Page:A biographical dictionary of eminent Scotsmen, vol 6.djvu/197

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.



constant and devoted ; and all his social qualities might be said to " lean to virtue's side." Last, though not least of all, he was a sincere and devout Chris- tian ; and in every part of the world where it was his fortune to be placed, and under whatever circumstances, he never shrunk from any opportunity of evincing his deep regard for the religion of his country.

MALLET, DAVID, a poet and miscellaneous writer, is said to have been a descendant of the clan Macgregor, so well known for its crimes, and persecution. When that unhappy race were proscribed by a solemn act of state, an ancestor of the poet escaped to the lowlands, and assumed the fictitious name of Mai- loch. James Malloch, the father of the poet, kept a small public house at CriefF, on the borders of the Highlands, where it is supposed that David was born, about the year 1700. Of his career from youth to manhood, nothing certain is known, nor whence he first derived his education, as, in after life, either through pride or prejudice, he studiously endeavoured to conceal his true name and origin.

Having studied for a time under Mr Ker, a professor in Aberdeen, he, it ap- peal's, removed to Edinburgh, where he was, in 1720, employed in the station of tutor to the children of a Mr Home ; he at the same time attended the uni- versity of that city. He had while at Aberdeen early exercised himself in poetical composition ; and a pastoral and some other small pieces which he wrote about this period, attracted the notice of many of the Scottish literati, by whom he was kindly sought after. Finding his situation in Mr Home's family by no means agreeable, being treated, it is said, with great illiberality, he anxiously sought to change it, and was so fortunate as to be recommended by the professors of the college to the duke of Montrose, who wanted a fit person to be tutor to his two sons, who were then going to Winchester. It is obvious that he must have conducted himself while at college with uncommon zeal and propriety, as nothing but superior ability could have procured for a youth so humbly connected, so marked a preference over the rest of his fellow students. He was most kindly received in his grace's family ; and, on coming to London in the winter, attended his noble pupils to most places of public amusement, and still further improved himself in polite literature, and a knowledge of the world.

Malloch accompanied his noble pupils to the continent, and made what is usually called the grand tour. On their return to London, he still continued to reside with that illustrious family, where, from his advantageous station, he got by degrees introduced to the most polished circle of society. In 1723, in a periodical work of Aaron Hill's, called the Plain Dealer, No. 36, Malloch's pleasing ballad of William and Margaret first appeared. The beauty of the production was so highly praised, that it inspired him with courage to apply himself closely to his poetical studies, which he had for some time neglect- ed. "Of this poem," says Dr Johnson, "he has been envied the reputa- tion ; and plagiarism has been boldly charged, but never proved," though " in its original state it was very different from what it is in the latter edition of his works." It is, however, evident that the idea of the ballad was taken from two much older ones, namely, William's Ghaist, and Fair Margaret. From these he borrowed largely, both in sentiment and expression. Still, not- withstanding all traces of imitation, as a modern biographer truly observes, " there is enough of Mallet's own in the ballad of William and Margaret, to justify all the poetical reputation which it procured for its author." The fame so justly acquired by his illustrious countryman, Thomson, whose friendship he had the honour to enjoy, stimulated him to imitate his style ; and, in 1728, he produced a poem under the title of the Excursion. It is a collection of