Page:A biographical dictionary of eminent Scotsmen, vol 6.djvu/300

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91- REV. ALEXANDER NICOLL, D.C.L.

medy this defect he forthwith applied himself. He first drew up a catalogue of the manuscripts brought from the East by Dr E. D. Clarke, and, by publish- ing it, at once established his fame as an Orientalist of the first class. lie then entered on the gigantic task of completing the general catalogue of the eastern manuscripts, which had been begun about a hundred years before by Uri, the celebrated Hungarian. The first fasciculus which he put forth of this work, embracing manuscripts in nearly a dozen different tongues, analyzing their con- tents, and estimating their merits in clear, forcible, and elegant Latin, diffused Nicoll's reputation throughout Europe, and brought him into acquaintance and correspondence with all the eminent Orientalists at home and abroad. Every summer thereafter he visited the continent, in order to examine various cele- brated collections ; and, ere he died, there was not one of any note which he had not seen. His epistolary correspondence with the eminent foreign literati was conducted chiefly in Latin, which he wrote with perfect facility ; but his knowledge of the modern European languages was hardly less extraordinary than his orientalism. He spoke and wrote, with ease and accuracy, French, Italian, German, Danish, Swedish, and Romaic. In short, it was the common saying of the Oxonian common-rooms, that Nicoll could walk to the wall of China without need of an interpreter. In the midst of all the honours that were paid to him, and though his intercourse with so many distinguished men had given ease and elegance to his manners, he never lost the original modesty and reserve of his nature. It was forcibly said of him by an eminent scholar, after conversing with him, " Sir, he is not modest, he is modesty itself."

The time at length arrived when he was to receive a reward due to his great merits and exertions. In June, 1822, on the promotion of Dr Richard Lau- rence to the archbishopric of Cashel, Nicoll was, without solicitation, appointed to the vacant chair of regius professor of Oriental languages ; the following being the letter in which lord Liverpool announced the appointment :

" Fife House, 19th June, 1822.

" SIR, In consequence of the promotion of Dr Laurence to the archbishopric of Cashel, the regius professorship of Hebrew in the university of Oxford, to- gether with the canonry of Christ Church attached to it, becomes vacant. The high reputation which you have acquired as an Oriental scholar, and the value attached to your labours, have induced his majesty to approve of you as Dr Laurence's successor; and I can entertain no doubt that this mark of royal favour, conferred upon you without solicitation, will be a strong inducement to you to persevere in those studies by which you have acquired so much credit, and to use your utmost endeavours to promote the study of Oriental literature in the university of Oxford. I have the honour to be, Sir, your very obedient humble servant,

(Signed) " LIVERPOOL."

Nicoll was thus elevated from a salary of about 200 a-year, and the compara- tively humble situation of a sub-librarian in the Bodleian, to the enjoyment of 2000, and two of the highest dignities in the university. He soon after took the degree of D. C. L.

For some years, Dr Nicoll performed the duties of his high station with the greatest zeal and success, producing a considerable increase in the attendance of his class, and not neglecting, at the same time, the important task which he had undertaken at the Bodleian. He had nearly completed the catalogue, when, on the 24th of September, 1828, having previously weakened his con- sitution by intense study, he was cut off by an inflammation in the windpipe, in the thirty-sixth year of his age.