Lauder, Thomas Dick (DNB00)

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LAUDER, Sir THOMAS DICK (1784–1848), author, born in 1784, was a descendant of Sir John Lauder of Fountainhall [q.v.]. His father was Sir Andrew Lauder, sixth baronet of Fountainhall, who married Isabel Dick, the heiress of Grange, and his mother Elizabeth, daughter of Thomas Brown of Johnstonburn. For a short time he held a commission in the 79th regiment (Cameron highlanders), but on his marriage to Charlotte Cumin, only child and heiress of George Cumin of Relugas, Elginshire, he took up his residence there. He succeeded to the baronetcy on the death of his father in 1820. The scenery and legends of the district gave a special bent to his scientific and literary studies. In 1815 he began to contribute papers on chemistry, natural history, and meteorology to the 'Annals of Philosophy,' edited by Professor Thomas Thomson of Glasgow; and in 1818 he read a remarkable paper on the 'Parallel Roads of Glenroy,' in which he conclusively proved that they were not artificially constructed roads, but the result probably of the action of a lake. Shortly after the commencement of 'Blackwood's Magazine' in 1817 he contributed to it a tale, 'Simon Roy, Gardener at Dumphail,' which was editorially described as 'written, we have no doubt, by the author of Waverley.' To the 'Edinburgh Cyclopædia' he contributed a statistical account of the province of Moray. Two romances by him, 'Lochindhu' and 'The Wolf of Badenoch,' appeared respectively in 1825 and 1827, the scenes of both being laid in Morayshire, and the period that succeeding the wars of Bruce. They at once acquired popularity, and were translated into several foreign languages; but though vividly realising the charms of external nature and ancient modes of life, they are weak in characterisation. In 1830 there appeared the most permanently popular of all his works, 'Account of the Great Moray Floods of 1829,' which, according to Dr. John Brown, contained 'something of everything characteristic of him—his descriptive power, his humour, his sympathy for suffering, his sense of the picturesque.' In 1832 Lauder removed to his mansion of the Grange, near Edinburgh. He was a zealous supporter of the Reform Bill, and otherwise busied himself in politics on the liberal side until his appointment in 1839 as secretary to the Board of Scottish Manufactures. 'He is,' wrote Lord Cockburn, 'the greatest favourite with the mob that the whigs have. The very sight of his blue carriage makes their soles itch to take out the horses.' He also credits him with 'a tall, gentleman-like Quixotic figure, and a general picturesqueness of appearance' (Journal, 1874, i. 102), and was of opinion that he could have made his 'way in the world as a player, or a ballad-singer, or a street-fiddler, or a geologist, or a civil engineer, or a surveyor, and easily or eminently as an artist or a lawyer.' Soon after his appointment to the secretaryship of the Board of Scottish Manufactures it was united to the Board of White Herring Fishery, and he became secretary to the consolidated board. The work was thoroughly congenial. Officially he devoted much attention to the foundation of technical and art schools, and he became secretary to the Royal Institution for the Encouragement of the Fine Arts. In 1837 he published 'Highland Rambles and Legends to Shorten the Way,' 3 vols.; and in 1841 'Legends and Tales of the Highlands,' a sequel to 'Highland Rambles,' 3 vols. In 1842 appeared 'A Tour round the Coast of Scotland,' made in the course of his labours as secretary of the Fishery Board, the joint production of himself and James Wilson [q.v.] the naturalist. In 1843 he published 'Memorial of the Royal Progress in Scotland,' 1842. During the tedium of a long and painful illness he dictated to his daughter Susan a series of papers descriptive of the rivers of Scotland, which appeared in 'Tait's Magazine' from 1847 to 1849, and were republished in 1874, edited, with preface, by Dr. John Brown, author of 'Rab and his Friends.' He died on 29 May 1848.

Lauder edited Sir Uvedale Price's 'Essays on the Picturesque,' 1842, to which he prefixed an essay 'On the Origin of Taste;' Gilpin's 'Forest Scenery,' and, along with Thomas Brown and William Rhind, 'The Miscellany of Natural History,' 2 vols. 1833–1834. Many of his works were illustrated by drawings made by himself. He left two sons and ten daughters, and was succeeded in the baronetcy by his eldest son, John Dick Lauder.

[Tait's Mag. 2nd ser. 1848, xv. 497; Gent. Mag. new ser. 1848, xxx. 91–2; Lord Cockburn's Journal, 1874; Archibald Constable and his Literary Correspondents, 1873, ii. 432–8; preface by Dr. John Brown to Lauder's Scottish Rivers, 1874; Chambers's Eminent Scotsmen.]

T. F. H.