Wilson, William (1801-1860) (DNB00)
|←Wilson, William (1690-1741)||Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 62
Wilson, William (1801-1860)
|Wilson, William (1799-1871)→|
WILSON, WILLIAM (1801-1860), poet and publisher, born in Perthshire on 25 Dec. 1801, was the son of Thomas Wilson, by his wife, Agnes Ross. At an earlyage he was imbued with a passionate love of poetry derived from his mother, who sang with great beauty the Jacobite songs and ballads of Scotland. While a schoolboy he lost his father, so that Wilson's early life was accompanied by many privations, including the completion of his education. At twenty-two he became the editor of the Dundee 'Literary Olio,' a large proportion of which, both in prose and verse, was from his pen. In 1826 he removed to Edinburgh, where he established himself in business. His contributions were welcomed in the 'Edinburgh Literary Journal,' thirty-two of his poems appearing in its columns in the course of three years. At this period the young poet was well known to the leadiug literary men of the day, including his kinsman Professor John Wilson ('Christopher North'), and he was a constant visitor at the bouse of Mrs. Grant of Luggan, who possessed his portrait by Sir John Watson Gordon, now owned by his son, General Wilson. In 1833 he removed to the United States and settled at Poughkeepsie, on the Hudson, where he engaged in bookselling and publishing, which he continued till his death. Wilson was the lifelong friend and correspondent of Robert Chambers (1802-1871) [q. v.], and he was one of the few persons in the secret of the authorship of the 'Vestiges of Creation.' He died on 25 Aug. 1860. He was twice married: first, to Jane Mackenzie, and, secondly, in 1830, to the niece of James Sibbald (1745-1803) [q. v.]
In the New World Wilson occasionally contributed in prose and verse to American periodicals, and sometimes sent a contribution to 'Blackwood's,' 'Chambers's Journal,' and 'Fraser's Magazine.' Selections of his poems appeared in the 'Cabinet,' 'Modern Scottish Minstrel,' Longfellow's 'Poems of Places,' and his son's 'Poets and Poetry of Scotland;' but he never issued them in a volume nor even collected them, and it was not until 1889 that a portion of his poetical writings was published, with a memoir by Benson J. Lossing. A second edition with additional poems and a portrait appeared in 1875, and a third in 1881. Willis pronounced 'Jean Linn,' one of Wilson's poems, 'the best modern imitation of the old ballad style that he had ever met with;' and Bryant said that 'the song in which the writer personates Richard the Lion-hearted during his imprisonment is more spirited than any of the ballads of Aytoun.'
[Rogers's Modern Scottish Minstrel; Wilson's Poets and Poetry of Scotland, vol. ii.; Memoirs of William and Robert Chambers; Appleton's Cyclopædia of American Biography.]