1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Pinkerton, John

PINKERTON, JOHN (1758–1826), Scottish archaeologist, numismatist and author, was born at Edinburgh on the 17th of February 1758. He was articled as a law clerk in Edinburgh, and his Elegy on Craigmillar Castle (1776) was printed during his clerkship. In 1781 he removed to London to devote himself to literary work, publishing in the same year a volume of Rimes of no great merit, and Scottish Tragic Ballads. These were followed in 1782 by Two Dithyrambic Odes on Enthusiasm and Laughter, and by a series of Tales in Verse. Under the title of Select Scottish Ballads he reprinted in 1733 his tragic ballads, with a supplement comprising Ballads of the Comic Kind. Ritson pointed out in 1784 that the so-called ancient ballads were some of them of modern date, and Pinkerton confessed that he was the author of the second part of Hardy Kanute and part author of some others. He published an Essay on Medals in 1784, and in 1785, under the pseudonym of “Robert Heron,” his bold but eccentric Letters of Literature depreciating the classical authors of Greece and Rome. In 1786 he edited Ancient Scottish Poems from the MS. collections of Sir Richard Maitland of Lethington—a genuine reproduction. It was succeeded in 1787 by a compilation, under the new pseudonym of “H. Bennet,” entitled The Treasury of Wit, and by his first important historical work, the Dissertation on the Origin and Progress of the Scythians or Goths, to which Gibbon acknowledged himself indebted. Pinkerton next collected and printed in 1789 certain Vitae sanctorum scotiae, and, a little later, published his Enquiry into the History of Scotland preceding the Reign of Malcolm III. His assertion that the Celtic race was incapable of assimilating the highest forms of civilization excited “violent disgust,” but the Enquiry was twice reprinted, in 1794 and 1814, and is still of value for the documents embodied in it. His edition of Barbour's Bruce and a Medallic History of England to the Revolution appeared in 1790; a collection of Scottish Poems reprinted from scarce Editions in 1792; and a series of biographical sketches, the Iconographia scotica, in the years 1795–1797. In 1797 he published a History of Scotland from the Accession of the House of Stuart to that of Mary, containing much valuable material. A new biographical collection, the Gallery of Eminent Persons of Scotland (1799), was succeeded after a short interval by a Modern Geography digested on a New Plan (1802; enlarged, 1807). About this time he left London for Paris, where he made his headquarters until his death on the 10th of March 1826. His remaining publications were the Recollections of Paris in the years 1802–3–4–5 (1806); a very useful General Collection of Voyages and Travels (1808–1814); a New Modern Atlas (1808–1819); and his Petralogy (1811).