Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 01.djvu/286

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Alexander
Alexander
272

326; I. E. Erdmann's Grundriss d. Gesch. d. Phil. 3rd ed. 1878, i. 324–329.]

R. A.

ALEXANDER, DANIEL ASHER (1768–1846), architect, was born in London and educated at St. Paul's School. In 1782 he became a student at the Royal Academy, where after two months' study he gained a silver medal. He found ample employment as soon as he was out of his articles. He had special constructive genius, which is evidenced by many of his works. One of the earliest of these was the widening, at Rochester, of the bridge over the Medway. He accomplished a most difficult task in forming the two middle arches of that bridge into one. In 1796 he was made survevor to the London Dock Company, and until 1831 all the buildings in the docks were from his designs. He was surveyor also to the Trinity House, and in that capacity built lighthouses at Harwich, Lundy Island, and other places. The Dartmoor prisons and the old county prison at Maidstone were from his designs. He attained great eminence in his profession, and had many pupils. Several writers insist upon the great constructive skill of Alexander's, work, and upon those qualities of sound sense and sure knowledge which gained for him his high place amongst the architects of the century. A writer in the ‘Gentleman's Magazine’ (August 1846) says, ‘a characteristic fitness of purpose was prominent in every building, whether a principal or a subordinate one, and in his hands the architecture, whatever it was, was ever made to grow out of and to form an inherent necessity of the structure. . . . He ever distinguished between the sense of an original architectural feature and the nonsense of a false adaptation of it.’

He was publicly complimented by Sir John Soane from the chair of the Royal Academy for the finely conservative spirit he had shown in repairing two works of Inigo Jones—the Naval Asylum at Greenwich, and Coleshill House, Berks. He died at Exeter on 2 March 1846, and was ‘buried at Yarmouth in the Isle of Wight’ in a church ‘the tower of which he had raised at his own expense the better to mark the channel at that part.’

His eldest son Daniel practised as an architect, but in 1820 gave up that profession for the church, and died vicar of Bickleigh, in Devonshire, in 1843.

[Gent. Mag. Aug. 1846; Dictionary of Architectural Publication Society, 1853.]

E. R.

ALEXANDER, HELEN (1654–1729), heroine of the Scottish covenanters in the unequal struggle between the adherents of ancient presbyterianism and prelacy, is still to-day a ‘household name’ in the west of Scotland. In the mountain glens and moors of Ayrshire and Galloway and the Pentlands, chap-books still tell her marvellous story of courage and devoutness. Towards the end of her life she dictated many of her experiences to her husband, and the manuscript was published by the Rev. Dr. Robert Simpson, of Sanquhar, in his ‘A Voice from the Desert, or the Church in the Wilderness’ (1856). It is entitled ‘A Short Account of the Lord's Dealing with Helen Alexander, spouse first to Charles Umpherston, tenant in Pentland, and thereafter to James Currie, merchant in Pentland; together with some remarkable passages, providential occurrences, and her support and comfort under them, and deliverance out of them. All collected from her own mouth by her surviving husband.’ It is scarcely possible to imagine a more artless or a more absolutely truthful narrative of the events of ‘the killing time,’ as it is still called, in Scotland. All the leading covenanters cross and recross the stage; for in and out of prison Helen Alexander was brought into the closest relations with them all, especially John Welsh, Donald Cargill, David Williamson, Andrew Gullon, James Renwick. Of the last she writes: ‘In the year 1683 the reverend and worthy Mr. James Renwick came home from Holland, an ordained minister. At first I scrupled to hear him, because it was said he was ordained by such as used the organ in their worship. But being better informed by himself, according as it is recorded in his Life and Death, printed some years ago, I heard him with all freedom, and to my great satisfaction, at Woodhouselee old house, being called there by friends about Edinburgh and Pentland. After this he frequented my house, with several worthy christians, even in the very heat of persecution; and I judged it my duty, in all these hazards, to attend the ordinances administered by him.’ And this: ‘In the year 1687, November 30, I was again married unto James Currie, by the renowned Mr. James Renwick. . . . Some months after this, Mr. Renwick being taken, I went and saw him in prison. . . . And when he was executed, I went along to the Greyfriars' churchyard, took him in my arms until stripped of his clothes, helped to wind him in his graveclothes, and helped to put him into the coffin. This was a most shocking and sinking dispensation, more piercing, wounding, and afflicting than almost any before it’ (pp. 358, 360). There are many kindred pathetic notices of these humble martyrs of the Scottish persecution.