A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature/Alison, Sir Archibald

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Alison, Sir Archibald (1792–1867).—Historian, s. of the above, was b. at Kenley, Shropshire, and after studying under a private tutor, and at Edinburgh University, was, in 1814, called to the Bar, at which he ultimately attained some distinction, becoming in 1834 Sheriff of Lanarkshire, in which capacity he rendered valuable service in times of considerable difficulty. It was when travelling in France in 1814 that he conceived the idea of his History of Europe, which deals with the period from the outbreak of the French Revolution to the restoration of the Bourbons, and extends, in its original form (1833–42), to 10 vols. The work is one of vast industry, and gives a useful account of an important epoch, but is extremely diffuse and one-sided, and often prosy. Disraeli satirises the author in Coningsby as Mr. Wordy, who wrote a history to prove that Providence was on the side of the Tories. It had, however, an enormous sale. A continuation of it (1852–59) brought the story down to the accession of Louis Napoleon. A. was also the author of a life of Marlborough, and of two standard works on the criminal law of Scotland. In his private and official capacities he was highly respected, and was elected Lord Rector successively of Marischal Coll., Aberdeen, and of Glasgow University. He was created a baronet by Lord Derby in 1852.