Saturday, 29 November 2008

John Wilson Ancestry Paisley Scotland

John Wilson, (1785-1854), was born on 18th May 1785 in Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland. His father was a wealthy gauze manufacturer and his mother, Margaret Sym, was a descendant of James Graham, Marquis of Montrose. Wilson was privately educated by a Church of Scotland minister in the neighbouring parish of Mearns and, on the death of his father in 1795, at the University of Glasgow. Between 1803 and 1807 he was a Gentleman-Commoner at Magdalen College, Oxford, where he gained a reputation as a prodigious athlete. A well-built, burly man, Wilson retained a lifelong interest in walking tours and athletic pursuits. On his graduation Wilson moved to his small estate of Elleray in the Lake District, which he had bought with his patrimony; during his time in the country he was a close associate and friend of the Wordsworths and Thomas de Quincey. In 1811 he married Jane Penny, the daughter of a Liverpool merchant, but three years later he lost the greater part of his fortune owing to his uncle's mismanagement of the estate. He was forced to take up residence with his family in Edinburgh where he was admitted to the Faculty Of Advocates.
Wilson started writing poetry during his period at Elleray; his work was palely derivative of the Lake school and in 1812 he published his first collection, Isle of Palms and Other Poems. Although the volume attracted some attention when it was published, the title poem, which tells the story of a young couple shipwrecked in a pastoral, pre-Satanic Eden, is overlong and cloyed with vapid sentimentality. This was followed in the same year by The Magic Mirror, which was addressed to Sir Walter Scott, and in 1816 Wilson published a third long poem, The City of the Plague. Despite their weaknesses, the two 1812 publications gained for Wilson a reputation in Edinburgh's literary society; his acquaintance with William Backwood led to his becoming an intimate of Blackwood's saloon at 17 Princes Street, where he met, among others, John Gibson Lockhart, who was also studying law. In October 1817 he joined with Lockhart and James Hogg in editing the first issue of Blackwood's Magazine, which contained the notorious Chaldee Manuscript and critical attacks on Leigh Hunt. Although Wilson was forced to flee temporarily to Elleray in the ensuing uproar he continued to be a contributing editor to Blackwood's; he wrote several notable series, such as the Noctes Ambrosianae, between 1822 and 1835, in which he took the persona of Christopher North, and Lights and Shadows of Scottish Life, collected 1822, stories of country life which are precursors of the kailyard school of rural sentimentality. He published two novels, The Trials of Margaret Lyndsay (1823) and The Foresters (1825); both are celebrations of the intelligently pious peasantry and its progress from squalor and tribulation to an innocent, earthly paradise.
Wilson's influence on Blackwood's Magazine was considerable and he used his editorial powers to promote high Tory politics and an idyllic, parochial simplicity in literature. His feelings towards his friends and fellow contributors were ambiguous, especially towards James Hogg whom he would praise in one issue and then lampoon in the next.

In 1820 Wilson was appointed to the Chair of Moral Philosophy at the University of Edinburgh, in succession to Dr Thomas Brown, his election being due to the pro-Tory Town Council who made all professional appointments. Lacking any formal qualifications, Wilson relied on notes supplied by his friend from Glasgow days, Alexander Blair, who was Professor of Rhetoric and Belles Lettres at University College, London, between 1831 and 1834, and on the strength of his own eloquent rhetoric. He held the post until 1851, when ill health forced him to retire, and he died on 3 April 1854. His eldest daughter, Margaret Ann, married the nephew of Susan Edmonstone Ferrier, James Frederick Ferrier, who edited his father-in-law's works; his youngest daughter, Jane Emily, married William Edmondstoune Aytoun, Professor of Rhetoric and Belles Lettres in the University of Edinburgh.

His works include; A Recommendation of the Study of the Remains of Ancient Grecian and Roman Architecture Sculpture and Painting (1807); Lines Sacred to the Memory of the Rev. James Grahame (1811); The Isle of Palms and Other Poems (1812); The Magic Mirror (1812); The City of the Plague (1816); Lights and Shadows of Scottish Life (1822); The Trials of Margaret Lyndsay (1823); The Foresters (1825); Poems (1825); with John Gibson Lockhart, Janus, or the Edinburgh Literary AImanack (1826); Blind Allan (1840); The Land of Burns (1840); The Recreations of Christopher North (1842); The Noctes Ambrosianae, 4 vols. (1843); Scotland Illustrated (1845); Specimens of the British Critics by Christopher North (1846); Essays Critical and Imaginative, 4 vols. (1866).

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