Johnston, John (1570?-1611) (DNB00)


JOHNSTON, JOHN, D.D. (1570?–1611), Scottish poet, was born not later than 1570, and, as he styles himself ‘Aberdonensis,’ it is surmised that his birthplace was Crimond, the seat of the Johnston family, near Aberdeen. After studying at King's College, Aberdeen, he spent eight years at continental universities, sending home in 1587 from the university of Helmstadt a manuscript copy of Buchanan's ‘Sphæra,’ along with two of his own epigrams. At Rostock he formed a lasting friendship with Justus Lipsius, as is shown in the published correspondence of that classical scholar (cf. Lipsius, Epist. Select. Cent. VIII. Geneva, 1639, p. 49). His attachment to the distinguished presbyterian, Andrew Melville, probably helped him to obtain the professorship of divinity at St. Andrews about 1593, when, according to the parish records, he was ‘maister of the new college.’ His career was throughout closely linked with Melville's. In 1598, when the general assembly of the church was sitting at Dundee, both were ordered from the town together, because of their opposition to church representation in parliament. In 1603 they conjointly appealed with success to Du Plessis against a perilous decision of the synod of Gap on a polemical question. Previous to this Johnston had been offered the position of second minister in Haddington, East Lothian, but he retained his university chair till his death in October 1611. He bequeathed to Andrew Melville ‘a gilt velvet cap, a gold coin, and one of his best books’ (M'Crie, Life of Melville, chap. x.) Johnston's wife, Catharine Melville, and two children predeceased him, and he enshrined their memories in epigrams (see his Consolatio Christiana).

In 1602 Johnston published at Amsterdam ‘Inscriptiones Historicæ Regum Scotorum, continuata annorum serie a Fergusio I. ad Jacobum VI.; præfixus est Gathelus, sive de gentis origine Fragmentum Andreæ Melvini; additæ sunt icones omnium regum nobilis Familiæ Stuartorum.’ The ‘Inscriptiones’ are a series of epigrammatic addresses to the Scottish kings from Fergus I to James VI; to the latter the work is dedicated. It was followed by a similar work, ‘Heroes ex omni Historia Scotica lectissimi,’ Leyden, 1603, 4to. Both series are included in Arthur Johnston's ‘Deliciæ Poetarum Scotorum.’ The epigrams are neatly turned, but display little poetic quality. Johnston's other works are: 1. ‘Consolatio Christiana sub Cruce, et Iambi de Felicitate Hominis Deo reconciliati,’ Leyden, 1609. 2. ‘Iambi Sacri,’ Leyden, 1611. 3. ‘Tetrasticha et Lemmata Sacra, item Cantica Sacra, item Icones Regum Judæ et Israelis,’ Leyden, 1612. He also wrote, without publishing, a work on Scottish and English martyrs, and he contributed to Camden's ‘Britannia’ epigrams on Scottish towns. Letters of his occur in Camden's correspondence (Camdeni Epist. pp. 41, 75, 95, 123, 127), and in Wodrow's ‘Life of Robert Boyd,’ one of which shows that some of his writings were printed at Saumur. Andrew Melville mentions that Johnston ‘left some nots behind of our tyme,’ but these have not been traced.

[Chambers's Eminent Scotsmen; M'Crie's Life of Andrew Melville; Irving's Scotish Poetry.]

T. B.