Crombie, Alexander (DNB00)

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CROMBIE, ALEXANDER, LL.D. (1762–1840), philologist and schoolmaster, was born in 1762 at Aberdeen, and educated at Marischal College, where he took the degree of M.A. in or about 1777, and received that of LL.D. about 1798. He became a licentiate of the church of Scotland, but adopted the profession of teaching. After conducting an academy for a short time in conjunction with a Mr. Hogg, he removed to London, where he kept a private school at Highgate, and occasionally officiated in the meeting-house in Southwood Lane. Removing afterwards to Greenwich, he became a highly successful teacher, and purchased a fine mansion formerly tenanted by Sir Walter James, which, with its grounds, became a very valuable property. On the death of his cousin, Mr. Alexander Crombie, advocate in Aberdeen, he succeeded by his bequest to the estate of Phesdo, in the parish of Fordoun, Kincardineshire, where he spent the last few years of his life. He died in 1840. The family is now represented by his grandson, Mr. Alexander Crombie, Thornton Castle, near Laurencekirk.

In the ‘Times’ of 16 June 1840 there appeared an anonymous account of Crombie, written by an old friend, John Grant, M.A., Crouch End. The writer speaks in the strongest terms of his inflexible integrity and intellectual acuteness. He says that Crombie was well known as a scholar and critic; that he had been an early friend of Priestley, Price, and Geddes; and that, while sympathising with their liberalism, he was a ‘sound christian divine and a hearty despiser of the cant of spurious liberalism.’ When noticing Crombie's death in the annual address to the Royal Society of Literature, Lord Ripon dwelt upon his excellence as a teacher, and as a composer of educational works, especially the ‘Gymnasium.’

His works are: 1. ‘A Defence of Philosophic Necessity,’ 1793. 2. ‘The Etymology and Syntax of the English Language Explained,’ 1802 (other editions 1809, 1829, 1836). 3. ‘Gymnasium sive Symbola Critica,’ intended to assist the classical student in his endeavours to attain a correct Latin prose style, 2 vols. 1812; 5th edition 1834, abridged 1836. 4. ‘Letters on the present state of the Agricultural Interest,’ 1816. 5. A Letter to D. Ricardo, esq., containing an analysis of his pamphlet on the depreciation of bank notes, 1817. 6. Cursory observations in reply to the ‘Strictures’ of Rev. Mr. Gilchrist (on book No. 2), 1817. 7. ‘Letters from Dr. James Gregory of Edinburgh in defence of his Essay on the difference of the relation between motion and action and that of cause and effect in physic, with replies by Rev. A. Crombie, LL.D.,’ 1819. 8. ‘Clavis Gymnasii, sive Exercitationes in Symbolam Criticam,’ 1828. 9. ‘Natural Theology, or Essays on the Existence of Deity and Providence, on the Immortality of the Soul, and a Future State,’ 1829, 2 vols. 10. ‘Letter to Lieut.-col. Torrens, M.P., in answer to his address to the farmers of the United Kingdom,’ 1832. 11. ‘The Strike, or a Dialogue between John Treadle and Andrew Ploughman,’ 1834. 12. Pamphlet on the Ballot; also several other pamphlets published anonymously; articles in the ‘Analytical Review;’ and one article, or more, in the ‘Edinburgh Review.’ Crombie had three sons; the oldest of these, whose name was also Alexander, succeeded him as proprietor of the estate of Phesdo, and was in turn in 1877 succeeded by his son, the present proprietor.

[Times, 16 June 1840; copy of the notice in Gent. Mag. for 1842, corrected by Crombie's son, affixed to a copy of the Gymnasium in the possession of Mr. Alexander Crombie of Thornton Castle; The Statistical Account of Scotland—parish of Fordoun; personal information.]

W. G. B.