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A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature/Anderson, Alexander

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Anderson, Alexander (1845-1909).—Poet, s. of a quarrier at Kirkconnel, Dumfriesshire, became a surfaceman on the railway. Spending all his leisure in self-culture, he mastered German, French, and Spanish sufficiently to read the chief masterpieces in these languages. His poetic vein, which was true if somewhat limited in range, soon manifested itself, and his first book, Songs of Labour, appeared in 1873, and there followed Two Angels (1875), Songs of the Rail (1878), and Ballads and Sonnets (1879). In the following year he was made assistant librarian in the University of Edinburgh, and after an interval as secretary to the Philosophical Institution there, he returned as Chief Librarian to the university. Thereafter he wrote little. Of a simple and gentle character, he made many friends, including the Duke of Argyll, Carlyle, and Lord Houghton. He generally wrote under the name of "Surfaceman."