Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 53.djvu/262

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ing him under the hostile attacks persistently made on him on account of his connection with the stage.

On 27 July 1772 Somerville was presented by the king to the parish of Jedburgh. Patronage was then extremely unpopular in Scotland, and his appointment occasioned great opposition. Repeated protests were made at first, but the uprightness of his character gradually quieted the discontent and won him the favour of his parishioners.

Soon after the outbreak of the American war, Somerville published a pamphlet entitled ‘Candid Thoughts on American Independence’ (London, 1780), in which he severely condemned the action of the colonists and supported the attitude of Lord North. His criticisms provoked a reply from Tod of Kirtlands, entitled ‘Consolatory Thoughts on American Independence.’ Somerville's pamphlet met with approbation, and, as his pecuniary circumstances were embarrassed, he conceived the idea of turning author on a larger scale. In 1782 he began his history of the revolution of 1688, which was published in 1792 under the title ‘History of Political Transactions and of Parties from the Restoration of King Charles II to the Death of King William III’ (London, 4to). Somerville spent ten years collecting materials and writing his ‘History.’ He examined the documents on the period in the British Museum and in the libraries in Edinburgh and extended his researches to such private collections as he could obtain access to (e.g. the Shrewsbury, Hardwicke, and Townshend papers). He endeavoured to deal impartially with political questions, but he was biassed by antipathy to Roman catholicism. The second part of his work, the ‘History of Great Britain during the Reign of Queen Anne’ (London, 1798, 4to), is the more valuable of the two, and may still claim to be an adequate history of the times of which it treats. Somerville maintained that the party distinctions in Anne's reign were altogether different from those under George III, though the terms ‘whig’ and ‘tory’ were current at both periods [see art. Stanhope, Philip Henry, fifth Earl Stanhope].

On 17 July 1789 Somerville received the honorary degree of D.D. from the university of St. Andrews, and in October 1793 he was appointed one of his majesty's chaplains for Scotland. About the same time he was elected a member of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. In 1798 he declined the professorship of church history in the university of Edinburgh, and he received a yearly pension from the king in 1800. Notwithstanding his great age, he continued the discharge of his ministerial duties until his death on 16 May 1830. He was buried in the lady-chapel of Jedburgh Abbey. He married, on 5 June 1770, Martha, daughter of Samuel Charters, solicitor of customs. She died on 17 Dec. 1809, leaving, with four daughters, two sons: William, M.D. (1771–1860) [q. v.], and Samuel, writer to the signet.

Besides the works already mentioned, several sermons, and the article on ‘Jedburgh’ in Sinclair's ‘Statistical Account,’ Somerville wrote:

  1. ‘Observations on the Constitution and State of Britain,’ Edinburgh, 1793, 8vo.
  2. ‘The Effects of the French Revolution with respect to the Interests of Humanity, Liberty, Religion, and Morality,’ Edinburgh, 1793, 8vo.
  3. ‘Collection of Sermons,’ Edinburgh, 1813, 8vo.
  4. ‘My own Life and Times,’ Edinburgh, 1861, 8vo, which, though written in 1813–14, was, according to his directions, first published thirty years after his death. It was edited by William Lee, minister of Roxburgh and son of John Lee (1779–1859) [q. v.], principal of Edinburgh University.

[Somerville's Life and Times; Annual Biography and Obituary, 1831, pp. 374–85 (by an intimate friend); Chambers's Biogr. Dict. of Eminent Scotsmen, pp. 385–6; Anderson's Scottish Nation, iii. 490; Scott's Fasti Eccl. Scot. I. i. 396, ii. 482, 507; Gent. Mag. 1830, ii. 183; Athenæum, 1861, i. 657; Allibone's Dict. of Engl. Lit.]

E. I. C.

SOMERVILLE, WILLIAM (1675–1742), poet, came of an ancient family long settled at Aston-Somerville in Gloucestershire. To this family belonged John Somerville [q. v.], on whose attainder a younger brother, Sir William, contrived to retain or recover both estates. The poet, fourth in descent from this Sir William, was the eldest son of Robert Somervile of Edstone, and Elizabeth his wife, eldest daughter of Sir Charles Wolseley (d. 1714) [q. v.], bart., of Wolseley in the parish of Colwich, Staffordshire, where he was born on 2 Sept. 1675. He had five brothers and one sister. He is said to have received his early education at Stratford-on-Avon. In 1690 he was admitted as ‘founder's kin’ at Winchester, whence, on 24 Aug. 1694, he proceeded to New College, Oxford, where he obtained a fellowship. On 3 Oct. 1696 he was admitted a student at the Middle Temple, but retained his fellowship till 1705. On his father's death in the same year he settled at Edstone, where he spent the rest of his life.

His life at Edstone was that of a country gentleman, taking his share in the business and pleasures of his station. He had the