Boyd, Zachary (DNB00)

BOYD, ZACHARY (1585?–1653), was a descendant of the family of Boyd of Penkill in Ayrshire. He was born about 1585, and was first educated at Kilmarnock, whence he went to Glasgow University in 1601. He also attended the university of St. Andrews from 1603 to 1607, and graduated there as M.A. Subsequently he went over to the protestant college of Saumur, in France, and was offered, but declined, the principalship of that college. He resided in France for sixteen years, and seems to have left it on account of the religious troubles. In 1623 he returned to Scotland, and was appointed minister of the Barony parish in Glasgow.

He died in 1653. The latter part of his life was spent in the management of his parish and of the affairs of the Glasgow University, in which he took a deep interest, and in literary pursuits. Only a part of his writings were printed; some still remain in manuscript in the possession of Glasgow University, to which he left them, along with a money bequest, which not only assisted in providing new buildings, but served to establish some bursaries. His bust, well known to many generations of students, stood in a niche of the quadrangle which was built with his bequest, until a few years ago the university deserted those buildings and moved to its present situation, where the bust is still preserved in the library. Boyd served the offices of dean of faculty, rector, and vice-chancellor in the university during several years. His printed prose works appeared between 1629 and 1650; the printed poetical works between 1640 and 1652. 'The Battell of the Soul in Death' (1629), dedicated to Charles I, and in French to Queen Henrietta Maria, while the second volume contains a dedicatory letter to Elizabeth, queen of Bohemia, on the death of her son Frederick, is a sort of prose manual for the sick. About 1640 he published a poem on General Lesly's victory at Newburn, which is marked by the utmost extravagance and absurdity of language and of metaphor. In 1640 he published 'Four Letters of Comforts for the deaths of Earle of Haddington and of Lord Boyd.' The 'Psalms of David in Meeter,' with metrical versions of the songs of the Old and New Testament, was published in 1648. The manuscript writings of Boyd, preserved in Glasgow University, are very voluminous, and some extracts have been published as curiosities. The chief portions are the 'Four Evangels' in verse, and a collection of poetical stories, taken chiefly from Bible history, which he calls 'Zion's Flowers,' and which, having been commonly called 'Boyd's Bible,' gave currency to the idea that he had translated the whole Bible. The stories are often absurd enough in style and treatment, but the general notion of their absurdities has been exaggerated from the fact that they were abundantly parodied by those whose object was to caricature the presbyterian style which Boyd represented. He seems to have been inclined to oppose the policy of the royalist party even in earlier days; for though he wrote a Latin ode on the coronation of Charles I at Holyrood in 1633, his dedication of the 'Battell of the Soul' to the king contained what must have been taken as a reflection on the want of strict Sabbatarianism in the episcopal church. In later years he became a staunch covenanter, but did not relish the triumph of Cromwell. In 1650 he preached before Cromwell in the cathedral, and, as we are told, 'railed at him to his face.' Thurloe, Cromwell's secretary, would have called him to account, but Cromwell took means to pay him back more effectually in kind by inviting him to dine and then treating him to three hours of prayers. After that, we are told, Boyd found himself on better terms with the Protector. Reflecting many of the oddities and absurdities of style which were characteristic of his time, Boyd seems nevertheless to have been a man of considerable energy and shrewdness, and to have won a fair amount of contemporary popularity as an author.

[Four Letters of Comfort, 1640, reprinted Edin. 1878; Four Poems from Zion's Flowers, by Z. B., with introductory notice by Gr. Neil, Glasgow, 1855; The Last Battle of the Soul in Death, Edin. 1629.]

H. C.