Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Moir, George

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MOIR, GEORGE (1800–1870), advocate and author, son of George Moir, was born in 1800 at Aberdeen, and educated there. Migrating to Edinburgh, he entered a lawyer's office, but devoted considerable time to literary pursuits. In 1824, when engaged on an article on the ancient ballad poetry of Spain for the 'Edinburgh Review,' a common friend suggested to Moir that he might seek information from Sir William Hamilton [q. v.] They met in the Advocates' Library, and this was the commencement of 'a warm and lifelong friendship' (Veitch, Memoir of Sir W. Hamilton). On 2 July 1825 Moir was admitted advocate. In 1827 he published a verse translation of Schiller's 'Piccolomini' and 'Wallenstein;' it was dedicated to Hamilton, who revised the proof-sheets, and it met with a favourable reception. This was followed in 1828 by a translation of Schiller's 'Thirty Years' War,' with a short life of the author. Moir had been a whig, but now threw in his lot with the tories, and became a regular contributor to 'Blackwood's Magazine.' About the same time he made the acquaintance of Carlyle. 'Moir,' writes the latter from Edinburgh on 3 Feb. 1833, 'has been here, in all senses a neat man, in none a strong one;' and again on 10 Feb., 'George Moir has got a house in Northumberland Street, a wife, too, and infants; is become a conservative, settled everywhere into dilettante, not very happy, I think; dry, civil, and seems to feel unheimlich in my company' (Froude, First Forty Years of Carlyle's Life, ii. 330, 332). From 1835 to 1840 he was professor of rhetoric and belles lettres in the university of Edinburgh. He enjoyed a fair practice at the Scottish bar, and in 1855 was appointed sheriff of Ross and Cromarty, an office which in 1859 he exchanged for the shrievalty of Stirlingshire. In 1864 the Faculty of Advocates chose Moir as professor of Scots law in the university of Edinburgh, but owing to ill-health he resigned in less than a year. His shrievalty he gave up in 1868, and died rather suddenly at his house in Charlotte Square, Edinburgh, on 19 Oct. 1870. His death was 'an incalculable loss to the legal literature of Scotland.'

Moir's works are:

  1. 'Schiller's Piccolomini and Wallenstein,' translated, with a critical preface, Edinburgh, 1827.
  2. 'Schiller's Thirty Years' War,' translated, with biographical notice, 2 vols. Edinburgh, 1828.
  3. 'The Appellate Jurisdiction of Scotch Appeals,' Edinburgh, 1851.
  4. 'Magic and Witchcraft,' London, 1852.

Copious extracts from his manuscript lectures were incorporated by Guthrie in the fourteenth edition of Erskine's 'Principles of the Law of Scotland,' 1870. Moir also contributed articles on poetry and modern romance to the 'Encyclopædia Britannica,' which, with Spalding's article on rhetoric, were published in a separate volume; and wrote a 'Sonnet to Clara,' privately printed, and included in 'Poetic Tracts,' 1795-1834, in the British Museum, vol. ii.

[Works in Brit. Mus.; Scotsman, 21 Oct. 1870; Froude's First Forty Years of Carlyle's Life, ii. 330. 332; Veitch's Memoir of Sir W. Hamilton, bart., 1869, passim; Edinburgh Univ. Cal.; Annals of our Time; Allibone's Dict. of English and American Lit. vol. ii. and Suppl. vol. ii.; information kindly supplied by the keeper of the Advocates' Library.]

A. F. P.