Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 52.djvu/343

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Skelton's ‘Poetical Fancies and Satyrs’ (1512); nor of two volumes entitled ‘Poems,’ by Skelton, which Bliss notices—the one assigned to the press of A. Scoloker (n.d. 12mo), the other to that of Wyght in 1588.

The first complete collected edition now extant appeared as ‘Pithy pleasaunt and profitable workes of maister Skelton, Poete Laureate. Nowe collected and newly published. Anno 1568’ (London, by Thomas Marshe, 12mo). Churchyard prefixed eulogistic verses. ‘A Parable by William Cornishe in the Fleete’ was included, apparently in error. A copy of the volume is in the British Museum. A reprint is dated 1736. The standard edition of Skelton's works, edited by Alexander Dyce, was issued in two volumes in 1843. Dyce's annotated copy is in the Dyce Library at South Kensington. Manuscripts of the ‘Colyn Cloute,’ ‘Garlande of Laurell,’ ‘Speake Parrot,’ ‘Against Garnesche,’ and ‘On the Death of the Earl of Northumberland’ are, with some smaller pieces, at the British Museum.

[Dyce's Memoir, prefixed to his edition of Skelton's works; Austin and Ralph's Lives of the Poets-Laureate, 1853; Morley's English Writers, vol. vii.; Warton's English Poetry, 1871, iii. 126–8 et passim; Ritson's Bibliographia Anglo-Poetica; Quarterly Review, 1814 (art. by Southey); Retrospective Review, vi. 337 seq.; Wood's Athenæ, ed. Bliss, i. 49–54; Mr. Ashton's Introduction to the Balade of the Scotyshe Kynge, 1882; art. by Mr. James Hooper in Gent. Mag. September 1897.]

S. L.


SKELTON, Sir JOHN (1831–1897), author, born in Edinburgh in 1831, was the son of James Skelton of Sandford Newton, writer to the signet, sheriff-substitute at Peterhead, where Skelton's boyhood was spent. He was educated at the university of Edinburgh. In 1854 he was admitted a member of the faculty of advocates; but his interests lay in literature more than in law. In 1857 he contributed to a volume of ‘Edinburgh Essays’ an essay on ‘Early English Life in the Drama.’ So as not to interfere with his professional prospects, he assumed the pseudonym of ‘Shirley,’ after the heroine in Charlotte Brontë's novel of that name. He had previously received from Miss Brontë a letter of thanks for a critical notice of ‘Jane Eyre.’ Under the pseudonym of ‘Shirley’ he became a regular contributor of essays and reviews to the ‘Guardian,’ a short-lived Edinburgh periodical, and to ‘Fraser's Magazine.’ With the editor of ‘Fraser's,’ James Anthony Froude, he formed a close acquaintance. In 1862 appeared his first independent publication, ‘Nugæ Criticæ,’ a collection of essays which had appeared in various magazines, and in the same year he attempted a political romance, ‘Thalatta, or the Great Commoner,’ a sketch of a character combining resemblances to both Canning and Disraeli.

When the Scottish board of supervision—whose duty it was to administer the laws respecting the poor and public health—was reconstituted in 1868, Skelton was appointed secretary by Disraeli. It is said that the choice was due to Disraeli's admiration of his literary work. Within a year Skelton published a sympathetic sketch of the statesman, entitled ‘Benjamin Disraeli: the Past and the Future’ (London, 1868, 8vo). He retained the post of secretary to the board of supervision till 1892, when he was elected chairman. In 1894, when the board was replaced by the Scottish local government board, Skelton became vice-president of the new body. He finally retired on 31 March 1897, when the board recorded in a minute its sense of Skelton's services in diminishing pauperism throughout Scotland. His earliest official work had been to administer the Public Health Act of 1867, and to aid its operations he published an edition of the act with notes. In 1876 he published another official work of authority on ‘The Boarding-out of Pauper Children in Scotland’ (Edinburgh, 8vo). ‘The Handbook of Public Health’ (London, 1890, 8vo; supplement, 1891) and ‘The Local Government (Scotland) Act in relation to Public Health’ (Edinburgh and London, 1890, 8vo; 2nd edit. 1890) were valuable contributions to official literature. He also edited, with his friend Mr. William Ellis Gloag, now Lord Kencairney, a Scottish judge, the second edition of Dickson's ‘Treatise on the Law of Evidence in Scotland,’ 1864, 8vo.

Meanwhile Skelton was confirming his literary reputation. With ‘Blackwood's Magazine’ he opened in 1869 a connection which he maintained to the end of his life. In 1876 he published his first contribution to the controversy concerning Mary Stuart, entitled ‘The Impeachment of Mary Stuart’ (Edinburgh, 8vo), in which he espoused the cause of the unfortunate queen. This was followed in 1883 by ‘Essays in Romance and Studies from Life;’ in 1887–8 by ‘Maitland of Lethington and the Scotland of Mary Stuart’ (Edinburgh, 8vo), his most elaborate historical work; and in 1893 by ‘Mary Stuart’ (London, 4to), in all of which he defended Mary against her accusers with ability and careful restraint. Of Skelton's more purely literary works the best known are the ‘Essays of Shirley’ (Edinburgh, 1882, 8vo), and ‘The Table Talk of Shirley’ (Edinburgh, 1895, 8vo), of which a second