Craik, George Lillie (DNB00)

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

CRAIK, GEORGE LILLIE (1798–1866), man of letters, was born at Kennoway, Fife in 1798. He was the son of the Rev. William Craik, schoolmaster of Kennoway, by his wife, Paterson, daughter of Henry Lillie. He was the eldest of three brothers, the second being James Craik (1802–1870), who studied at St. Andrews, was licensed in 1826, became classical teacher at Heriot's Hospital, Edinburgh, was afterwards minister of St. George's Church, Glasgow, and was elected moderator of the general assembly in 1863; and the third, the Rev. Henry Craik (1804–1866) of Bristol, who was a Hebrew scholar of repute, and author of 'The Hebrew Language, its History and Characteristics' (1860), and some other books on theology and biblical criticism. In his fifteenth year George Lillie Craik entered St. Andrews, where he studied with distinction and went through the divinity course, though he never applied to be licensed as a preacher. In 1816 he took a tutorship, and soon afterwards became editor of a local newspaper, the 'Star.' He first visited London in 1824, and went there two years afterwards, delivering lectures upon poetry at several towns on the way. In 1826 he married Jeannette, daughter of Cathcart Dempster of St. Andrews. In London he took up the profession of authorship, devoting himself to the more serious branches of literary work. He became connected with Charles Knight, and was one of the most use contributors to the publications of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge. He lived in a modest house called Vine Cottage, in Cromwell Lane, Old Brompton, and was well known to Carlyle, John Forster, Leigh Hunt, and other leading writers of the time. In 1849 he was appointed professor of English literature and history at the Queen's College, Belfast. He was popular with the students and welcome in society. He visited London in 1859 and 1862 as examiner for the Indian civil service, but resided permanently at Belfast. He had a paralytic stroke in February 1866, while lecturing, and died on 25 June following. His wife, by whom he had one son and three daughters, died in 1856.

His works, distinguished by careful and accurate research, are as follows:

  1. 'The Pursuit of Knowledge under Difficulties,' published in 2 vols. 1830-1; there are several later editions, and in 1847 appeared a supplementary volume of 'Female Examples,' as one of Knight's 'Monthly Volumes,'
  2. 'The New Zealanders,' 1830.
  3. 'Paris and its Historical Scenes, 1831. These three are part of the 'Library of Entertaining Knowledge' published by the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge.
  4. 'The Pictorial History of England,' 4 vols. 1837-1841 (with C. MacFarlane). The 'History of British Commerce,' extracted from this, was published separately in 1844.
  5. 'Sketches of the History of Literature and Learning in England from the Norman Conquest,' 6 vols. 1844-5, expanded into
  6. 'History of English Literature and the English Language,' 2 vols. 1861. A manual abridged from this appeared in 1862, of which a ninth edition, edited and enlarged by H. Craik, appeared in 1883.
  7. 'Spenser and his Poetry,' 3 vols. 1845 (in Knight's 'Weekly Volume').
  8. 'Bacon and his Writings,' 3 vols. 1846-7 (in Knight's 'Weekly Volume').
  9. 'Romance of the Peerage,' 4 vols. 1848-50.
  10. 'Outlines of the History of the English Language,' 1851.
  11. 'The English of Shakespeare Illustrated by a Philological Commentary on Julius Caesar,' 1856.

Craik contributed to the 'Penny Magazine' and 'Penny Cyclopædia,' and wrote many excellent articles for the biographical dictionary begun by the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge. He also wrote a pamphlet upon the 'Representation of Minorities.'

[ Gent. Mag. 1866, ii. 265-6; private information.]