Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Innes, Thomas

INNES, THOMAS (1662–1744), historian and antiquary, second son of James Innes, and younger brother of Lewis Innes [q. v.], was born in 1662 at Drumgask in the parish of Aboyne, Aberdeenshire. In 1677 he was sent to Paris, and studied at the college of Navarre. He entered the Scots College on 12 Jan. 1681, but still attended the college of Navarre. On 26 May 1684 he received the clerical tonsure; on 10 March 1691 was promoted to the priesthood, and afterwards spent a few months at Notre Dame des Vertus, a seminary of the Oratorians near Paris. Returning to the Scots College in 1692, he assisted the principal, his elder brother Lewis, in arranging the records of the church of Glasgow, which had been deposited partly in that college and partly in the Carthusian monastery at Paris by Archbishop James Beaton. In 1694 he graduated M.A. at Paris, and in 1695 was matriculated in the German nation. After officiating as a priest for two years in the parish of Magnay in the diocese of Paris, he went again to the Scots College in 1697. In the spring of 1698 he returned to his native country, and officiated for three years at Inveravon, Banffshire, as a priest of the Scottish mission. In October 1701 he returned to Paris, and became prefect of studies in the Scots College, and also mission agent. There he spent twenty years, occupied in the quiet discharge of his duties and in literary pursuits. His intimacy with Rollin, Duguet, and Santeul led to his being suspected of Jansenism. In 1720 his brother Lewis, in what appears to be a formal letter to the vicar-general of the Bishop of Apt, contradicted a report that Thomas had concurred in an appeal to a general council against the condemnation of Quesnel's ‘Moral Reflections’ by Pope Clement XI. ‘There is,’ remarks his biographer, Dr. Grub, ‘no appearance of Jansenism in his historical works, though they mark clearly his decided opposition to ultramontanism.’ After a long absence he again visited Scotland in order to collect materials for his ‘Essay’ and his ‘History.’ In the winter of 1724 he was at Edinburgh, pursuing his researches in the Advocates' Library. In December 1727 he was appointed vice-principal of the Scots College at Paris, where he died on 28 Jan. 1744.

The results of Innes's laborious researches in Scottish history and antiquities were liberally communicated to all scholars who sought his assistance. Atterbury and Ruddiman appear to have been equally attracted by him, and Bishop Robert Keith was greatly indebted to him for materials incorporated in the ‘Catalogue of Scottish Bishops.’

His works are: 1. ‘A Critical Essay on the Ancient Inhabitants of the Northern Parts of Britain or Scotland. Containing an Account of the Romans, of the Britains betwixt the Walls, of the Caledonians or Picts, and particularly of the Scots. With an Appendix of ancient manuscript pieces,’ 2 vols., London, 1729; reprinted, with a Memoir by George Grub, LL.D., in vol. viii. of ‘The Historians of Scotland,’ Edinburgh, 1879, 8vo. This work elicited an anonymous volume of ‘Remarks’ [by George Waddel], Edinburgh, 1733, and ‘The Roman Account of Britain and Ireland, by Alexander Taitt,’ 1741. Both these replies are reprinted in ‘Scotia Rediviva,’ 1826, vol. i., and in ‘Tracts illustrative of the Antiquities of Scotland,’ 1836, vol. i. Innes's fame mainly rests upon this ‘Critical Essay.’ ‘Authors [such as Pinkerton and Chalmers] who agree in nothing else have united to build on the foundations which Innes laid, and to extol his learning and accuracy, his candour and sagacity’ (Spalding Club Miscellany, vol. ii. pref. p. cxv). 2. ‘Epistola de veteri apud Scotos habendi Synodos modo,’ dated Paris, 23 Nov. 1735. In vol. i. of Wilkins's ‘Concilia Magnæ Britanniæ;’ reprinted with Innes's ‘Civil and Ecclesiastical History.’ 3. ‘The Civil and Ecclesiastical History of Scotland,’ edited by George Grub, LL.D., and printed at Aberdeen for the Spalding Club, 1853, 4to, from a manuscript in the possession of Dr. James Kyle, bishop of Germanica, and vicar-apostolic of the northern district of Scotland. 4. Papers by Innes, and documents connected with his family. In ‘Miscellany of the Spalding Club,’ ii. 351–80. They include (a) ‘Letter to the Chevalier de St. George,’ dated 17 Oct. 1729; (b) ‘Remarks on a Charter of Prince Henry, son of David I;’ (c) ‘Of the Salisbury Liturgy used in Scotland.’ 5. Five closely-written volumes, mostly in his handwriting, of his manuscript collections in Scottish history, now among the Laing manuscripts in the library of Edinburgh University. 6. A thick quarto volume of collections and dissertations. This was at Preshome under the charge of Bishop Kyle in 1853. 7. ‘Original Letters,’ 1729–33. In the University Library, Edinburgh (‘Laing Collections,’ No. 346). Several of his letters to the Hon. Harry Maule of Kelly, author of the ‘Registrum de Panmure,’ are printed in the appendix to Dr. John Stuart's edition of that work, 2 vols. 4to, Edinburgh, 1874.

The ‘Life of King James II’ has been attributed to him, but was probably compiled by his brother, Lewis Innes.

[Life by George Grub, LL.D., prefixed to Innes's Hist. of Scotland and his Critical Essay, 1879; Maule's Registrum de Panmure, pref. pp. lxiv–lxvi, cxi–cxxviii; Chambers's Biog. Dict. of Eminent Scotsmen (Thomson), ii. 337; Fox's Hist. of James II, pref. p. xxvi n.; Registrum Episcopatus Glasguensis (Bannatyne Club), vol. i. pref. p. xiii; Life of James II, edited by J. S. Clarke, vol. i. pref. p. xix; Michel's Les Écossais en France, ii. 322, 325–8, 329, 519, 531; Miscellany of the Spalding Club, ii. 418; Stothert's Catholic Mission in Scotland, pp. 248, 249, 566; information from H. A. Webster, esq.]

T. C.