Page:A biographical dictionary of eminent Scotsmen, vol 6.djvu/299

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REV. ALEXANDER NICOLL, D.C.L. 93

the smallest in the gift of that institution. He, therefore, attended the classes of Latin and Greek during the session 1805-6, at the close of which he gained the prize of the Silver Pen, always bestowed on the best scholar. This honour, being, as usual, announced in the provincial newspapers, caused him to be noticed by various eminent individuals, as a young man of peculiar promise. Before the next session, he had studied mathematics at home, and pursued a course of miscellaneous reading. Besides attending the classes formerly men- tioned, he entered, in 1808, that of mathematics, then taught by Dr Hamilton, the well-known expositor of the national debt ; and also attended the prelec- tions of Mr Beattie, in natural and civil history. During the ensuing vacation, Me directed his attention to drawing, and produced several maps, sketched in a very neat manner.

Soon after the commencement of his third year, in 1807, Bishop Skinner, of Aberdeen, informed him, that there was a vacancy at Baliol college, in one of the exhibitions upon Snell's foundation, which he thought might be obtained. By the advice of his elder brother, he proceeded to Oxford, with a letter of re- commendation from Bishop Skinner to Dr Parsons, the master of the college, and was at once elected to the vacant exhibition. Having been put under the charge of a tutor, (the RCT. Mr Jenkyns,) he commenced his studies with great eagerness, particularly in the department of Greek, where his chief deficiency lay, and where he found himself, with only seven months' study of that language in a Scotch university, pitted against youths who had studied at the much superior schools of Oxford for three years. His native capacity and unwearied application soon placed him on a level with his companions, and a college life then began to have great charms for him. At Baliol, he had the society of a little knot of Scottish students, partners with himself in the enjoyment of Snell's foundation, and among whom were several individuals now distinguished in public life. For several years he prosecuted his studies with much diligence and success ; and, in 1811, after the usual examination, obtained the degree of bachelor of arts. It was not till 1813, that he directed his attention to the Oriental languages, in which he was destined to become so noted a proficient. In a letter to his brother, dated in December that year, he says : " For the last year, I have been chiefly engaged in the study of the Oriental languages, the Hebrew, Arabic, and Persic, and occasionally the modern languages. I hare latterly obtained some knowledge of French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, and Ger- man. There is no place where there are finer opportunities for studying the Oriental languages, than in Oxford. The Bodleian library, to which 1 have had access for the last two years, is said to be richer in that department than any other. I have lately been introduced to Dr Winstanley, principal of Alban Hall, one of the best linguists in Oxford. I also know Dr Macbride, who has lately been appointed principal of Magdalen Hall, and lecturer in Arabic, who has already shown me great kindness." Soon after, on account of his knowledge of languages, particularly those of the East, he was appointed, with- out solicitation, one of the sub-librarians of the Bodleian ; a situation which greatly favoured the progress of his studies.

In 1817, Mr Nicoll received deacon's orders, and was appointed the curate of one of the churches in Oxford, where he had part of the duty to perform. This, however, did not in the least retard his studies, or his exertions in the Bodleian. On considering various circumstances in the history of this institu- tion, he had marked out for himself a line of duty, by which he greatly bene- fited its interests, and elevated his own reputation. He perceived that the enormous treasure of Oriental manuscripts, about thirty thousand in number, was in a great measure useless, from being imperfectly catalogued ; and to re-