Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Barclay, Thomas (fl.1620)

BARCLAY, THOMAS (fl. 1620), professor at Toulouse and Poitiers, was one of the numerous Scotch scholars who, in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, studied in foreign universities, where they, in many cases, ultimately became professors. He was a native of Aberdeen, but as a young man studied humane letters and philosophy at Bordeaux. Here, we are told, his success was such as to merit the special praise of ‘that Phœnix of Greek and Latin learning,’ Robert Balfour [q. v.], the Aristotelian scholar, whose edition of ‘Cleomedes’ has remained the standard work on that author to almost our own days. The reputation acquired by Barclay at Bordeaux led to his being called to preside over the ‘Squillanean’ school at Toulouse, where the Scotch historian Dempster tells us he served his first literary campaign under his fellow-countryman's guidance. This fact supplies us with an approximate date, for it was about 1596 that Dempster left Paris, intending to work his way to Toulouse (Irving, Lives of Scottish Writers, i. 350). At this town, the birthplace of Cujas, the great founder of the systematic study of ancient and modern law, Barclay's attention was directed to this subject; and finding himself unable to pursue this branch of learning in its native place, he accepted the offer of a regius professorship at Poitiers. His fame and his eloquence while holding this office soon procured his recall to Toulouse, where he was still living when Dempster drew up his ‘Historia Ecclesiastica’ about 1620. Dempster tells us that his lectures on civil law were largely attended. There seems to be no record of the precise date of his birth or his death. In some biographical works they are given as 1582–1619; but this is almost certainly due to a confusion of Thomas Barclay with his namesake, John Barclay, the author of the ‘Argenis.’ For in this case he would be holding his first, if not his second, professorship at about the age of fourteen, and would at the same time, though a younger man, be the instructor of such a prodigy of learning as Dempster.

Barclay's chief works are said to have been commentaries on Aristotle, and dissertations on certain titles of the Pandects. The last probably implies a confusion with William Barclay [q. v.]

[Dempster's Historia Ecclesiastica.]

T. A. A.