Robertson, James (1714-1795) (DNB00)

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ROBERTSON, JAMES (1714–1795), orientalist, born in 1714 in the parish of Cromarty, studied for many years at Leyden University under Schultens, the celebrated Dutch orientalist, and was ‘called’ to his native parish as minister, having been licensed by the presbytery of Edinburgh on 28 Nov. 1744. He never settled at Cromarty, but, after graduating at Leyden as ‘Britannus’ on 20 Jan. 1749, proceeded to Oxford to study under Thomas Hunt [q. v.], the regius professor of Hebrew. He was offered an advantageous post in Doddridge's academy at Northampton; but the town council of Edinburgh, in response to a petition from the divinity students, elected him about May 1751 to the chair of Hebrew in the university of Edinburgh. He received the fees of students only, his superannuated predecessor, Professor Dawson, retaining the salary for life. Dr. Johnson, who visited Edinburgh in August 1773, was delighted with the conversation of the professor of oriental tongues (Boswell, ed. 1848, p. 277). Robertson was infirm during the last few years of his life, and died at Middlefield, Leith Walk, on 26 Nov. 1795. Professor Baird was appointed as joint Hebrew professor in 1792. A medallion of Robertson by James Tassie is in the National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh. Robertson wrote: 1. ‘Grammatica Linguæ Hebrææ,’ Edinburgh, 1758, 8vo; 2nd edit. Edinburgh, 1783. 2. ‘The Resemblance of Jesus to Moses considered,’ Edinburgh, 1765, 8vo. 3. ‘Clavis Pentateuchi,’ Edinburgh, 1770, 8vo. This is a learned analysis of the Hebrew version of the Pentateuch, printed in Latin and English. Two dissertations are prefixed (1) on the Arabian tongue, (2) on the vowel points. A second edition, by the Rev. J. Kinghorn, was published at Norwich in 1824, 8vo.

[Bower's Hist. of the Univ. Edin. 1817, ii. 360–6; Hew Scott's Fasti Eccles. Scoticanæ, iii. 279; Gent. Mag. December 1795, p. 1056; Foster's Life and Correspondence, i. 32 n.; Allibone's Dict. of English Literature, ii. 1822; Orme's Bibl. Bibl. p. 377; Leyden Students, publ. by the Index Soc. p. 84; Gemmell's Edinburgh Univ. of 300 Years, 1884, pp. 53, 66.]

C. F. S.