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Dalrymple, John (1726-1810) (DNB00)

DALRYMPLE, Sir JOHN (1726–1810), fourth baronet of Cranstoun, and afterwards by right of marriage Sir John Dalrymple Hamilton Macgill, author, was the eldest son of Sir William Dalrymple of Cranstoun, and was born in 1726. He was educated at the university of Edinburgh and Trinity Hall, Cambridge, and in 1748 was admitted advocate at the Scottish bar. For some time he held the situation of solicitor to the board of excise. On the death of his father, 26 Feb. 1771, he succeeded to the baronetcy. In 1776 he was appointed baron of the exchequer, an office which he held till 1807. In 1757 he published an ‘Essay towards a General History of Feudal Property in Great Britain under various Heads,’ which reached a fourth edition, corrected and enlarged, in 1759, and of which Hume, writing in 1757, says: ‘I am glad of the approbation which Mr. Dalrymple's book meets with; I think it really deserves it’ (Hill Burton, Life of Hume, ii. 37). In 1765 he published a pamphlet, ‘Considerations on the Policy of Entails in Great Britain.’ His ‘Memoirs of Great Britain and Ireland from the Dissolution of the last Parliament of Charles II until the Sea Battle of La Hogue,’ 3 vols. 1771, illustrated by collections of state papers from Versailles and London, caused some sensation from their revelations as to the motives actuating some of the more eminent statesmen of that time. The work was reprinted in 1790 with a continuation till the capture of the French and Spanish fleets at Vigo. Hume, while admitting the collection to be ‘curious,’ was of opinion that it threw no light into the civil, whatever it might into the ‘biographical and anecdotical history of the times’ (ib. ii. 467). Nichols states that Dalrymple had the use of Burnet's ‘History,’ with manuscript notes by his ancestor Lord Dartmouth (Literary Anecdotes, i. 286), and that he was largely indebted to the ‘Hardwicke Papers,’ which he consulted every day in the Scots College at Paris (ib. ii. 514). Boswell chronicles various conversational criticisms by Johnson of the work. Johnson in 1773 visited Dalrymple at Cranstoun. He was accidentally detained from keeping his appointment at the hour fixed, and amused himself by describing to Boswell the imaginary impatience of his host in language resembling that of the ‘Memoirs.’ According to Boswell, the visit was not a success. Dalrymple occupied his leisure with various chemical experiments of a useful kind. He discovered the art of making soap from herrings, and in 1798 gave instruction at his own expense to a number of people who were inclined to acquire a knowledge of the process (Diary of Henry Erskine, 260–1). Robert Chambers (Life and Works of Burns, Lib. ed. ii. 30) records an anecdote of his resigning Burns's favourite stool to the poet in Smellie's office, when Dalrymple's ‘Essay on the Properties of Coal Tar’ was passing through the press. As a lay member of the assembly of the church of Scotland, Dalrymple spoke in favour of Home, who incurred the censure of the church for having his play of ‘Douglas’ acted in the Edinburgh theatre in 1756 (Somerville, Life and Times, 116). In addition to the works already mentioned, Dalrymple was the author of ‘Three Letters to the Right Hon. Viscount Barrington,’ 1778; ‘The Question considered whether Wool should be allowed to be exported when the Price is low at Home, on paying a Duty to the Public,’ 1782; ‘Queries concerning the Conduct which England should follow in Foreign Politics in the Present State of Europe,’ 1789; ‘Plan of Internal Defence as proposed to a Meeting of the County of Edinburgh, 12 Nov. 1794,’ 1794; ‘Consequences of the French Invasion,’ 1798; ‘Oriental Repository,’ vol. i. 1810. An amusing letter of his to Admiral Dalrymple is printed in Nichols's ‘Illustrations,’ i. 791–2. He died on 26 Feb. 1810. By his cousin Elizabeth, only child and heiress of Thomas Hamilton Macgill of Fala, and heiress of the Viscounts Oxenford, he had several children, and he was succeeded in the baronetcy by his fourth son, Sir John Hamilton Macgill Dalrymple [q. v.], who became eighth earl of Stair in 1840, and in 1841 was created Baron Oxenford in the United Kingdom. The fifth son, North Hamilton Dalrymple, became ninth earl.

[Burke's Peerage; Anderson's Scottish Nation; Hill Burton's Life of Hume; Thomas Somerville's Own Life and Times, 1861; Alexander Carlyle's Memoirs of his own Times, 1860; Boswell's Life of Johnson; Notes and Queries, 3rd ser. iv. 449.]

T. F. H.