Scott, Alexander (1525?-1584) (DNB00)

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SCOTT, ALEXANDER (1525?–1584?), poet, born about 1525, is supposed to have been the son of Alexander Scott, prebendary of the Chapel Royal, of Stirling, whose two sons, John and Alexander, were legitimated 21 Nov. 1549 (Privy Council Register, xxiii. 50). There is no evidence of his having followed any profession, but allusions in his poems establish the fact that much of his time was spent in or near Edinburgh. In a sonnet by Alexander Montgomerie (1556?–1610?) [q. v.], written apparently about 1584, he is spoken of as ‘Old Scot,’ and as then living; he probably died in that year or soon after. He was married, but his wife eloped with a ‘wantoun man.’

Scott's extant work consists of thirty-six short pieces, the longest numbering a little over two hundred lines. They are preserved only in the Bannatyne manuscript compiled in 1568 (now in the Advocates' Library, Edinburgh). The earliest poem by Scott to which a date can be assigned is ‘The Lament of the Maister of Erskyn,’ written in 1547. The two most important poems are ‘A New Yeir Gift to Quene Mary,’ which throws much light on the social life and lamentable condition of the people in 1562; and ‘The Justing at the Drum,’ a clever imitation of ‘Chrystis Kirk on the Grene,’ in which the practice of the tournament is ridiculed. The rest of the poems, written in a great variety of measures, are for the most part amatory. A few, in a satirical vein, are very coarse. All are marked by felicity of diction and directness of expression. Scott is called by Pinkerton ‘the Anacreon of old Scottish poetry.’ But among the ancient minor poets of Scotland his place should be below Montgomerie. Allan Ramsay first printed seven of Scott's poems in ‘The Evergreen’ (1724). An equal number was printed by Lord Hailes in ‘Ancient Scottish Poems: published from the Manuscript of George Bannatyne’ (1770). Fifteen of the poems were included by Sibbald in ‘A Chronicle of Scottish Poetry,’ 1802, 4 vols. 8vo. The first complete edition of the poems was issued by David Laing, Edinburgh, 1821. All the pieces are printed in the transcript of the Bannatyne manuscript made for the Hunterian Club, Glasgow, 1874–81. A small edition was printed at Glasgow in 1882 for private circulation. A modernised and expurgated edition was issued by William Mackean, Paisley, 1887. The latest edition is that of the Scottish Text Society, with notes and memoir by the writer of this article (Edinburgh, 1895).

[The printed editions of Scott's poems.]

J. C-n.