Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Armstrong, John (1771-1797)

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For works with similar titles, see John Armstrong.

ARMSTRONG, JOHN (1771–1797), journalist and writer of verses, was born of humble parents, at Leith, in June 1771. After attending the Grammar School of that town and the High School of Edinburgh, he entered Edinburgh University, where he graduated M.A. In 1789 he published 'Juvenile Poems, with remarks on Poetry, and a Dissertation on the best means of punishing and preventing Crimes.' These poems, if stilted in style and hackneyed in sentiment, are characterised by general good taste and some artistic finish. Their publication obtained for him the honour of being invited to compose the words of the songs used in connection with the ceremony of laying the foundation-stone of the Edinburgh University buildings. While tutor in a family in Edinburgh, Armstrong pursued the theological studies necessary to qualify him to become a preacher in the church of Scotland, but in 1790 he removed to London, where he obtained employment on one of the daily papers at a small weekly salary. In 1791 he published a collection of poems, under the title 'Sonnets from Shakspeare.' His literary prospects continued gradually to improve, and he was in receipt of a considerable income, when his health began suddenly to give way. He retired to Leith, where he died of a rapid decline, July 21, 1797.

[Memoir in Edinburgh Magazine, new series, vol. x. pp. 254-5, which contains some additional details to those given in Monthly Magazine, vol. iv. pp. 153-4, and Gentleman's Magazine, vol. lxvii. part 2, pp. 731-2.]

T. F. H.