Telfer, James (DNB00)

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TELFER, JAMES (1800–1862), minor poet, son of a shepherd, was born in the parish of Southdean, Roxburghshire, on 3 Dec. 1800. Beginning life as a shepherd, he gradually educated himself for the post of a country schoolmaster. He taught first at Castleton, Langholm, Dumfriesshire, and then for twenty-five years conducted a small adventure school at Saughtrees, Liddisdale, Roxburghshire. On a very limited income he supported a wife and family, and found leisure for literary work. From youth he had been an admirer and imitator of James Hogg (1770–1835) [q. v.], the Ettrick Shepherd, who befriended him. As a writer of the archaic and quaint ballad style illustrated in Hogg's ‘Queen's Wake,’ Telfer eventually attained a measure of ease and even elegance in composition, and in 1824 he published a volume entitled ‘Border Ballads and Miscellaneous Poems.’ The ballad, ‘The Gloamyne Buchte,’ descriptive of the potent influence of fairy song, is a skilful development of a happy conception. Telfer contributed to Wilson's ‘Tales of the Borders,’ 1834, and in 1835 he published ‘Barbara Gray,’ an interesting prose tale. A selected volume of his prose and verse appeared in 1852. He died on 18 Jan. 1862.

[Rogers's Modern Scottish Minstrel; Grant Wilson's Poets and Poetry of Scotland.]

T. B.