Glen, William (DNB00)

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GLEN, WILLIAM (1789–1826), Scotch poet, was born in Queen Street, Glasgow, 14 Nov. 1789. He belonged to an old Renfrewshire family, and his father was a Russian merchant. After leaving school Glen, about the age of seventeen, entered a house trading with the West Indies. When he had become familiar with the business he went for some years to one of the islands as representative of the firm. Returning to Glasgow he started business for himself, but retired, owing to reverses, in 1814. An uncle in Russia now supported him, and his mode of life became rather unsettled. For some time he would appear to have given the rein to his social instincts and his poetic gifts as the laureate of his boon companions. In 1818 he married Catherine Macfarlane, daughter of a Glasgow merchant, and joint-tenant with her brother of a farm at Port Monteith, Perthshire. During most of his remaining years Glen lived here, dependent on his wife's resources and his uncle's generosity, and a general favourite in the district. His old weakness for social amusement and late hours unfortunately still haunted him, and it may have hastened the consumption that ultimately proved fatal. Feeling his end approaching, Glen induced his wife to accompany him to Glasgow, on the conclusive plea that it was ‘easier to take a living man there than a dead one,’ and they were not long settled when he died, December 1826. His wife and only daughter afterwards managed the orphanage at Aberfoyle.

As a boy Glen eagerly learned of the fallen house of Stuart, and his pathetic song ‘Wae's me for Prince Charlie,’ which is charged with the true Jacobite spirit, constitutes the recognised dirge of the lost cause. Several other songs of Glen's are on occasional themes—such as ‘The Battle of Vittoria,’ ‘The Battle Song,’ and three on Napoleon—and there are love songs and narrative pieces, all more or less meritorious. The Jacobite lament, however, which has made the tune of ‘Johnnie Faa’ its own, stands out so clearly above all the others that Glen is generally known only as the singer of this one song. He published in 1815 a 12mo volume of ‘Poems, chiefly Lyrical,’ and in 1874 Dr. Charles Rogers edited his ‘Poetical Remains,’ with a memoir.

[Poetical Remains of William Glen, as above; Whitelaw's Book of Scottish Song; Wilson's Poets and Poetry of Scotland.]

T. B.