tons of Bangour and Gilbertfield, and William Somerville, author of ‘The Chase,’ wrote to him regularly. At the same time the foremost citizens of Edinburgh, the aristocracy of the neighbourhood, and the noble owners of Hamilton Palace and Loudoun Castle treated him as a welcome guest.
Between 1719 and 1729 Ramsay furnished various prologues and epilogues to plays performed in London, and his interest in the drama determined him in 1736 to erect ‘a playhouse new, at vast expense,’ in Carrubber's Close, Edinburgh. But in the following year the provisions of the act for licensing the stage compelled him to close the house. The episode drew from Ramsay a vigorous protest in verse, addressed to the lords of session and the other judges. He was abused violently by the foes of the project, which was not accomplished for many years [see Ross, David].
After 1730 Ramsay practically ceased to write, fearing, he said, that ‘the coolness of fancy that attends advanced years should make me risk the reputation I had acquired.’ About 1755 he retired from business, and settled in an octagonal house, built to his own plans, on the north side of the Castle Rock. The wags of his acquaintance, he told Lord Elibank, called his residence a goose-pie, to which Elibank replied, ‘Indeed, Allan, now that I see you in it, I think the term is very properly applied.’ In a copy of playful autobiographical verses, addressed in 1755 to James Clerk of Penicuik, Midlothian, Ramsay described himself as a prudent, successful man of seventy, enjoying a comfortable age, and looking forward to thirty years more of life. He suffered, however, from acute scurvy in the gums, and he died at Edinburgh on 7 Jan. 1758, aged 72. He was buried in Old Greyfriars churchyard, where there is a monument to his memory. The ‘Scots Magazine’ (xix. 670) describes him as ‘well known for his “Gentle Shepherd,” and many other poetical pieces in the Scottish dialect, which he wrote and collected.’ The ‘Gentleman's Magazine’ of 1758 (p. 46) calls him ‘the celebrated poet.’ Sir William Scott of Thirlestane had enshrined him in a Latin poem as early as 1725, placing him with the elect in Apollo's temple (Poemata D. Gulielmi Scoti de Thirlestane, 1727). Sir John Clerk erected at Penicuik an obelisk to his memory, while A. Fraser-Tytler dedicated to him at Woodhouselee, Midlothian (near the scene of the ‘Gentle Shepherd’), a rustic temple inscribed with appropriate verse. In Prince's Street Gardens, Edinburgh, there is a statue of Ramsay, and his name is perpetuated by the title, Ramsay Gardens, given to the district of the city in which he spent his closing years.
Ramsay's portrait was painted by William Aikman and Smibert. The former, with a copy of the latter by Alexander Carse, and a third painting by an unknown hand are in the National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh.
In 1712 Ramsay married Christian Ross, daughter of an Edinburgh writer to the signet; she died in 1743. There was a family of three sons and five daughters. Allan, the eldest son (1713–1784) [q. v.], and two of the daughters survived him.
Ramsay's works show him as a capable Horatian lyrist, although he knew his model ‘but faintly in the original;’ a satirist of reach and pungency, standing between Dunbar and Lyndsay on the one hand and Burns on the other in lyrics like ‘The Vision,’ ‘Lucky Spence,’ and the ‘Wretched Miser;’ an epistolary poet, worthily admired and imitated by Burns himself (‘Pastoral Poetry’ and Epistles to Lapraik and William Simpson); a dainty, if not always melodious, song-writer; and a master of the pastoral in its simplest and most attractive form. He was unsatisfactory as an editor of ancient verse—he freely tampered with his texts—but his selection showed taste and appreciation, and stimulated other competent scholars.
The separate editions of the ‘Gentle Shepherd’ have been very numerous. In 1788 it was issued with illustrations by David Allan [q. v.] A reissue in 1807 included an appendix with Ramsay's collection of (over two thousand) proverbs. English versions appeared in 1777, 1785, and 1790. In 1880 there was published a royal 4to edition, with memoir, glossary, plates after Allan, and the original airs to the songs. A second edition of ‘The Evergreen’ was reprinted in Glasgow in 1824. The ‘Tea-table Miscellany’ has also been several times reprinted in various forms, in 1768, 1775, 1788, 1793, and 1876; music for the songs in this anthology was published in 1763 and 1775. In 1800 George Chalmers edited Ramsay's poems in two volumes, with a life by himself and a prefatory criticism by Lord Woodhouselee. This has been frequently reissued. A quarto volume of ‘Illustrations to the Poetical Works,’ with engravings by R. Scott, appeared in 1823.
[Biographies mentioned in text; Campbell's Hist. of Poetry in Scotland; Lord Hailes's Ancient Scottish Poems; Irving's Lives of the Scottish Poets; Currie's Life of Burns; Lives of Eminent Scotsmen, by the Society of Ancient Scots; Chambers's Dict. of Eminent Scotsmen; Life of Thomas Ruddiman; Principal Shairp's