Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Sellar, William Young
SELLAR, WILLIAM YOUNG (1825–1890), professor of Latin in Edinburgh University, third son of Patrick Sellar [q. v.], was born at Morvich, Sutherlandshire, on 22 Feb. 1825, and joined, at the early age of seven, the youngest class in the Edinburgh Academy, then under its first head master, Dr. Williams, the friend of Scott and Lockhart. At the age of fourteen he was ‘dux’ or head boy of the school. Thence he went to Glasgow University, where Edmund Law Lushington was professor of Greek and William Ramsay (1806–1865) [q. v.] was professor of Latin. Under these teachers and friends Sellar advanced in classical learning. He gained a Snell exhibition and a Balliol scholarship, matriculating 1 Dec. 1842, and was a contemporary of his friends Matthew Arnold and Principal Shairp, and a pupil and friend of Benjamin Jowett, later master of Balliol. After taking a first class in literæ humaniores, and graduating B.A. in 1847 (M.A. 1850), Sellar was elected to a fellowship at Oriel in 1848. He lectured for a short time in the university of Durham, whence he went to assist Professor Ramsay in the Latin chair at Glasgow (1851–3). From 1853 to 1859 he was assistant professor of Greek at St. Andrews. From 1859 to 1863 he held the Greek chair in that university, and from 1863 till his death was professor of Latin in the university of Edinburgh. He died at Kenbank, Dalry, Galloway, on 12 Oct. 1890. He married, in 1851, Eleanor, daughter of Mr. Dennistoun of Golfhill, and left issue.
The least permanent, though perhaps the most important, part of Sellar's work was academic. A sound though not, in his own judgment, a brilliant scholar, his appreciation of classical literature was keen and contagious. His modesty, humour, and generous sentiments conciliated the affection, while his learning secured the respect, of his pupils, many of whom have been distinguished. His published works were ‘The Roman Poets of the Republic’ (1863); ‘The Roman Poets of the Augustan Age: Virgil,’ 1877; and ‘Horace and the Elegiac Poets’ (edited by Professor W. P. Ker), 1892. He also contributed ‘Characteristics of Thucydides’ to ‘Oxford Essays,’ 1857. These are remarkable examples of sound and sensitive literary criticism.
[Durham Univ. Journal, ix. 89; Mrs. Sellar's Recollections and Impressions, 1907; private information.]