Carruthers, Robert (DNB00)

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CARRUTHERS, ROBERT (1799–1878), miscellaneous writer, born at Dumfries 5 Nov. 1799, was the son of a small farmer in the parish of Mousewald. He received only a scanty education, and was early apprenticed to a bookseller in Dumfries. He showed, however, a taste for literature, which procured him the regard of McDiarmid, the well-known editor of the ‘Dumfries Courier.’ His apprenticeship over, he removed to Huntingdon as master of the national school, and there he wrote and published what remains the only ‘History of Huntingdon’ (1824), for which the corporation of the borough placed its records at his disposal. In 1827 appeared anonymously his selections from Milton's prose works, ‘The Poetry of Milton's Prose.’ In 1828, on the recommendation of McDiarmid, he was appointed editor of the ‘Inverness Courier,’ which he made the most popular journal in the north of Scotland by the attention which he gave in it, not only to the material interests of the highlands, but to their antiquities and social history. In 1831 he became the proprietor of the ‘Courier,’ which he conducted on moderate liberal principles. In 1843 he published selections from his contributions to it, ‘The Highland Note-book, or Sketches and Anecdotes.’ In its columns appeared the ‘Letters on the Fisheries,’ the work which first made Hugh Miller known, and Carruthers otherwise befriended Miller. In 1851 appeared in the ‘National Illustrated Library’ his edition of Boswell's ‘Journal of a Tour in the Hebrides,’ with useful notes upon the places and persons mentioned. In the ‘National Illustrated Library’ also appeared in 1853 Carruthers's edition of ‘The Poetical Works of Alexander Pope,’ in four volumes, the first of which contained a memoir of Pope, with extracts from his correspondence. The memoir, much enlarged and partly rewritten, was published in 1857, in Bohn's ‘Illustrated Library,’ as ‘The Life of Alexander Pope, with Extracts from his Correspondence,’ and in the same library appeared in 1858 a revised edition of the ‘Poems.’ Carruthers is best known as editor and biographer of Pope. To the variorum notes in the edition of the ‘Poems’ he added many of his own, with some of George Steevens and Wilkes not previously printed. Even the first edition of the ‘Life’ was fuller than any previous one, and was enriched by interesting extracts from Pope's correspondence with Teresa and Martha Blount preserved at Mapledurham, which Carruthers had been permitted to examine, a privilege enjoyed by no other person then living. A second examination of this correspondence and the publication in the interval of some of the results of Mr. Dilke's researches into Pope's biography enabled him to correct in the edition of 1857 grave errors of his own and of others.

In 1843–4 was issued the Messrs. Chambers's ‘Cyclopædia of English Literature,’ in which most of the original matter was written by Carruthers, co-operating with Robert Chambers; the third edition, 1876, was ‘originally edited by Robert Chambers, revised by Robert Carruthers.’ For the same publishers he edited, nominally in conjunction with William Chambers, their Bowdlerised ‘Household Edition’ of Shakespeare, 1861–3. To the third edition of Robert Chambers's ‘Life of Sir Walter Scott,’ 1871, Carruthers furnished an appendix of interesting ‘Abbotsford Notanda, or Sir Walter Scott and his Factor,’ containing letters and reminiscences of Scott from the correspondence and papers of William Laidlaw, Scott's factor and amanuensis at Abbotsford, reprinted from ‘Chambers's Journal’ and the ‘Gentleman's Magazine.’ Carruthers was also a contributor to the ‘North British Review,’ and wrote for the eighth edition of the ‘Encyclopædia Britannica’ a number of biographies, among them those of Queen Elizabeth, William Penn, Lord Jeffrey, and the Ettrick Shepherd. He wrote the memoir of Falconer prefixed to the ‘Shipwreck’ (1858 and 1868), and of James Montgomery (1860) and Gray (1876) prefixed to editions of their poems. He delivered several series of lectures before the Edinburgh Philosophical Institution. In April 1871 he received the degree of LL.D. from the university of Edinburgh, and in the November of the same year he was entertained at a public banquet, when he was presented with a portrait and bust of himself.

Carruthers was the friend or correspondent of several of his eminent contemporaries. Rogers furnished him with some material for his edition of Pope, and Macaulay asked for and received from him on highland matters information which was duly acknowledged in the ‘History.’ When Thackeray visited Inverness to lecture on the Four Georges, the acquaintance which he made with Carruthers, who is said to have resembled him in face, ripened into considerable intimacy. Carruthers died at Inverness on 26 May 1878, busy to the last with the newspaper which he had edited for more than half a century. His fellow-townsmen honoured him with a public funeral.

[Carruthers's writings; obituary notices in the Inverness Courier of 30 May and in the Scotsman of 28 May 1878.]

F. E.