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GILLIES, JOHN, LL.D. (1747–1836), historian and classical scholar, born at Brechin in Forfarshire, on 18 Jan. 1747, was the eldest son in the large family of Robert Gillies, a merchant in Brechin, and proprietor of Little Keithock, by his wife Margaret, the daughter of a Brechin merchant named Smith. Adam Gillies (1787–1842) [q. v.], the Scotch judge, was a younger son. John Gillies was educated at Brechin, and at Glasgow University under Leechman and Moore. When at home he passed the day ‘studying in his father's garret.’ Before he was twenty he was selected to teach the Greek class in the university during the illness of Moore, the professor of Greek. While at the university he wrote a ‘Defence of the Study of Classical Literature,’ which was printed, apparently in a periodical. Soon afterwards he came to London to follow literature, but gave up his engagements on going abroad as tutor to the Hon. Henry Hope, second son of John, second earl of Hopetoun. He lived some years in Germany and visited other parts of Europe. In 1777 the earl settled an annuity on him. Gillies was afterwards travelling tutor to the earl's two younger sons John (Sir John Hope, afterwards Baron Niddry, and fourth earl) and Alexander (Sir A. Hope, G.C.B., lieutenant-governor of Chelsea Hospital). About 1784 he returned to England and carried on his literary work. In 1784 he took the degree of LL.D. He was also a corresponding member of the French Institute, a fellow of the Royal Society, and of the Society of Antiquaries. In 1793 he was appointed royal historiographer for Scotland on the death of Dr. Robertson. In 1794 he married, and at that time had a house in Portman Square, London. From 1830 he lived in retirement at Clapham, where he died on 15 Feb. 1836 in his ninetieth year. ‘He had no disease of any kind, and departed without a pang … or the change of a single muscle’ (Gent. Mag.) Mathias (Pursuits of Lit. 7th ed., dial. ii. pp. 118, 120) says that Gillies was ‘a man of good intentions, a passable scholar, an indefatigable reader, and of most respectable character,’ but there was no touch of genius in his writings. Miss Burney found him in conversation ‘very communicative and informing’ (Diary, &c. of Mme. d'Arblay, v. 225). He is described (Public Characters, p. 235) as a man of about middle height, with a handsome figure, and an open and ingenuous countenance.

Gillies is remembered as the author of a once popular ‘History of Greece.’ This book, written in a readable but somewhat pompous style, was published in 1786, London, 2 vols. 4to, and in 4 vols. 8vo, and other editions (including French and German translations) followed: Basle, 1790, 8vo; London, 1792–3, 8vo; London, 1825, 8vo; Vienna, 1825. The first volume of Mitford's ‘Greece’ had been published in 1784, but the work was not completed till 1810. Gillies also wrote a ‘History of the World’ (from Alexander the Great to Augustus), 2 vols., London, 1807, 4to; noticed, not unfavourably, in the ‘Edinburgh Review’ (xi. 40–61), and ‘A View of the Reign of Frederick II of Prussia’ (London, 1789, 8vo), whose court he had visited. Professor Smyth (Lect. on Mod. Hist.) says the book is little more than a panegyric. Gillies also translated: 1. ‘The Orations of Lysias and Isocrates,’ 1778, 4to. 2. ‘Aristotle's Ethics and Politics,’ with introductions and notes, 1797, 4to; 1804, 8vo; 1813, 8vo (cf. Thomas Taylor's ‘Answer to Dr. G.'s Supplement to his new Analysis of Aristotle's Works, in which the unfaithfulness of his Translation of Aristotle's Ethics is unfolded,’ 1804, 8vo; cf. also the strictures in Publ. Char. p. 234). 3. ‘Aristotle's Rhetoric,’ 1823, 8vo.

[Gent. Mag. 1836, new ser. v. 436–7; Jervoise's Land of the Lindsays, pp. 182, 221, 222; Public Characters, 1800–1, pp. 223–5; Irving's Book of Scotsmen; Chambers's Biog. Dict. of Eminent Scotsmen (Thomson); Allibone's Dict. of Engl. Lit.; Mathias's Pursuits of Lit.; Brit. Mus. Cat.]

W. W.