPHER, M.D. (fl. 1638–1685), physician, philologist, and antiquary, was a younger son of Christopher Irvine of Robgill Tower, Annandale, and barrister of the Temple (Anderson, Scottish Nation, ii. 538), of the family of Irvine of Bonshaw in Dumfriesshire. He calls himself on one of his title-pages ‘Irvinus abs Bon Bosco.’ He was brother of Sir Gerard Irvine, bart., of Castle Irvine, co. Fermanagh, who died at Dundalk in 1689.

Irvine, like his relative, James Irvine of Bonshaw, who seized Donald Cargill, was an ardent royalist and episcopalian, and was ejected from the college of Edinburgh in 1638 or 1639 for refusing the covenant. Involving himself in some unexplained way in the Irish troubles of the following years, he was deprived of his estate (Preface to his Nomenclatura). ‘After my travels,’ he continues, ‘the cruel saints were pleased to mortify me seventeen nights with bread and water in close prison’ (ib.) Allowed to return to Scotland, he was reduced to teaching in schools at Leith and Preston (Sibbald, Bibliotheca Scotica, MS. Adv. Lib. ap. Chambers). About 1650 or 1651 Irvine resumed the profession to which he seems to have been bred, and became surgeon, and finally physician, at Edinburgh. He was present in the camp of Charles II in Athol in June 1651 (Preface to Anatomia Sambuci). After the battle of Worcester he made his peace with the party in power, and was appointed about 1652 or 1653 surgeon to Monck's army in Scotland. This office he held until the Restoration. He was in London in 1659, and after the Restoration held the office of surgeon to the horse-guards. By what he calls ‘a cruel misrepresentation’ he lost his public employment before 1682 (Preface to Nomenclatura). Irving says he was also historiographer to Charles II. On 17 Nov. 1681 the Scottish privy council granted his petition that he should be allowed to practise in Edinburgh, of which he was a burgess, free of interference from the newly incorporated College of Physicians. This act was ratified by the Scottish parliament in 1685 (Acts of Parl. of Scotl. viii. 530–1). The date of his death is unknown. He married Margaret, daughter of James Whishard, laird of Potterow, and had two sons, Christopher, M.D., and James.

Irvine published the following works: 1. ‘Bellum Grammaticale, ad exemplar Magistri Alexandri Humii … editum,’ a ‘tragico-comœdia’ in five acts and in verse, narrating a war of the nouns and the verbs. This rare jeu d'esprit is stated by Chambers to have been first published in 1650, but the copy in the British Museum, printed at Edinburgh in 1658 in 8vo, bears no signs of being a second edition. It was reprinted in 1698. 2. ‘Anatomia Sambuci,’ by Martin Blochwitz, translated by C. Irvine, London, 1655, 12mo. 3. ‘Medicina Magnetica, or the art of Curing by Sympathy,’ London (?), 1656, 8vo, dedicated to Monck; a curious tract reviving some of the wildest ideas of Paracelsus. 4. ‘J. Wallæi [of Leyden] Medica Omnia,’ edited by C. Irvine, London, 1660, 8vo (preface dated London, 26 July 1659). 5. ‘Locorum, nominum propriorum … quæ in Latinis Scotorum Historiis occurrunt explicatio vernacula. … Ex schedis T. Craufurdii excussit … C. Irvine,’ Edinburgh, 1665, 8vo, pp. 79. 6. ‘Historiæ Scoticæ nomenclatura Latino-vernacula,’ Edinburgh, 1682, 8vo, and 1697, 4to, fulsomely dedicated to James, duke of York, at the time he was high commissioner in Scotland (an expansion of No. 5). This has twice been reprinted, by James Watt, Montrose, 1817, 16mo, and at Glasgow, 1819, 12mo. Irvine also projected, but never carried out, a work ‘On the Historie and Antiquitie of Scotland.’

[The fullest account of Irvine is in Chambers's Dict. of Eminent Scotsmen, ed. Thomson, ii. 339; Burke's Landed Gentry.]

J. T-t.