1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Cruden, Alexander
CRUDEN, ALEXANDER (1701–1770), author of the well-known concordance (q.v.) to the English Bible, was born at Aberdeen on the 31st of May 1701. He was educated at the grammar school, Aberdeen, and studied at Marischal College, intending to enter the ministry. He took the degree of master of arts, but soon after began to show signs of insanity owing to a disappointment in love. After a term of confinement he recovered and removed to London. In 1722 he had an engagement as private tutor to the son of a country squire living at Eton Hall, Southgate, and also held a similar post at Ware. Years afterwards, in an application for the title of bookseller to the queen, he stated that he had been for some years corrector for the press in Wild Court. This probably refers to this time. In 1729 he was employed by the 10th earl of Derby as a reader and secretary, but was discharged on the 7th of July for his ignorance of French pronunciation. He then lodged in a house in Soho frequented exclusively by Frenchmen, and took lessons in the language in the hope of getting back his post with the earl, but when he went to Knowsley in Lancashire, the earl would not see him. He returned to London and opened a bookseller’s shop in the Royal Exchange. In April 1735 he obtained the title of bookseller to the queen by recommendation of the lord mayor and most of the Whig aldermen. The post was an unremunerative sinecure. In 1737 he finished his concordance, which, he says, was the work of several years. It was presented to the queen on the 3rd of November 1737, a fortnight before her death.
Although Cruden’s biblical labours have made his name a household word among English-speaking people, he was disappointed in his hopes of immediate profit, and his mind again became unhinged. In spite of his earnest and self-denying piety, and his exceptional intellectual powers, he developed idiosyncrasies, and his life was marred by a harmless but ridiculous egotism, which so nearly bordered on insanity that his friends sometimes thought it necessary to have him confined. He paid unwelcome addresses to a widow, and was confined in a madhouse in Bethnal Green. On his release he published a pamphlet dedicated to Lord H. (probably Harrington, secretary of state) entitled The London Citizen exceedingly injured, or a British Inquisition Displayed. He also published an account of his trial, dedicated to the king. In December 1740 he writes to Sir H. Sloane saying he has been employed since July as Latin usher in a boarding-school at Enfield. He then found work as a proof-reader, and several editions of Greek and Latin classics are said to have owed their accuracy to his care. He superintended the printing of one of Matthew Henry’s commentaries, and in 1750 printed a small Compendium of the Holy Bible (an abstract of the contents of each chapter), and also reprinted a larger edition of the Concordance.
About this time he adopted the title of “Alexander the Corrector,” and assumed the office of correcting the morals of the nation, especially with regard to swearing and Sunday observance. For this office he believed himself divinely commissioned, but he petitioned parliament for a formal appointment in this capacity. In April 1755 he printed a letter to the speaker and other members of the House of Commons, and about the same time an “Address to the King and Parliament.” He was in the habit of carrying a sponge, with which he effaced all inscriptions which he thought contrary to good morals. In September 1753, through being involved in a street brawl, he was confined in an asylum in Chelsea for seventeen days at the instance of his sister, Mrs Wild. He brought an unsuccessful action against his friends, and seriously proposed that they should go into confinement as an atonement. He published an account of this second restraint in “The Adventures of Alexander the Corrector.” He made attempts to present to the king in person an account of his trial, and to obtain the honour of knighthood, one of his predicted honours. In 1754 he was nominated as parliamentary candidate for the city of London, but did not go to the poll. In 1755 he paid unwelcome addresses to the daughter of Sir Thomas Abney, of Newington (1640–1722), and then published his letters and the history of his repulse in the third part of his “Adventures.” In June and July 1755 he visited Oxford and Cambridge. He was treated with the respect due to his learning by officials and residents in both universities, but experienced some boisterous fooling at the hands of the undergraduates. At Cambridge he was knighted with mock ceremonies. There he appointed “deputy correctors” to represent him in the university. He also visited Eton, Windsor, Tonbridge and Westminster schools, where he appointed four boys to be his deputies. (An Admonition to Cambridge is preserved among letters from J. Neville of Emmanuel to Dr Cox Macro, in the British Museum.) The Corrector’s Earnest Address to the Inhabitants of Great Britain, published in 1756, was occasioned by the earthquake at Lisbon. In 1762 he saved an ignorant seaman, Richard Potter, from the gallows, and in 1763 published a pamphlet recording the history of the case. Against John Wilkes, whom he hated, he wrote a small pamphlet, and used to delete with his sponge the number 45 wherever he found it, this being the offensive number of the North Briton. In 1769 he lectured in Aberdeen as “Corrector,” and distributed copies of the fourth commandment and various religious tracts. The wit that made his eccentricities palatable is illustrated by the story of how he gave to a conceited young minister whose appearance displeased him A Mother’s Catechism dedicated to the young and ignorant. The Scripture Dictionary, compiled about this time, was printed in Aberdeen in two volumes shortly after his death. Alexander Chalmers, who in his boyhood heard Cruden lecture in Aberdeen and wrote his biography, says that a verbal index to Milton, which accompanied the edition of Thomas Newton, bishop of Bristol, in 1769, was Cruden’s.
The second edition of the Bible Concordance was published in 1761, and presented to the king in person on the 21st of December. The third appeared in 1769. Both contain a pleasing portrait of the author. He is said to have gained £800 by these two editions. He returned to London from Aberdeen, and died suddenly while praying in his lodgings in Camden Passage, Islington, on the 1st of November 1770. He was buried in the ground of a Protestant dissenting congregation in Dead Man’s Place, Southwark. He bequeathed a portion of his savings for a £5 bursary at Aberdeen, which preserves his name on the list of benefactors of the university. (D. Mn.)