Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Cullen, Robert

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CULLEN, ROBERT, Lord Cullen (d. 1810), Scottish judge, was the eldest son of Dr. William Cullen, physician [q. v.] He was educated at the university of Edinburgh, and admitted advocate on 15 Dec. 1764. According to Lord Cockburn, though ‘a gentlemanlike person in his manner, and learned in his profession,’ he was ‘too indolent and irregular to attain steady practice’ (Memorials, 144). Cockburn mentions, as ‘his best professional achievement,’ his ‘written argument for Lord Daer, in support of the right of the eldest sons of Scotch peers to sit in the House of Commons,’ and as his ‘best political one’ the ‘bill for the reform of Scotch representation in 1785.’ He was the author of various attractive essays in the ‘Mirror’ and ‘Lounger.’ His manners were remarkably genial, and he is one of the few persons referred to in flattering terms in W. A. Hay Drummond's ‘Town Eclogue,’ 1804, where he is styled ‘courteous Cullen.’ An amusing description of a supper at Inverary, at which he and Lord Hermand, of ‘opposite politics and no friends,’ were at last ‘soldered’ by ‘good cheer,’ is recorded by Lord Cockburn in his ‘Journal’ (i. 267). Cullen's remarkable gift of mimicry made him an acquisition in all the social circles he frequented; and as it was generally exercised in a good-humoured fashion, it provoked little or no hostility from those who were the subjects of it. According to Dugald Stewart, he was ‘the most perfect of all mimics,’ his power extending not merely to external peculiarities, but to the very thoughts and words of his subjects. Many anecdotes are recorded of his imitative talents, of which a specimen may be given. Once when the guest of the lord president of the court of session, after he had exhibited, at the request of the company, the peculiarities of the leading judges, he, on the insistence of the host, agreed reluctantly to include him also. The company were convulsed with laughter, all except the host himself, who dryly remarked: ‘Very amusing, Mr. Robert, very amusing, truly; ye're a clever lad, very clever; but just let me tell you, that's not the way, to rise at the bar.’ On the death of Lord Alvah, in 1796, Cullen was appointed a lord of session, under the title of Lord Cullen, and on 29 June 1799 he succeeded Lord Swinton as a lord justiciary. He died at Edinburgh on 28 Nov. 1810. Late in life he married a servant girl of the name of Russel, by whom he had no issue, and who afterwards married a gentleman of property in the West Indies, where she died in 1818.

[Kay's Original Portraits, ii. 336–8; Haig and Brunton's Senators of the College of Justice, 543; Lord Cockburn's Memorials (ed. 1856), 144–6; Lord Cockburn's Journal, i. 267–8.]

T. F. H.