Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Boyd, Mark Alexander
BOYD, MARK ALEXANDER (1563–1601), Latin scholar, born in Galloway on 13 Jan. 1563, was a son of Robert Boyd of Penkill Castle, Ayrshire. His father was the eldest son of Adam Boyd, brother of Robert, restored to the title of Lord Boyd in 1536. Boyd is said to have been baptised Mark, and to have himself added the name Alexander. He had a brother "William. His education began under his uncle, James Boyd, of Trochrig, consecrated archbishop of Glasgow at the end of 1573. Proceeding to Glasgow College, of which Andrew Melville was principal, he proved insubordinate, and is said to have beaten the professors, burned his books, and forsworn all study. Going to court he fought a duel. He was advised to follow the profession of arms in the Low Countries, but instead of this he went to France in 1581 . After losing his money at play, he resumed his studies at Paris under Jacques d'Amboise, Jean Passerat, famed for the beauty of his Latin and French verse, and Gilbert Génébrard. Génébrard was professor of Hebrew, but Boyd confesses his ignorance of that language. He then began to study civil law at Orleans, and pursued the same study at Bourges, under Jacques Cujas, with whom he ingratiated himself by some verses in the style of Ennius, a favourite with that great jurist. Driven from Bourges by the plague, he went to Lyons, and thence to Italy, where he found an admiring friend in Cornelius Varus, who calls himself a Milanese (Boyd in a manuscript poem calls him a Florentine). Returning to France in 1587, he joined a troop of horse from Auvergne, under a Greek leader, and drew his sword for Henri III. A shot in the ankle sent him back to law studies, this time at Toulouse, where he projected a system of international law. From Toulouse he visited Spain, but soon returned on account of his health. When Toulouse fell into the hands of the leaguers in 1588, Boyd, with a view to joining the king's party, betook himself to Dumaise, on the Garonne. Not liking the look of things here, he was for going on, but his boy warned him of a trap set for his life, into which a guide was to lead him. After hiding for two days among the bushes, he went back to the leaguers, and was imprisoned at Toulouse. As soon as he got his liberty he hastened by night to Bordeaux. His letters allow us to trace his wanderings to Fontenai, Bourges, Cahors, &c. He laments that he was no deep drinker, or he would have pushed on more confidently (Epp. p. 159). He went to Rochelle, being robbed and nearly murdered on the way. Rochelle not suiting him, he found for some time a country retreat on the borders of Poitou. From France he repaired to the Low Countries, printing his volume of poems and letters at Antwerp in 1592. From first to last there is a good deal of eccentricity about Boyd, but his accomplishments as a writer of Latin verse are undoubted, though it must be left for his friend Varus to set him above Buchanan. Another admirer calls him 'Naso redivivus.' His own verdict is that there were few good poets of old, and hardly any in his own time; the Greek poets rank first, in this order: Theocritus, Orpheus, Musæus, Homer; the Hebrew poets (judging from translations) fall decidedly below the Latin, of whom Virgil is chief. Boyd conversed in Greek, and is said to have made a translation of Cæsar in the style of Herodotus. On his way back to Scotland in 1595, after fourteen years' absence, he heard of the death of his brother William, who, as we learn from Boyd's verses, had been in Piedmont, and for whom he expresses a great affection. Having once more gone abroad as tutor to the Earl of Cassilis, he finished his career in his native land, dying of slow fever at Penkill on 10 April 1601. He was buried in the church of Dailly. His publication above referred to is M. Alexandri Bodii Epistolæ Heroides, et Hymni. Ad lacobum sextum Regem. Addita est ejusdem Literularum prima curia,' Antv. 1592, small 8vo (there are fifteen 'epistolse,' the first two of which are imitated in French by P. C. D. [Pietro Florio Dantoneto]; the 'hymni,' dedicated in Greek elegiacs to James VI, are sixteen Latin odes, nearly all on some special flower, and each connected with the name of a friend or patron; there is also a Greek ode to Orpheus; a few epigrams in the author's honour are added; then come the prose letters. The poetical portion of the book is included in Arthur Johnston's ' Deliciæ Poetarum Scotorum,' Amst. 1637, 12mo. Johnston prints the title as 'Epistolæ Heroidum'). Boyd is said to have published also a defence of Cardinal Bembo and the ancient eloquence, addressed to Lipsius. He left prose and verse manuscripts, now in the Advocates' Library, Edinburgh; among them are, 'In Institutiones Imperatoris Comments,' 1591; 'L'Estat du Royaume d'Escosse à present;' 'Politicus, ad Joannem Metellanum cancellarium Scotiæ' (Sir John Maitland, or Matlane, died 3 Oct. 1595).
[Sibbald's Scotia Illustrata, sive Prodromus, &c. 1684 fol. (gives a life, with portrait engraved by T. de Leu); Kippis, in Biog. Brit. ii. (1780) 455 (Kippis used Dr. Johnson's copy of the Deliciæ); Dalrymple's (Lord Hailes) Sketch of the Life of Boyd, 1787, 4to (portrait); Granger's Biog. Hist. of England, 1824, i. 318; Irving's Lives of Scottish Writers, 1839, i. 182; Grub's Eccl. Hist, of Scotland, 1861, ii. 191. 225; Anderson's Scottish Nation, 1863, i. 364.]