Hyslop, James (DNB00)

HYSLOP, JAMES (1798–1827), poet, was born at Damhead, parish of Kirkconnel, Dumfriesshire, on 23 July 1798. He was early put out to farm-work, but managed to teach himself English, Latin, French, mathematics, and algebra. From 1812 to 1816 he was engaged as a shepherd on Nether Wellwood farm, in the parish of Muirkirk, and his contributions to the 'Greenock Advertiser' and other newspapers were frequently signed 'The Muirkirk Shepherd.' Between 1816 and 1818 he was employed at Corsebank, whence he wrote a poetical epistle to his early Kirkconnel teacher, signed 'James Hislop.' He afterwards invariably adopted the spelling Hyslop. In 1818 he went to Greenock, where he opened a day-school, and wrote for the 'Edinburgh Magazine.' He was at first fairly successful, but his prospects were blasted by his having to pay a considerable sum for which he had become security to oblige a friend. Leaving Greenock in 1821, he obtained a post as tutor on board his majesty's ship Doris, which was about to proceed to South America. The voyage lasted for three years, and an account of it was given by Hyslop in a series of eleven papers contributed to the 'Edinburgh Magazine,' May-November 1825. He was next engaged as a reporter in London (1826), where he was intimate with Allan Cunningham, Edward Irving, and others; but the work proved too heavy for him, and he again took to teaching, first as superintendent of a charity school, and afterwards as tutor on board his majesty's ship Tweed. The vessel sailed for the Cape of Good Hope in October 1827, and on 4 Nov. Hyslop died of fever off the Cape Verd Islands, in the Atlantic. His body was consigned to the sea with military honours.

Hyslop's claim to recognition rests almost solely on his poem, 'The Cameronian Dream,' From his earliest years, while shepherd at Nether Welhvood, near the scene of the battle where Richard Cameron [q.v.] was killed, Hyslop had been familiar with the story of the Scottish martyrs, whose experiences and surroundings he here describes in stirring language. Among his eighty-two poems, collected in 1887 by Mr. Mearns, `The Scottish Sacramental Sabbath,' `The Scottish National Melody,' and 'The Child's Dream' have also attained considerable popularity in Scotland. Most of Hyslop's poetry published during his lifetime appeared in the 'Edinburgh Magazine' from 1819 onwards. He wrote a good deal in prose, chiefly upon the persecution of the covenanters. Two essays in the 'Edinburgh Magazine,' 1820, 'A Defence of Modern Scottish Poetry,' and 'An Account of an Apparition in Airsmoss,' are worthy of note.

[Poems by James Hyslop, with a Sketch of his Life, by the Rev. Peter Mearns, 1887; Simpson's Traditions of the Covenanters; Articles in Scottish Presbyterian Mag. 1840 and 1853.]

J. C. H.