Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Tytler, Patrick Fraser
TYTLER, PATRICK FRASER (1791–1849), Scottish historian, born in 1791, was youngest son of Alexander Fraser Tytler, lord Woodhouselee [q. v.], and of his wife, Ann Fraser, eldest daughter and heiress of William Fraser of Balnain in Inverness-shire. He was educated at the high school of Edinburgh, and at home under tutors. In 1808, when seventeen, he was sent to a school at Chobham, kept by Charles Vernon, curate to Richard Cecil [q. v.] Returning home in the autumn of 1809, he attended lectures on classics and law at the university of Edinburgh, but early showed a predilection for history.
As a young man he read widely, and early commenced authorship by writing an ‘Essay on the History of the Moors during their Government in Spain,’ of which he had made a sketch before he went to England. He also composed a masque, on the model of ‘Comus,’ which was acted in 1812 at Woodhouselee by members of his family. His father died on 4 June 1813, and on 3 July of the same year Tytler was called at the age of twenty-one to the Scottish bar. In the summer of 1814 he visited Paris with his friends William Pulteney Alison [q. v.], the physician, and Archibald (afterwards Sir Archibald) Alison [q. v.], the historian. He was appointed in 1816 king's counsel in exchequer, an office worth about 150l. a year. After his father's death he lived with his mother during vacation at a villa on the Esk, where he frequently saw Walter Scott, who had then a cottage at Lasswade. He continued to practise at the bar till 1832, but never obtained much business, and devoted most of his time to general reading. In the summer of 1818 he made a short tour to Norway with David Anderson of St. Germains, and was at Trondhjem when the king Bernadotte and Prince Oscar of Sweden made their entry.
He began to write occasionally for ‘Blackwood's Magazine,’ and in 1819 he published his first work, ‘The Life of the Admirable Crichton of Cluny, with an Appendix of Original Papers’ (Edinburgh, 8vo; 2nd edit. 1823, 12mo). He showed in this, as in all his historical work, an instinctive desire to go to the original sources, a desire less common then than now. In 1822 he took part, with Walter Scott, in forming the Bannatyne Club. Tytler became its poet-laureate, and his verses under the name of ‘Garlands’ were composed for the anniversaries of the club, at which they were sung, and were afterwards published; they have little poetical value. He wrote similar verses for the Midlothian yeomanry, in which he and several of his legal friends were active members of the Edinburgh troop. The only publication of the club in which he took part was ‘The Memoirs of the War in Scotland and Ireland, 1689–91,’ by Major-general Hugh Mackay, which he edited in 1833 with Hog of Newliston and Adam Urquhart.
It was while Tytler was a guest at Abbotsford towards the close of 1823 that Scott suggested to him that he should write a history of Scotland. But it was not till the completion of his ‘Life of Wicliff’ in 1826 that he definitely accepted the suggestion, to which he devoted the greater part of the following eighteen years. The first volume of his ‘History,’ which opened with the reign of Alexander III, was published in 1828, and the last, which carried the narrative down to the union of the crowns of England and Scotland in 1603 under James VI, appeared in 1843. Scott reviewed the first volume in the ‘Quarterly’ for November 1829, and expressed regret that Tytler had not begun the work at an earlier period. The limitation of period, however, gave Tytler more leisure to examine original records, then a laborious undertaking, as few were printed or catalogued. The work when concluded was generally favourably received, but was severely reviewed by Patrick Fraser (afterwards Lord Fraser) [q. v.] in the ‘North British Review,’ in an article republished in 1848 under the title ‘Tytler's History of Scotland examined.’ Fraser objected to Tytler's ‘History’ that it was written from an aristocratic, tory, and episcopalian point of view, and neglected to trace the progress of the Scottish people. But it may be said for Tytler that his narrative and illustrations, always plain though somewhat diffuse, will still be consulted by any one who seriously studies Scottish history, and, with all its faults, of which the chief is an occasional tendency to unsound generalisation, contains the most definite and full narrative for the period between the thirteenth and seventeenth centuries. A third edition, in seven volumes, appeared in 1845 (Edinburgh, 8vo), and an eighth in four volumes in 1864 (Edinburgh, 8vo); the latest edition was published in London, in four volumes, between 1873 and 1877.
In 1830 Tytler paid a visit to London for the purpose of consulting the documents relating to Scotland in the British Museum and state paper or record office. The subsequent adoption of a plan for publishing state papers was largely due to the zeal and advocacy of Tytler, and to a somewhat heated controversy he had with the authorities, who denied him full and ready access to the English manuscripts on the absurd ground that he was engaged on Scottish history. In December 1830 he lost his office as counsel for the exchequer by the change of ministry, and, the necessity of attending the court having ceased, he devoted himself entirely to historical work. While continuing the ‘History of Scotland,’ he brought out several minor works which contributed to his somewhat slender income. His ‘Life of Sir Walter Raleigh’ (1833) and an historical ‘View of the Progress of Discovery on the more Northern Coasts of America’ (1832; new ed. New York, 1846) were published in Oliver and Boyd's ‘Cabinet Library,’ and he undertook a series of ‘Lives of Scottish Worthies’ for Murray's ‘Family Library,’ which were published in three volumes (1831–3). He resolutely declined magazine and review writing as diverting him from more permanent work. His wife's failing health made it necessary to seek a warmer climate, and in the autumn of 1832 he left Edinburgh for Torquay, where he stayed till April, and, after a visit of a few months in London, returned to Edinburgh in September 1833. Tytler narrowly missed the appointment of keeper of the records in the Chapter House, Westminster, which was given to Sir Francis Palgrave in 1834, as well as that of historiographer royal for Scotland, to which he had a better claim, two years later, but a whig, George Brodie [q. v.], was preferred. A more serious trial was the death of his wife at Rothesay on 15 April 1835. In June he went to London and lived at Hampstead with his mother and sisters, continuing his researches at the state paper office. Congenial tastes and studies led to an intimacy which became a close friendship with a young student of records, the Rev. John (afterwards Dean) Burgon, who wrote his life with the aid of his sister, Anne Tytler. On 16 May 1836 he gave evidence before the record commission, to which he pointed out the necessity of publishing lists or calendars of state papers instead of the documents at full length, the method adopted by the old record commissioners at great cost and delay. His suggestion, no doubt made also by others, was carried out afterwards in the ‘Catalogue of Materials for English History’ edited by Sir Thomas Duffus Hardy [q. v.], and in the calendars of the series of the master of the rolls and the lord clerk register of Scotland. In 1836 he took part with (Sir) John Miller and Joseph Stevenson [q. v.] in the foundation of the English Historical Society, from which he hoped much; but his expectations were not fully realised, and the society was dissolved twenty years after. In 1837 Tytler finally settled in London, thenceforth only visiting Scotland in the summer.
In 1839 he published ‘England under the reign of Edward VI and Mary’ (London, 8vo), which included a series of original letters illustrating the contemporary history of Europe. The original matter first published in it rendered it a work of value. In the same year (1839) Tytler wrote the article ‘Scotland’ for the seventh edition of the ‘Encyclopædia Britannica.’ This article was afterwards enlarged and separately published. It reached a tenth edition in 1863 (Edinburgh, 8vo).
In the autumn of 1843, when the last volume of his ‘History of Scotland’ was published, he was invited by the queen to Windsor to assist Prince Albert in arranging the royal historical miniatures. He wrote for the queen a paper on the Darnley jewel, of which a few copies were printed. Next year he was granted a pension of 200l. by Sir Robert Peel for his literary services. He died at Malvern on 24 Dec. 1849, and was buried in the family vault, Greyfriars churchyard, Edinburgh. He was twice married: first, on 30 March 1826, to Rachel Hog of Newliston; and, secondly, on 11 Aug. 1845, to Anastasia, daughter of Thomson Bonar of Camden Place, Kent, long an intimate friend of his sisters. He left three children by his first wife: one daughter, Mary, and two sons—Alexander and Thomas Patrick—who both entered the Madras native infantry.
Besides the works already mentioned, Tytler was the author of: 1. ‘Life of Sir Thomas Craig,’ Edinburgh, 1823, 12mo (reprinted from ‘Blackwood's Magazine’). 2. ‘Historical and Critical Introduction to an Inquiry into Revival of Greek Literature in Italy.’ 3. ‘Life of King Henry VIII,’ Edinburgh, 1837. 4. ‘Letters between the Home Office, State Paper Office,’ &c., London, 1839. 5. ‘On the Portraits of Queen Mary of Scots.’[Biographical Sketch prefixed to fourth volume of edition of History, 1864; Memoir of Patrick Fraser Tytler, by his friend, the Rev. John W. Burgon, Fellow of Oriel, 1859; and his sister Miss Anne Tytler's Reminiscences, which are largely used by Burgon.]