Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Guthrie, William (1708-1770)

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GUTHRIE, WILLIAM (1708–1770), miscellaneous writer, the son of an episcopalian clergyman, was born at Brechin, Forfarshire, in 1708. He was educated at Aberdeen University with a view to becoming a parochial schoolmaster, but he settled in London in 1730, and tried literature. He was first engaged in reporting and arranging parliamentary debates for the 'Gentleman's Magazine,' his reports being revised by Johnson. He gradually made a reputation as a political writer, and in 1745 received a pension of 200l. a year from the Pelham government. So considerable was his influence, and so unscrupulous were his political opinions, that he asked for and was granted a renewal of his pension by the Bute government in 1762. In 1763 he published his first book, a 'Complete List of the English Peerage.' In spite of revision by noblemen this work is inaccurate. His next work was a 'History of England from the Invasion of Julius Cæsar to 1688,' 4 vols., Lond. 1744-51, which was the first attempt to base history on parliamentary records. About 1764-7 he published, along with certain collaborators 'eminent in this branch of literature,' 'A General History of the World, from the Creation to the Present Time,' in twelve volumes; this was favourably noticed in the 'Critical Review,' as it was said, by the author himself. In 1767 appeared 'A General History of Scotland,' 10 vols. 8vo. It is painstaking and vigorous, but inaccurate, particularly in the early periods. Probably his most noted book was his 'Geographical, Historical, and Commercial Grammar' (1770), which reached numerous editions, and was translated into French in 1801. Besides translations from Quintilian (1756) and Cicero (1744-54-55-58), he also wrote 'The Friends,' a sentimental history, in two volumes (1754), and 'Remarks on English Tragedy' (1757). Guthrie is more than once referred to by Johnson in terms of some respect. He died on 9 March 1770, and was buried in Marylebone.

[Chambers's Eminent Scotsmen; Boswell's Life of Johnson.]

W. B-e.