Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Lindsay, Alexander William Crawford

LINDSAY, Sir ALEXANDER WILLIAM CRAWFORD, twenty-fifth Earl of Crawford and eighth Earl of Balcarres (1812–1880), was born at Muncaster Castle, Cumberland, on 16 Oct. 1812. He was eldest son of James Crawford, earl of Crawford and Balcarres, by Maria Margaret Francis Pennington, daughter of John, first baron Muncaster. He was educated at Eton, where he began his career as a book collector, and at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he was created M.A. in 1833. He spent his life in studious pursuits, in the collection of a magnificent library, and in travel. He became learned in genealogy and history, and when his father laid claim in 1845 to the earldom of Crawford, which was decided in his favour in 1848, Lord Lindsay assisted in preparing the case. In 1850 he assisted in prosecuting the family claim to the dukedom of Montrose, which was, however, not admitted. On 15 Sept. 1869 he succeeded to the earldoms of Crawford and Balcarres. Through life he was sincerely religious, and he devoted his last years to the study of religious history; his sympathy with its artistic side resulted in his best work, ‘Sketches of the History of Christian Art.’ Crawford's health was not good, and in November 1879 he visited Egypt. The following April he removed to Florence, where he died 13 Dec. 1880. His body was buried in the family vault at Dunecht, Aberdeenshire. On 2 Dec. 1881 it was found that the tomb had been broken open and the corpse stolen. The affair created considerable excitement, and in March 1882 a party of spiritualists unsuccessfully attempted to solve the mystery. On 18 July 1882 the body was found near the rifled tomb by the confession of Charles Suter or Soutar, who was arrested and sentenced to five years' penal servitude as an accessory. It was conveyed to Haigh Hall, near Wigan, Lancashire, and reinterred there. The earl married, 23 July 1846, Margaret, eldest daughter of Lieutenant-general James Lindsay of Balcarres (1793–1855), who was grandson of James, fifth earl of Balcarres. By her he had James Ludovic, the present earl, and five daughters.

The Crawford library, which the earl took many years in bringing together, was housed at Haigh Hall, but at the time of his death he was constructing for it a new building at Dunecht. He endeavoured to make it representative of the literatures of all nations. He always tried to procure the first and the best editions of a book. Much of the cataloguing he did himself. Where he was unable to understand the language, he often had abstracts prepared for his use by competent scholars. Part of this magnificent collection was sold by Messrs. Sotheby during ten days, beginning 13 June 1887, and included, among other valuable editions of the bible, early romances, &c., the celebrated Mazarin bible, which realised 2,650l., and the ‘Biblia Latina,’ printed in 1402, which brought 1,025l.

Crawford's chief works were:

  1. ‘Lives of the Lindsays,’ privately printed in 1835, published 1840; 2nd ed. 1849, 3 vols. 8vo.
  2. ‘Letters on Egypt, Edom, and the Holy Land,’ 1838, 2 vols. 8vo; 5th ed. 1852; a popular book of travel advancing theories of religion which he elaborated in later works.
  3. ‘Letter … on the Evidence and Theory of Christianity,’ 1841.
  4. ‘Ballads translated from the German,’ privately printed, Wigan, 1841.
  5. ‘Progression by Antagonism,’ 1846.
  6. ‘Sketches of the History of Christian Art,’ 1847, 3 vols.; 2nd ed. 1882.
  7. ‘Reports of the Montrose Claim,’ 1856, 4to.
  8. ‘Scepticism a Retrogressive Movement in Theology and Philosophy,’ 1861.
  9. ‘The Theory of the English Hexameters,’ 1862.
  10. ‘Memoir of Anna Mackenzie, Countess of Balcarres’ (wife of Alexander, first earl of Balcarres), 1868.
  11. ‘Conservatism: its Principle, Policy, and Practice,’ 1868, 8vo.
  12. ‘Etruscan Inscriptions Analysed …,’ 1872.
  13. ‘Argo: the Golden Fleece, a Metrical Tale,’ 1876.
  14. ‘The Earldom of Mar in Sunshine and Shade during Five Hundred Years,’ Edinburgh, 1882.

[Times, 15 and 25 Dec. 1880; Athenæum, 25 Dec. 1880; Sutton's Lancashire Authors; Annals of our Time; Works.]

W. A. J. A.