Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Lyell, Charles (1767-1849)

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LYELL, CHARLES (1767–1849), botanist and student of Dante, born at Kinnordy, Forfarshire, 7 March 1767, was the eldest son of Charles Lyell of that place. He was educated at St. Andrews and at St. Peter's College, Cambridge, whence he graduated B.A. in 1791, proceeding M.A. in 1794. From 1797 to 1825 Lyell lived at Bartley Lodge in the New Forest, and devoted himself mainly to botany, especially to the study of mosses. Several species of these plants bear his name, besides the genus Lyellia of Robert Brown. He also contributed lichens to Smith's ‘English Botany.’ In 1813 he became a fellow of the Linnean Society. In 1826 he finally settled at Kinnordy, and seems subsequently to have been chiefly engaged on the study of Dante. Lyell died at Kinnordy, 8 Nov. 1849, leaving a valuable library of works relating to his two branches of study. He married in 1796 a daughter of Thomas Smith of Maker Hall, Swaledale, Yorkshire, by whom he had three sons and seven daughters. His wife died in 1850. His eldest son, Sir Charles Lyell, is noticed separately. A son Henry entered the army, and another, Thomas, entered the navy.

In 1835 he published, at his own expense, a translation of ‘The Canzoniere of Dante … including the poems of the Vita Nuova and Convito.’ In 1842 another edition of ‘The Vita Nuova and Convito’ was published in London, and in 1845 a collection of ‘The Lyrical Poems of Dante,’ translated by him. In 1847 he issued in Paris ‘Notes to J. Hardouin's “Doutes proposées sur l'âge du Dante.”’

[Athenæum, 1849, p. 1160; Proc. Linnean Soc. 1850, ii. 87; Proc. Geol. Soc. 1876, p. 53; Life of Sir Charles Lyell, 1881; Britten and Boulger's Index of British and Irish Botanists, 1893.]

G. S. B.