Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Leighton, Alexander (1800-1874)

LEIGHTON, ALEXANDER (1800–1874), editor of ‘Tales of the Borders,’ was born at Dundee in 1800. After distinguishing himself at Dundee academy he studied medicine at Edinburgh and settled there, first working as a lawyer's clerk and then as a man of letters. The ‘Tales of the Borders,’ a series of short stories, still popular among the Scottish peasantry, was projected at Berwick-on-Tweed in 1834 by John Mackay Wilson [q. v.], on whose death in 1835 his brother continued the work for a time. Shortly afterwards an Edinburgh publisher named Sutherland became proprietor, and Leighton was appointed editor and chief story writer; the series was completed in 1840. He received assistance from Hugh Miller [q. v.], Thomas Gillespie (1777–1844) [q. v.], and others. Reading widely he had an extensive, if not very accurate, knowledge of many subjects, including metaphysics and especially Hume's philosophy. He died 24 Dec. 1874.

In 1857 Leighton re-edited the complete ‘Tales of the Borders,’ and this was reissued in 1863–4, 1869 (with additions), and in 1888. In 1860–1 he published two series of ‘Curious Storied Traditions of Scottish Life,’ in 1864 ‘Mysterious Legends of Edinburgh,’ in 1865 ‘Shellburn,’ a novel, and in 1867 his interesting ‘Romance of the Old Town of Edinburgh.’ Other of his works are: ‘Men and Women of History,’ ‘Jephthah's Daughter,’ ‘A Dictionary of Religions,’ and a Latin metrical version of Burns's songs, which Carlyle praised. Various writers submitted their books to his editing, and he probably wrote whole volumes to which others prefixed their names.

[Daily Scotsman, 26 Dec. 1874; Irving's Eminent Scotsmen.]

T. B.